Mondo Bizarro Aug 30 2019
THE ELEPHANT MAN
Scientist takes 7,000 pound elephant on a one way trip.


We don't just read fiction around here. We're deep into Tom O'Neill's Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. We may talk about the book later. It's full of anecdotes from the ’60s, and last night we came across the story of Tusko and his acid trip, which occurred in August 1962. Tusko was an eleven year-old Indian elephant that had the misfortune of finding himself at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City at the same time a crackpot scientist named Louis Jolyon West was at the University of Oklahoma studying the effects of LSD. Why West wanted to dose an elephant is too complicated to go into here, but let's just say he anticipated the resultant data having human applications.

In order to perform the experiment West had to calculate how much acid to give Tusko, and he decisively fucked up. He administered via syringe more than 1,400 times the human dosage (other accounts vary in this regard, but O'Neill relayed the story directly from West's notes). After the injection West stood back to observe the result. Said result, according to West's notes, was “Tusko trumpeted, collapsed, fell heavily onto his right side, defecated,” seized, and died.

Other versions of the story contain more detail. Apparently Tusko ran around his pen trumpeting (presumably the elephant equivalent of “I am tripping balls, dude!), before falling over. West, his keen scientific senses detecting trouble, decided to calm Tusko by injecting him with either Thorazine or promazine-hydrochloride (accounts vary) and phenobarbital. These doses were also massive, because once you've wildly overestimated the amount of LSD to give to an elephant, it's best to also wildly overestimate the amount of tranqs he might need. These second injections, running into the thousands of milligrams, may have been the actual cause of Tusko's death. We have profound sympathy for all the animals stuck on Earth with us casually murderous, ravenously omnivorous humans, but even in the endless annals of animal cruelty there are episodes so bizarre you can only marvel. Committing elephanticide using LSD is one of them.

After the Tusko fiasco West eventually made his way to a research position in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, and was there at the same time as Charles Manson, which is why his story appears in O'Neill's book. You'd think he'd been run out out of Oklahoma City on a rail, but you'd be wrong. He had CIA connections, and cruelty is an asset in those quarters. He had already dosed humans without their permission during his days at the CIA's MKUltra program, so it actually represented an improvement in his ethics to do the same to an elephant. They say LSD can bring you into contact with the divine. That must be true, because the story of Louis West and Tusko is a work of divine comedy. And just to give it a tinge of pathos, below is a photo of Tusko on his first birthday, when he had no inkling his life would be cut short in the service of pseudo-science.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 28 2019
CACCIA ON THE FLIPSIDE
Big screen Thief gets the job done but isn't quite the perfect crime.


This is a spectacular Italian poster for Caccia al ladro, aka To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The moviemakers opted for a photo-illustration rather than a painting, and it befits the star power of the movie. It was based on David Dodge's best seller of the same name, and in truth it's a pretty simple-minded adaptation of the book. You can just hear the studio execs saying: “We know it's in the novel, but we can't have the star in disguise half the movie, we can't have the romance go unacknowledged until the final reel, and we for damn sure can't have the secondary female lead be more beautiful than Grace Kelly.” Movies are a different medium than books, and changes always happen, but it's just interesting to observe what those changes are. The main change is this: Dodge's novel has suspense, while Hitchcock's adaptation does not. That probably wasn't intentional.

To Catch a Thief is a superstar vehicle, and with Grant and Kelly in the lead roles, and Hitchcock in the director's chair, it's pretty clear the studio considered the hard work done. Extensive French Riviera location shooting and VistaVision widescreen film processing are nice bonuses, but the honchos should have had screenwriter John Michael Hayes hammer the script out a little smoother. We're not being iconoclasts here. The movie received mixed reviews upon release, with some important critics calling it a failure. That's going too far—it isn't a failure. We don't think Grant, Kelly, and Hitchcock would have been capable of making anything but a good movie at this stage. But considering the source material it could have been a perfect movie. To Catch a Thief premiered in the U.S in early August 1955, and in Italy at the Venice Film Festival today the same year.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 5 2019
SICK TO DEATH
He'll make you love him even if it kills you.


Patricia Highsmith's reputation demands that you read any book of hers you find, so when we ran across This Sweet Sickness we knew it would be good. Originally published in 1960 with this paperback coming from British publisher Great Pan in 1963, she tells the story of another troubled man à la her famous Tom Ripley novels. Here we have David Kelsey, in love with a woman who, inconveniently, is married. No problem, though, because obstacles mean nothing. He's determined to win his prospective love's affections, ignoring the fact that she's both unavailable and uninterested.

The book is told from the perspective of this dangerously deluded man, and his mental dissonance, deftly written by Highsmith, is cringe inducing. In Kelsey's head, everything is proof his love is returned. When the woman he desires is kind, it encourages him. When she's resistant, he assumes she isn't acting of her own accord, but instead is being pressured by her husband. There's nothing she can do—literally nothing—to dissuade Kelsey from the idea that his love for a woman obligates her to love him back. It all leads pretty much where you expect—to conflict, terror, death, and the high, lonely ledge of insanity.

It's fascinating to us that the U.S. born Highsmith was unappreciated in her own country, despite her breakthrough at age twenty-nine with Strangers on a Train. Well, considering she spent her life writing novels while residing mainly in France and Switzerland, we doubt she suffered much from the neglect. She's well remembered now, and deservedly so. This Sweet Sickness is an interesting and relevant book, and we highly recommend it. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 10 2019
CRIME AMERICAN STYLE
Four U.S. authors make their mark on France and on film.


Above, four covers from Éditions Ditis for its La Chouette collection, circa late 1950s. All of these were originally published in the U.S. and translated into French after being adapted into films. The first three were turned into the film noir classics Sudden Fear, A Kiss Before Dying, and Black Angel, while the fourth became the French crime thriller Bonnes à tuer, which is known in English as One Step to Eternity.

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Vintage Pulp May 23 2019
TRAIN OF EVENTS
Last stop—the city morgue.


Watching lots of movies eventually brings everything your way. The promo poster for Grand Central Murder lured us, and we found ourselves watching an archetypal Sherlockian whodunnit, complete with the villain unmasked in the final moments. When a Broadway showgirl is murdered on a private train car the police gather a gaggle of suspects and go through each of their stories trying to uncover the killer. Among the detainees—her escaped convict boyfriend, her sad sack ex-husband, her jealous co-worker, her phony psychic stepfather, her theatrical understudy, and others, including the convict's lawyer, played by lead actor Van Heflin. Various alibis and reminiscences are shown in flashback until the killer is revealed via a monologue that wraps everything up nice and neat. We wouldn't call the movie screamingly thrilling and funny like the poster does, but it's okay if you like mysteries, and the mass transit backdrop is actually kind of interesting. Grand Central Murder premiered in New York City today in 1942.

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Femmes Fatales Mar 27 2019
ROMAN HOLIDAY
She's been doing as the Romans do pretty much from day one.


Italian actress Leticia Román walks across the tarmac at Fiumicino Airport in Rome today in 1962, where she had arrived to begin work on the film The Nightmare. That's what the back of the photo says, anyway. But Román never appeared in a film with that title. Since titles change mid-production occasionally, we're going to guess the film was actually the 1963 giallo La ragazza che sapeva troppo, aka Evil Eye. Furthermore, we checked the production data, and the movie has scenes at the airport, so it's possible but not certain that this isn't really a press photo but rather a production promo. In any case, nice shot.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 16 2019
EAST SIDE STORY
After dark the risks are many and the rewards are few.


Based on the brilliant poster art, you'd think Girls in the Night was something other than an average b-drama, but some of the most brilliant posters of the mid-century period are tied to mediocre films, and this is another case. Girls in the Night is from Universal International Pictures, and deals with a family stuck in a slum on New York City's east side, and the restless daughter who desperately wants out. Patricia Hardy stars in her debut effort as the ambitious beauty. She and best buddy Joyce Holden suffer all the usual pitfalls—leering dopes, groping hoods, sniveling bros, jealous dames, nagging moms, and the dangers of crime. They more or less handle the first five problems fine, but when Hardy's brother is implicated in a murder the fallout engulfs family and friends. It's an uninspired juvie drama, but what a poster—and it wasn't the only one. We have two more below. Girls in the Night premiered in the U.S. yesterday in 1953. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 8 2018
THE SPY FROM IPANEMA
You know why I'm great at my job? Because I'm sweating like a racehorse in this get-up and you can't tell.


French artist Alex Pinon knocks this cover for the spy thriller Mission spéciale à Rio out of the park with his black clad femme fatale and backdrop of Guanabara Bay and its famed Sugarloaf Mountain. Since Rio's average daily temperature never drops below 80 Fahrenheit, no Brazilian would actually dress like this, at least not during daytime, but the art is great. The book was published by Société des Éditions Nouvelles Valmont and its author called himself Commandant René. You're probably assuming that's a pseudonym, and you're right. It was used by Jacques Dubessy, Guy de Wargny, Henri Certigny, and other authors. Between them they wrote more than thirty books as this Commandant person, with the above coming in 1959. We have a lot of French art in the website, so poke around if it interests you. We'll have more soon.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 12 2018
UNBREAKABLE VAGABOND
Never cross a woman who's spent her life on the wrong side of the tracks.


This beautiful poster was made to promote the film Vagabunda, aka Tramp, a made-in-Mexico melodrama that premiered there today in 1950. It stars Leticia Palma, who befriends and falls in loves with a priest played by Luis Beristáin who's lost his memory as a result of an assault and robbery. Palma, who works as a fichera in a place called El Tropical, takes in the priest and dubs him Carlos. A fichera, by the way, is a term to describe a female nightclub employee who does things ranging from dancing with clients to having sex with them. Palma is already in a precarious situation working a dead-end job while sheltering the priest, but things get worse when she ends up being coerced into street prostitution by a gangster named Gato. Shortly afterward, a series of events lead to the killing of Palma's pregnant sister, and she vows vengeance upon those responsible.

The poster, which is one of the better ones we've seen of late, was signed by someone named Mendoza. So off to the intertubes we went to try and ferret out his or her identity and we found that this was the work of Leopoldo Mendoza Andrade, an acclaimed illustrator who worked throughout the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. His striking promo art uses tracks as a motif because those and trains figure prominently in the movie. For example, the priest is assaulted while riding in a boxcar, and a climactic scene takes place on a railway bridge. Mendoza may have painted more than 300 hundred posters, but this surely must be one of his best. His work can be difficult to find because attributions are scanty, but his signature is easily identifiable and his Art Deco-influenced style is unique, so we'll keep an eye out for more of his creations.
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The Naked City May 27 2018
COLD STEEL
L.A. woman comes to a dead end.


The images above come from the collection of digitized Los Angeles Examiner photographs curated by the University of Southern California, and they show murder victim Patricia Steel in a passageway between two garages in the Westlake area of Los Angeles. The case left barely a ripple. Other than the photos and skeletal biographical facts we found online, no detailed information exists about this killing in any archive we checked. That's the way it sometimes goes in the naked city, that the most critical moment of a person's life occurs, passes, and is forgotten. Today, 1952.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 19
1934—Arrest Made in Lindbergh Baby Case
Bruno Hauptmann is arrested for the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous American aviator. The infant child had been abducted from the Lindbergh home in March 1932, and found decomposed two months later in the woods nearby. He had suffered a fatal skull fracture. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and finally executed by electric chair in April 1936. He proclaimed his innocence to the end
September 18
1919—Pollard Breaks the Color Barrier
Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Pros. Though Pollard is forgotten today, famed sportswriter Walter Camp ranked him as "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen." In another barrier-breaking historical achievement, Pollard later became the co-head coach of the Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back.
1932—Entwistle Leaps from Hollywood Sign
Actress Peg Entwistle commits suicide by jumping from the letter "H" in the Hollywood sign. Her body lay in the ravine below for two days, until it was found by a detective and two radio car officers. She remained unidentified until her uncle connected the description and the initials "P.E." on the suicide note in the newspapers with his niece's two-day absence.
September 17
1908—First Airplane Fatality Occurs
The plane built by Wilbur and Orville Wright, The Wright Flyer, crashes with Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge aboard as a passenger. The accident kills Selfridge, and he becomes the first airplane fatality in history.
1983—First Black Miss America Crowned
Vanessa Williams becomes the first African American Miss America. She later loses her crown when lesbian-themed nude photographs of her are published by Penthouse magazine.
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