He doesn't have a hook for a hand yet, but he's always practicing for that day.
The first thing to know about Naked Paradise is that it's an early Roger Corman movie, made by Sunset Production and distributed through American International Pictures, companies he helped establish. Corman also directed, so it's safe to say he had near-total control of the movie on and off the set. While he's made some real stinkers over the years, by his standards Naked Paradise isn't terrible. That doesn't mean its good. It's still laughably dopey in parts, the type of movie you can riff on from start to finish, but narratively it hangs together reasonably well and a couple of the actors practice their craft with competence.
Plotwise, three criminals led by Leslie Bradley travel to Oahu disguised as pleasure cruisers to try lifting a massive pineapple and sugar cane plantation's payroll. Their escape is via the same method as their arrival, unbeknownst to their boatmates, who at first are too busy sunning themselves and romancing to realize there are three dangerous criminals in their midst. Tensions between the boat's captain Richard Denning and the crooks soon come to a frothing head when the lead heister and his arm candy Beverly Garland acrimoniously split from each other.
The group are then stuck together during a tropical storm, a plot turn which brings to mind Key Largo. In fact we can hear screenwriter Robert Wright Campbell's pitch to Corman: “You see, it's Key Largo, sandwiched on one side by deep backstory showing the audience why Johnny Rocco and his henchmen are on the run, and on the other by an extended aquatic climax.” That's exactly the movie Corman made, though doubtless done far more cheaply than Campbell ever envisioned.
Corman has a genius for conjuring final results that are better than their shoestring budgets should allow, and he certainly is an unparalleled wrangler of nascent talent. He's given opportunities to directors such as Coppola, Demme, Scorsese, and Ron Howard, and performers like Jane Fonda and William Shatner. If there's such as thing as a pulp filmmaker he's the guy. His stories nearly always aim for the gut by focusing on action with a hint of innuendo, and rely upon the most standard of cinematic tropes. Naked Paradise is quintessential Corman. Is it good? Not really. But it's certainly watchable. It premiered this month in 1957.
West German magazine tears down the wall.
German isn't one of our languages, but who needs to read it when you have a magazine with a red and purple motif that's pure eye candy? Every page of this issue of the pop culture magazine Bravo says yum. It hit newsstands today in 1957 and is filled with interesting and rare starfotos of celebs like Romy Schneider, Horst Buchholz, Clark Gable, Karin Dor, Mamie Van Doren, Ursula Andress, Marina Vlady, Corinne Calvet, jazzists Oscar Peterson and Duke Ellington, and many others. This was an excellent find.
We perused other issues of Bravo and it seemed to us—more so in those examples than this one—that it was a gay interest publication. After a scan around some German sites for confirmation we found that it was as we thought. The magazine's gay themes were subtle, but they were there, and at one blog the writer said that surviving as a gay youth in West Berlin during the 1960s, for him, would have been impossible without Bravo. We will have more from this barrier smashing publication later. Thirty-five panels below.
They're meaner than the gators and deadlier than the snakes.
Above, a Japanese poster for Swamp Women, originally made in 1956, starring Mike Connors, Marie Windsor, Carole Matthews, and Beverly Garland. The Japanese title of this is 女囚大脱走, which means “female prisoner escape.” We consider that a bit of a plot spoiler, but the art is brilliant, and we suspect it enticed many a Japanese filmgoer. To their shock and horror, after they'd ponied up the yen they found out it was a Roger Corman b-movie and probably wanted to escape too.
No time to wallow in the mire.
Above is a poster for the Roger Corman produced b-movie Swamp Women, which starred Marie Windsor, Carole Matthews, Beverly Garland, and Mike Connors, the latter acting under the name Touch Connors. Connors was Armenian-American and thought—correctly, we suspect—that his real name Krekor Ohanian wasn't going to help his show business career. He accumulated at least twenty credits as Touch Connors before he jettisoned it and eventually became the guy everyone remembers from the cop show Mannix.
In Swamp Women Connors plays an oil prospector boating around the Louisiana bayou who stumbles across a group of escaped female convicts searching for a stash of diamonds. Among their number is an undercover police woman charged with finding the stones and apprehending the group. It's fully as ridiculous as it sounds, and with Corman at the helm you know it's cheap, too. Plus this was only his fourth full directing gig. But we give him credit—he really made his cast slog through the Louisiana mire, which means you get realism to offset the use of stock footage.
The thing about Corman is that he always did more with less. But despite his particular set of skills, the script here hamstrings any attempt at making a decent flick. As an example of what we mean, Mike Connors doesn't go into the swamp alone. He takes his girlfriend with him, and she's eaten by an alligator. Hours later he's smooching the undercover policewoman. Not as part of a ruse or escape attempt. Just because he digs her. His girlfriend was a gold digging pain in the ass, but still, you'd think seeing her ripped to pieces would cool his ardor. But they don't call him Touch Connors for nothing. Plenty more fish in the bayou.
If you look on Wikipedia Swamp Women is classified as a film noir. That's purely comical. It's a proto-exploitation flick along the lines of what American International Pictures would routinely do fifteen years later with more skin and better efx. By the time the swamp women finally reach the site of the hidden diamonds and dig up a box, you'll be hoping they open it and find a new script and more investment money. But no such luck. Corman would do better later. Windsor, Matthews, and Garland had done better in the past. That's show business—one day you're at the top, the next you're sinking in the bog. Swamp Women premiered in the U.S. today in 1956.
We knew Amazon working conditions were terrible, but now there's a monster too?
This is a brilliant Belgian poster for a terrible U.S. monster movie originally called Curucu, Beast of the Amazon, about plantation workers who are being terrorized by a horrible creature—possibly Jeff Bezos. Considering the low pay, hard work, and lack of bathroom breaks, the workers should have gone on strike long before the monster showed up. Unfortunately, before they can get organized the man in charge materializes to set everything straight. That would be John Bromfield, armed with a machete and a strong sense of entitlement, while Not of This Earth's Beverly Garland plays a scientist wandering the same patch of jungle looking for a miracle drug.
You'll need a miracle drug too, if you plan to watch this flick—we recommend mescaline. But really, you don't even have to watch it, because the poster covers all the salient plot points—Garland is attacked by a big rubber snake, Bromfield is attacked by a big stuffed leopard, they get tied up at one point but escape, and the villain dangles some shrunken heads at them before ending up one himself. Rapacious capitalism is saved again. The movie was called Curuçu sorcier de l'Amazone in French and Tovenaar van de Amazone in Dutch. There's no known Belgian premiere date for it, but it opened in the U.S. in late 1956 and probably reached Belgium in the middle of 1957.
Hi there. Is this planet taken?
Above is an iconic poster for Roger Corman's sci-fi thriller Not of This Earth, about an alien in human form who is beamed to Earth through a matter transmitter and enacts a scheme to be transfused with human blood. If he derives the hoped for benefits from these transfusions, his entire dying race will come to Earth, in what you might call an interstellar migrant caravan, only rather than fleeing danger and finding good paying jobs their intent is to enslave humanity and steal its blood. This film is one of the all-time cheeseball classics, well worth a viewing, especially when accompanied by drinks and friends. And it's just about 70 minutes long, which is a nice bonus. The poster art, which is the entire point of this post, is by Albert Kallis, one of the great American movie artists. More from him later, or if you prefer, more of his unearthly talent now. Not of This Earth premiered in the U.S. today in 1957.
I'm getting some really high readings on this. We better try the rectal thermometer.
I don't have a rectum, baby. But I have a rection. That's the word in Earthtongue right?
Sure, he wanted to enslave humanity. But it felt good to be wanted.
Clearly they have consent issues.
Monsters may be horrible but you can't fault their taste. To borrow a line from one of their number, they're automatically attracted to beautiful. It's like a magnet. We wonder if it's possible their need is an unconscious manifestation of the id of male Hollywood screenwriters. Or were the writers deliberately making commentaries about male power, nuclear paranoia, and environmental degradation? Well, those are questions for smarter people than us. We take monsters at face value. Maybe that's not what we mean—some don't even have proper faces. What we mean is we judge them as individuals. Most monsters are direct, like Pongo, above, trying to impress Maris Wrixon in the 1945 movie White Pongo, while some, on the other claw, are more circumspect. But the language barrier usually sabotages their delicate efforts. “I know an independently owned café that serves a killer macchiato,” comes out as a series of glottal grunts. “I loved La La Land too and I think the naysayers are mainly joyless jazz purists,” comes out as a sustained sodden hiss. Even if these vocalizations could give a true indication of the inner depths of a monster's personality, women generally wouldn't give them a shot anyway, because despite what they say, looks really do matter. What's a monster to do?
This Island Earth, with Faith Domergue.
The Time Machine, with Yvette Mimieux.
Creature from the Black Lagoon, with Julie Adams.
The Alligator People, with Beverly Garland.
The Man from Planet X, with Margaret Field.
Robot Monster, with Claudia Barrett.
The Beach Girls and the Monster, with Sue Casey.
The Monster of Piedras Blancas, with Jeanne Carmen.
The Day of the Triffids, with Janette Scott.
It! the Terror from Beyond Space, with Shirley Patterson.
I Walked with a Zombie, with Christine Gordon.
From Hell It Came.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf, with Dawn Richard.
It Conquered the World, with Beverly Garland again crushing a monster's hopes for love and fulfillment.
El retorno del Hombre Lobo, aka Night of the Werewolf.
Empire of the Ants, with Joan Collins.
I Married a Monster from Outer Space, with Gloria Talbott.
The Wolf Man, with Evelyn Ankers.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
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.
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