I knew you were really a guy all along, darling. There were clues—your walk, your love of violent sports, the bulge in your shorts...
We praise paperback art generally. We see merit in most efforts. But it raises the question: What is an unsuccessful piece of art? Well, we think this 1952 Pocket Books cover for Edgar Mittelholzer's 1951 novel Shadows Move Among Them is a major oops from illustrator Tom Dunn. He was better on other covers, but the guy Dunn wrong here. While it would be absolutely awesome if this book were about a love affair with a transvestite, it's actually a whites-in-the-tropics novel, with the overheated land this time being British Guiana.
Mittleholzer was born and raised there, so he was writing what he knew. Plotwise, you have an isolated colony of people, which in an eerie precursor to Jim Jones and Jonestown, is led by a charismatic minister. This person, Reverend Harmston, calls his enclave Berkelhoost, and its inhabitants are there to escape civilization for a more liberated way of living. Into this setting comes the main character Gregory Hawke, who's the reverend's nephew and is sorely in need of a life reset. He's described as a shadow of his former self, and others in the colony are suggested to be mere shadows also.
Mittelholzer is considered one of the most important novelists to originate from the Caribbean (for those inclined to lump a region so geographically and culturally diverse into its own genre). Mittleholzer was a serious, ambitious writer, and he was prolific too, cranking out twenty-six books. While his family was white, some genetic quirk left him “swarthy,” as he described himself, and it was a disappointment to his father. This burden of ethnic inadequacy informed his fiction, and gave his whites-in-the-tropics stories more than the usual emotional heft.
Mittelholzer never made a fortune writing, but he's had a small revival the last twenty years, and many of his books are available. Since he was born in 1905 he never got to experience this increased interest. In fact, he died earlier than he should have, via suicide at age sixty. Apparently, this act was partly caused by his inability to make more than a subsistence living at his chosen profession. It's a fate that's befallen everyone from Sylvia Plath to John Kennedy Toole, so he's in esteemed company. We haven't read Shadows Move Among Them but we may fit it into our reading list, because as foreigners living abroad we identify with these kinds of books. If we do we'll report back.
Who needs sunscreen when you have imagination?
This photo of Italian actress Carla Brait using the local flora to improvise a little shade was made when she was appearing in the 1973 giallo flick I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale. Translated literally that means, “The bodies show traces of carnal violence.” For its U.S. release it was retitled Torso, which we think was a good move. Brait appeared in fifteen movies during her career, and speaking of torsos and good moves, she often played dancers, since that was her other profession. When she eventually retired from cinema she became a dance instructor. We've been watching a lot of giallos the last year or so, which means we may see her in Torso later.
Sometimes listening to your little voice can be a bad move.
Originally posted August 4, 2009
William Hurt’s brain: Wow, this chick is frickin’ gorgeous. That hair-lifting/neck-rubbing thing she’s doing is crazy sexy.
William Hurt’s penis: Really? Let me have a look.
William Hurt’s brain: (tells arms to cover crotch with suit jacket) Don’t get too excited, P. I’m pretty sure she’s trying to frame us for murder.
William Hurt’s penis: And?
William Hurt’s brain: And we could go to prison forever.
William Hurt’s penis: We’ll worry about that later. Is she still doing the neck thing? Just imagine what her lips feel like. I bet she has a really soft tongue too. What size are her breasts? Hey, try to get a peek at her ass, wouldja? Just point at something and see if she turns around.
William Hurt’s brain: I’m feeling a little faint, P.
William Hurt’s penis: That’s because I’m borrowing some of the blood you use to function. Don’t worry about it. I’ll give it back later.
William Hurt’s brain: What were we just talking about? Man, I’m kind of dizzy.
William Hurt’s penis: You want me to drive for a bit? I don’t mind.
William Hurt’s brain: Would you? That would be really cool. I need to just… shut it down for a while.
William Hurt’s penis: Gotcha covered, buddy. Next stop, the promised land. Just move the jacket before you go, ’kay? Thanks.
Digard and Samples discover they're a wrestling match.
This curious photo shows Swedish softcore actress Uschi Digard (sometimes referred to as Uschi DIgart) and American porn actress Candy Samples posing for a photo with a wrestling theme, which was a strange little niche of the nudie market. In fact, it was a niche of the Super 8 home movie market too, which is why you can find loops of these staged clashes for sale even today. We don't particualrly dig wresting pix or movies, but to each their own, right? Another niche Digard and Samples filled was the titanic boob market, as both were famous for their endowments. Digard became a star in sexploitation movies, working with directors such as Ed Wood and Russ Meyer. You don't have to pay auction proces for vintage loops of these two squirming and wrasslin' with each other. If you look you can find some online, uploaded to YouTube et al. We have seven more shots from this session below. These date from 1971.
Acapulco's toughest crimefighter is throwing out the trash.
There's a new flying mammal in town, and her name is la Mujer Murciélago—the Bat Woman. Maybe that's more of a title than a name, but you get the idea. Who exactly is this caped crusader? Well, she's—and this is verbatim from the film—“a wonderful and very rich lady who lives in the capital city, and uses her vast fortune to fight against the forces of evil.” Generally rich people are the forces of evil, so we greatly respect her for going against type, but as a crimefighter she has a real headscratcher on her hands. Luchadores are being murdered and the juices of their pineal glands extracted. Clearly these are not crimes with an ordinary motive. Who'd want the brain juices of wrestlers? Gourmet cannibals? Cthulhu cultists?
Cut to the villain in his secret lair. He goes by the sinister name of Eric Williams, and he's stealing wrestler juice because athletes of that type are perfect physical specimens for his scheme to create a race of powerful fish men. We're not sure if we ever understood why he wants to create fish men, but whatever, Bat Woman pretty much immediately suspects this Eric guy, not least because he lives on Acapulco Bay in a big houseboat called Reptilicus—a name that's a strong indicator of villainy. He should have just gone all the way and called the boat My Evil Lair.
Does crazy doc Eric make a fish man? Hah. It'd hardly be worth watching the movie if he didn't. Cue guy in a lobster red costume with scuba fins for feet. Having fulfilled his ambition, doc Eric's plan is to now create another horrible hybrid—a fish woman. Guess who he wants captured for that project? But when you step up to Bat Woman you better bring your a-game, because she throws some killer curves.
We won't tell you more about the plot, but we will tell you this about the movie as a whole: it's a disaster. We could enumerate some of its merits, like its interesting shots of an Acapulco that's long gone, and we could add that it's also funny as hell at times, partly owing to its terrible English subtitles, but fish starts to stink pretty easily, and this movie gives off a horrific stench. If you find yourself enticed to watch it, definitely alter your brain chemistry with booze or stronger substances before immersing yourself in its epic incompetence. La Mujer Murciélago premiered in Mexico today in 1968.
I'm pretty sure she doesn't even like me. I think the lockdown is making her do this out of sheer boredom.
Above, The Girl Takers by Don Holliday, for Greenleaf Classics' Midnight Reader line, published in 1961. Holliday is, as you probably know by now, a house pseudonym used by many. This time it's being inhabited by Arthur Plotnik, who wrote nine other Greenleaf novels. This one deals with a man who descends into increasing depths of so-called depravity in order to experience bigger and bigger thrills. The cover art is by Harold W. McCauley. We'll have more from Greenleaf soon.
Gestapo goes to extraordinary lengths to cancel a Czech.
This striking poster for Hangmen Also Die might make you think you're dealing with a death row film noir, but it's actually a war drama about the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. When a Czech assassin played by Brian Donlevy shoots the country's cruel German administrator Reinhard Heydrich and escapes into Prague's urban maze, the Nazis start executing people to force the population to turn over the shooter. As people die Donlevy struggles over whether to turn himself in. This was made in 1943 and qualifies as war propaganda, complete with flourishes such as discordant brass when Hitler's portrait appears onscreen, and a cheeseball closing song with a chorus of, “No surrender!” And to just bang the war drum even more, the movie premiered in, of all places, Prague, Oklahoma today in 1943, and the showing featured hanged effigies of Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini, while regional politicians made a point of attending. That must have been some night.
But while Hangmen Also Die may qualify as propaganda, it certainly isn't untrue in any major sense. The film's two architects, German director Fritz Lang and German writer Bertolt Brecht, both left their homeland to avoid the Nazis, and we can only imagine that their personal experiences made this project deeply important to them. But even people working from personal experience need help, and they get a major boost from co-star Walter Brennan. You'll sometimes read about him being a great character actor and this movie proves it. Watch him in this, then as the drunkard Eddie in To Have and Have Not, and you'll find him physically unrecognizable. Only his distinctive voice identifies him as the same person. Meanwhile it's Donlevy who's asked to personify the classic moral dilemma of sacrifice for the greater good, and he's mostly successful at portraying it as a heavy burden. While we wouldn't call Hangmen Also Die a great movie, there's no doubt it occupies its niche comfortably.
Pram, girl, that thing is the bomb!
Once upon a time in England, some industrious genius came up with the idea of poison gas resistant baby prams. This photo was shot in Kent in 1938, when the threat of war with Germany loomed large and the fear of bombs—gas bearing and otherwise—was in everyone's minds. This pram is not just a historical oddity—it's a sociological statement. Think about it. How many parents could afford one of these things? Certainly not the countless coal miners and haddock fishermen who made up so much of the British workforce, we'd wager. So it's also a symbol of capitalism at its finest—that part where the rich always have better survival odds.
Some websites caption this photo things like, “Mother in gas mask with infant in gas proof carriage.” Are they kidding? It would be the nanny who gets sent out to risk a poison gas attack. Upper crust mommy stays home for tea and scones in the drawing room, and maybe tops that off with a little medicinal scotch for her nerves. If the baby never makes it back she'll just make dirty spoons with the lord of the manor and give motherhood another go in nine months. As for the pram, it would probably be reusable after a gas attack. In fact, it's more than just durable—it's versatile too. Assuming it survives a long, ugly war of keeping German gas out, it can be used during peace time to keep baby gas in.
Caroselli chooses wisely for Italian book cover.
Inspiration is everything. Always draw from the best. Italian artist Benedetto Caroselli used a photo of svelte Austrian model Susan Denberg, aka Dietlinde Zechner, for this cover of Sonnie Hale's La donna bianca. That would translate as “the white woman,” but we think of her as the right woman. So did Playboy magazine, which made her its August 1968 Playmate of the Month. We doubt Denberg ever knew she was on this paperback, but we imagine she'd have been pleased with the result. It appeared in 1967 from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali as part of their I Romanzi Diabolici series. See plenty more from Caroselli, including other pieces he painted for this particular book series, by clicking his keywords just below.
Can you name the five stars in the constellation Ludlow the Genius?
Above you see five pin-up paintings that came from the brush of Mike Ludlow, an artist we featured the first time only recently. He rose from humble beginnings in Buffalo, New York, to become an acclaimed figure that at his zenith painted portraits of major actresses for Esquire magazine. That's where all these pieces were originally published, and if you haven't identified them all, they are, top to bottom, Anita Ekberg, Gina Lollobrigida, Virginia Mayo, Denise Darcel, and Betsy von Furstenberg. All these stars have been featured on Pulp Intl., and you can see interesting posts on them at the following links: Ekberg, Lollobrigida, Mayo, Darcel, von Furstenberg. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.
1910—First Seaplane Takes Flight
Frenchman Henri Fabre, who had studied airplane and propeller designs and had also patented a system of flotation devices, accomplishes the first take-off from water at Martinque, France, in a plane he called Le Canard, or "the duck."
1953—Jim Thorpe Dies
American athlete Jim Thorpe, who was one of the most prolific sportsmen ever and won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football at the collegiate and professional levels, and also played professional baseball and basketball, dies of a heart attack.
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