A dozen bloody reasons to love Halloween.
This poster is a special edition promo painted by Nanpei Kaneko for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which was showing at the Tokyo International Film Festival on its fortieth anniversary in 2014. The Japanese title 悪魔のいけにえtranslates to “devil sorrowfully” or “Satan sorrowfully,” and that's a mystery to us, as we're sure there are chainsaws in Japan, as well as the concept of massacres, and some general inkling about Texas, but whatever. Sorrowfully it is—the poster is amazing.
Below, in honor of Halloween, which is becoming more and more of an event here overseas where we live, we have eleven more Japanese posters for 1970s and 1980s U.S.-made horror films. They are, top to bottom, The Prowler (aka Rosemary's Killer), The Fog, Lifeforce, An American Werewolf in London, Bug, Halloween II (aka Boogey Man), Let Sleeping Corpses Lie,Torso, The Evil Dead, Link, and Death Trap.
We've put together horror collections in the past. We have five beautiful Thai posters at this link, fifteen Japanese horror posters we shared on Halloween two years ago here, and we also have a collection of aquatic creature feature posters we shared way back in 2009. And if those don't sate your appetite for the morbid and terrible, just click the keyword “horror” below, and you can see everything we've posted that fits the category. No tricks. Only treats.
Worse comes to worst in a dusty western town.
We told you the film was on the slate. When we noticed its premier date was right around the corner we watched it immediately after finishing Hell Hath No Fury. First order of business—the poster and tagline are terrible. It shows how easy it can be for a studio to screw up both. The text tells you The Hot Spot is a film noir, but the triptych style art provides no compelling imagery. Worse, you don't see Don Johnson clearly, though as a huge television star thanks to Miami Vice he was the movie's greatest asset. And you don't see Jennifer Connelly at all, who even back then was one of Hollywood's most beautiful women. Posters are seen before they're read, and the visuals here give no reason to examine further. We grade it a major fail.
But what of the film? Well, it got generally good reviews, but the public never turned up to see it. Johnson is nicely cast as the drifter/grifter Harry Madox, so he isn't to blame. Jennifer Connelly and Virginia Madsen were less known, but as supporting characters they more than did their part. Other modern noirs had performed well in cinemas, so it's not the style of The Hot Spot that hurt it. The direction from Dennis Hopper sticks reasonably close to the novel, and he gets the overheated small town atmosphere right, so we'll give him a pass too. Most likely the studio simply didn't make an effective push behind the movie—a theory backed up by the bad poster.
But The Hot Spot holds up well these years later. Some might find Madsen's honeydripping femme fatale improbable, but she's channelling both the source material and classic noirs. Other viewers probably doubted a nineteen-year-old Connelly could develop feelings for a Johnson on the far side of forty, but it happens. People who doubt that just haven't spent enough time in the real world. In the film the age difference does not go unaddressed. Johnson's feelings for his inappropriate crush prompt him to act against his best interests. Whether he pays a price hangs less on his cunning than on chance. Or perhaps it hangs on someone else's cunning—that's where the best femmes fatales always come in. The Hot Spot premiered in the U.S. today in 1990.
Some things are better left undimensioned.
Stuart Gordon's cult classic horror film From Beyond premiered in the U.S. today in 1986, but we're sharing this Thai poster because it's more attractive than the American promo. For the uninitiated, From Beyond is loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name about a scientist who discovers what is today a standard terror motif: if you can see them, they can see you. Lovecraft came up with this idea way back in 1920, spinning a tale about a machine called a resonator that enables humans to see horrific beings that surround us but reside in an invisible adjacent dimension. But once the scientist perceives them, the monstrous entities likewise perceive him—and come calling.
The film starred Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, two alumni from Gordon's bravura gorefest Re-Animator, released the previous year. From Beyond doesn't push the envelope as far as the earlier film, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It just means Gordon tempered his vision a bit. In other ways the films are quite similar. Both play the naked-woman-as-victim card, which can be uncomfortable to watch, since these days such sequences are not benignly received. As always, times change.
In From Beyond the nudity isn't gratuitous exactly. One of the side effects of the resonator is that it frees the id, which is why you see Crampton go from buttoned up schoolmarm to brazen dominatrix in the promo shots below. Males are similarly affected. We searched for shots of co-star Ken Foree in his banana hammock undies—one of many famous moments from the film—but came up empty, so to speak. Regardless of the cultural shift that has placed movies like From Beyond, with its depiction of sexual assault, on shaky ground in 2017, we recommend it for true horror fans. The viewing may discomfit, but the villain is after all both man and monster, which makes him/it an interesting symbol for our modern age.
Kazamatsuri finds herself in another difficult spot.
We last saw Yuki Kazamatsuri in the 1982 roman porno flick Onna kyôshi-gari, starring with a cast of men behaving badly. With that in mind we took a look at Tsuma-tachi no Seitaiken: Otto no Me no maede Ima..., aka Wife's Sexual Fantasy Before Husband's Eyes, and basically the same thing happens. This time her husband becomes the victim of blackmail and a frame-up, and as part of his coercion the bad guys make him offer Kazamatsuri to them for depraved sex. She of course agrees because it's to save her husband's skin, and this being a roman porno flick, she discovers she likes it and wants more of the same. So there you go. Once again we need to point out that roman porno is not hardcore, but rather something just a bit more edgy than late night Cinemax, though the plots tend to be well outside accepted American norms. Well outside. But at least you can console yourself that it's all just acting. Tsuma-tachi no Seitaiken: Otto no Me no maede Ima... premiered in Japan today in 1982.
The only rehabilitation going on here is by the poster artist.
Above you see a striking color poster for the Roger Corman produced women-in-prison flick Women in Cages, one of the many sexploitation epics filmed in the Philippines during the 1970s. For an entertaining ninety minutes on that subject, by the way, you should watch the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed. It's the final word on the chaos of Philippine movie production and covers everything from Savage! to Apocalypse Now. Women in Cages is one of the earlier Philippine women-in-prison flicks, coming after The Big Doll House.
Despite the fact that the poster is signed R. Engel and dated '72, it's actually a piece of modern pulp made within the last several years. The person behind it is German artist Rainer Engel, who put it together borrowing the DVD box cover art from Subkultur-Entertainment's 2013 re-issue of the movie, which in Germany was called Frauen hinter Zuchthausmauern. We ran across the re-styled poster on the artist's website, decided his mock-up beats the hell out of the 1971 original art, and thought it was worth sharing.
When we wrote about the film a while ago we said we thought it was a bit much. Specifically, it's relentlessly grim. Of the trilogy that includes The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage this middle entry is the one that forgot the first rule of the 1970s women-in-prison genre—the movie should be absurd and fun. When it isn't—i.e. when it shades into depressing realism—you come away wondering if there's something wrong with you for having watched it in the first place. You can read our post on the film here, and you can visit the artist's website here.
This is one night everybody wants to forget.
The North American poster for the 1980 high school horror flick Prom Night is pretty straightforward—as you see below, it's a masked head and a knife, and was used in Canada, where the film was made, and in the U.S. The Japanese promo, on the other hand, has a beautiful image of Anne-Marie Martin rendered by airbrush artist Harumi Yamaguchi. It's almost like the Japanese distributors took this movie seriously.
Have you ever seen it? It's cheesy as hell and slow to develop, with a cop voiceover, wooden acting from performers who in real life were all in their mid-twenties, and a final unmasking of the killer that's an anti-climax. It's also a sad reminder that high-waisted pants, despite the fact that many women are wearing them again these last few years thanks to the fashion industry championing them, are really fuckin' ugly.
But for all those flaws, the movie is better than it has a right to be. Plus it has Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen, and they make up for a multitude of sins. Prom Night premiered as プロムナイト in Japan today in 1981. That translates directly, but we don't think Japanese schools have proms. Somehow the American concept is known, though, which makes us wonder if they learned it from the movie. If so, proms will not be getting popular in Japan anytime soon.
Please don't tease the animals.
Operating on the same level of explicitness as cable softcore doesn't mean roman porno flicks can't push the envelope. Japanese filmmakers working in this genre were solidly experienced by the time Dan Oniroku aoi onna came along, and it's amazing how adept they were at implying everything while showing little. Content-wise Dan Oniroku aoi onna gets pretty far out. The film had no U.S. release, but the title would be “Oniroku Dan,” after Japan's most famous author of sado-masochist fiction, and “blue girl.” The blue girl in question is Izumi Shima, one of roman porno's truly radiant actresses, who spends most of this film trapped in a perverted private sex club in bondage-related distress. We could describe how she ends up in this place, but why bother? We could also describe the various pokings, proddings, and probings the lovely Miss Zu endures, but there's no point. She's naked and helpless is all you need to know, and that—apparently—is what drew Japanese audiences to these films in droves. Most of the time we like to provide a set of stills or screen grabs to give you an idea what to expect. For this one we're giving you only a single production photo, below. That should about cover it. Dan Oniroku aoi onna premiered in Japan today 1982.
Gemser makes a movie out of spare parts.
In Porno Esotic Love Indonesian sexploitation superstar Laura Gemser finds herself in another exotic locale—this time Hong Kong—where she engages in another series of softcore romps with hirsute westerners. She made something like twenty-six movies along these lines, which is why the makers of this one couldn't resist taking shortcuts. They cobbled together a good chunk of the footage from Gemser's previous outings and shoehorned them into a new narrative about a woman seeking revenge for the heroin overdose of her sister. The cynical usage of previously shot footage makes this one of director Joe D'Amato's worst efforts, but also one of his most profitable, we suspect. We can't possibly recommend the movie, but in order to compensate for the aching sense of loss you probably feel, there's a promo shot of Gemser below kicking back on a large rock, or perhaps the world's smallest deserted island, depending on how you want to look at it. Porno Esotic Love premiered in Italy today in 1980.
A priest, a cop, and a heroin addict walk into The Mist...
Last night we watched the sixth episode of Spike Television's horror serial The Mist, and though we weren't going to weigh in on the show, we got frustrated enough to bang out this write-up labeling it what it is—a disappointment. Which is too bad, because the Stephen King novella sourced for the series might be the best thing he ever wrote. It's hard to know where to begin discussing the show, so we'll start not with that, but with its medium. Television has changed. Where the real talent once gravitated toward cinema, today some of the best conceptualizing and writing is on television, as top creatives are driven to the small screen because movie studios are almost wholly focused on puerile superhero movies and juvenile comedies. Television is where The Wire, Game of Thrones, and Fargo made indelible marks on American culture. Hell, we can even go back to The Sopranos for an early example. The point is you have to bring your A-game.
But the creator of The Mist, Danish writer-director Christian Torpe, took one of Stephen King's best works, adapted it to a medium that is incredibly receptive to serialized horror, and blew it. King is credited as a writer on all ten episodes, but that's only a nod to him as the originator of the source material. He wasn't involved in the new teleplays, and they're spectacularly botched, put together by the worst kind of horror writers—those who force the characters to serve the convolutions of the plot rather than their own need for self preservation.
We'll give you an example. When a priest and a ’60s flower child disagree on whether the mist is sent by God or is a manifestation of Nature-with-a-capital-N, they decide to both walk into it to see which of them is spared. This is a mist filled with creatures that have caused the most painful deaths imaginable, but ho hum, they have a spiritual pissing match they need to settle, so into it they go, and a group of bystanders allows this lunacy to occur without raising an objection. Maybe next time they're at the zoo they can leap into the lion enclosure to see whether razor sharp claws and fangs are God or Nature.
In another example of the same terrible writing, a group stuck in a mall comes up with a set of rules to ration food and keep order. That's fine. The punishment for breaking any of the rules is expulsion from the mall. That's not fine. That's a sentence of death for even minor infractions, and this has been agreed upon by characters isolated for only a day or two, far too little time to go full Lord of the Flies. Under those circumstances virtually any normal person would say, “No, we don't agree that expulsion from the mall is a fair punishment, and if you get anywhere near us we're going to use a three wood from Dick's Sporting Goods on your cranium.” Those disinclined toward violence would perhaps say, “You know what—this mall is massive, so you have your crazy old testament punishment zone here, and we'll just hang out in the Cinnabon at the far end.”
Another issue with The Mist is that the characters are diverse in unrealistic and manipulative ways. See if this sounds like the beginning of a joke to you: there's a priest, a cop, a heroin addict, a jock, a hippie, and a bully. In the best television shows the characters are very much the same when you meet them, but their differences manifest over time because of who they are inside—not due to the uniforms they wear. In The Mist the cop wears a uniform and the priest wears a different uniform and the solider wears a still different uniform, but no less obvious are the uniforms worn by the flower child (sun dress and pants), the gay kid (eyeliner), the heroin addict (sweat), and the good girl (virginal white skin). Even many of the minor characters are written as clichés. Compare that to a show like The Walking Dead. In season one what is the difference between the two major characters Rick Grimes and Shane Walsh? There is none, except one is duplicitous and one is honorable. What is the main difference between Rick and Carol? It's not their sex. It's that she's more easily capable of cruelty for what she feels is right. What is the difference between Carol and Morgan? It isn't their skin. It's that he abhors lethal violence and has to come to grips with its necessity. Their differences are internal, and watching them revealed is one of the joys of the show. But in The Mist the uniforms—literal and figurative—are there to do the work the writers were too lazy to manage.
Basically, there are no genuine surprises in the way The Mist's characters develop. The cop becomes an authoritarian but later seems to climb down from total assholery. The priest at first seems reasonable but eventually decides he must impose his faith on others. The heroin addict clings to worldly pursuits like money and being high, but later decides she needs to kick. She does this, by the way, in a sequence bracketed by a standoff and fight elsewhere in the building. She'd said the process of medically assisted detox would take five or six hours. As two characters elsewhere in the building argue, she's tied to a bed, where she sweats and screams, and is later untied, presumably five or six hours later. Then we cut back to the argument, which shortly turns into a fight. Did those two argue for five hours? It's the type of egregious timelime weirdness you see only in badly made shows, and it's symptomatic of the lack of deep thought behind The Mist. We stuck with it for more than half its ten episode run, but now we're giving up. It's clear the writers aren't going to overcome any of the show's problems in the next four episodes.
In a place like Atlantic City there's always one more chance.
The poster you see above was painted by the Spanish artist Francisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, who signed his work as Jano. As you can see, it was to promote Louis Malle's drama Atlantic City, U.S.A. Most sites call the film just Atlantic City, but we're going with what the opening credits called it. Though the movie starred U.S. performers and tends to be thought of as an American effort, it was French produced and premiered all over Europe in 1980 before reaching the States in 1981. It opened in Spain today in 1980 and tells the story of a sixty-something minor crook who finds himself involved with twenty-something hustlers and their sale of stolen drugs. Circumstances place both the party favors and the profits in his hands, and he suddenly has a chance to be the big time mobster he never was.
Not only did Atlantic City, U.S.A. win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, it's one of the few movies to be nominated for all five major Academy Awards—Best Actor (Burt Lancaster), Best Actress (Susan Sarandon), Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay. With a résumé like that we don't have to tell you the movie is good. Watch it. You'll like it. The woman on the poster, by the way, looks nothing like Susan Sarandon, but it was early in Sarandon's career, and we suspect Jano wasn't too invested in getting her likeness correct. It was within his capability, certainly—his Lancaster looks great. We don't know why he got Sarandon wrong. Considering how famous she eventually became, we have a feeling he wished he'd done better.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
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