The only real murders committed may have been of the animals.
Murders in the Zoo is a brisk little sixty-two-minute thriller for which you see two excellent promos above. A dealer in large animals uses the menagerie he’s recently procured in Asia to dispose of his wife’s suitors. The cast is good, especially Kathleen Burke as the straying spouse. You’ll notice she’s called The Panther Woman on the posters. That’s a reference to her role as a woman bred from a panther in the previous year’s hit thriller Island of Lost Souls, and here she retains a hint of animal cunning that makes her the most watchable cast member. Other aspects of the film are less watchable. Zoos are sad affairs even today, but during the 1930s they were tawdry places rife with choke collars and tiny cages. Watching Murders in the Zoo explains why today’s productions have the American Humane Association on set defending the animals’ wellbeing.
Late in the proceedings, the villain tries to facilitate his escape from justice by (spoiler alert) releasing all the big cats from their cages, triggering a feline free-for-all of slashing claws and gnashing fangs. This is no special effect, folks. The sequence is brief and uses footage from two angles to extend the running time, but still, injuries surely resulted. At the least, the leopard that was held down and gnawed on by a lion probably had PTSD until the end of its days. Sometimes we point out scenes in vintage cinema that fall into the could-not-be-filmed-today category, and usually those exemplify the visionary artistry of the past. What is mostly exemplified by Murders in the Zoo’s cat scrum is the cruelty of the human species. But from a purely cinematic perspective it’s a powerful scene, and indeed, the entire zoo setting heightens the overarching dread. As 1930s movies go, Murders in the Zoo is an excellent one. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1933.
Okay, okay, I get it—you refuse to eat the dry food.
llustrator Denis McLoughlin had a seven-decade career during which he produced close to 800 paperback covers and dust jackets. His front for Nancy Rutledge’s, aka Leigh Bryson’s, Blood on the Cat is one of more unusual efforts you’ll see. It depicts the moment a small town newspaper editor finds that his cat Smoky has tracked blood into the house. A search outside turns up not the expected disemboweled unfortunate from lower on the feline food chain, but a beautiful woman passed out in a blood-splattered car. The mystery races onward from there, with suspects that include the town librarian, the bookish schoolmarm, a rich man’s disinherited son, and numerous other smallville types. Blood on the Cat was published initially in 1946, with this Boardman paperback appearing in the UK in 1950.
Just give me a second to put my face on.
Interesting cover work from early pulp illustrator Paul Stahr for Dwight V. Babcock’s mystery A Homicide for Hannah. The art is supposed to be suggestive of Hannah Van Doren’s dual nature—she looks like an innocent sweetheart on the outside, but inside has a morbid fascination with murder and mayhem. Her darker half serves her well as she prowls Hollywood’s grimy corners writing for True Crime Cases. First of a trilogy, the hardback appeared in 1941, and the Avon paperback above is from 1945.
She’s got a dilly of a pickle on her hands.
A Yank on Piccadilly is another book that sounds blatantly pornographic, at least to us, but it's merely the adventures of an American soldier in World War II London. Mild sexual involvement? Yes, there's some of that. Dick yanking? Lamentably, no. In case you’re curious, the name Piccadilly comes from “piccadill,” which was a stiff—cough cough—collar with scalloped edges and a lace border that was the fashion rage during the late sixteenth century. The websites we checked have this cover as by an unidentified artist, but it’s Earle Bergey’s work, clearly. 1952 publication date.
Random acts of lust and violence.
We thought we'd show you one more excellent Red Circle cover by Franco Picchioni, this time for Violenza… forza sette, written by Frank Donovan for Mondadori and published in 1970. The previous Red Circles are here. We were going to share this one later but decided we liked the art so much there was no point in saving it.
A bouquet so nice it needed to be delivered twice.
Does this model look familiar? She might, if you visit here frequently. She’s the same unidentified star of an undressable Technicolor lithograph we shared around Christmas time. In the above image her pose is almost—but not quite—identical to that in the December image. You can compare them by looking here. The earlier shot was from K.L.M., while the one above was published by J.S.I. Both of them are from the early 1950s. Now look below. Yes, you’re seeing double. Well, almost. The print down there came from Corp. A. Fox in 1956. If you look closely you’ll see that the logo at lower right and title at lower left are different than above. The above shot is titled “Secret,” as in secret admirer, we presume, and the below shot is titled “Remembrance,” as in we hope the florist remembered to remove the thorns.
The change of logo and title shows how these images spread from company to company. Possibly each publisher bought the rights for a short time, leaving the owner free to peddle the same shots again later. Alternatively, K.L.M. bought the negs for a long period but was absorbed by A. Fox at some point. We wouldn’t doubt it—there were many publishers of these shots, and it seems unlikely they all thrived. Buying out a failing company and acquiring its images would be good business. It gets complicated, though, because as we now know, some of these pin-ups come from negatives owned by Playboy and were printed with the bunny logo, which suggests licensing deals. We’re still doing research on that aspect of the industry, so maybe we’ll know more later. In meantime, anyone recognize the model?
Very funny. Why don’t you just call it your penis like an adult and stop with that stupid nickname?
Not only does the book’s title sound like a nickname for a penis, but so does the name of the author—John Wyllie. Well, the story has nothing to do with sex. It’s a World War II saga set in Sumatra and revolving around a group of flyboys. Wyllie got some of his ideas from firsthand experience—he was a flyer for Canada during the war, was shot down, and spent some years in Japanese prison camps. He wrote about a dozen books, with this one coming in 1955 (paperback in ’58), and enjoyed moderate success.
Three Italian covers offer three visions of Mickey Spillane’s hard-boiled Mike Hammer classic.
The top cover for Mickey Spillane’s Ti ucciderò was painted by the excellent Giovanni Benvenuti for Garzanti in 1957. You can see the artist’s signature more or less in the middle of the cover. The title Ti ucciderò means “I will kill you,” which is considerably less evocative than the original title I, the Jury, but maybe that just doesn’t translate well in Italy for some reason. The second cover is also from Garzanti and dates from 1972. The shifty eyes at top were a design element on all the Spillane covers from Garzanti during the period. Last you see a 1990 edition of I, the Jury published by Oscar Mondadori, and though we don’t know the artist, it’s interesting to see a book appear so late with a painted cover. The detective on that one, if you take a close look, is the actor Stacy Keach. He was starring as Mike Hammer on an American television show called The New Mike Hammer, from which you see a still at right, and the Mondadori book was a tie-in for when the show hit Italian television. All three covers are nice, but Benvenuti is tops, as always.
, Oscar Mondadori
, Ti ucciderò
, I the Jury
, Mickey Spillane
, Giovanni Benvenuti
, Stacy Keach
, cover art
Movie Pictorial was a Japanese magazine with an international flair.
Above is a collection of covers from Movie Pictorial, aka Movie Information, a Japanese cinema and celeb magazine that thrived from the 1950s until the 1980s. Typically one side was Japanese in nature, and the other was Western. These were filled with photos, but we haven’t managed to find one at a reasonable price yet. When we do we’ll show you what’s inside. You can see more covers here and here. Japan
, Movie Information
, Movie Pictorial
, Nathalie Delon
, Sydne RomeMaria Anzai
, Faye Dunaway
, Eiko Matsuda
, Jocelyn Lane
, Midori Kinouchi
, Genevieve Grad
, Catherine Denueve
, Etsuko Nami
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1984—Marvin Gaye Dies from Gunshot Wound
American singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye, who was famous for a three-octave vocal range which he used on hits such as "Sexual Healing" and "What's Going On," is fatally shot in the chest by his father after an argument over misplaced business documents. Gaye scored forty-one top 40 hit singles on Billboard's pop singles chart between 1963 and 2001, sixty top 40 R&B hits from 1962 to 2001, and thirty-eight top 10 singles on the R&B chart, making him not only one of the most critically acclaimed artists of his day, but one of the most successful.
1930—Movie Censorship Enacted
In the U.S., the Motion Pictures Production Code is instituted, imposing strict censorship guidelines on the depiction of sex, crime, religion, violence and racial mixing in film. The censorship holds sway over Hollywood for the next thirty-eight years, and becomes known as the Hays Code, after its creator, Will H. Hays.
1970—Japan Airlines Flight 351 Hijacked
In Japan, nine samurai sword wielding members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction hijack Japan Airlines flight 351, which had been en route from Tokyo to Fukuoka. After releasing the passengers, the hijackers proceed to Pyongyang, North Koreas's Mirim Airport, where they surrender to North Korean authorities and are given asylum.
1986—Jimmy Cagney Dies
American movie actor James Francis Cagney, Jr., who played a variety of roles in everything from romances to musicals but was best known as a quintessential tough guy, dies of a heart attack at his farm in Stanfordville, New York at the age of eighty-six.
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