You can try to ransom me but my husband really doesn't answer the phone during football season.
In Who Has Wilma Lathrop? a Chicago high school teacher marries the woman of his dreams after a three month courtship, but wakes up one morning to find her missing, and immediately thereafter discovers she has a hidden past as a gangster's mistress and possible jewel thief. Suddenly that whirlwind romance doesn't seem like it was a good idea, but he loves her and has to locate her. He's smart and has some combat training, so he isn't totally helpless, but finds himself in deeper and deeper trouble. This is a recommended yarn from Day Keene set in the middle of a bitter Chicago winter. If you're lucky enough to find the above 1955 Gold Medal edition you'll get great art by Barye Phillips.
I may be a bum but that's Sergeant Bum to you.
Above, an Italian promo poster painted by Luigi Martinati for the U.S. adventure flick South Sea Woman, with Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo. In Italy it was called Il sergente Bum! There's no Italian release date known. We did a little write-up of the film you can see at this link, and you can check out more of Martinati's brilliant brushwork here.
I go out walkin'... after midnight... out in the moonlight...
Crime writers all face the same task of dumping their heroes into hot water in new and interesting ways. In Night Walker Donald Hamilton shoves his protagonist into a bizarre situation and it all begins with him merely hitchhiking after dark. The next thing he knows he's hurt, housebound, and forced to assume a dead man's identity. If he doesn't continue the charade serious consequences could result, with prison being the least of them. But of course, as in any decent thriller, there's always the promise of great rewards, in this case the dead man's beautiful wife Elizabeth, or possibly the dead man's young mistress Bonita. There's a funny line of dialogue in this one when a character refuses a cigarette:
“Don't take it out on Philip Morris. He hasn't done anything to you.”
Ah, the 1950s, when men were men and cigarettes weren't coffin nails. And another staple of 1950s genre fiction is commie hysteria, also a major component of this book. But that's fine—every literary era has its archetypal villains. The book's fatal flaw is that the latter portion contains long monologues of the bad guy explaining his evil plot, due to the fact that Hamilton hasn't constructed the narrative for the hero to suss it out for himself. Tedious doesn't even begin to describe this sort of writing. Overall Night Walker is middling work from Hamilton, passable in the first half, but a bit taxing in the second. Good thing this 1964 edition from Fawcett's Gold Medal was cheap. And the cover art is nice. It's by Harry Bennett.
A scooter made for three.
Above, a goofy promo poster for Anaba arashi with Eiko Yanami, Akane Kawasaki, and Kaoru Sono. This is an obscure one. The Japanese title would translate to something about storms, but the movie was called in English Three Mischievous Girls, or possibly Naughty Three Woman Gang, and it premiered in Japan today in 1971. We'll dig around and see if we can find out more on this one. See several more nice Eiko Yanami posters by clicking her keywords below.
A stranger in strange lands comes to know pure evil.
Because Eric Ambler's 1939 thriller The Mask of Dimitrios is the source of the classic 1944 film noir of the same name starring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, we should have read it long ago, but better late than never. The book tells the story of a writer in Istanbul who becomes interested in a killer, smuggler, slaver, and political agitator known as Dimitrios Makropoulos. In hopes of finding inspiration the writer begins to piece together the life of this mystery man.
The investigation carries him from Istanbul to Sofia to Geneva and beyond. That sounds exotic, but the story is almost entirely driven by external and internal dialogues, with little effort spent bringing alive its far flung locales. While we see that as a missed opportunity, and the book could be shorter considering so much of the aforementioned dialogue fails to further illuminate matters, it's fascinating how Dimitrios is slowly pieced together. Here's a line to remember, as the main character Latimer reflects upon the modern age and what the world is becoming:
“The logic of Michelangelo's David and Beethoven's quartets and Einstein's physics had been replaced by that of The Stock Exchange Yearbook and Hitler's Mein Kampf.”
That isn't one you'd soon forget. Ambler sees casino capitalism and Nazism as twin signposts on a road to perdition built by people like Dimitrios. We can't even imagine that being written by a popular author today without controversy, but Ambler, writing in England during the late 1930s, had zero trouble identifying exactly what he was looking at. This Great Pan edition of The Mask of Dimitrios appeared many years later in 1961, and it has unusual but effective cover art from S. R. Boldero.
This is your screenwriter's brain on drugs.
The poster you see above is the U.S. promo for the b-flick Free Grass, aka Scream Free!, aka Street Drugs, which starred Richard Beymer and Lana Wood in a drug drenched counterculture road adventure. We won't mince words—this movie is godawful. It's painful to admit, since we're pro-counterculture guys here at Pulp Intl., but in terms of writing, editing, directing, scoring, and especially acting, this movie is off-the-charts terrible. Basically a hippie runs afoul of the law when a cop is killed during a Mexican drug deal, and has to evade narcotics agents while trying to keep his flower child girlfriend safe. Besides Beymer and Wood there are other semi-famous performers here, such as Casey Kasem and Russ Tamblyn, and it's amazing any of them ever showed their faces in public again after this turkey hit cinemas.
Like most drug movies, Free Grass borrows Jefferson Airplane's concert lighting for drug trips and club sequences, but just when the hypnovisuals start to dazzle your brain terrible dialogue rudely ejects you back into reality. And to think, four guys were needed to write the movie. We can only assume they took the title literally and wrote the entire script while ripping bong hits of Mexican weed. There's one draw here—the uniquely beautiful Wood, who would reach her high water mark, cinematically speaking, as Plenty O'Toole in the 1971 James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever. Here, unfortunately, she reaches her low water mark wearing a cheap ash blonde wig and spending the last few reels of screen time tied to a bed.
At one point Beymer, besieged by psychedelic lights and seriously bummer vibes, puts his fists to his temples and reels as if his head might explode. That's how we felt: “Why? Why? Why is this happening to us?” We count ourselves lucky not to have flung ourselves off our balcony before the credits rolled. But like all bad trips this one finally ended, and we hope to make it through our remaining years without flashbacks. Free Grass premiered in the U.S. in Detroit, Michigan today in 1969—and the city still hasn't recovered. But at least Lana is here to remind us there's goodness and beauty in the world. Choose life.
Stop calling me that. It's Stan. My name is Stan.
Satan in Malibu came from Vega Books via the brain and typewriter of Frank Cannon, and it deals with a man who tries to solve his brother's murder. He learns of the death when a telegram arrives, but is the woman who sent it to him really trying to help, or is there more to her story? The hero's investigation takes him to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Southern California, and when he gets there he runs across a band of satanists who may have done the killing.
We last ran across Frank Cannon when we shared a cover for his 1964 effort Hide in Hell. The hell in that book was figurative. The hell in Satan in Malibu is a slightly less so, since the villains actually believe in it, but the reason for the murder is rooted firmly in the mundane world. We don't know who painted the cover art, but for Vega Books it's not bad. The copyright on this is 1961.
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