They're barely legal but fully dangerous.
The promo poster for Teenage Doll is iconic, at least in our opinion. Has ever a lightbulb looked so sizzlingly ominous? The film, which has an amazing opening credit sequence, deals with a girl gang called the Black Widows who lose a member to a killer and vow to exact revenge on the perpetrator, a square named Barbara who had the misfortune to leave identifying evidence behind. The killing was actually an accident but the Widows don't know that and doubtless wouldn't care. They're going to hunt down Barbara—who's played by June Kenney—wherever she runs. She doesn't run far—just to her parents' house to steal a gun, even as the Widows lay their hands on a firearm of their own. There's gonna be a showdown.
IMDB.com calls Teenage Doll a film noir but it isn't. That website really needs to clean up its act—the internet was supposed to increase knowledge, not mangle it. This movie is a juvenile delinquent flick, directed by b-movie legend Roger Corman, and it's one of a truckload of girl gang pictures that came out during the late 1950s. All the action takes place at night, but to paraphrase what we wrote just a couple of weeks ago, night falls in all kinds of movies, including comedies and pornos, but that doesn't make them film noir. The best place online to find proper film categories is at the American Film Institute website, and there Teenage Doll is classified correctly—as a drama.
In fact, it even verges on melodrama, the way it drips with tragedy. But its primary characteristic is that it's amazingly earnest and in so being transforms via cinematic alchemy from cheap celluloid into pure comedy gold. This one has it all—longsuffering parents, hypergrim cops, obnoxious gang boys, psychopathic lackeys, and most importantly Fay Spain, who as the top gang girl Helen chews the scenery with thirty-six teeth and even claws it with ten fingernails. We know adults normally have thirty-two teeth, but Spain has extras to help her get through plywood and nails. Ultimately, we learn that the entire murder snafu is, at its root, a man's fault, which is the only part of the movie that's realistic. We recommend this one highly—or lowly. It premiered today in 1957.
Voltage schmoltage. I failed English. And science.
You know, Vandalettes has a sort of girl-group ring to it. Can anybody sing?
As long as he leaves his work at the office their relationship has a real chance to succeed.
Above, a cover for Macabrus, by Jannet Mills, aka Laura Toscano, for Edizioni Periodici Italiani's series Classici dell'Orrore, copyright 1970. There are actually other great Italian cover artists, but we're Caroselli loyalists because he was the best. See plenty more from him by clicking his keywords below.
Let me put it to you the only way men seem capable of understanding.
Cool Aldé cover art for Les aventures de Zodiaque #39 — Drôle de musique, published by Éditions de Neuilly in 1952. We talked a bit about Aldé and Zodiaque several years ago, so if you're curious just follow this link. We also have a cover collection you can peruse here.
A Harlem detective learns the rules of engagement in pre-civil rights America.
Ed Lacy is credited by many as having created the first African American detective, Harlem gumshoe Toussaint Marcus Moore. Room to Swing is the novel in which this uniquely named character debuted. The set-up for the plot is also unique. The producer of an unsolved crimes television show called You—Detective! has located a fugitive she wants to arrest on air. She hires Toussaint to keep an eye on this ratings goldmine and make sure he's still around when she and her film crew are ready to spring their trap. Sounds simple, but in 1958 a black detective following a white man 24/7 will run into problems, considering he can't safely go to all the same places. Hell, he couldn't comfortably go to all the same places even today.
And if being a cop magnet isn't bad enough for Toussaint, having a white woman as a client is even more problematic, since they can barely be seen in public together. This is true even in New York and Ohio, where the action takes place. Although the northern U.S. was not part of the Jim Crow system, outside of large cities apartheid generally reigned. Small town Ohio is no different from Alabama for Toussaint. Even getting lunch or using a pay phone is often difficult. Speaking to a white man without calling him “Sir” generally leads to trouble, and being referred to as “boy” in return is standard practice. All of which raises the question: Why did this deep-pocketed producer hire a black detective at all? She has her reasons.
Room to Swing won Lacy the coveted Edgar Award, though we wouldn't say the book is brilliantly written. But it takes readers into fresh territory for a detective novel, and Toussaint is portrayed humanistically and empathetically. The book exemplifies the idea that it's possible for anybody to write about anybody else, regardless of race. Unfortunately, it wasn't a luxury that was often afforded to any but white writers back then, but it certainly should have been. All sorts of insights might have been possible. Room to Swing has plenty of those, and if you can find this Pyramid paperback edition with Robert Maguire cover art, all the better.
Aussie publisher beats the life out of a classic Howell Dodd cover.
Didn't we just share a cover for Whip Hand? We did, but that was a totally different book. That was Whip Hand by W. Franklin Sanders, 1961, and this one is Whip Hand! by Hodge Evens, 1952. And as you can see below, this is yet another book for which the art was copied by a foreign publishing company—Sydney, Australia based Star Books, in 1953. It may seem impossible that Dodd didn't know of this, but back then it was indeed likely he had no clue. And even if he did know, there's little he could have done. Whoever painted this was not credited, and why would they be? Compared to Dodd's original it's pretty limp.
Hi! Yes, the gloves fit perfectly but the rest of my order didn't arrive.
Above, a Technicolor lithograph featuring an unknown model—anyone? anyone?—posing with opera gloves and nothing else. Which will certainly make a splash when she actually goes to the opera. The print is titled “Perfection,” and it came from Champion Line around 1955.
Sabrina Siani is the queen of hearts. Livers, spleens, and kidneys too.
There are a surprising number of cannibal sexploitation movies out there. La Dea Cannibale is one of the better known entries. It's an Italian production with Sabrina Siani in the title role as a little girl found by jungle maneaters who grows up to be fine as hell and becomes the queen of the tribe. As per usual in these movies, an expedition to locate her is mounted by cityfolk. These lunch items comprise the father who lost Siani in the first place—along with his arm—accompanied by several witless adventurers. Or maybe it's fairer to call them brave rather than dumb. But when the group come across stray body parts and gnawed upon corpses yet keep right on trekking into the heart of schlockness, what would you call that? Dumb, right?
Pretty soon the cannibals start picking them off with darts and poisoned arrows, but a few stubborn souls eventually reach the evil village, whereupon daddy is shocked to discover his daughter has grown into a bleached blonde bombshell cavorting in only a thong. The question at that point is whether he can wrench her from the clutches of the godless flesheaters. They won't give her up easily and you can really understand that—other jungle tribes in 1970s cinema have white girl goddesses so why shouldn't they? We'd almost recommend this one for laughs if there were a digital transfer out there, but sadly the version we saw was obviously ripped from a VHS tape and it was annoyingly murky. Sort of like its plot. La Dea Cannibale, which was also called Mondo cannibale, opened in Italy today in 1980.
I love the way you wait for the hole to open then just pound it in there.
It's amazing how explicit sports commentary can be. In baseball you hear phrases like, “He shortened his stroke,” and, “He likes to go hard inside.” In basketball you'll hear, “He's always around the rim,” or variations thereof. But the winner has to be football, where you'll hear quite often, “His tight end was wide open.” Ben West's Confessions of a Co-Ed falls squarely into the sports sleaze niche of fiction, and the cover falls even more specifically into what we think of as locker room sleaze. We wouldn't go so far as to say it's an official genre, but we've noted many covers of this type.
Confessions was actually written by James W. Lampp using a pseudonym early in his writing career, and in this book he tells the story of a Broadway showgirl named Sally who enrolls in high school and pretty soon is distracting the football team so much they can't win games. As noted on the book front she's being paid by an organized crime ring. The idea is for the crooks to make a killing betting against the team, and of course the boys are pretty much powerless against Sally. But complications ensue when she finally comes across a player she actually likes—the studly quarterback. 1952, with cover art by Owen Kampen.
In this game everybody gives their all.
Above, a poster for Kôkôsei banchô: Bôtate asobi, aka The All-Out Game, the second film in the High School Gang Leader franchise. The movie stars Kimisaburo Onogawa, Kei Wakakura, and Saburo Shindo, but Eiko Yanami stars on the poster. Basically, a high school boxing group comes into conflict with a high school judo club thanks to differences between their two leaders, one of whom is a top student and the other of whom is a moron. When we were in high school smart kids couldn't fight but maybe Japan is different. This premiered there today in 1970. See two more posters from the series here and here.
We both said many things last night. By light of day and from a perspective of total sobriety let's admit none of them were true.
The couple on this cover for Gertrude Walker's So Deadly Fair look less than thrilled to be together, but that happens, right? It was painted by Rafael DeSoto, and the book tells the story of a femme fatale who frames a guy for murder—her own. That sounds like we just spoiled the plot but the bulk of the narrative actually deals with what happens when the protagonist is paroled ten years later and has not, shall we say, reached a state of closure about how things went down. Revenge is a dish best served cold, especially when the recipient is your ex. Originally published as a hardback in 1948, this Popular Library edition appeared in 1952.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
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