Modern Pulp Sep 11 2014
FLUORESCENT NIGHTS
Special edition Boogie Nights poster is an explosion of color.

This promo for Boogie Nights was made last year for a Paul Thomas Anderson film retrospective hosted by the company Mondo, which markets limited edition screen printed posters for classic and contemporary films. The artist is the Japanese illustrator par excellence and constant enigma Rockin’ Jelly Bean. You can see this poster around the web with little difficulty, but we have a friend in Los Angeles who actually owns one and it really shocked us how off the colors are on every scan we’ve seen online. The above image, as oversaturated as it may seem, is close to correct. Even so, what appears as red is fluorescent magenta on the real poster, and the pale teal colors are closer to bright turquoise. Compare it to the shot below, which comes from the Mondo blog. The mild skin tones of the presenter tell us the colors of the entire image are true. Which means this is one blazingly garish poster, no? We love it. We could get one for as little as $300.00, but that’s still too rich for our blood. We wanted to share the image anyway, though, because Boogie Nights made its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival today in 1997.

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Modern Pulp Aug 28 2014
ILL WILL HUNTING
Yes, in pinku films there actually is a point to all that bloodspray.


You know what we like about pinku films? Their symmetry. Generally, slimy guys have the upper hand for about 65 minutes before the girls band together and, to the accompaniment of arterial bloodspray to spice things up, shoot them or stab them or chop off their heads. It’s nice. Balanced. In that way they’re like blaxploitation movies. In those, generally, the villain meets ruin at the hands of a black hero or anti-hero. Nice, you see? The films touch on serious problems—sexism and racism—but in a freewheeling, taboo-busting fashion that both entertains and makes the antagonist’s eventual violent demise a catharsis for audiences that know the wicked aren’t generally punished in real life. Taking all that into account then, you can see why removing the cathartic revenge from the proceedings would be problematic.

But that’s exactly what has happened with Onna kyôshi-gari, aka Female Teacher Hunting. Director Junichi Suzuki and writer Hiroshi Saitô, at the behest of Nikkatsu Studios, actually want to make a serious movie about gender roles and sex, but cloaked in a quasi-pinku flick in which a student falsely accused of sexual assault is driven by stress and rage over his predicament to later commit a sexual assault. It’s all beautifully shot andquite well acted, but what’s the message here? Was the monster always part of this man? Was he falsely accused because his accuser already saw this in him? Does the old saying about how any man will kill under the right circumstances also apply to rape? All are worthy themes to explore, but not embedded in a movie genre that by nature trivializes serious questions.
 
But the message of Onna kyôshi-gari might be something else entirely. Maybe it’s simply telling us—at a time when women were gaining more control over their own bodies and, after long last, wresting an iota of political power from the male establishment—that sexual consent was becoming a blurrier concept for confused men losing their hold on the top of the pyramid. But we don’t buy that either. For our part, we can’t remember the line between consent and coercion being blurry—at least not outside well-crafted fiction, and certainly not during the 1980s, when this movie was made. But as always there’s the one disclaimer—we aren’tJapanese, have never lived in Japan, and don’t know the culture deeply. If there’s one thing we’ve learned doing this site it’s that language, psychology, behavior, metaphors and signifiers simply don’t translate from culture to culture. In other words, for all we know this may be considered in Japan to be a wildly feminist movie. Nevertheless, we have to assess Onna kyôshi-gari as best we can with our deficiencies, and we say: interesting effort, but in pinku, realism without revenge converts the sex to sadism, and this entire movie into an anti-feminist polemic.

The star of the film (and poster), Yuki Kazamatsuri, in the final scene discovers a killifish inexplicably living in a swimming pool. She observes to her female friend, “Killifish are strong—I guess they can live even in a pool.” And of course the fish are metaphorical women and the pool is male-dominated society. But sorry, after an entire plot suggestingwomen are complicit in their own degradation, a morsel of dialogue telling us they’re tough enough to take it (and men are to be forgiven for supposed weakness) doesn’t excuse what came before. On the contrary—it makes it worse. Onna kyôshi-gari premiered in Japan today in 1982.

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Modern Pulp May 20 2014
HART EXHIBITION
A good time is in the cards.

We’ve dug into our collection of adult film posters again, and today you see online for the first time a Japanese promo for A Scent of Heather. It starred Veronica Hart in the story of a convent-raised rich girl whose arranged marriage goes wrong when, after the ceremony, she and her new spouse discover they’re siblings. Stuck in the marriage but unable to consummate the union, they seek sexual satisfaction with numerous other partners in interesting ways. The film helped launch Hart on a trajectory that quickly made her one of the most popular adult performers of the 1980s. In addition to porn, she later appeared in the mainstream films Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Promo photos of her from her early career are a bit rare, so this is not only an amazing poster, but also quite possibly the best image you’ll ever see of her. A Scent of Heather opened in the U.S. in 1980, and eventually premiered in Japan today in 1983. You can see more Japanese promos of this type by clicking here. 

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Modern Pulp Jan 21 2014
DEVIL'S ADVOCATE
Kim Ji-woon’s thriller is hard to take but beautiful to behold.


Thanks to the wonder of downloading—er, we mean the legal purchase of a DVD at a sanctioned commercial outlet—this weekend we were able to re-screen one of our favorite recent movies, the 2010 South Korean gutwrencher Angmareul boatda, aka I Saw the Devil. Last time we watched it we didn’t write about it, but we think it’s a good time to recommend the movie because today was its official American premiere date. Amazingly, that unveiling was at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Well, nobody felt like dancing by the time the movie ended, you can be sure. Often lumped in with horror or torture porn movies, in truth I Saw the Devil is an unflinching but high-gloss revenge thriller, beautifully shot, and carefully paced. The revenge in question is directed toward a serial killer and director Kim Ji-woon’s documentation of that person’s gory exploits is where much of the movie’s early mayhem occurs.

Unlike many American films, I Saw the Devil doesn’t soften the impact of violence by turning it into a technical showcase for an fx house—the movie tries its best to make those scenes frightening yet somehow banal. No heads explode, nobody is thrown in a tire shredder, and nobody is impaled by a pair of skis. The most proximate cause of nearly every human death in history—technically speaking—has been lack of oxygen to the brain. Oxygen very often stops going to the brain because the blood needed to carry it there has gone somewhere else—the floor, for example. I Saw the Devil explores that concept with vivid clarity. Above is one of the American posters, and below is the original South Korean promo.


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Modern Pulp Jan 14 2014
THAI SCI-FI
Who knew doom and destruction could look so pretty?

Something a little different today, above are five Thai sci-fi and horror posters, showing the baroque stylings that make them so visually pleasing. The movies are, top to bottom, The Hidden, Scanners, Hex, Lifeforce, and The Believers.

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Modern Pulp Dec 11 2013
PROMETHEUS UNSOUND
We had no idea so many would disagree when we called Prometheus incoherent. We better explain ourselves.


Who’d have thought we’d stir up a hornet’s nest by criticizing Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus? We were simply making what we thought was a self-evident statement, but perhaps we’re off in left field on this one. We guess we better explain ourselves, and if you actually have the time and/or inclination to read this, we’ll be extremely flattered. First, note that defenders of Prometheus often hail the script’s unanswered questions as a virtue and suggest that haters just need everything spelled out for them. But our dislike of the film had nothing to do with unanswered questions—it had to do with failures of craft. Having been paid during our time in L.A. to write a few scripts, we know a little about story construction. Not that our opinion is any more informed than a perceptive non-writer’s, but for those who require pedigree from their pundits, we have a smidge.  

Alien worked well for many reasons, but foremost among them was its characterizations. The Nostromo’s crew is intelligent, educated, and experienced. Once they are confronted with a difficult situation, they take appropriate steps—based on the information at hand—to solve the problem. Of course, the true nature of the threat is hidden from them due to the machinations of the science officer Ash, who not only works for the faceless, heartless corporation that has arranged the entire scenario, but is not even human. Thus they never know Kane has an alien embryo in his stomach, which is why they never put him into stasis. This results in Kane’s death. Later they don’t know the alien grows at a miraculous rate. This results in Brett’s death, as he wanders the dark corridors of the Nostromo mistakenly thinking the alien is about the the size of a badger.
 
When Brett is killed the crew realizes the threat is something uniquely lethal—Parker, who barely glimpsed it, says. "Whatever it was... it was big and..."—but they still don’t know the creature is intelligent, or at least cunning. They decide that, like any animal, it will flee in a panic from fire. That’s why Dallas ventures into the ship’s ducts with a flamethrower and a plan to force the beast into an airlock. It’s only once he’s in there that the maneuvers of the creature make clear not only that it’s intelligent (or cunning), but that it intends to attack him. But it’s too late to get out. That results in Dallas’s death.
 
After this loss, Lambert quite rationally suggests fleeing—but the problem is the shuttle only has room for three. Rather than draw straws and leave one person behind, they decide to continue—with considerably more caution—trying to force the alien into an airlock, but first Ripley seeks more information from the ship’s computer. This is quite rational. Before, it was Dallas who interfaced with the computer. But his loss makes Ripley the captain and she must seek all available information. Ash, fearing either that he’ll be exposed or Ripley will ferret out something useful, decides to stop her, and in the struggle he’s decapitated and unmasked as an android. Now the crew knows the full scope of the challenge. Not only is the monster against them—so is the corporation. But with Ash gone there’s no problem with room in the shuttle, so the survivors make the rational decision to get the hell off the ship. But the alien massacres them as they make the attempt.
 
You’ll note that every link in the chain of decisions is solid and logical. The crew faces a steadily mounting problem and they devise shifting solutions—move, countermove, move, countermove—to deal with that problem as more information becomes available. And having made alogical decision at every turn, they fail. That’s a big reason why Alien is scary. The characters’ logic in dealing with the problem is unassailable—as it should be, considering their education and experience—yet they still lose. Our sympathy as viewers doesn’t derive from cheap sentiment but from our admiration for the characters’ smart approach to tough circumstances, and our horrific realization that brains isn’t enough to ensure survival. We don’t need to know more about them because they are rock solid consistent in their behavior and at no point do they deserve scorn.
 
Contrast this with Prometheus. In this you have a group even more steeped in science, yet they behave like teenagers on a field trip to Yellowstone. The entire away party irrationally takes their helmets off because the air in one part of the ancient structure they’re exploring is breathable, but they have no concern for microbes, bacteria, or airborne pathogens. The geologist Fifield irrationally freaks out at the sight of an ancient corpse, and in so doing gets lost in the charnel depths, there to later meet his demise. The zoologist Millburn irrationally approaches and attempts to touch an aggressively behaving unknown species, triggering his demise. The archaeologist Holloway sinks into an alcoholic depression because no living Engineers seem to remain, also leading to his demise, because remember, David spikes a glass of booze with organic goo and gives it to him. Would Holloway have been pounding liquor at all if he’d had enough sense to simply go about his job?
 
We could go on in this vein, but it’s clear to see that Alien relies upon its characters’ intelligence to create the framework for horror, while Prometheus relies upon its characters’ stupidity to set them up as part of the body count. In this way Prometheus doesn’t differ from Friday the 13th, which is why when advocates defend the movie as intelligent we have to chuckle a little. It’s not intelligent—it’s colossally dumb, and wefind it quite impossible to sympathize with stupid characters. While Shaw doesn’t do anything overtly ridiculous, neither does she show any analytical genius (at most, we can give her credit for intestinal fortitude and a strong will to survive). She’s a scientist, yes, because the script labels her as such, but the writers couldn’t be bothered to demonstrate her intelligence within the framework of the plot. The same can be said for all the other cardboard cutouts populating the movie.
 
We have a couple more points to make. Why does the prequel have infinitely more advanced technology than the original, which takes place later? The idea of Prometheus as retro-futurism is a tantalizing missed opportunity, not just in terms of production design, but because a lower-tech future similar to Alien’s would have been scarier. But no, the front office types say lights and bells dazzle the masses, so the movie has floating laser probes where Alien, which takes place later, has mostly bolts, jury-rigging, and wishful thinking. It’s pure Hollywood logic. A big budget movie must have gadgetry—period. Thus we have David spying on Shaw’s dreams. What purpose does this intrusion serve? It reveals to him how Shaw’s father died, but he could have gotten that info from a sheet of paper in a manila folder. The scene exists only to flaunt pointless fx.
 
There are a hundred other problems with the movie, from its unneeded intro sequence to its outro of a full grown semi-alien emerging from an Engineer’s body to Meredith Vickers’ hilarious inability to dodge left or right, but we’ll leave all those alone for now. But we do have one last question. When Fifield gets his face burned off and Millburn gets to deep throat an alien worm, why is it Fifield who comes back as a homicidal monster, rather than something that gestated inside Millburn? It’s a very minor point, but it highlights the sloppiness of the script. If the ship must be attacked, why not have it attacked by something that grew from within the character that was obviously implanted by something? This would be consistent with the established alien life cycle. Having the weaponized goo turn Fifield into a monster is extraneous. The movie was so desperate to show an alien that it tacked one onto the end. Why not instead simply have an alien grow inside Millburn and use that creature as the centerpiece of the attack against the ship? Utterly baffling.
 
Are we hard on the film? Yes, and everyone should be, because the difference between Prometheus and a low budget sci-fi throwaway is the same as the difference between a street magician guessing your card and David Copperfield making a limousine disappear from onstage at Caesar’s Palace. The breadth of the ambition determines the intensity of the scrutiny. It has always been that way with art, it always will be that way, and it’s completely appropriate. The world expects more of thosewho show great ambition. That’s why a dinky little pulp cover can be praised with the same vocabulary used for the Mona Lisa. Before art can be great it must first meet or exceed expectations. That doesn’t mean expectations can’t be misplaced. It happens all the time. But not in this case. Prometheus was promoted as a scintillating piece of deep-thinking entertainment. While it looks amazing, two viewings of it (we watched it again last night) only make us more certain that it's just a loud, shiny failure.
 
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Modern Pulp Oct 3 2013
FONDA EMBRACE
In space no one can hear you orgasm.

It isn’t often one finds new material on Jane Fonda’s 1968 sci-fi classic Barbarella, so we were surprised to run across this item. It’s a guide booklet for the movie’s 1993 re-release in Japan, and we managed to steal a few images and clean them up in Photoshop. See below.


 
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Modern Pulp | Vintage Pulp Sep 26 2013
BETTER THAN FICTION
Hiroyuki Nakano’s sword opera Samurai Fiction challenges festival audience but ultimately leaves it satisfied.


San Sebastian in general and Cinema Caravan in particular are keeping us busy, but we have time for a quick post, so here we go. Last night we attended a screening of Hiroyuki Nakano’s 1998 adventure/comedy SF: Episode One, also known as Samurai Fiction. It’s a quirky movie, imaginatively shot mostly in black and white, and involves a young samurai on a mission to both avenge a friend’s death and retrieve a priceless sword. He encounters an ex-samurai who tries to teach him the wisdom of non-violence, with limited success. The movie is set in 1689 and looks a bit like Kurosawa’s great period pieces, but subverts that similarity with its humor and modern rock 'n’ roll soundtrack. Since it was in Japanese with English subtitles, the mostly Basque audience was perhaps a bit baffled, but even those with language difficulties could enjoy the film’s visual creativity, and ultimately everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Watching Samurai Fiction got us thinking about our many Japanese posters, and because we actually have access to that stuff wherever we go, we decided to share five of the nicer pieces in our collection. In terms of  information on these, time is a little tight to research them carefully, but here’s what we know: poster one—nothing; poster two—Nawa Hada Jigoku: Rope Skin Hell, with Naomi Tani, 1979; poster three—we’re unsure on that one, but that’s definitely Kayoko Honoo in the art; poster four—Kapone no shatei, yamato damashi, aka A Boss with a Samurai Spirit, with Tomisaburô Wakayama, 1971; poster five—nothing. But check back in a week or so and we’ll have added everything we can find out to this post. See ya later.


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Modern Pulp Sep 11 2013
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT
Bringing American values to the world.


If you visit this site a lot, you’re used to this—we promise to get back to something and then take forever to do it. But to our credit, we do eventually keep our promises. Today, we’re finally returning to that pile of Japanese x-rated promo posters we’ve accumulated (Japanese as in designed and printed in Japan, but to promote American movies). Above is a poster for a porn compilation entitled That’s Porno, released in 1979 and comprised strictly of sex scenes culled from various films, freed from the tyranny of plotlines and character development (just kidding—we live for plotlines and character development). You have to love the art, which consists of the lips of twenty-two x-rated actresses, some well known, such as Georgina Spelvin and Annette Haven (or Heaven, according to the text), and others virtually forgotten, like Karen Devin and Tina Louise (the other Tina Louise). Anyway, we have eight more posters below and relevant info. 

Baby Face II, with Stacy Donovan, Candy Evens, and Taija Rae. Just to make sure Japanese audiences got the point, the word “sex” appears front and center. We’ve talked before about the usage of this English word on Japanese posters as a signifier and here you get another example.
 
Beach Blanket Bango, with Cindy Taylor and Rene Bond, 1975. Notice the word “fuck” at upper left. Again, is this more descriptive than the Japanese word for the same act, or is the English a signifier of decadence?
 
Expose Me, Lovely, with Annie Sprinkle, Jennifer Welles, and Jody Maxwell, 1976. The designers misspelled the word “expose,” instead putting “exporse,” but they did get “sex” right, and there’s “erection” right next to it, for good measure.
 
Savage Fury II, with Christy Canyon, Randy West, Tony Montana, and Ron Jeremy, 1989. Boldly goes where Savage Fury I dared not—into the pants of Ron “The Hedgehog” Jeremy.
 
V—The Hot One, with Annette Haven and John Leslie, 1977. This one is considered one of the better adult flicks of the seventies, with a real plot, a serious message, and a legendary star in Haven.
 
Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here, with Annette Haven and John Holmes, 1976.
 
Olympic Fever, with Candida Royale, Seka, Paul Thomas, and Ron Jeremy, 1979. We’re betting the shot put was the climactic event here, immediately preceded by the breast stroke and pole vault.
 
Honey Pie, with Jennifer Welles, Terri Hall, and Annie Sprinkle, 1975.
 
That’s all for today. We have about a hundred more of these, not all as interesting as this group, but sometime down the line we’ll pick out a few more worthy examples and share them. In the meantime, be sure to check our previous entries on this subject here, here and here.
 
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Modern Pulp Jun 26 2013
DIVE RIGHT IN
Lovely day for a swim, don’t you think?


Above is a poster for the Japanese comedy Shikijô ama: Fundoshi matsuri, which in English is known as Nympho Diver: G-String Festival. Yes, that’s right—Nympho Diver: G-String Festival. With a title that descriptive, it would be a disappointment if there weren’t nympho divers and a g-string festival, but the movie actually delivers what it preposterously seems to promise. It all comes about when the men of a backwater fishing village recruit five young women to serve as “amas,” which are basically topless divers that forage for pearls or abalone. The main goal is to attract tourists to the village, but if the locals’ bland sex lives receive a boost, well, that’s fine too. The girls dutifully arriveand commence their diving chores, but the expected hordes of tourists fail to materialize, whereupon one diver reads about an ancient g-string festival. The village fathers decide that such an event is just what’s needed to get the word out, and so there you have it—nympho divers and a g-string festival.

Shikijô ama: Fundoshi matsuri is packed with sex, albeit of the clumsy, boob groping, simulated type, but of course Japanese movies couldn’t show pubic hair back then, so everything had to be achieved with camera angles and physical acting. The script actually takes a moment to acknowledge this during a scene in which one diver cavorts about nude except for her hand covering her privates. As she bounces around the room, her panicked minder cries, “Stop! They haven’t lifted the ban on pubic hair yet!” Nicely done, that. The film has other, similarly clever moments, but its comic aspects derive primarily from the fact that nearly all the men of the village are goofy, middle-aged schlubs, which gives the sexual proceedings a slapstick air. We’re not big fans of badlysimulated sex or slapstick comedy, but that doesn’t mean Nympho Diver doesn’t work. It’s good-natured, moves fast, has an interesting romantic subplot, and what can’t be disputed is that lovely star Eri Anzai goes about her role with wit, vivacity and very little clothing, as you see in the below promo shots of her and co-stars Maria Mari and Kazuyo Ezaki. So, is the g-string festival a success? Does it draw those coveted tourists and their yen? You’ll just have to watch and find out for yourself. Shikijô ama: Fundoshi matsuri premiered today in 1981.
 
Today also seems like a good opportunity to mention that we have another little sabbatical coming up here up at Pulp Intl. as we head to the Greek Isles for about ten days. We don’t know if Greece will look anything like the g-string festival, but if it does, that won’t be bad, right? The Pulp girlfriends are coming too, since after Morocco they vowed never to let us out of their sight again. Can’t really blame them. Usually, when we go traveling we hope to find some pulp—this time we’re not even going to promise to search. However, rather than let the website go idle, we’ve pre-written a few things, so keep dropping by to see some great cover collections and a rare surprise involving Bettie Page.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 16
1920—Terrorists Bomb Wall Street
At 12:01 p.m. a bomb loaded into a horse-drawn wagon explodes in front of the J.P.Morgan building in New York City. 38 people are killed and 400 injured. Italian anarchists are thought to be the perpetrators, but after years of investigation no one is ever brought to justice.
September 15
1959—Khrushchev Visits U.S.
Nikita Khrushchev becomes the first Soviet leader to visit the United States. The two week stay includes talks with U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, as well as a visit to a farm and a Hollywood movie set, and a tour of a "typical" American neighborhood, upper middle class Granada Hills, California.
September 14
1959—Soviets Send Object to Moon
The Soviet probe Luna 2 becomes the first man-made object to reach the Moon when it crashes in Mare Serenitatis. The probe was designed to crash, but first it took readings in Earth's Van Allen Radiation Belt, and also confirmed the existence of solar wind.

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