*psst* Ever since Claudine got hold of that speargun the look in her eye really worries me.
The James Bond flick Thunderball produced an unusually fertile crop of excellent promo images, owing largely to the three actresses you see above—Claudine Auger, Martine Beswick, and Luciana Paluzzi. It's Auger who's posing with the speargun, and there are other good shots of her wielding it. If Beswick and Paluzzi are worried, it's possibly because they suspect they won't survive the film. In early Bond adventures only one of his many love interests usually survived, and in Thunderball that's Auger. Her reward? A little thunderballing.
Please don't die. I promise from now on instead of going hiking we can sit on the sofa and watch sports.
With winter slipping into spring we thought we'd share the above cover of someone who possibly slipped into the great beyond. The 1951 novel Le forces de l'amour was written for Éditions Mondiales Del Duca's popular Collection Nous Deux by Italian author Lucienne Peverelly, who also published as Luciana Perverelli and Greta Granor. We said a while back we thought she might be Lucienne Royer too, but we found no evidence to confirm that. Peverelly was a prolific writer who churned out more than 300 novels, always of the romantic and adventure type. She also served as editor-in-chief of the Italian weekly Il Monello starting in 1933, wrote for many women's magazines, daily newspapers like Il Tempo, and movie periodicals like Stelle. Del Duca didn't credit this cover, so it goes in the unknown artist bin.
Wake-up calls at the Hiltons' are murder.
We were drawn to Il sesso della strega, aka Sex of the Witch, because of its excellent posters painted by Lamberto Forni, an artist whose work you've seen here before. But as often happens, the movie didn't live up to the promo imagery. The strange tale begins with Sir Thomas Hilton, a wealthy wine grower, who dies of old age. His family gets a surprise when the will is read: all those closest to Hilton, including his secretary, benefit from the profits of his holdings, but nothing can be broken up or sold, his sister gets nothing, some heirs don't benefit immediately, and if anyone dies their share is distributed among the others. Basically, the will is a blueprint for the Hiltons to start murdering each other. When that happens, the spurned sister is suspected of being a witch. But is she?
None of it matters. The movie is an merely excuse for a lot of overlong softcore sex scenes of the worst kind. You know the ones we mean—interminable slow wriggling devoid of even a hint of erotic heat. You have to really drop the ball to make naked people boring—especially naked Italian women from the ’70s, with their enormous bushes*—but director Angelo Pannacciò, aka Elo Pannacciò, accomplishes that here, in his debut. It's impossible to care about the movie's central mystery, and despite Pannacciò somewhat giallo visual stylings there's just nothing to get enthusiastic about. Except those posters. Nice work, Forni. Il sesso della strega premiered in Italy today in 1974.
*We love enormous Italian bushes, both tactilely and visually. This one is large, but not stupendous. You know when a bush is really big? When the moment it's revealed you think there's suddenly been a citywide blackout.
Wherever you look, there it is.
We're back. We said we'd keep an eye out for pulp during our trip to Donostia-San Sebastián, and we did see some, though we couldn't buy it—it was all under glass in a museum. The Tabakalera (above), a cultural space mainly focused on modern art, was staging an exhibit titled, “Evil Eye - The Parallel History of Optics and Ballistics.” A small part of the exhibition was a selection of Editorial Valenciana's Luchadores del Espacio, a series of two-hundred and thirty-four sci-fi novels published from 1953 to 1963.
We snuck a few shots of the novels, which you can see below. Overall, though, what was on offer were photos, short films, political literature, and physical artifacts dealing with war and conflict. Since the participants were all artists, journalists, and witnesses from outside the U.S., everything naturally focused on wars that the U.S. started or sponsored—those ones they don't teach in school. The pulp fit because of its suggestion that human conflict would continue even into outer space.
We also said we'd try to pick up some French pulp, and that side trip happened too. We managed to score several 1970s copies of Ciné-Revue that we'll share a bit later, and those will feature some favorite stars. Though the collecting was fun, we're glad to be back. The birthday party was a success, as always, and now we're down south where the weather is gorgeous and hopes are always high. We'll resume our regular postings tomorrow.
As furniture goes they're all upside, no down.
Can furniture change your life? Maybe. This photo caught our eye because we too have a divan, and it's so very useful. One can lounge, read, nap, emphasize points while seated on its edge, get freaky, whatever. U.S. actress Patricia Morrison—performer in such films as Song of the Thin Man, Dressed To Kill, and Tarzan and the Huntress—seems to have discerned the utility of the classic backless divan in this unusual reverse oriented promo photo. It's... divine. We don't have a date on it, but it's probably from around 1945.
Hello? Is anybody there? Santa? Is that you?
Our sprint through movies this December continues today with the Italian Christmas favorite—Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea, for which you see a festive yule themed poster above. It was painted by Mario Piovano and just oozes holiday spirit. Right. Well, obviously not. This couldn't be a Christmas movie unless Christmas makes you want to kill everyone around you. But it qualifies as a gift from us to you, because we're going to save you the time you might have spent watching it.
The title translates as, “extract from the secret police archives of a European capital,” but was shortened to Tragic Ceremony for its English language release. The Italian title would seem to indicate that this is a giallo flick, but it's actually more in the realm of gothic horror. Basically, a quartet of carefree hippies stumble upon and must survive assorted evils, including a black mass, a phantom gas station, and spurts of megaviolence, all loosely related somehow to a string of possibly cursed pearls.
The movie stars Camille Keaton, who's not well known today, but headlined perhaps the most infamous grindhouse offering of the 1970s—Day of the Woman, better known in some quarters as I Spit on Your Grave. Keaton appears here six years earlier, and is stranded with her hippie-hedonist friends in a creepy old manse where she's seized upon by the loony, aristocratic occupants as a potential sacrifice. She escapes, but the aftereffects of her close call are numerous and gory.
Critics hindered by their own knowledge of niche cinema to the extent that they can't see the forest for the trees tend to describe this movie as underrated, but it really isn't, even if you accept it as a sly commentary on the generational clash between the counterculture and the gentry. At one point a distressed Máximo Valverde asks, “What's happening? What's going on?” Well, you've ended up in a below average horror movie, Max. It happens. Revisionist critics can't help you. Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea premiered in Italy today in 1972.
Taylor and Turner make an explosive pairing in hit gangster romance.
MGM produced a beautiful poster for its 1941 melodrama Johnny Eager, which you see here in all its vibrancy and clever design. Starring Robert Taylor and Lana Turner, the unknown creator or creators used the stars' names crossword style to include “TNT” into the text. MGM knew they had something special on their hands in Turner and had been trundling her out for audiences to goggle at in awe and wonder, building up her career in comedy, musicals, straight drama, a western, and even horror in 1941's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Now at age twenty it was time for her to co-anchor a crime melodrama.
Turner is a sociology student who crosses the path of an ex-con named John Eager (Taylor) at his parole office. Turner is smitten, as well as impressed with Taylor's efforts to stay on the straight and narrow by working as a cab driver. The problem is Taylor is actually running an elaborate scam, heading a criminal enterprise in the form of a profitable gambling racket while keeping his parole officer bamboozled, and others either paid off or bedazzled into silence. Such is his charm that even the head secretary at the parole office is helping him.
Turner, as an innocent young student who isn't in on the scam, of course throws a wrench in Taylor's plans by finding out he's lying. But it turns out she's a little more worldly than she at first seemed. When she learns Taylor is still an underworld goon she's fine with it. She's just gotta have the guy. It means jilting her square boyfriend and disappointing her protective dad, plus she's warned that disaster will result, but the heart wants what it wants. Will she be corrupted? Will Taylor become so loopy that he loses control of his empire? Can true love blossom in the barren soil of the organized crime underground?
In the end Johnny Eager is a smart, well-written movie, with memorable lines aplenty and several refreshing plot surprises. Burgeoning superstar Turner does just fine in her key role, and it helps that her surrounding cast are all confident and talented. Van Heflin even won a supporting actor Academy Award for his role as a poetry spouting, alcoholic sidekick to Taylor's smooth gangster, and the accolade was well deserved. Johnny Eager is a movie every vintage film buff should add to their queue. It premiered today in 1941.
Sometimes it's better if you don't go all the way.
Above is another case where the foreign promo material for a film surpasses the domestic version, something that happened increasingly as U.S. studios gave up on painted art, while foreign distributors kept on with the traditional ways. These two Italian promos were made for Quando baci una sconosciuta, which was produced in the U.S. as Once You Kiss a Stranger. The film stars the lovely Carol Lynley, so the odds of ending up with a nice domestic poster were high, but Warner Brothers flubbed it. Have a look at their effort below and we think you'll agree it's almost disgracefully bad. Meanwhile the Italian promos were painted by Tino Avelli, someone whose we've highlighted before, and while these don't rise to the level as some of most magnificent posters from Italy, they're still pretty nice.
Once You Kiss a Stranger is a reworking of Patricia Highsmith's 1950 novel Strangers on a Train, but with a woman in one of the leads. These days many would complain that this is evil “gender swapping,” but dramatic plotlines are finite in number, therefore freshening up old material in this way has always been attractive to Hollywood. They're doing it a bit more of late because today there are fewer new ideas than ever, and because ticket buyers—by which we mean the diverse people under age thirty who actually fuel profits—like it and put down good money to see it.
Lynley plays a deranged woman who intends to exchange murders with a golf pro played by Paul Burke. Lynley is about to be permanently committed to a mental institution, while Burke always finishes second in his tournaments to Phil Carey. Lynley offers to solve that problem by killing Carey, and expects Burke to kill her psychiatrist in exchange. Just as in the novel, as well as Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 cinematic adaptation, the key to making this plot device work is the protagonist not believing what he's being told. Once You Kiss a Stranger makes that part more realistic than either Highsmith or Hitchcock by simply having Burke agree to anything that gets the tanned and toned Lynley into bed. This is where casting a woman pays dividends. The entire entrapment is now in shorthand because everyone in the cinema understands the visceral need to get inside Lynley. Hell, for her we'd promise to rope the moon. We'd swear an oath while covered in goat's blood. We'd swim a lake of fire. Point is, you can understand Burke's attitude being, “Uh huh... I hear you... murder... understood... can you take off your panties real slow?” However, Burke being led by his dick into trouble is the only improvement Once You Kiss a Stranger manages over what came before. The rest is a pale imitation of two scintillating sources, and done on a level dialogue-wise that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would epically mock. We can't recommend it, but speaking only for ourselves, we'll watch anything with Lynley. Full stop. Once You Kiss a Stranger, with her, Burke, Carey, and the lovely Martha Hyer aged forty-five and looking fantastic, premiered today in 1969.
She's so ready even the book cover is moist.
Above: a simple but striking piece of dust jacket art by French illustrator Jef de Wulf we found on an auction site for André Dinar's, aka, Georges-André Delpeuch's 1968 novel Dévergondée, a title that translates literally as “wanton.” Obviously, the paper got damp at some point, and being us, we ran with that idea for our subhead, and being them, the Pulp Intl. girlfriends told us we're gross. But that's the pulp life. You just gotta roll.
Think your marriage is difficult? Think again.
Patricia Highsmith is here to tell you that no matter your perceived problems with your spouse, they're actually a traipse down a flowered path, because Vic and Melinda Van Allen, the two main characters of her 1957 drama Deep Water—they have marital problems. Melinda is a serial cheater, and Vic has become so numb over the years that he can't even be bothered to care. Melinda is so brazen she brings her lovers to the house to stay overnight and shows up with them at neighborhood parties. She even neglects and ignores her young daughter. In a fit of pique one night Vic claims to an acquaintance that he killed one of Melinda's ex-lovers—who in reality had simply drifted away—and the reaction he gets makes him feel excellent. When he murders Melinda's next lover for real, and gets away with it, he feels still better. So he murders her next lover...
Patricia Highsmith was the high mistress of sociopathic characters, and Vic Van Allen, coming a couple of years after her famed psycho Tom Ripley, is an amazing creation. He's kind, urbane, low key, and horribly mistreated—all of which makes him a pressure cooker ready to explode. Deep Water is told entirely from his point of view, and its highly interiorized narrative makes you really feel for the guy—even after he starts killing people. The key to dragging forth the reader's sympathy is Highsmith's portrayal of Melinda, who tortures Vic day in and day out, destroying his peace of mind, his reputation, and his masculinity. This is a highly recommendable book, and if you can get the 1961 Pan edition you see here with Sam Peffer cover art, you'll be that much the happier for it.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—Dorothy Parker Dies
American poet and satirist Dorothy Parker, who was known for her wit and wisecracks, and was a charter member of famed Algonquin Round Table, dies of a heart attack at age seventy-three. In her will, she bequeaths her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. foundation. Following King's death, her estate is passed on to the NAACP.
The Battle of Normandy, aka D-Day, begins with the landing of 155,000 Allied troops on the beaches of northern France in an event codenamed Operation Overlord. The German army by this time is already seriously depleted after their long but unsuccessful struggle to conquer Russia in the East, thus Allied soldiers quickly break through the Nazi defensive positions and push inland in the largest amphibious military operation in history.
1963—John Profumo Resigns
British Secretary of State for War John Profumo resigns after the revelation
that he had been sexually involved with a showgirl and sometime prostitute named Christine Keeler. Among Keeler's close acquaintances was a senior Soviet naval attaché, thus in addition to Profumo committing adultery then lying about it before the House of Commons, authorities pressed for his resignation because they also feared he had been plied for state secrets.
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