Vintage Pulp Jul 9 2024
THE INTERPRETATION OF DREAMS
Freud probably never imagined they could be used for gambling.


We're down to the last of our dream books with cover art by Gene Bilbrew. This one, Ahmed's Dream Book & Numbers, was published in 1972 by the Wholesale Book Corp. It never occurred to us before, but these could be considered cousins of Freudian psychoanalysis, which was laid out in Freud's 1899 tome The Interpretation of Dreams, and helped legitimize the long held concept that dreams have meaning. Of course, his idea of meaning was that they gave insight into the subconscious mind, while a dream book's idea of meaning is that of prognostication for gamblers. We doubt Freud ever dreamt of anything like that. You can find out more about these books, and see more art from Bilbrew, by clicking this link and going down the subsequent rabbit hole. 

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Intl. Notebook Jul 9 2024
A SPLIT IN TIME
The day the sky cracked in half.


There's been increased talk over the last few years about the weaponization of space, however that bridge was crossed a long, long time ago by the U.S. and Soviet Union, with the U.S. getting the ball rolling in 1958 with a series of tests secretly conducted over the South Atlantic Ocean. The above photos, which were made from Honolulu, Hawaii, and the one below made from a surveillance aircraft, and show the U.S. nuclear test known as Starfish Prime. It was one of five explosions comprising Operation Fishbowl, which itself was folded within the encompassing set of tests known as Operation Dominic. The detonation took place in space at an altitude of about 250 miles, and was launched from the North Pacific Ocean's Johnston Atoll atop a Thor ballistic missile. That was today in 1962.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 8 2024
MEDICINE CHEST
I really shouldn't be letting you fondle them this way. Any spike in your blood pressure could be fatal.


Above: classic sleaze from Kimberly Marchand, her 1966 medical romp Sex in White. The rear cover is unusually descriptive, a perfect entry for our burgeoning teaser text-as poetry collection:

His hands moved so gently
and then as he pressed to her
a searing and deep ecstasy took over.
From the depths to the stars, again and again
her body came alive and reached for him
clung and caressed him.
Paul felt the depth of her thrill
and she trembled and shook as if ill.
He'd never experienced
such complete abandon in a woman
such complete giving
without rudeness or excuse.
The result was music—
a symphony...

Love it. It even rhymes a little. Do you need to read the book now? Neither do we. The cover is by the great Bill Edwards, king of absurd erotic paperback art. You can find proof here, here, here, here, and here.
 
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Vintage Pulp Jul 6 2024
LITTLE GIRL BLUE
She makes sure a Pheasant time is had by all.

We were attracted to the 1958 John Boswell thriller The Blue Pheasant not only because of the lovely cover art, and the tale's setting in East Asia and New Zealand, but because the title suggests that a bar plays a central role. We always like that, whether in fiction or film. The teaser text confirms it. The title refers to a fictional bar in Hong Kong. Irresistible.

The book stars professional photographer, amateur painter, and rolling stone Chris Kent, who's at desperate ends and takes a job to travel from Hong Kong to far away Auckland to recover two Chinese scrolls that are the keys to a vast inheritance. Needless to say, there are other interested—and ruthless—parties. In addition there are three femmes fatales: Sally Chan, the bar dancer who puts Kent onto the job; Sonya Sung, whose family are the rightful owners of the misplaced scrolls (or are they?); and Ann Compton, mystery woman who becomes Kent's reluctant partner.

We were amused by how easily Kent's head was turned by all three women. He's tough, but he's also an all-day sucker. In trying to sort out why women are so confounding to him, there are numerous moments of, “Well, what's a guy to do when women are ________” By the end, though, he starts to wonder if he's the problem. Spoiler alert: pretty much. The actual caper is well laid out, with a lot of sleuthing and surveillance, a few moments of swift action, a suspicious Kiwi cop, a love/hate dynamic between Kent and Compton, and precise local color in both Hong Kong and Auckland.

We consider The Blue Pheasant to have been a worthwhile purchase. That was actually almost a given, considering the low price for the book (Seven dollars? Sold!). But our point is that you never know what you'll get with a writer as obscure as Boswell. Well, now we do. And we have his sequel, 1959's Lost Girl. We'll get around to reading that later.

Turning back to the cover for a moment, the example at top is one we downloaded from an auction site because the William Collins Sons & Co. edition, which is a hardback with a dust jacket, shows the wonderful art painted by British talent John Rose to best advantage. The edition we actually bought is a paperback from Fontana Books, and our scans of that appear below. They're fine, but the cleaner Collins version is frameworthy. We have another Rose cover at this link, and we'll be getting back to him again shortly.

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The Naked City Jul 6 2024
A DELICATE BALANCE
Oh, you said a straight line? I misheard you. Let me start over.

Once again you have to  marvel that it was legal for press photographers to intrude on crime scenes, criminal trials, and—now it seems—traffic stops. You see the evidence above. An unidentified woman is put through the paces of a sobriety check by a Los Angeles patrolman, and it looks to us like the shots capture a spectacular failure. Either that or she's busting into “The Night They Invented Champagne” from the musical Gigi. She was arrested either way—for drunkenness or flippancy—and presumably had hours of idle time in a drunk tank to ponder the error of her ways. That happened today in 1958. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 5 2024
GENERATION WHY NOT
Young, wild, and free—of conscience, worries, and inhibitions.

Celebrities on paperback fronts are a (yet another) weakness of ours. We've been seduced into reading books by cover imagery from the likes of Kitty Swan, Elke Sommer, and Christina Lindberg, among others. Greenleaf Classics put Spanish star Soledad Miranda on the cover of Alan Marshall's 1974 novel Wild Young Flesh. The shot is a variation of an image of Miranda we shared years back. You may remember she died young in an automobile accident in 1970 at age twenty-seven, but left behind a few interesting movies, such as El diablo que vinó de Akasawa and 100 Rifles. And now, this cover.

Alan Marshall was a pseudonym, and while it was sometimes used by known authors such as Donald Westlake, in this case the actual writer remains unknown. The story deals with the carnal goings-on among a group of high schoolers. In addition to it being a creepy experience reading its explicit underaged sex, about a quarter of the story takes place in a utility closet. If you know anything about sleaze novels and the talent level involved, the fact that the author couldn't be bothered to set scenes outside of a single small room tells you that the narrative is extremely minimal. But we couldn't resist Soledad. We'll just try to put this one behind us, though, and we recommend that you don't put it in front of you.

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Femmes Fatales Jul 5 2024
SLIP INTO SOMETHING
It's an extravagant look because if she ever needs to shoot someone she wants them to notice the gun last.


Above is a publicity image featuring the legendary Rita Hayworth made when she was filming 1947's The Lady from Shanghai. We shared a promo from the movie several years back. This is another frame from the same session, showing Hayworth in the same slippery sheath. She plays a slippery character too. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 4 2024
KAREN A HEAVY BURDEN
Have you ever had a visitor that refused to leave?


Above and below are two posters for Bewitched, a movie we decided to watch because its title stood out when we saw it. Why? Well, we're still watching the entire run of television's Bewitched. Could this be about the supernatural, we wondered? If that sounds silly, remember, we try not to read synopses of these movies. It's just better, if possible, to go in knowing little or nothing. Obviously, we already know generally about all the more popular films we haven't yet seen, but this one is obscure.

Turns out it's a no-budget melodrama, written and directed by Arch Oboler, about poor Phyllis Thaxter, who suffers from a split personality, or more accurately a histrionic form of cinematic schizophrenia, that sees her taken over by an evil alter ego. This mental invader is named Karen, and she'a a bitch. She forces Joan to commit murder. We thought: Wait—if Joan is imprisoned or executed what does Karen get out of it? Well, Oboler tries to finesse that by suggesting Karen knows Joan will be acquitted because she/they look innocent and an all-male jury will think she's too pretty to kill. Okay.

Joan has never told anyone that she hears an evil voice. She doesn't break the pattern at trial, refusing to take the stand in her own defense. It looks bad, but surprise—that scheming Karen is right. But the moment the jury is about announce an acquittal, Joan realizes that if she's freed her evil side will make her do more bad things, so she stands up and screams: “Stop! I did it! I killed him! I'm guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” And... dissolve.

She ends up on death row. But a mere five hours before she's due to ride old sparky, she finally admits to her lawyer that she has a split personality, and the wheels of deus ex machina lurch into motion. It's as cheesy as it sounds. There's really nothing in the film but a good example of what a b-feature was like during the mid-century era. Sloppy. Slapdash. A baritone voiceover brackets the film, and though it's meant to hammer the movie's point home for viewers, there really is no point. None at all. Bewitched premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.

Do I want to stab my fiancée? Or maybe it's too harsh a method for breaking an engagement.

In the end, I guess it was really more of a rhetorical question.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 3 2024
THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME
He's hopelessly outclassed by his prey. And the tiger is a problem too.


Above you see a nice cover by an uncredited illustrator for 1959's Womanhunt, written by Harry Wilcox posing as his alter ego Mark Derby and published in this Ace paperback edition in 1960. This is interesting visual work. You notice that the femme fatale's eyes resemble the tiger's eyes. That comparison is at the crux of the tale Derby tells. In the story a government agent named Dickson (Dix to his friends) is sent upcountry in Malaya to pose as a big game hunter there to kill a deadly tigress, while behind the scenes he's searching out a communist cabal and determining whether an agent already there is doing her job or has turned.

That agent—Anna Swansey—is someone Dix barely knows but is “miserably and hopelessly in love with.” Under the pressure of his mission, his feelings turn into a consuming obsession. As high concept novels go, the idea of trying to stalk an apex predator, arouse love within a woman, and expose a spy ring all at once is as ripe as it gets. There's a lot going on at all times, and Derby keeps multiple plates spinning on sticks while treating readers to some nice passages, like this one:

Before her magnificent body, an electric apparition of charcoal, gold, and white, had passed out of sight, he had a second view of her snarl, the haughty sneer that drew mouth and white whiskers high and quivering on each side, the narrowing of the usually rounded eyes, the flash of the ivory teeth.

At one point Dix is alone in the jungle and hears the tigress's roar. It's a moment when he realizes, terrifyingly, that his hunt of her may have turned into her hunt of him:

He jumped as if a cannon had gone off. He had got it into his head that she was somewhere over on his right, or behind him, and this growl came from directly ahead. It sounded awesomely near, too. [snip] The roar, a sound which perhaps only one in every million human beings ever hears, and only one in ten million ever hears at close quarters, filled the dark jungle with shock. There was a moment, perhaps of one second, during which Dix did nothing but stiffen; then his arms moved and the beam of the flashlight mounted on the rifle barrel cut a cone of light in the dark clearing.

The title of book registers weird in 2024, but it isn't misogynist—or not very. A few web pages say the woman of the hunt is, metaphorically, the tigress. No. It's a metaphor, alright, but not one that simple. The woman of the hunt is actually both the tigress and Anna. That's made clear because Derby flogs the woman-as-tigress metaphor until it's welted from nose to tail. But he's also capable of smirking at it, briefly anyway, such as here:

My grandfather used to say that a tigress was a woman, a woman who did not wish to be caught. She would hide down trails the hunter didn’t know and, just like a woman, her lies would be more clever than his traps. That’s what he used to say.” ’Che Kadan was fond of quoting his grandfather, who’d been one of the Malayan sultans—an old man of character, it seemed, since his quoted remarks were invariably mere clichés or sentimental platitudes which must have been remembered for the authority with which he’d uttered them.

It's a comparison that's probably insulting to most modern women, but don't let it fool you. The tale is steeped in debilitating male emotion, lustful obsession, existential terror, and a desperate loneliness. It reads tragically at times, as Dix tries but fails to keep Anna from slowly taking over his thoughts. And that's another unusual aspect of the book: Dix is increasingly driven by jealousy. At first it's directed only against Anna's boss Charlton Lang, who also wants her badly and uses his authority to constantly keep her near him in a work capacity. Then Anna's ex-lover shows up. Dix is driven near to madness by this event.

Derby deals in high emotion. For example, big cats generally kill humans when they're the only obtainable prey. Usually the animal is hurt, or very old. Dix sympathizes with the tigress, doesn't consider her to be in any way at fault, but people keep getting eaten, so he has no choice about killing her—not merely as matter of his cover, but as a matter of saving lives. His conflict over this is wrenching, symbolic of terrible choices forced on us all. To add an extra ingredient, he isn't an experienced hunter. He can shoot—but he isn't expert. His pursuit of the tigress is ridiculously dangerous.

This is a great book. However, the usual warnings apply to colonial fiction. In addition, within the communist plotlines Dix's quarries are all fools, monsters, or victims of coercion. Capitalism wasn't then—and isn't now—turning the world into a fruit laden banquet table overflowing with goodness for all, and Derby was surely smart enough to understand that. But despite the billions killed to establish and maintain his preferred global order, he never touches the reasons why alternative political philosophies take hold. In his mind, resistance comes from the deluded, from dolts who—for inexplicable reasons—believe colonials have no right to steal foreign lands. That may annoy the more politically objective readers.

But while more character depth on that front would have made Womanhunt perfect, and its total and rather smug one-sidedness means it has to be partly classified as propaganda, Derby can really construct and deliver an adventure. How do you wrap up a communist spy caper, Malayan big game hunt, and heart-hurting love story all at once? Those spinning plates never wobble. The hunt's spectacular end flows immediately into the climax of the spy tale, and within that chaotic resolution the love story concludes with fireworks. We'll be revisiting Derby soon.

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Femmes Fatales Jul 3 2024
UNCOMFORTABLY NUMB
Nice for the camera but very hard on the circulation.


Every time Miki Sugimoto stars in a promo photo we can barely believe our eyes. Here the cult action actress is squeezing her frame—or part of it anyway—into a tight space to get this wonderful shot. Wonderful for who? Certainly not her. She played some difficult roles, but this may have been her hardest. By the time she finished riding the rails for this image we bet she felt like her bottom was full of novocaine. Sometimes, though, you have to go above and beyond in the pursuit of art. Click her keywords below to see amazing promo shots and movie posters.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 19
1966—Sinatra Marries Farrow
Superstar singer and actor Frank Sinatra marries 21-year-old actress Mia Farrow, who is 30 years younger than him. The marriage lasts two years.
July 18
1925—Mein Kampf Published
While serving time in prison for his role in a failed coup, Adolf Hitler dictaes and publishes volume 1 of his manifesto Mein Kampf (in English My Struggle or My Battle), the book that outlines his theories of racial purity, his belief in a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and his plans to lead Germany to militarily acquire more land at the expense of Russia via eastward expansion.
July 17
1955—Disneyland Begins Operations
The amusement park Disneyland opens in Orange County, California for 6,000 invitation-only guests, before opening to the general public the following day.
1959—Holiday Dies Broke
Legendary singer Billie Holiday, who possessed one of the most unique voices in the history of jazz, dies in the hospital of cirrhosis of the liver. She had lost her earnings to swindlers over the years, and upon her death her bank account contains seventy cents.
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