Ah hah! There you are, Stabsgefreiter Schultz, out of uniform and with Unterfeldwebel Dietrich's wife, no less.
Nazis ruin everything—even romantic seaside trysts. As it happens though, the scene depicted on this cover of J. Bigelow Clark's The Dreamers never occurs, and in fact these characters must have come from the imagination of artist Stanley Borack, because in terms of their physical characteristics, they don't exist in the narrative at all. The book was originally published in 1945, with this Perma paperback edition appearing in 1955. The story involves four idealistic expatriates living on the small fictional Italian island of Campagna during World War II. Their only intention is escapism in a place of beauty and peace. Then the Nazis show up. And ruin everything.
This book is brilliant, but it will be problematic for some readers because the villain Captain Muller—and he's a very, very bad guy—is gay. His sexuality is a metaphor. As a German officer his incredibly high opinion of himself has primarily to do with his control over and manipulation of men. While some artists use paint or words, he feels he's a Picasso or Titian using humans—the most difficult medium of all—to produce more concrete effects upon civilization than mere visual art does. And his ultimate expression of oneness with his medium is sexual congress with them. Clark's final postulation is that for many men of war, and particularly fascists, violence is a form of eroticism.
Other elements here are also metaphorical, even the island itself. Though the expats, among them an elderly British professor and a German baron, are of different ages and cultures, they become fast friends. Their island is not perfect. There is want and conflict. But without being indoctrinated into the ways of hate people generally help, or at least tolerate, each other. The island represents the possibility of smooth human coexistence. But Captain Muller's purpose is to exert control through violence and fear. He's immediately interested in and drawn to the four expats, and shrewdly understands that the group's relationship with two locals—a legless veteran of the North Africa front and a beautiful young mother—may be the key to achieving his goals.
While all this is going on an American spy arrives on the island and sets into motion a plot to steal diagrams of the submarine bases the Germans are building. The narrative focuses on the professor's and baron's efforts to remain uninvolved, but also follows how a promisethey've made to get the young mother and her child off the island draws them all, bit by terrible bit, into the war against their will. Transitioning from apathy to activism is a standard theme in literature and film, but Clark manages to navigate this course with rare skill. As it develops, The Dreamers generates squirm inducing intensity, almost akin to psychological horror.
But the book's value is in more than just its bold narrative. As time goes by people's knowledge of history comes not from those who lived through it, but from interpreters of it. When conducted under rigorous standards, re-examinations of history are useful and even necessary, but many of this group are not rigorous, and have shady political motives. In the U.S. this manifests as fanciful spins on slavery, the Civil War, and other periods. Many American schoolchildren are now being taught that fascism is the exact opposite of what it was in reality. The Dreamers, written during the fascist era, is clear about what fascism is, how it works, what it seeks to accomplish, and what end of the political spectrum it comes from. Every novel we've read from this period is consistent on these points.
Thus in addition to being a very good book, The Dreamers is yet another reminder that: Mussolini was well liked for years in the U.S. because he was perceived to have saved Italy from communists. Regardless of whether Adolf Hitler had any religious beliefs in private life, the German people knew him as a Catholic, he constantly invoked God in his speeches, and the Holocaust was abetted by people who were overwhelmingly religious. Fascism was vehemently sexist, racist, patriotic, and anti-liberal. Fascism distrusted diplomacy, independent knowledge, and a questioning press, replacing them with aggression, indoctrination, and propaganda. And like all governing systems, fascism was ultimately opportunistic, borrowing any political idea that helped consolidate power.
One benefit of maintaining Pulp Intl. is constantly reading books written contemporaneously with historical events and learning how they were perceived by people who lived through them. The Dreamers has extra value because of this. It's homophobic, though Clark's use of a gay villain is intended to coalesce into metaphor. His scathing attitude toward Germans, on the other hand, never does. It seems as if he hates them en masse. His protagonists often muse about German moral shortcomings. These condemnations of an entire people are an obvious case of turnabout is fair play, and one can hardly be surprised considering what the world was learning about Hitler's atrocities. The Dreamers remains an illuminating reading experience.
Seriously? You're stranding me? Just because I said even cold water can't make a man shrink that much?
When we first saw Naked Return we thought, “A sleaze novel entirely about a woman who has to get home naked? We can't wait to see how this is drawn out to 144 pages!” But the book isn't about that. There's a literal naked return, alright. It occurs in the first chapter when the lead character Sharon's boyfriend steals her swimsuit, leaving her to get home by walking through the woods and into the middle of a packed garden party. The other 95% of the story is a middling drama about her trying to choose between two men, one in Spain and one in the U.S. Yaaaaawn. But at least the book only cost five dollars. The art is uncredited, and the copyright is 1960
After dark the risks are many and the rewards are few.
Based on the brilliant poster art, you'd think Girls in the Night was something other than an average b-drama, but some of the most brilliant posters of the mid-century period are tied to mediocre films, and this is another case. Girls in the Night is from Universal International Pictures, and deals with a family stuck in a slum on New York City's east side, and the restless daughter who desperately wants out. Patricia Hardy stars in her debut effort as the ambitious beauty. She and best buddy Joyce Holden suffer all the usual pitfalls—leering dopes, groping hoods, sniveling bros, jealous dames, nagging moms, and the dangers of crime. They more or less handle the first five problems fine, but when Hardy's brother is implicated in a murder the fallout engulfs family and friends. It's an uninspired juvie drama, but what a poster—and it wasn't the only one. We have two more below. Girls in the Night premiered in the U.S. yesterday in 1953.
Nobody knows who'll win the game of Thorne's.
Yes, she's back. These posters were made for the 1977 naziploitation flick Ilsa the Tigress of Siberia, starring the inimitable Dyanne Thorne dealing out discomfort and death in the icy wastes of Gulag 14. In 1975's Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS she was a member of the Third Reich, but here, only eight years after the Reich cratered, she's somehow employed by the Nazis' mortal enemies the Soviets. She must have nailed the interview.
Interviewer: “What's your greatest strength, professionally?”
Ilsa: “Creatively making people suffer. Like the electrified dildo I invented at a previous gig. That's standard gear for torture now. Stress positions, beatings. I mean, I love it all.”
Interviewer: “What would you say is your biggest weakness?”
Ilsa: “I sometimes work too hard. I'm a perfectionist. In a way, I'm harder on myself than I am on the people I torture.”
Interviewer: “Tell me about a challenge in a work situation, and how you dealt with it.”
Ilsa: “I had a prisoner who was problematic. His positivity was bringing hope to the gulag. I had him castrated.”
Interviewer: “And did this solution work?”
Ilsa: “Yes, he became very negative.”
Interviewer: “I think I've heard enough. When can you start?”
Ilsa: “I already did. I took the initiative and killed the other applicants in the waiting room."
It's amazing that the first Ilsa flick generated two sequels, considering how bad it was. This third entry in the series actually played at the Sitges Film Festival in October 2018, which just goes to show that interest in terrible vintage sexploitation films runs beyond the fringe. We think this movie is almost as bad as the original, but you can decide for yourself. After opening in Canada in 1977, Ilsa the Tigress of Siberia premiered in Japan today in 1978.
He's Keene on murder and mayhem.
We don't generally like photo covers on paperbacks but this double from Lancer Books of the Day Keene novels Who Has Wilma Lathrop? and Murder on the Side is rather nice, with pretty colors and eye catching fonts. Murder on the Side deals with an ordinary guy who, when he tries to help his hot young secretary out of a sticky situation, gets involved in troubles more serious than he planned on. He goes from being bored with his life to risking it at every turn. As for the other book Wilma Lathrop, we already talked about it. You can read our bit on that here.
Do you find people disagreeable? Maybe it's you that's the problem.
This Ron Lesser cover for John D. MacDonald's Pale Gray for Guilt is a variation on the one we posted years back. Yes, we keep reading these MacDonald books even though we complain about the author, but we have no problem with the writing itself—the guy was named a Grandmaster of the Mystery Writers of America, after all. He can certainly write, his plots are usually engrossing, and his characters are interesting. All good. But to an extent we also read him for the same reason some people watch cable news—i.e. to disagree with his opinions. We think the ’60s and ’70s counterculture brought about important, positive, and long overdue changes to society. MacDonald is basically counter-counterculture.
Years back we developed an aphorism, which we became known for among our friends: The moment you make a generalization about any group of people, the living contradiction to that generalization will be nearby to make you look like a fool. MacDonald's franchise character Travis McGee has met his share of people and has scathing views of various groups. We don't mean ethnically or gender-wise, but more esoterically. He'll put down all people who see psychiatrists, or all people who waterski, or all people who vacation in Palm Springs. He finds various categories of humans tedious, save for the few that meet his lofty standards and in so doing serve as proof of his own excellent taste.
The Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle states that the more accurately you measure the velocity of a particle the less accurately you can measure its position, and vice versa. Which is to say any energy you use to pinpoint position will alter a particle's velocity simply by impacting it, and the reverse is true. In human relations, some people tend to alter those they meet. Nice people may cause disagreeable people to temporarily behave a bit nicer; disagreeable people may make normally nice people behave disagreeably. To a disagreeable person, then, it seems as if lots of people are disagreeable.
In Pale Gray for Guilt the disagreeable Travis McGee is focused on avenging the murder of one of his best friends, which seems to have come about due to a refusal to sell waterfront acreage to a large development corporation. McGee manages to buy the land himself, thus bringing the villains out of woodwork to wrest it from him. The story takes a curiously long time to develop, gets overly deep into the minutiae of stock trading, and contains virtually no action, so we imagine this is one of the less liked entries in the McGee series. Yet it's still very readable, which just goes to show what raw writing skill can do.
We finally used the internet for something useful and solved this MacDonald problem—we simply looked up some lists of his best books. Based on the consensus that emerged from his fans (who by the way seem to agree that the McGee series is not as good as his earlier standalone novels), we're going to read Dead Low Tide, Soft Touch, Deadly Welcome, The Executioners (made into the film Cape Fear), and The Drowner. Those seem to be the books people really like, and as a bonus they're all cheap to buy.
Spencer Tracy unleashes the beast on Bergman and Turner.
We don't feature a lot of material from Finland* but this poster for Tri Jekyll ja Mr. Hyde, aka Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, caught our eye. The movie was based on the gothic horror novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, and was the third attempt Hollywood had made at the story, this time with Spencer Tracy as Jekyll/Hyde and Ingrid Bergman as Ivy Peterson. We gather Tracy thought his performance had ruined his career. Talk about being hard on yourself. He's perfectly decent in the role, even if he's a bit unconvincing as an English gentleman, and doesn't even bother tackling the accent. Bergman is decent too, and she does wrestle the accent, and loses, but since she's Swedish you have to forgive her. She'd soon be acknowledged as one of the greatest actresses in cinema. The film also features a pre-superstardom Lana Turner. She would develop a tendency to chew the scenery after she became a global celebrity, but here, in a supporting role under established stars, she's good, and hot as hell to boot—not that Bergman is anything other than dreamy herself.
Do we digress? Not in the least. Their beauty is pivotal to the plot. The two sides of Tracy's personality, the loving and lustful sides, posited as good and evil, are preoccupied by these basically opposite women. This is demonstrated during a nightmare sequence in which Tracy uses a whip to drive a pair of horses, a dark one and a light one, that transform into Bergman and Turner, side by side, windblown, sweaty, and implied as nude. It's a surprising sequence, hotly erotic, and all too brief if you ask us. We could have watched those two all wet and thrashing for a long while. But maybe that's our own Mr. Hyde speaking. In any case, the sequence serves to demonstrate that Dr. Jekyll's beastly Hyde is loose and isn't going back in his cage anytime soon. A career ruining performance from Tracy? On the contrary. His star continued to shine brightly after this highly effective piece of gaslamp horror, and his co-stars' ascents were just beginning. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde premiered in the U.S. in 1941 and reached Finland today in, apparently, 1943. How that happened in the middle of World War II is a mystery to us, but maybe it just shows how pushy Mr. Hyde was.
*While the poster is supposed to be Finnish, it actually seems to contain both Finnish and Swedish lettering. For example "Tri" in Finnish means "doctor," but "Dr.," which is common in Swedish, appears too, Likewise the word "and" is repreated. In Swedish it's "och" but in Finnish it's "ja." We guess the poster was used in both countries.
Around the world in sixty pages.
Exotic Adventures was a men's magazine put out by NYC based Gladiator Publications, Inc. It seems obvious the company had great ambitions, but it managed only six issues before folding. This one came in 1959 with cover art signed “Louis,” whose full identity is not given. In fact, only three people are listed as staff—editor George P. Wallace and two others—so the cover artist wasn't the only hard worker who got short shrift. The individual authors are given bylines, though, as are the men who narrated their "true" tales to biographers.
Exotic Destinations lived up to its name, with pieces set in Kashmir, French Cameroon, Morocco, Honduras, Malaya, and Borneo, and nude models who are supposedly from Japan, Brazil, France, and Germany. It was all printed on glossy paper, which is why you won't see the usual yellowing you get with old magazines, though the printing got a little streaky and inconsistent in the middle pages. Still, taken as a whole Exotic Adventures is a high quality publication, which we snared courtesy of the now idle Darwin's Scans blog. Forty-plus panels below.
I guess we've answered the question of whether your so-called practical learning is as good as my master's degree, haven't we?
What's the quote about people believing resistance to facts is just as valid as acceptance of facts? Fact is, the cowpoke who just got shot dead on the cover of Ford Pendleton's western adventure Gunmaster serves as an example that expertise is good. We slay people like this all the time—with words, heh. Speaking of which, “dier” is indeed a word. It's in Merriam-Webster. Use it in Scrabble. Gunmaster is from Graphic Books, 1956, with cover art by Roy Lance. If you want to see him in a more contemplative mode, check here.
Upon close inspection everything looks ship shape.
Model and actress Mara Corday, née Marilyn Watts, captains this nautical 1953 Corp. A. Fox Technicolor lithograph. Corday is one of those vintage actresses who has a cult following today, which in her case mainly derives from starring in three cheesy sci-fi films—Tarantula, The Giant Claw, and The Black Scorpion. She also appeared in some thrillers and noirs, but her stardom was truly cemented when she was Playboy magazine's Playmate of the Month for October 1958. That centerfold may be one of the most demure the magazine ever published, but the issue sold well, owing to Corday's status as an established movie star. She's still with us at age eighty-eight, and these images are nice mementos from a time when legions of fans were willing to sail anywhere with her. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign
comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
1967—Boston Strangler Convicted
Albert DeSalvo, the serial killer who became known as the Boston Strangler, is convicted of murder and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison. He serves initially in Bridgewater State Hospital, but he escapes and is recaptured. Afterward he is transferred to federal prison where six years later he is killed by an inmate or inmates unknown.
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