Vintage Pulp Jul 24 2022
LIVE AND LET DIVE
There's no bottom in sight.

In High Dive Frank O'Rourke uses one of the time-honored tropes of mid-century crime fiction—the escape to Mexico. This 1955 Bantam edition has cover art which we like very much. It successfully captures the mysterious mood of the story, which centers around an unnamed Pacific resort town. That town is obviously Acapulco, a fact made clear from the book's cliff diving scenes. The fun begins when an insurance investigator named Jim Bradley rents a house in order to lie in wait for armored car robbers he feels will turn up there with the stolen loot sooner or later. He whiles away the months interacting with a menagerie of secretive expats, sultry women, and his true and faithful love Maria.

The most interesting aspect of High Dive is its style. It's lightly Hemingway flavored, making for a curious hybrid—part mystery, part lost generation. In addition to the prose, Hemingwayesque elements include: a sexually dissatisfied wife and a sad, cuckolded husband acting out their tragic pantomime of a marriage; numerous meet-ups for cocktails and generally constant drinking; an atmosphere of Americans existing but not thriving in a foreign land; and a local spectacle—not bullfighting, but cliff diving—that intermittently shifts from background to foreground in order to frame certain plot points. Yeah, it's pretty good, this book.

O'Rourke, who also published as Kevin Connor, Frank O'Malley, and Patrick O'Malley, mostly wrote westerns, and perhaps that's why he seems so comfortable in this Mexican space. For some readers it may take too long—about half the novel—for the protagonist to make actual headway solving the case of the armored car loot. His break finally comes when the wife of one of the robbers turns up in town. Or at least that's what he thinks. But is she really involved, and is her husband really one of the crooks? Perhaps, but by then the missing money isn't the attraction of the story. It's the disparate personal narratives, which are resolved as appropriate—triumph, tragedy, irony, and all the rest. High Dive was a pleasant surprise.
 
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Vintage Pulp Jan 18 2021
DOWN ACAPULCO WAY
Where every day is summer and romance is in the air.


Above, a lovely Mexican poster, browned by age but still vibrant, for 1952's Acapulco, starring Elsa Aguirre, Armando Calvo, and Miguel Torruco. The movie is built on a reliable motif—a woman who finds herself broke decides to seek a rich husband. You're thinking, isn't that the same plot as How To Marry a Millionaire? Yes, but Aguirre did it a year earlier. You know the basic idea here—drama and comedy against a backdrop of swanky resort interiors, waving palms trees, glowing nights, and multiple panoramas of Acapulco Bay. You'll want to go, but it doesn't look nearly as nice today thanks to high rise builders who've crushed its charm. Aguirre will make up for it with charm of her own. We looked for promo shots from the film and came up empty, but we did find an unrelated shot of Aguirre looking nice and tropical, below. We also have more Mexican film posters in similar style as the one above. You can start here, then follow the subsequent links. For mid-century art aficionados it's worth it, trust us.
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Vintage Pulp Mar 28 2020
BAT CLEANUP
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.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 13 2019
TANGO LESSONS
Woman heads south of the border but her career options stay north.


Quella viziosa di Susan is a U.S.-made porn flick that was originally titled The Last Tango in Acapulco. It starred Becky Sharpe and Bill Cable, supplemented by various unidentified stunt genitals. The plot of this is fascinating. Sharpe is routinely forced by her dad to submit sexually,, a fate she escapes by fleeing to Mexico, but once there she descends into a life of prostitution. Many victims of sexual abuse do become prostitutes, obviously, which makes it quite weird that in an escapist genre like porn the filmmakers actually get anywhere near such subject matter, but clearly they served a higher cause than mere sexual titillation. Sadly, reality intruded on their lofty goals in the form of budget, thus despite high ambition, great Mexican beach locations, and an appealing lead actress, the movie comes across as below average sexploitation. But it still earned an Italian release, for which someone with talent painted this nice promo poster of a woman going south of the border in a different way. Sadly, like owners of the stunt genitals, the artist goes unidentified. The Last Tango in Acapulco opened in the U.S. today in 1973 and made it to Italy in 1976.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 9 2017
GONE BABY GONE
Tallman takes readers on a wild trip to Mexico.


Colorado born writer Robert Tallman achieved his first true recognition from 1947 to 1949 writing the weekly radio program The Adventures of Sam Spade. He went to Acapulco on vacation, ended up staying a year, and that idyll inspired his first novel, 1950's Adios O'Shaughnessy, about a collection of bizarre characters who've fetched up in a fictional Mexican town called Pollo Sabroso. Besides the title character, there's the raven haired beauty Gloria Blackman (described as a blonde in the rear cover blurb either by mistake or for marketing purposes), the young Mexican hunk Manuel Mendoza, and a black child named Miguelito who wanders the town—for reasons we can't discern—naked. It's the precocious Miguelito who provides the title of the book when he notices O'Shaughnessy looks like Robert Donat in Goodbye, Mr. Chips.

The plot of the book is barely discernible, but partly involves a fishing boat and the various characters who covet it. Some want to fish in it, while others have more political aims that ultimately lead to deadly violence. The book worked for us not because of its plot, but because of its depiction of gringos cast adrift in Latin America. Despite the serious subject matter, Tallman's writing is ornate and often lighthearted. For example: “Ramirez, acquainted with the eellike elusiveness of this class of quarry, grabbed him by the most convenient handle, the baggy seat of his pants. There was an ominous sound of ripping fabric, and the disaster resulting was such that the poor witness, in all modesty, could not now walk upon the streets.”

Here's another nifty passage that gives an even better sense of Tallman's style: “Had a goddess leaped forth from the limpid, luminous swells, he would not have been altogether astonished. What did leap forth was much more unlikely. A slim, small-breasted woman with a face like an ecstatic mask, legs as long as a fashion drawing, and with the graceful bather's especial gift of emerging from the water without seeming wet: this is what he saw before he realized it was Ella Praline, stark naked, running up the beach pursued by a naked boy who resembled a faun in more ways than one.” Pretty cool, that whole sequence, though it ends rather weirdly for poor Ella.

In fact the whole novel is weird, and while it takes its time coming together, it eventually reveals itself to be good entertainment for those who don't mind fiction that's more influenced by Graham Greene than by Dashiell Hammett. Also, it spoke to us on a personal level because, like Tallman, we threw caution to the wind and moved abroad—to Guatemala not Mexico. Tallman captures the drinking, the fighting, the skinny dipping, the random stupidity, the constant undercurrent of danger, the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the beautiful women who pass through for days or weeks to turn the town upside down, and, most of all, the odd personalities who think all of this is the best possible way to live. We count ourselves among them. Whatever else one thinks of Adios O'Shaughnessy it has the feel of the real thing.
 
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Vintage Pulp Apr 27 2015
LIFE'S A BEACH
Being rich and without responsibility can be so dreadfully boring.

Above is a colorful Japanese poster for the American drama Love Has Many Faces, which starred Lana Turner and Cliff Robertson. In Japan it was called Akapuruko no dekigoto, which means something like “Acapulco Happening,” and indeed the film takes place on and around the beaches of Acapulco and follows a troubled marriage after the body of one of the husband’s friends washes ashore. Turner did much better during her career than this sun-splashed, gigolo-laden, jet-set melodrama, but it’s still worth a gander for her fans (or fans of expensive resort wear), and has a good bullfighting scene near the end. It played in Japan for the first time today in 1965.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 03
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
December 02
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
December 01
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
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