Rolling on down the highways.
We know. We just had an intermission. Well, a friend has flown in all the way from the U.S., so we're going to take a little drive around the region surrounding our new home, stopping in three towns and two countries, then circle back here. As always the first question is: will there be pulp where we're going? We think there may be. We're hopeful. Second question: is there potential for serious trouble? Hey, not just anyone can be threatened with murder by five guys in the Marrakech medina, so we're hopeful on that front too. Barring true catastrophe, we'll be back in five or six days.
Drug enforcement agents and heroin dealers settle their issues Outback.
We just shared a 1950 issue of Adam last week, but since it was too fragile for us to scan it all here's a second one, more completely documented. This hit Aussie newsstands this month in 1975 and you see the bright colors and dynamic art that was its trademark in those years. The cover illustrates Alex Tait's tale, “The Raw Deal,” which has to do with two undercover agents setting up a sale of pure heroin in order to take down a drug ring. The two agents, male and female, are posing as a couple, and as happens in fiction, the posing turns into reality. Interestingly, they have little choice because the villains have installed a two-way mirror in the agents' quarters and are keeping watch. So it's either get busy or blow their cover. The helicopter on the cover is the cavalry coming to the rescue right when it looks like the two agents will be executed. Adam's illustrations, at least from the early 1960s onward, were never generic. They were always tailor-made for a story in the magazine. Since most of the writers were relatively inexperienced, we can only imagine how thrilling it must have been for them to see their work represented this way. We have twenty-eight scans below for your enjoyment.
*sigh* Sure, wild body. Always wild. Dance, dance, dance. You know how this body feels right now? Hung over.
This cover for the 1953 novel Wild Body introduced a new artist to us—Howard Purcell, who produced an illustration better than Manning Clay's novel deserves. Wild Body is the story of a woman named Valerie Browning who's too attractive. That's Clay's formulation, not ours. Valerie's dilemma is summed up by this line about a hundred pages in: The cruelty of nature had endowed her with an exotic body but had forgotten to provide a heart and a soul. So she's kind of like the Tin Man, but stacked. She has starry ambitions, but can only manage to reach the burlesque circuit. As a dancer she quickly becomes jaded and depressed, and in addition to problems with men has a roommate named Lucyanne who gets one gander of Val's goods and decides same-sex action is where it's at. That could make for a good tale, but with low levels of action, eroticism, and drama, Wild Body lacks body and isn't all that wild. We'll keep our eyes open from more art from Purcell, though. This subtly phallic cover is excellent.
You know that fist bump thing? I invented it way back in the ’70s except it was my fist and their faces.
We've commented before about how, generally speaking, actresses from the blaxploitation era don't have much in the way of surviving promotional material. It's possible few promos were ever made. In either case, it means good photos of the genre's stars can be rare. Pam Grier is an exception. She was one of the top performers to come out of blaxploitation, was also an impact presence in the women-in-prison niche, and really, was probably the first woman you could call an action star. We say probably to hedge our bets, but we can't think of a counter example, unless, maybe, we look at Japanese film. But because Grier was an important figure, she was reasonably well photographed. For that reason, previously unseen shots appear regularly. The two images above, which turned up online earlier this year, are excellent additions to her cinematic legacy. They were shot in 1975, and are part of the series that produced the well known image below that appeared inside an issue of New York magazine.
It's a tough job but somebody's got to do her.
Wright Williams' 1948 novel Hired Husband came in a group of pulp novels we bought, and clearly isn't a crime or adventure novel, but a sleazy romance. And what vintage sleazy romances typically do is get the female protagonist laid, but not entirely due to her own efforts. In this case Laurette and John want to have a child, but can't get married because John's wife is wasting away comatose in a hospital, could continue doing so indefinitely, and divorcing a sick spouse who can't speak for herself isn't legal. So John is stuck. But he and Laurette feel they have no time to waste in pursuit of happiness and family, so they hire Latham to marry Laurette, so that John can impregnate her and the child will be so-called legitimate. After John's wife finishes withering to oblivion, Laurette will divorce her platonic hubby Latham, marry the widowed John after a respectable interval, and presto, instant family. What could possibly go wrong? Hah hah, plenty. Hired Husband is preposterous, and only marginally well written, but it kept us engaged. Also engaging is the cover art by Bill Wenzel, a guy we've featured before. See more here.
Everything that matters happens while the city sleeps.
This poster for The Sleeping City says it's the exciting successor to The Naked City. That's a mighty bold claim, considering The Naked City was directed by the legendary Jules Dassin and was selected for permanent preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress's National Film Registry, while The Sleeping City was directed by the not-quite-legendary George Sherman, who mostly helmed westerns and received a Golden Boot Award for his contributions to the Western film genre. Both were skilled at their craft, no doubt. But there's a big difference between the National Film Registry and the Golden Boot.
The Sleeping City is a New York City based crime thriller, and it starts with a cheeseball introduction in which lead Richard Conte pays tribute to Bellevue Hospital and its doctors and nurses. It was tacked onto the finished picture after city officials learned that the public already viewed the hospital negatively, and a crime thriller set there might make those perceptions worse. But it was still a silly thing to do—Bellevue was a public hospital. It wasn't like it was going to lose ad revenue from bad publicity. In any case, we're glad these sorts of “the story you're about to see” preambles didn't last long in Hollywood.
Once the movie gets started, Conte plays a cop sent undercover to solve a murder at the hospital. He's posing as a doctor and has some medical experience, but is by all means to avoid being roped into a situation where he actually has to do any doctoring. If he gets in a jam of that sort he's supposed to sacrifice his cover, and as reliably as the turn of a script page, he gets trapped into treating a case of diabetic shock. He decides to forge ahead rather than step aside. One could ponder his ethics, but luckily he gets through by the skin of his teeth. Whew.
Conte sticks his long nose in various nooks and crannies around Bellevue, makes goo-goo eyes with ward nurse Coleen Gray, and finds himself roomed with a hothead doctor named Steve. The murder mystery eventually lands right in his lap when his roommate turns up dead—lucky break that—and an important clue is provided by a nurse played by Peggy “Wow*” Dow. We won't tell you how the plot unspools from that point. We'll just say The Sleeping City is a functional thriller worth a watch. With Conte and Gray on board, it's pretty hard to fail. The film premiered this week in 1950.
*Not her official nickname. That's just how we think of her.
She wasn't really all that nice even before the demon showed up.
The tateken style poster you see above was made for the Japanese actioner Yôen dokufu-den: Han'nya no Ohyaku, aka Ohyaku: The Female Demon, set in Edo era Japan, and starring Junko Miyazono, Tomisaburô Wakayama, and Kunio Murai. Miyazono plays woman who as little girl survived when her prostitute mother jumped with her off a bridge, and as an adult carries a scar on her back from this traumatic suicide. She's grown up to be an acrobat, but is treated shabbily by men just as her mother was.
She flees her circus life and hooks up with a handsome young samurai, only to learn that he plans to steal gold being transported via caravan from a government mint. She begs to help her young lover, as he also takes on a partner who tried to rob the same mint twenty years earlier, losing an arm in the process. His knowledge will hopefully be key, but like any heist, there are hidden dangers. It's a given some will come from the protectors of the coveted goods, but sometimes they come from partners in positions of trust. That's all we'll say about the plot, except that Miyazono is never actually possessed by a demon. What happens is she gets a demon tattoo on her back, which we guess symbolizes her transition from somewhat shady to fully vengeful.
The movie was made by Toei Company and was the first in a trilogy of films that are often cited as precursors to the studio's famed pinky violence cycle. We can certainly see the similarity, though this film is black and white rather than the vivid color you get with pinky violence. But all that really matters is that it's entertaining, starting fast, incorporating nice sword action, and covering a lot of thematic ground. Very enjoyable stuff. It premiered in Japan today in 1968.
Qipao! Qipao! The cheongsam killer strikes.
Two companies, same release date, but we've confirmed it with our Japanese sources, so don't blame us if it's wrong. Onna mekura hana to kiba, aka Blind Woman: Flower and Fangs also premiered today in 1968, starring Koreharu Hisatomi, Isao Yamagata, Ken Sanders, and Chizuko Arai, who you see fronting the poster in a killer silk cheongsam. For the boys out there, that's a traditional dress of Chinese origin also known as a qipao. Hope that enriched your day. Arai plays a blind woman on a vengeance spree. We couldn't find a copy to watch, but the poster sure makes us curious.
Shit, that waiter is fast! The meal sucked and his service was worse, but maybe we should have tipped him anyway.
This cover for the 1965 Ace Edition of Martha Albrand's 1959 novel A Day in Monte Carlo caught our eye for a couple of reasons. One is the nice art by an unknown, but the other is because we're almost finished with David Dodge's 1952 travel book The Poor Man's Guide to Europe, and it encompasses the south of France. Why read a 70 year-old travel book? We knew it would be like a priceless time capsule—and it is. We'll get to it a bit later, but suffice to say it made us see this cover as two vacationers stiffing a waiter who's now chasing them with a scimitar. As you'd expect, however, this is actually an espionage novel, and a well reviewed one.
But sadly, A Day in Monte Carlo, which you might categorize as romantic suspense, is silly. Its main flaw is that the central relationship between American spycatcher Mark and French dancer Fleur is built on the gimmick of love at first sight. They meet, fall in love within minutes, and agree to marry before half a day has passed. After that point one of the main sources of plot tension becomes: how can Mark carry on a love affair and still chase the great and mysterious Timgad, mastermind behind the Algerian rebel movement, who flits from the Sahel to the Riviera with the ease of a migratory hawk? Well, there's an answer to that, though not a good one.
Albrand was something of an expert at this type of fiction, having published other novels in the same vein, but reputations can deceive. A great writer, perhaps, could pull all this off, but Albrand, whose go-to lines are things like, “Oh, Mark, I was so afraid. Is it really worth it to love this much?” is not a great writer. At least not in this book. We've actually seen her compared to the aforementioned David Dodge, who in addition to travel books wrote fiction classics like To Catch a Thief. But while Dodge wrote with wit, panache, and a touch of romance, he also wrote with gravity and grit. A Day in Monte Carlo needs a dose of the latter two qualities. Onward and upward.
Don't believe the folk tale. Crossing my path is the very best luck.
Lee Meriwether poses in costume as Catwoman in this shot made during the filming of the 1966 movie Batman: The Movie, one of the goofiest products of the era. It also produced one of the funniest extended gags in cinematic history, involving Batman trying to dispose of a bomb. We go into more detail on that classic comedy moment here. Meriwether also appeared on the Batman television show, and though known mainly for playing Catwoman, amassed more than one hundred film and television credits during her career, which was still going strong up until 2019. With that kind of résumé it's certainly possible she'll show up here again.
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