I always knew my movie career would end one day. But I thought it would at least start first.
Having spent some years in L.A., and having worked in entertainment there, we're drawn to Hollywood novels. Horace McCoy's I Should Have Stayed Home tells the story of Ralph Carston, twenty-something hot shit from Georgia, who heads out to Hell A. and learns that stardom is not easily achieved. This is a simple and unlayered tale, and considering what we know firsthand can happen in Hollywood, Ralph doesn't actually go through anything earth-shattering. Most of his problems stem from the fact that he's a pompous dumbass. He tries unsuccessfully to make connections, hooks up with a rich cougar who has a sexual fetish, goes to some parties, is warned he can't be a star with his southern accent, spends a few chapters infuriated by an interracial couple he sees at someone's house, battles professional envy, has a bit of strife with his roomie Mona, and deals with tragedy concerning his friend Dorothy. By the end he's grown terminally discouraged and cynical in a town that runs on hope. Dare we say it? He should have stayed home.
Freda do what she wants any old time.
We were so impressed by Freda Payne, who we posted last month along with a couple of friends, that we had to bring her back. And we did something special. We took a cover of Ebony magazine from January 1973 and wiped off the text to get the clean image above. Payne isn't flexing her killer abs in this shot, but she still looks mighty good with her leonine hair and gleaming bod. She did some acting and hosted a television show, but she's more famous for singing, as you probably know. Her biggest hit was 1970's “Band of Gold,” a tune that always gets feet moving. We're going to check out one or two of her movies, so you'll see Payne here again.
Brand new prison, same old problems.
The sixth and final entry in the Female Prisoner 701 series was Shin joshuu sasori: Tokushu-bô X, known in English as New Female Prisoner Scorpion: Special Cellblock X. It starred Yôko Natsuki as a woman stuck in a hellhole prison where the warden is incompetent, the guards are corrupt, and the other prisoners are hateful. The movie opens with her being returned to confinement after an escape. Via flashbacks we're told how she was originally jailed, flew the coop, but was wounded and caught. Now she's singled out for cruel treatment by both her jailers and her peers, the former group due to the damage her escape caused their reputations, the latter group due to the extra punishment meted out as an escape deterrent. All of this already makes for a chaotic prison, but hell truly breaks loose when a new head of security arrives to “reinforce discipline.” That would be this guy:
Doesn't exactly look like Department of Corrections material does he? He brings in a regime of humiliation and torture that would impress even a CIA waterboarder, but finds himself at odds with the old head of security. The conflict eventually sees one of them dethroned, which makes him an unlikely ally for Natsuki. These two—the abused and her former abuser—plot an escape from the isolated prison and are soon fleeing over a barren wasteland chained together like the Wild Ones, while chased by guards and German Shepherds. Natsuki, who was given her first starring role here (the first four movies in the series starred Meiko Kaji, and the fifth starred Yumi Takigawa), may have been hired solely because she can make steely eyes:
That's an almost Eastwood level of flintiness. When we try that look on the Pulp Intl. girlfriends they ask if we've got sand in our eyes. Even in the throes of action or torture Natsuki never drops her mask. Her expression says, “I get to kill you eventually, asshole. It's in the script.” Anyway, the last third of the movie is a pure escape thriller, but you'll get no hints from us whether Natsuki triumphs. On the whole, we think this is a solid enough women-in-prison entry, though the consensus among pinku aficionados is that it doesn't hold a candle to the Meiko Kaji episodes. We'd have to watch those again to form an opinion on that, but why make it a competition? Just watch them all. Shin joshuu sasori: Tokushu-bô X premiered in Japan today in 1977.
Monroe doesn't even have to be real to steal the show.
Bet you've never seen anything quite like this before. And depending on how you feel about dolls maybe you don't want to see anything like it again. The photo shows Japanese singer Junko Sakurada performing with a terrifying—er, we mean fascinating—doll of film immortal Marilyn Monroe. This is not quite as leftfield a pairing as it looks. Sakurada covered the Monroe song “I Wanna Be Loved by You” on her 1976 live album Nee ki ga tsuite yo, aka Hey! Be Aware, so she's possibly performing that tune with the help of some terrifying—er, we mean appealing—visual accompaniment. Try not to imagine this nightmare version of Monroe being somewhere inside your house when you go to sleep tonight.
You can't keep a dead man down.
Ann Cantor once again does excellent brushwork, this time with a sinister cover for Avon Publications and the 1949 novel Night Cry by William Stuart. We talked about this one a while back. It's the story of a cop who kills a suspect, does to the body what you see in the art, then struggles to keep proof of his crime concealed. It's an atmospheric tale capped with an unexpected ending. We haven't watched the movie based on it, the 1950 film noir Where the Sidewalk Ends, but we'll get to it. See more art from Cantor here and here,
Forså puts her name on the Marquis.
Above you see a poster for the erotic comedy Justine och Juliette, also known as Swedish Minx, which opened in Sweden today in 1975. We usually focus on beautiful art, but there's obviously nothing special about this particular promo. We watched the film anyway because one of its co-stars is Marie Forså, and you know how we feel about her. She's credited here as Marie Lynn, a pseudonym (sometimes it was Maria Lynn) she used in Flossie and Molly, though we didn't mention it when we talked about those movies. Theoretically Justine och Juliette is based on the Marquis de Sade novels Justine, published in 1791, and Juliette, published in 1797. Forså and Annie Bie Warburg play sisters who take different paths trying to survive in the cruel world. Forså has principles, which lead to poverty, while Warburg will do anything for money and a flashy lifestyle. Forså, try as she might, can't keep herself from being sucked into Warburg's coterie of weirdoes, and pretty soon there's a sex film that was secretly shot with Forså as the unwitting star. Justine och Juliette is one of those erotic films that had hardcore footage inserted, but instead of jarring close-ups of anonymous stunt genitals meant to deceive you into thinking Forså did the deed (which she sometimes did, just not in this movie), you get actual porn performers in action. Among them are Harry Reems, the aforementioned Warburg, and Brigitte Maier. They give the movie a bit of extra spark, but overall it just doesn't compare to the best ’70s sexploitation flicks. We're not calling it a dud, but it's not worth seeking out either, unless, like us, you're fans of the divine Miss Forså.
George Raft does the heavy lifting in 1935 crime thriller.
Is there any vintage movie star as overlooked these days as George Raft? The man was one of the top box office draws of the 1930s and had a string of hits through the 1940s and into the 1950s, including the 1959 smash Some Like It Hot. He was an ace stage dancer at the beginning of his career, but onscreen this natural athlete strikes many modern viewers as too dumpy for the tough guy roles he pioneered. Which makes it ironic that he was associated in real life with several gangsters, which led to him appearing in court, and in turn led to the public believing he was really living the thug life. Rather than hurting his popularity, the whiff of criminality made him more popular—something to keep in mind whenever some self-appointed sociologist slams kids for liking rappers.
Above you see a poster for one of Raft's biggest successes, the 1935 adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's novel The Glass Key. A 1942 version would also be a big hit for Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, and the fact that it was rebooted just seven years after the original would seem to tell you plenty. But Raft's version isn't bad. We think it's simply a case of technical advances in the process of shooting films and the continuing popularity of Hammett making the property an attractive one to redo. Watching both movies back to back is a clinic in how quickly filmmaking advanced as the ’40s rolled around, particularly ideas around staging and editing action.
Even so, Raft made this earlier version of The Glass Key a hit by virtue of his star power, despite the fact that critics were not overly impressed with the film. No less a figure than Graham Greene said it was “unimaginatively gangster,” which is a curiously millennial turn-of-phrase. But Raft, playing the capable right hand man of a top underworld figure who's on the verge of open warfare with his enemies, doesn't deserve any of the blame. His hard boiled persona is the only reason this otherwise static film is worth watching. The Glass Key premiered in the U.S. today in 1935.
More people are talking about alien visits but they still aren't happening.
Have you noticed the uptick in talk about UFOs the last couple of months? The subject is being discussed on websites like Scientific American and BBC, in the pages of publications like the New York Times, and even in the corridors of power in in Washington, D.C., where a while back Congress demanded that the Pentagon produce a report on the subject. Donald Trump and Barack Obama have talked about it. Retired Nevada Senator Harry Reid even went so far as to say that weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin may have fragments of a crashed UFO in its possession.
All we have to say is here we go again. We know a lot of people really believe in the existence of alien UFOs, but here's when we'll believe: when one arrives, an alien climbs out and says. “Greetings, Earthling. Take me to your leader. We ask because we couldn't figure out which of you is in charge of this clusterfuck.” Let us be clear. We aren'tUFO agnostics. Agnostic would be to neither believe nor disbelieve—in other words to cop out. We're UFO atheists. When the only alleged evidence consists of hearsay, anecdotes, blurry photos of pie tins on strings, and indistinct FLIR footage, we feel safe saying they don't exist.
The idea of UFO sightings being legit hinges upon numerous assumptions. That aliens have the ability to come here. That they have the ability to come here and want to observe us. That they want to observe us and prefer to do it up close rather than from a vast distance. That they want to observe us up close rather than from a distance and aren't interested in disguising themselves. And that their up close methods of observation would be detectable to us in the first place. Think stealth or nanotechnology. We human doofuses already have the basics of those figured out. Aliens would have the capability to observe us by using machines the size of gnats, a far more likely option than soaring around the sky chased by F-35s.
The list of assumptions UFO believers gloss over goes on, but the biggest problem, in our view, is that aliens could learn far more about us from our broadcasts and data emissions than in person. Even our detection and defense capabilities, assuming they wanted to understand those, would be easier to learn from the math that built them, rather than with field encounters. They could also, from millions of miles away, decipher our languages, observe our many warring cultures, ponder our crazy taboos, note our hundreds of fanciful religions, puzzle over our destruction of the very environment we need to survive, be horrified over our caste systems based on the presence of a pigmenting chemical in our skin cells, and be astounded over the fact that most of the above is true because we've created a global system that elevates and rewards ruthless, dangerous people. Some of those people are smart, but many of them are sociopaths, and all the major tribes of Earth (U.S., Russia, China, et al) are led by people prone to violence. Would aliens really want to bother with creatures like that?
So while we keep up with UFO reporting—as required by our status as a pulp website—we don't believe aliens are the cause. If they're anything, they're advanced drones. But the alien UFO stories will keep coming. We think humans, or at least some humans, will believe even the most outlandish fantasy if it makes them feel good, or makes them feel frightened or outraged. If you doubt that the latter is true, just ponder the epochally sad fact that fantasies about a pedophile ring in a Washington D.C. pizza parlor have had an indelible effect on American politics. In short—people are amazingly gullible. Despite anything Harry Reid says, we don't think Lockheed has alien UFO bits in a top secret warehouse.
All that said, we also do not believe humans are alone in the cosmos. Scientifically, the assumption that we're alone makes little sense. Plus wouldn't that be utterly depressing, the idea that we're the smartest creatures in the universe? We're hanging off a cliff edge like Indiana Jones, groping for a stray tree root to save us as our sacks of gold threaten to pull us to our doom. If nuclear war and global heating don't send us hurtling into the abyss, resource depletion and social collapse will. The system we put in place to deliver prosperity is now eating the foundations that enabled it to stand in the first place. We can't be the smartest beings in the universe. We think aliens exist—but immeasurably far across the cosmos. And if we're wrong, and they're actually among us, all we can say is: reveal yourselves, and please help.
That bucket of water weighs thirty pounds but she handles it like a basket of muffins. Marry that girl, son. Household drudgery will be a breeze for her.
Ernest Haycox was a leading western and historical author. Above you see a cover for his 1954's short story collection Pioneer Loves. He died in 1950, with this appearing posthumously. We don't read many westerns, but by most accounts he was top level. We're featuring it today because the cover art by George Erickson fits a collection we put together last year. The group depicts rural women working hard while their men mostly stand by doing nothing. The Pulp Intl. girlfriends' reaction: “Typical!” Typical, eh? Who makes the seared duck with Pedro Ximénez sauce and mashed parsnips? That would be us. Who dispenses back rubs upon (daily) demand? Us again. Who handles panicked calls for humane evictions of spiders? That's right—us. Never let them diminish your worth, guys.
p.s. I also confess that it was me who let that silent-but-deadly slip during the arraignment. Jail food. Sorry.
Above, a cover for The Second Confession by Rex Stout, originally 1949 with this Bantam edition coming in 1952. It stars Stout's recurring character Nero Wolfe, a sedentary and overweight man of mysterious background who loves orchids and occasionally solves crimes. The book did quite well, but we haven't been enticed yet. So many franchise detectives, so little time.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—Muhammad Ali Sentenced for Draft Evasion
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was known as Cassius Clay before his conversion to Islam, is sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. In elucidating his opposition to serving, he uttered the now-famous phrase, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”
1953—The Rosenbergs Are Executed
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet spies, are executed at Sing Sing prison, in New York.
1928—Earhart Crosses Atlantic Ocean
American aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly in an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, riding as a passenger in a plane piloted by Wilmer Stutz and maintained by Lou Gordon. Earhart would four years later go on to complete a trans-Atlantic flight as a pilot, leaving from Newfoundland and landing in Ireland, accomplishing the feat solo without a co-pilot or mechanic.
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