Strindberg, Tamburi, Bisera and company wip it good in Italian sexploitation drama.
We ran across this poster for a movie we watched years ago, the exploitation drama Diario segreto da un carcere femminile, which premiered in Italy today in 1973 and is known in English as Women in Cell Block 7. Such films, for the uninitiated, are thought of by b-movie fans as belonging to a sub-genre known as women-in-prison or WiP. In honor of today's post we've gone back through the website and keyworded for them, so you can see what we've done on this unusual style of cinema by clicking “women in prison” at bottom. The art on the poster is by Enzo Nistri, which makes it worth a share. The movie is sort of interesting too, though perhaps not exactly good. However, we've never been able to forget Olga Bisera's naughty correctional facility finger. You can see her using it in a couple of the production photos below, and following those are some of the stars, who comprise a who's-who of 1970s European exploitation cinema: Anita Strindberg, Eva Czemerys, Jenny Tamburi, Paola Senatore, Maria Pia Luzi, Gabriella Giorgelli, Olga Bisera, and Valeria Fabrizi.
Yugo wherever you can to find good art.
Something unusual we ran across recently. Above you see a Yugoslavian poster for Afrička veza, an Italian film originally made in 1973 as Contratto carnale, released in English as The African Deal, and shot in Ghana. The poster is unusual because, though its text is Croatian, the actual art very much echoes vintage Ghanaian movie posters, such as here and here. We've never seen a Yugoslavian poster in this style. Our opinion is that because the movie was made in Ghana and was certainly released there at some point, the art was painted for a Ghanaian poster then borrowed by the Yugoslavian distributors Inex Film. We talked about Contratto carnale a few years back. It starred George Hilton, Calvin Lockhart, beautiful Anita Strindberg, and yummy Yanti Somer, was originally released in 1973, and premiered in Yugoslavia sometime in 1976.
Haiti gets hit by hurricane Anita.
These two posters for Al tropico del cancro, aka Tropic of Cancer, were painted by Italian master Renato Casaro, and really demonstrate his artistic range, as they're stylistically different from the other poster he painted for the film. We have plenty of Casaro in the website, so if you want to see more just click his keywords below, or if you're pressed for time, you can see what we think is his best work here and here. He isn't the only person we want to highlight today. The movie stars Anita Strindberg, yet another luminous actress to come out of Sweden, and she plays a wife who travels to Haiti and is soon caught up in tropical sensuality, hallucinogenic drugs, and voodoo. It's unabashed exploitation ranging from the sexual to the cultural, and Strindberg is the main reason it's watchable, as you see below. Al tropico del cancro premiered in Italy today in 1972.
You can't have him. He's the only reliable source of heat in this place.
Above is a poster for Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave, aka Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. The movie premiered in Italy today in 1970, but we're showing you the U.S. poster because its imagery of co-star Edwige Fenech and a devil cat is better, in our opinion, than the Italian one, which you see at bottom.
The title is ridiculous, obviously, but how is the film? It's a typically labyrinthine giallo. Anita Strindberg, she of the glorious mouth and astonishing hair, is being tormented by her impotent writer husband Oliviero. When murders begin to occur in the crumbling mansion where they live he begs Strindberg to supply his alibi, claiming he had nothing to do with the crimes. Enter the husband's niece, Fenech. She arrives for a visit and forms an immediate sexual bond with Strindberg. They both think Oliviero is a killer and set out to prove it.
The film is interesting, but it's always a problem when a mystery's solution has to be explained at the end because nobody in the film—nor in the audience—could figure it out. Still though, giallo completists will find something here to like. Below are some production photos, as well as a promo shot made for the film of Fenech in a tub. And you thought she'd never let go of that cat.
Florinda Bolkan is a textbook case of multiple epidermal disorder.
Una lucertola con la pelle di donna premiered in Italy in 1971 and in the U.S. as Lizard in a Woman's Skin today in 1973. It's a giallo—i.e. a thriller with mystery, slasher, detective, and psychological horror elements. Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan stars, and she has a problem—she's having erotic dreams about her beautiful neighbor Anita Strindberg. The dreams disturb and arouse Bolkan, but she's working out her concerns in therapy. All well and good, until matters take a turn for the worse when she dreams about dispatching Strindberg with a knife, and later wakes to find that Strindberg has indeed been murdered in the exact fashion as in her nightmare.
The cops arrest her for the killing and send her to a mental hospital to await trial. But the case is hardly airtight. Loose ends include Bolkan's dream diary, an illicit affair, and a blackmail plot. The mental hospital is hardly airtight either. A stalker shows up intent on putting Bolkan out of commission. Eventually doubts arise in the case and Bolkan is sprung from the booby hatch, but who committed the murder? Well, below we have some production shots, and at bottom is a poster for the film's re-issue as Schizoid—a title that's a blatant spoiler. Actually, considering lizards change their skin by molting, the original title is a spoiler as well. Too clever by half, these Italian filmmakers, but the movie is still fun.
We Ghana get outta this place if it's the last thing we ever do.
We've had some entertaining hours watching various whites-go-to-the-jungle movies, so when we stumbled across this poster for Contratto Carnale, aka The African Deal, we took the plunge once more. This one stars American stud Calvin Lockhart, Swedish beauty Anita Strindberg, and Finnish sweetie Yanti Somer in a story involving an interracial affair in Ghana that takes place against the backdrop of international corporate intrigue. Generally, white women in these movies are given extraordinary motivations for crossing the line. Love? Not a chance. Just wanna have fun? Never. Usually voodoo has something to do with it, or some other free-will sapping outside influence. It's condescending of course, but you know that going in. In this case Somer goes black because she's basically a corporate prostitute, paid to screw guys for the advantage of her employers.
We were expecting a sexploitation movie, and Contratto Carnale indeed fits the brief, but it also has a serious side, with narrative forays into slave history and scenes shot in Accra's infamous slaver's fortification, the Swedish-built Cape Coast Castle, which today is a museum and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The symbolism is useful, because the movie soon shows how corruption and greed make life difficult for thosein Accra who would operate by a better set of rules. But the central character played by Lockhart just may be pure enough not to be destroyed by the slimy corporate enemies arrayed against him. As for his relationship with Somer, if you're expecting consequence free interracial boning in a 1970s movie you're dreaming. You rarely get that even today. Something bad will happen—it's just a question of exactly what.
But even with the considerable story depth injected into Contratto Carnale, the main attraction is female skin, with Strindberg indulging in a totally nude nap and Somer getting her kit off at several junctures, including at the aforementioned slave castle. This is actually really shocking, all things considered, but you'll be too blinded by her hotness to contemplate that. It's a shame there are so few decent promo images of her, but that's how it was with low budget 1970s movies. Strindberg, at least, posed for a few magazines, and those photos, including the promos below from the film, show what a great beauty she is. There's other beauty in Contratto Carnale too, such as exteriors shot around the Ghanaian coast and in some outlying villages. Also nice is the soundtrack, which is interspersed with a couple of classic West African tunes. Add it all together and you have a decent-not-great flick. Contratto Carnale premiered in Italy today in 1973.
And they thought cellblocks 1 through 6 were bad.
Diario segreto da un carcere femminile, for which you see a nice poster above, was released in English as Women in Cellblock 7. Jenny Tamburi is thrown in prison as an accessory to a drug trafficking doublecross that led to the disappearance of twenty kilos of heroin. Interpol agent Anita Strindberg wants to prove her father, also an Interpol agent, had nothing to do with the heist, and has herself and her amazing hair placed in prison in order to ply Tamburi for exonerating evidence. Outside parties think Tamburi knows where the missing heroin is, including her lawyer and the mafia, but she claims to have no idea.
So you have an innocent woman in prison, under threat from convicts connected to the mafia, and into this arrives an undercover agent who soon becomes her protector. The cast, which besides Tamburi and Strindberg includes Eva Czemerys, Olga Bisera, Cristina Gaioni, and Valeria Fabrizi, get to rubbing on each other in beds and showers in cinematic approximations of lesbian sex, which means you've got yourself a classic women in prison sexploitation flick. There's also a plot thread external to the prison involving the mafia trafficantes, and some of this features effective action, but it's the ladies on lockdown that are the draw here.
Do they make the movie worth watching? We wouldn't go that far, but they're certainly scenic, and they work hard to hold together a ridiculous script. The conundrum of movie acting is that you have to give it your all or be judged unfit for further roles. At eighty-one minutes in length, at least the film lets the cast out early for good behavior even if the warden doesn't. Diario segreto da un carcere femminile premiered in Italy today in 1973, and the poster was painted by Enzo Nistri. You can see more of his work here and here.
Tropical storm Anita blows into Port-au-Prince.
Set in Haiti, the Italian thriller Al tropico del cancro follows the story of a doctor who invents a powerful hallucinogenic drug that interests various parties who believe it to be priceless. In addition to being a giallo, some people consider this film a classic of—what would you call it?—not blaxploitation, but that unofficial sub-genre of movies (which we also wrote about yesterday in assessing Emmanuelle IV) in which white women go to the tropics and jettison their inhibitions. Though the promise of Renato Casaro's brilliant poster art undoubtedly draws many viewers to the film, star Anita Strindberg's interracial coupling is a highly stylized hallucination or dream, ancillary to the plot. She gives it her theatrical best, though, gangbangy subtext and all. The scene was bold in 1972's racial landscape—and still is today, which shows you how little progress we've made in half a century.
Strindberg is a favorite around Pulp Intl. She was one of our early femmes fatales—in fact the one that made us decide to feature the occasional frontal nude on the site. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to share this shot. Under a ridiculous crown of sculptural ’70s hair, she's all high cheekbones, icy eyes, and a recurved mouth. Everything below her neck looks good too, although she sports a pair of early breast implants, but hey—her body her choice. Her nordic looks juxtapose nicely against Haiti's tropical setting. She's a gleaming alien there, which is important for the sense of disconnection her character feels as the various male cast members busy themselves trying to outsmart each other to acquire the drug formula.
Al tropico del cancro features awesome location shooting in Port-au-Prince, not only in the streets and estates, but in unlikely locales like a functioning abattoir where island beef production is depicted in full gore. Cows aren't the only animals that fare poorly, so be forewarned. The movie eventually ends in foot chases and gunshots, as greed for the formula triggers a spate of violence. Reaching this climax isn't the most gripping ride, but we've been on worse. We recommend the movie for fans of Strindberg, as well as for people interested in historic Port-au-Prince, much of which—the prized Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince, the capital building, the parliament, et al—was destroyed in a 2010 earthquake. Al tropico del cancro premiered in Italy today in 1972.
You’re unbelievably tense—let me work some of those kinks out for you.
Above is an amazing German promo poster for Der Schwanz des Skorpions, aka La coda dello scorpione, aka The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail. You may have noticed we’re on a bit of a giallo kick of late. This one was directed by Sergio Martino, who also gave us the unforgettably titled thrillers Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key and The Bodies Bear Traces of Carnal Violence. When a woman inherits a million dollars from a husband who died in a plane crash, people start crawling out of the woodwork and all of them want a share of the loot. Overall the movie is pretty good.
In terms of cast, the interesting Swedish actress Anita Strindberg—whose fantastically-shaped mouth probably fueled about fifty million erotic fantasies during the seventies—co-stars with hunky George Hilton. The title of the film refers to a scorpion cufflink that’s a clue to the killer’s identity, but you might not pay too much attention to plot details because you'll be too busy contemplating the anti-gravitational properties of Strindberg’s two, uh, body modifications. They must be among the first to appear on a movie screen, so Der Schwanz des Skorpions isn’t just a fun giallo, it’s also historically significant. Sort of. It opened in West Berlin, West Germany, today in 1973.
Sometimes it's best to take a frontal approach.
Above, a wonderful image of Swedish actress Anita Strindberg, who became one of the best known giallo actresses of her era, appearing in such films as Forza G, Coartado en disco rojo, and Al tropico del cancro, seen here circa 1973.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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