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 the love of my life? 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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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 12
1971—Corona Sent to Prison
Mexican-born serial killer Juan Vallejo Corona is convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers. He had stabbed each of them, chopped a cross in the backs of their heads with a machete, and buried them in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. At the time the crimes were the worst mass murders in U.S. history.
July 11
1960—To Kill a Mockingbird Appears
Harper Lee's racially charged novel To Kill a Mockingbird is published by J.B. Lippincott & Co. The book is hailed as a classic, becomes an international bestseller, and spawns a movie starring Gregory Peck, but is the only novel Lee would ever publish.
1962—Nuke Test on Xmas Island
As part of the nuclear tests codenamed Operation Dominic, the United States detonates a one megaton bomb on Australian controlled Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean. The island was a location for a series of American and British nuclear tests, and years later lawsuits claiming radiation damage to military personnel were filed, but none were settled in favor in the soldiers.
July 10
1940—The Battle of Britain Begins
The German Air Force, aka the Luftwaffe, attacks shipping convoys off the coast of England, touching off what Prime Minister Winston Churchill describes as The Battle of Britain.
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