Vintage Pulp Apr 8 2024
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS
Fear and loathing are the least of his problems.

Jerry Allison art strikes a menacing note on the cover of William R. Cox's 1960 novel Murder in Vegas, in which Cox's gambler hero Tom Kincaid from 1958's Hell To Pay, which we recently discussed, returns to the written page to find more trouble. The first murder in the book actually occurs in Los Angeles, but someone is later knocked off in Vegas and as a direct result Kincaid is elevated from silent partner to full owner of a casino called the White Elephant. Simultaneously his girlfriend Jean Harper is in town filming a movie, and the murder and film production seem tied together. Kincaid is as interesting as before, but the fun creation here is down-on-her-luck party girl Carry Cain, who mixes sexiness and vulnerability with a beatnik mentality. She's an aspiring actress and gambling addict who thinks Kincaid might finally bring her the luck she's been seeking. Instead she finds herself in the middle of a Vegas-sized mess. Cox has talent, as we've noted before. It shines bright in Murder in Vegas.

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Femmes Fatales Feb 24 2024
HAIR DOWN TO THERE
Since you ask, no, I've never had a haircut. Though many have offered.


This image shows French/Dominican actress Tina Aumont, aka Tina Marquand, who we've seen around these parts a couple of times, most recently in the 1966 movie Modesty Blaise. We also shared a 1975 photo of her from Playboy Italy. This shot was conceived (or maybe copied from Erna Schürer) by Angelo Frontoni and dates from 1969. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 17 2024
ENTER THE SUPERDRAGON
The name's Cooper. Brian Cooper. What—you were expecting some other secret agent?


The Italian spy thriller New York chiama Superdrago, which we had a chance to watch during our little break last week, was known in English as Secret Agent Super Dragon, and is another in a spate of hipster spy movies that came in the wake of James Bond's massive cinematic success. It premeired in Italy today in 1966. Three of its promo posters were painted by the great Sandro Symeoni, and while the above example is also attributed to him on some websites, that's incorrect. It's really by Enrico de Seta. Or said to be by one long-running online poster vendor. We're not actually sure about that because the signature doesn't look like his, but who are we to argue with the experts?

In the film, Ray Danton plays a retired agent codenamed Super Dragon—civilian name Brian Cooper—who's roused from his yogic meditations and drawn back into the spy game when a friend dies in a suspicious auto accident that may be related to previous strange deaths. The clues lead from a U.S. college town to Amsterdam (because what kind of spy movie would it be without some globetrotting?), and into the lissome arms of fellow spies Margaret Lee and Marisa Mell (because what kind of spy movie would it be without hotties à la carte?). Between romances Danton learns that the plot revolves around the untraceable drug synchron-2. Purpose: unknown (but don't be shocked if it's to do with world domination).

Few of these Bond knock-offs are sufficiently budgeted or technically proficient enough to result in good final products. Whether you like them has to do with nebulous factors. In this case, we thought Danton's unctious self-entitlement and blasé approach to world saving were funny. We loved when one of his many assailants swallowed cyanide, Danton said, “I'd better get rid of him,” then dumped the corpse out the nearest window. Cue sound effect of splashing water. New York chiama Superdrago is a bit camp without being a satire, and just poorly written enough to provide a few laughs without being a total screenwriting train wreck. But don't pretend we said it's actually good.
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The Naked City Feb 4 2024
THE CAMERA EYE
Take a picture, perv. It'll last longer.


Above is another striking image from the 2019 Lucie Foundation exhibit of Los Angeles crime photos, most of which have been widely disseminated across the internet since then. That means we can always grab one when we want to dip into the mid-century crime underworld. The subject here, with her unfliching gaze and lit cigarette, has been arrested but there's no info revealing why. We're thinking public check and pinstripe clashing? No, probably not that. Imitating Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct? No, that was before her time. Felony cruelty to fur-bearing mammals? No. Okay, here's a shot in the dark—probably she was arrested for prostitution. That's our final guess. The photo was made today in 1949.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 10 2024
LONG TIME NO C-NOTE
I'd have sex for free, but that would be irresponsible from a business perspective.


The 1962 Signet paperback of The Hundred-Dollar Girl has striking cover art by Jerry Allison, whose nice work we've seen before here, here, and here. William Campbell Gault's tale sees L.A. private dick Joe Puma investigating whether a boxing match was fixed, then finding himself in the middle of murder and an organized crime takeover of the fight racket. This is the second Puma we've read, and as with the previous book, he gets laid a couple of times, gets ko'd a couple of times, and beats up a couple of guys. All this is fine, but we haven't yet read the Gault novel that makes us sit up and go, "Ahh!" Certainly though, he's been good enough to make looking for that special book a pursuit we expect to pay off. We'll keep looking. In the meantime, if you want an L.A. crime read, you can do worse than The Hundred-Dollar Girl.  

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Hollywoodland Jan 8 2024
BURNS IN THE FIRE
You’re nobody ’til somebody loves you.


The above photos show Barbara Burns when she was busted for drugs today in 1958 after LAPD officers found track marks on her arms. Burns was the well-to-do daughter of famed comedian Bob Burns, but her father had died of kidney cancer in 1956. Barbara Burns was sentenced to probation after the arrest, and the story got some play in national newspapers, with several calling her probation sentence a storybook opportunity at a second chance. But she didn’t cooperate in the role. She managed to cobble together some behind-the-cameras television work, but was arrested for heroin possession in 1959. That time she served ninety days in jail and admitted in an interview, “I’m really hooked. I had nothing else to do, and my mother wouldn’t talk to me. I wanted to be a singer but I was too heavy and they told me it would help me lose weight.” 

Burns had always called herself an ugly duckling, compared herself unfavorably to her siblings, and felt she could never live up to family expectations. But even though her own words told the world that low self esteem was the root of her problems, a dead father and an estrangement from her mother probably didn't help things. The downward spiral continued. She was arrested for marijuana possession in early 1960 and
earned ninety days in Camarillo State Hospital. In November 1960 she was snared in another weed bust, but that time she walked after a jury acquitted her. When she was arrested for heroin possession again in June 1961, she lamented what had probably been true for longer than she admitted—that she had doomed her chance to have a career in show business.
 
At some point she sought medical treatment for an eye problem and was told by a doctor that she was losing her vision in her right eye. In both August and September of 1961 she attempted suicide, and in January 1962 while awaiting trial on one of her narcotics busts she was found overdosed and unconscious on a Hollywood street, and died a few days later in the hospital. Her suicide note said all she wanted was to be loved but everyone hated her. Many of her obituaries, ironically, described her as “tall and beautiful,” which she certainly would not have believed. They also noted her advantages in life—how she had won the crucial lottery of being born to wealth. But Barbara Burns didn’t see it that way. She once said, “I wish I had been born in some poor, obscure family that nobody knew. Then maybe I would have tried to become somebody.”
 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 28 2023
A FOLIES JOLLY CHRISTMAS
Now dancers, now prancers, now vixens...


Folies de Paris et de Hollywood is one of our favorite vintage magazines, and though we have a tall stack of them, we don't share them nearly as often as we should. Today you're seeing the front and rear cover plus assorted interior bits from issue #506, which appeared in 1972. You get the usual burlesque dancers, prancers, and vixens, along with a centerfold featuring Margaret Nolan not looking quite her normal self (but it's her). See more from Folies de Paris et de Hollywood by clicking its keywords just below. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 4 2023
HARD TO HANDLE
It's nobody's business but their own.


Manhandlers, right? It's a good title for a sexploitation movie, and John Solie painted a nice promo poster, but the actual product is a limp drama with dopy comedic episodes about a woman played by Cara Burgess who inherits her mobbed up uncle's L.A. massage parlor and finds that it's a front for a brothel. Her uncle was killed for being uncooperative with the mafia, and now they come after her, trying to intimidate her into signing away half of the place's profits. One the one hand, she'd supposedly net a nice income just for looking the other way and doing nothing. On the other, she'd be giving in to organized crime. The answer? Fill both hands with scented oil, massage the mob into a sense of false security, then make her move. None of it is as interesting as it sounds, at no point are machine guns wielded, and for sexploitation the extracurriculars aren't very erotic, even with Judy Brown and Rosalind Miles in support. You can give this one a pass. The Manhandlers premiered—and went limp at the box office—today in 1974. 

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The Naked City Dec 4 2023
CHALK UP ANOTHER ONE
Life to draws to a close in the City of Angels.


This photo, which is another one from the Los Angeles Police Department photo archive, shows an unidentified man after police crime scene detectives have outlined his body in chalk. Note the knife. He defended himself against an attacker, but unsuccessfully. Or perhaps he attacked someone and they defended themself successfully. The photos from the archive carry only the information written on them, and in this case that's nothing. But it's a compelling shot, made today in 1950. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 4 2023
BULLET POINTS
Say it with words! Seriously! I very much prefer words!


Say It with Bullets was written by Richard Powell and published by Graphic Books in 1954 with great Walter Popp cover art of the instant before all hell breaks loose in a bar. It's the tale of a man named Bill Wayne who, while serving as a pilot in China in World War II, is shot by another pilot, one of five who betray him over half a million dollars in contraband gold. He's left behind but survives, and years later, now in the U.S., has found where each of his almost-killers are residing. He books a spot on a cross-country bus tour called Treasure Trip of the Old West that happens to be passing through those cities, and plans to dispose of his compatriots one by one.

So, obviously, booking a tour that goes through Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Reno, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, where one's betrayers coincidentally live, is a reach. Actually, let's just call it impossible. But we're believers in accepting the premise of a book, and since Powell explains this set-up in paragraph five we were willing to go with it. Need we say that revenge isn't as clinical as Wayne imagines? It's complicated by a nosy tour director—young and beautiful, of course—an ambitious deputy sheriff, and the growing realization that he's being trailed by a party or parties unknown.

The book is unusual on multiple fronts but the most notable element is that Wayne is one of the biggest wise-asses we've come across in literature. Here's a typical line, delivered after he's taken a beating from the aforementioned sheriff and, dismayingly, run into him the next morning on a street corner: There was Deputy Sheriff Carson Smith, on leave of absence from a dude ranch advertisement. “Hello,” Wayne said. “Did your knuckles recover from that severe bandaging they got here last night?” Wayne is amusing—or tries to be—even in his direst moments. His attitude pushes Say It with Bullets into farce at times, but he also makes an uneven book more interesting than it deserves to be.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 24
1967—First Space Program Casualty Occurs
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when, during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after more than ten successful orbits, the capsule's main parachute fails to deploy properly, and the backup chute becomes entangled in the first. The capsule's descent is slowed, but it still hits the ground at about 90 mph, at which point it bursts into flames. Komarov is the first human to die during a space mission.
April 23
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder, Carmen Jones, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Stalag 17, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
April 22
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
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