Modern Pulp Aug 16 2018
KANSAS CITY HEAT
Altman and company get gangsta in the heartland.


Auteur and maverick Robert Altman directed several films centered around crime, but perhaps only his 1930s gangster flick Kansas City truly fits the bill as a pulp style effort. The plot tells the tale of Blondie O'Hara, whose petty crook husband Johnny is captured by gangster Seldom Seen and held at a nightclub, prompting Blondie to kidnap the wife of a local politician in an attempt to blackmail him into using his connections to free Johnny. Sounds straightforward, but Altman's approach to this is leisurely and episodic.

Kansas City is generally considered to be a lesser effort from the legendary director, but even if it's not in the class of Short Cuts or M*A*S*H*, it has some points of interest—a slithery jazz score, lots of smoky nightclub scenery, Steve Buscemi warming up for another gangster role in the brilliant Miller's Crossing, Harry Belafonte playing it cool, and Jennifer Jason Leigh giving her actorly all as the drawling, flapperesque Blondie.

Another plus is this killer promo poster. When we saw it we had to watch the movie. But what's the most important reason to watch it? Altman, of course. It's always fun to see what a director does with the 1930s. What's the main drawback? Aside from its narrative quirkiness, we suspect its racial content may be a bit much for those with millennial sensibilities. But don't fault art for holding a mirror to history. When we can't reflect the past in cinema we'll have fallen pretty far. Kansas City premiered in the U.S. today in 1996.

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Modern Pulp Aug 8 2018
THE BEAST IS YET TO COME
And she's already starting to sprout hair.


This interesting poster was made for Kemono ni natta hitozuma, aka The Beast: Married Woman, which was produced by Shin-Toho Company and starred Maki Tomota, aka Maki Tomoda. She's an adult video actress who began her career in Japan in 2002 and today is a popular figure in milf porn. In case you're wondering, they do use the term milf in Japan, but just for effect. The preferred word is actually jukujo, literally “mature woman.” Tomoda's armpit hair is not just any armpit hair. It's a trademark. One of her more successful jukujo series has been Kāsan no waki no ke, which means “mother's armpit hair.” As we've mentioned before, we're indifferent about female body hair, and it isn't an age thing—we're fully from generation wax. We just feel, you know, her body, her choice. Tomoda probably has hundreds of hirsute images out there, because she's quite well known. This particular film, on the other hand, is not. We couldn't track it down, nor uncover any plot info, though it's an ironclad certainty it's bondage related (hello, de Sade). What we did find were some promo images and we've shared two—nice Maki, and naughty Maki. Kemono ni natta hitozuma premiered in Japan today in 2008.

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Modern Pulp Jul 5 2018
TINGLING SENSATION
There's nothing quite as awe inspiring as an ocean view.


This is one of the more eye-catching posters you'll see. It was made for the Japanese film Waka-goke ama: Uzuku. The movie's English title is supposedly—ready for this?—Nympho Diver: Tingling. Well, we're tingling a bit already. Junko Mabuki gets top billing here, but that's actually Rumi Sasaki adorning the poster because Nikkatsu never passed up a chance to put a naked woman on its promo art. The same has been said of our website, so we aren't criticizing. In any case, this is obviously another film centered around an ama—a female diver for pearls, abalone, and other aquatic treats. In this one you have a widowed ama who gets involved in kinky business in a seaside town. These movies are basically all the same, so we don't have to get into great detail—although we'll note there's a bizarre scene where Junko puts peanut butter on her body and has a dog lick it off. We know—it sounds utterly obscene. Really, there's very little Japanese filmmakers didn't try at some point or another, but always remember that though the plot devices in these may be crazy, the sexual content is never more explicit than your basic late night cable movie. Sorry to disappoint any dog lovers out there. Waka-goke ama: Uzuku premiered in Japan today in 1980

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Modern Pulp May 28 2018
UNFAVORABLE CONTRACT
In retrospect, I probably should have had a lawyer look over the paperwork before I signed it.


Roman porno movies tend to have very descriptive titles that leave little to the imagination. You see a poster above for one called in Japanese Dorei keiyakusho: muchi to highheels, which in English is known as Slave's Contract: Whip and High Heels. So what more do you really need to know? It stars Nami Matsukawa. It's a sequel to Dorei keiyakushu, which we talked about not long ago. It's a similar movie, with the exception that Matsukawa enters into her contract voluntarily. There's also some shoe fetish stuff, as indicated by the title. And of course there's the standard roman porno bondage and discipline. That's pretty much it. And it premiered in Japan today in 1982.

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Modern Pulp Mar 20 2018
SOUND AND FURY
John Travolta sets the recording straight.


Above is a Japanese poster for Brian De Palma's 1981 thriller Blow Out, his update of the classic British thriller Blowup. In the latter film a photographer thinks he's accidentally shot a photo of a murder, and in Blow Out a movie sound man thinks he's accidentally recorded one. And indeed he has, a political assassination actually, which brings highly connected villains out of the woodwork to engineer a cover-up. The movie stars John Travolta in his hunk incarnation, pouting his way through the twists and turns of the mystery, along with Nancy Allen as his shakedown artist sidekick. De Palma's movies often underwhelm upon release but usually age well. This is a good example. Audiences were cool toward Blow Out but it's a solid, giallo influenced thriller, wrapped in Kennedyesque conspiracy. It premiered in the U.S. in the summer of 1981 and reached Japan today in 1982 with the title ミッドナイトクロス, or Middonaito kurosu, which means “midnight cross.”

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Modern Pulp Mar 12 2018
VELVET UNDERGROUND
Getting into the place isn't the problem.


In Nikkatsu roman porno the question, as always, is exactly how the script will place the female lead under the control of men determined to use her. In Dan Oniroku kurokami nawa fujin, aka Black Hair Velvet Soul, it's alcoholism and debt. A gambling and philandering husband owes a pile to a slimy financier, so he puts up as collateral the restaurant he owns with his wife. Izumi Shima plays the wife. Because the place was founded by her father and succeeded because of his sweat and struggle, as she notes in a monologue, she sees no other choice but to agree to work off the debt in an S&M club run by the financier. She goes through the usual range of indignities, but in what has to be considered a bit of a twist, she at no point likes it, nor has some inner freak unleashed, nor somehow dies by ironic means. She does her bit, the restaurant is saved, and she leaves her shitty husband. Why watch the movie? Well, because Shima is a shimmering goddess and she's always worth watching. Sixty-six minutes including credits and you're done. Dan Oniroku kurokami nawa fujin premiered today in 1982.

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Modern Pulp Jan 22 2018
THE OLD BALL AND CHAIN
Need a little help around the house?


Above is a poster for Dorei keiyakushu, yet another entry in Nikkatsu's roman porno pantheon, and one that gets viewers to the usual place by a slightly different route. The film opens with Nami Matsukawa having her pubic hair shaved off by a man. She isn't too thrilled about it. Then he gives her an enema, and it's us who aren't too thrilled. Then he binds her in rope kinbaku-bi style, basically wrapping her like a gift, carefully places her in a crate with some packing material, closes it up and has some delivery guys take the container away. The parcel ends up in the house of Hidekazu Mikami, who's surprised as hell when he opens it, as is his wife, played by Izumi Shima. Imagine explaining that. A sheaf of legal documents around Nami's neck says that she's a slave and will serve as payment of a debt. And just like that it's straight to the kinky sex and domination. You can always count on Nikkatsu—they never fail to get you to bondage land, if indeed that's where you want to go. Us, we can take or leave it. Even though we have many more roman porno posters we'd like to share, we may shift more toward Toei's pinky violence action movies for a while. They're harder to find, but worth the effort—and we can only watch so many enemas. Dorei keiyakushu premiered in Japan today in 1982.

It says she'll do anything you ask. Laundry, dishes, handjobs, whatever.

Baby, I swear I didn't order a slave.

But as long as we have one...

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Modern Pulp Jan 20 2018
ROLLING IN THE ISLES
Betty and her friends are ripe and ready.


This Italian poster was made for a film called La porno villeggiante, which was originally released as Griechische Feigen, but which you may know as The Fruit Is Ripe. We already talked about it several years back, and suffice to say it's a breezy little erotic romp set in the Greek Isles starring Betty Verges and Olivia Pascal. Softcore movies set in foreign lands are a particular weakness of ours, and this one helped inspire our amazing trip to Mykonos, Santorini, and Naxos in in 2014. We'd go back if there weren't other islands in other oceans we need to get to, but trust us—it's worth it, even if your trip doesn't resemble the movie. There's no Italian release date on La porno villeggiante, but it had its world premiere in West Germany today in 1977. Below are some interesting promo images we located. You can read our original write up on the film here.

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Modern Pulp Jan 7 2018
GIRLS NIGHT IN
When we get together we do the usual stuff—chat, drink wine, endure whippings, have a forced enema or two.


We don't share pinku and roman porno posters just because we're interested in the films. We also share them because, first, the art is always great, and second, it's easy to get. Its availability is a reflection of how many productions of the type were made—in a word, many hundreds. That's two words. Let's go with thousands—which is not an exaggeration. These were incredibly popular films is the point, made by multiple studios trying to place double features into vertically integrated, wholly dependent cinemas every weekend. Many of the movies have fallen prey to the ravages of time, which occasionally leads to us sharing art from movies that no longer exist, but today's offering, Nawa to chibusa, aka Rope and Breasts, starring Nami Matsukawa and Izumi Shima, is one we did in fact find and watch.

The movie premiered in Japan today in 1983, and it involves a couple running a traveling bdsm show who arrive in Kyoto and are hired for a private performance that turns into something more. The woman is planning to retire, but now learns what bondage and discipline really are as she and her man are teased and tortured to within an inch of their sanity. When all is said and done the woman forgets retirement, not because she loves torture, but because she realizes her life is hell anyway and if she has to live in hell she'd like to at least make money from it. Very upbeat stuff. An interesting aspect of the copy we saw is its use of pixelation to obscure the private parts of the actors (see below). Since roman pornos are softcore the masking is purely directorial flourish, designed, we suppose, to give the action a veneer of the forbidden.

For those who've missed our previous discussions about the roman porno genre, the filmmakers generally contend that the sexual abuse depicted is symbolic of patriarchal Japan's subjugation to occupying Americans, or to modern life, or to a burgeoning counterculture, etc. As a smart man once said, when something is symbolic of everything, it's symbolic of nothing. In other words, we don't buy the boilerplate on roman porno, at least not fully. We think it was primarily money driven, and the more intellectual aspects were secondary, distantly. But the main thing we try to remember as outsiders looking in is that cultural judgement is a slippery slope, and while in this particular 2018 moment of discussion about the all too prevalent dangers men present to women, it's easy to dismiss roman porno films as masculine horror fantasies sprung from the brows of unrepentant misogynists.

But times change, and there are layers to the issue that make such assessments a bit too facile. It's possible to be on one side of a cultural issue during a certain moment in time, but be judged as on the exact opposite side a generation or two later. Today's observers could easily conclude that roman porno filmmakers were conservative nationalists, but in reality they were mainly liberal feminist allies satirizing conservative patriarchs/patriots. Their sexualization of women was spurred in part by box office need, but they believed in their own symbolism and there's no doubt most of them thought of themselves as modernist trailblazers smashing social barriers. The path their output has taken through the decades is parallel to that of Hugh Hefner, hailed as women's rights hero in 1967, reviled as a cog in a destructive porno machine half a century later. Times change.

If Japanese viewers of 1980s American horror movies had demanded to know why so many productions featured people being lured into the woods to be slaughtered it would have led to some uncomfortable conversations about apocalyptic American attitudes toward sex, as well as the eternal American worship of violence. These discussions would have been much more needed than any concerning 1970s Japanese mores. But as for modern observers, they get to judge earlier filmmakers only up to a point. They weren't there. They forget that work incommercial media has its demands, if the work is to be secured at all. Old targets are no longer fully relevant, as well as being way too easy to criticize in hindsight. Subversive messages are often slipped into popular art and those messages matter. They wink at us. They say, “You and I both know this is just entertainment, but this other thing—if you are detecting it—is what we're really about here.” But modern viewers of old films often miss these important messages. As culture changes receptivity to these small signals change too.

So, okay, Nawa to chibusa is a weird movie. It's a weird movie hailing from a weird genre. The genre was meant to both make money and provoke people, and all these years later the films remain as artifacts of an industry embarked upon a radical social discussion, spearheaded by filmmakers who hadn't yet realized that images also carry weight apart from their alleged political intent. In other words, the question becomes whether the same goals could have been achieved by other means—i.e. other means of provocation, other types of imagery. We can't answer that. We weren't there. We don't know of anyone who has tallied the social gains and losses, if any, brought about by all this shocking cinema. All we have is an inadequate twenty-first century perspective, an inadequate Western perspective, an incomplete male perspective, and a whole lot of crazy posters.

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Modern Pulp Dec 5 2017
NO BED OF ROSES
Junko Mabuki gets deflowered.


We just saw Junko Mabuki last week, and here she is again in the roman porno vehicle Dan Oniroku bara jigoku, which is known in English as Hell of Roses. Oniroku Dan was Japan's perv laureate of erotic bondage literature, and he became so famous that his name often appeared on the front of movies adapted from his material. And his material was pretty fringy stuff, at least by our standards. Last week's Oniroku Dan movie was centered around a slimy photographer's bondage obsession. This time there are two photographers, working in tandem to produce bdsm shots of young women who don't have any real idea what they've signed up for. Junko plays a famous singer who gets into their crosshairs. She'd never submit voluntarily, so the two predators subdue her with chloroform and spirit her away to an isolated house. Once she awakens she puts up a real fight and even manages to bloody one of her captors, but she still ends up caged, roped, dildoed, etc., and then there's that roman porno pee thing again. And a snake. And a kinky blood fixation. But you know what this movie doesn't have? Roses. Go figure. Dan Oniroku bara jigoku premiered today in 1980.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 16
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
August 15
1969—Woodstock Festival Begins
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which was billed as an Aquarian Exposition, takes place on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. It would run for three sometimes rainy days and feature thirty-two acts performing at all hours of the day and night. Today the festival is regarded as one of the greatest events in popular music history.
1977—Radio Signal Arrives from Deep Space
An unidentified radio signal, nicknamed the WOW Signal for the notation a scientist made on a computer readout, is briefly detected by the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project's Big Ear radio telescope. Despite a month of searching the same section of space, the signal is never found again.
August 14
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
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