Humphrey Bogart meets an immoveable object.
If you haven't seen Mord for betaling, better known as The Enforcer, you may want to add it to your queue. In addition to featuring yet another excellent Humphrey Bogart performance, it's a historical curiosity. Central to its plot is Murder, Inc., a group of killers-for-hire used by organized crime gangs. Murder, Inc. contracted anonymous killers for mob hits, leaving police with bodies but no motives and no suspects. In fact, the terms “contract” and “hit” were invented by Murder, Inc. The Enforcer is also of historical significance because showings featured a foreword in which Senator Estes Kefauver, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee to Investigate Organized Crime, talked to the audience about the mafia, which the general public was just learning about at the time.
In the film Bogart plays a prosecutor who has been trying for years to bring down a crime boss named Albert Mendoza. When a witness dies, Bogart becomes aware of the existence of Murder, Inc. (though they aren't named that in the film), which to him seems like an impossibly bizarre idea. But he keeps uncovering more traces of the group until he finally believes. The rest of the film deals with his efforts to convince (or coerce) one of the cartel's members into being a witness in order to fry Mendoza. There are some twists and turns that force Bogart to shift gears more than once, and all of this is told in flashback, after the death of his stool pigeon, which happens in the first reel to set up the plot.
As we said, Bogart is solid as always, and he's helped greatly by Zero Mostel, who's quite good as a shaky potential witness. As far as the film as a whole goes, most vintage cinema fans consider it middling Bogart, but that's plenty good enough to warrant a look. The poster you see above, which we absolutely love, was made for Denmark, where the movie's title means, appropriately, “murder for payment.” We have several other posters for the film you can see at this link, and a cool Bogart promo photo that mirrors the above image, viewable at this link. The Enforcer premiered in the U.S. in 1951 and opened in Denmark today in 1952. But I distinctly remember being told this was a bow tie-only affair. I guess not.
U.S. Adam goes in search of adult entertainment after dark.
We're taking a break from the Australian Adam magazine to remind everyone that the unrelated U.S. men's magazine Adam was also filled with colorful art, fun fiction, weird facts, and beautiful models—in this case Danish pin-up and centerfold Elsa Sorensen, aka Dane Arden, who you see on the cover. We still think the down under Adam is the best, but northern Adam is always worth a look, and this issue published in 1960 is a representative example. Actually, there were two northern Adams. There was a French magazine of that name too, unrelated to the others. We've been meaning to locate one to buy online, but the price hasn't been right yet.
Anyway, this issue of Adam contains the usual fiction and humor, plus features on strip clubs in Paris, Tokyo, and Long Beach, a profile on New Orleans torture mistress Madame Delphine Lelaurie, and other pleasures of the evening. It also highlights the “dirtiest book ever written”—supposedly Il Commandante di Pompeii, which we suppose can keep you company on lonely nights if you don't get to Paris, Tokyo, or Long Beach. We have many scans below, and other issues of U.S. Adam you can find here, here, here, and here. And if you're interested in the Aussie Adam we have scans from almost seventy issues in the website, and you can see them by starting here.
And possibly Arne Jacobsen's greatest feat.
It's never a bad time for Raquel Welch. Here you see her nestled into an egg chair, circa 1970, proving that she's special work from the bottoms of her feet to the crown of her head. These chairs, by the way, were designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1958 for the SAS Royal Copenhagen Hotel in Denmark. He designed the building, its furniture, its fittings and fixtures, its souvenirs, and even its airport shuttle. But it was not within even his considerable powers to design Welch.
The shot makes us realize we've posted images of other famous women in iconic chairs, for example, Catherine Deneuve in an inflatable Quasar Khanh chair in 1969, Sylvia Kristel and Mia Nygren in wicker peacock chairs, and a gloriously nude Pam Grier in a Le Corbusier lounge in 1974. Well, we can add Welch to the chair list. Maybe even top of the list.
Jungle orphan grows from little duckling into beautiful Swan.
Above are four Italian posters for Gungala la pantera nuda, aka Gungala the Black Panther Girl, starring Swedish actress Kitty Swan, née Kirsten Svanholm. Four posters? This must be a good movie, right? Well, not really. But the lost world concept was incredibly popular in international cinema during the 1960s, and in landing Swan for the title role, Summa Cinematografica and director Roger Rockfeller (Ruggero Deodato) knew they had something special on their hands. Tasked with making the most of an exceptionally beautiful star, they dutifully take care of the nuda aspect in the opening credits, and keep Swan lightly clothed throughout a movie that's basically Tarzan re-gendered—i.e. a young heiress survives a plane crash in the jungle, is taught by tribespeople to survive in a hostile environment, but has her idyllic existence of running hither and yon in slow motion ruined when folk from the civilized world come searching for her. And when these modern interlopers bring greed, guns, interpersonal dysfunction, and inheritance law to Swan's paradise, it looks like perhaps it's they who are uncivilized, not the primitive panther girl... We've seen it all before, but at least this iteration has Swan to keep the yawning at bay. Gungala la pantera nuda premiered today in 1968.
Damn, missed again. Can I try one more time or do you need a paramedic like immediately?
This photo of Danish actress, director, writer, and singer Anna Karina, née Hanne Karin Bayer, was made by Italian photographer Giancarlo Botti, and is one of the most famous images of the famed French New Wave icon. Botti shot this when Karina was filming the musical comedy Anna in 1966 (some sources say 1967). She died a few months ago and many nice tributes appeared online, but the best tribute of all is simply watching one of her highly regarded films. We recommend 1964's Bande à part. See another Karina image here.
I enjoy staring evilly, ignoring people, occasionally rubbing my ass on the furniture. The usual cat stuff.
She was born in Copenhagen, Denmark as Kirsten Svanholm but when she hit Hollywood she called herself Kitty Swan. Under her Americanized moniker she appeared in such films as Tarzan in the Golden Grotto, House of 1,000 Dolls, and Virgin of the Jungle, all of which sound like pure cinematic awesomeness. We're going to watch all those movies. We promise. But we're going to start with Gungala, the Black Panther Girl. That one sounds like the best of all. We can't wait. Seriously. This photo is from 1971.
Summertime and the living is easy.
Born Jytte Stensgaard, Danish actress Yutte Stengaard emigrated to Britain seeking stardom and had a busy four-year career, appearing in two dozen movies and television shows between 1968 and 1972, usually playing the naive or naughty young love interest. Among her big screen efforts were Scream and Scream Again and Lust for a Vampire, and of her many remarkable scenes, her pinnacle was 1969's The Love Factor, in which she burned a coq au vin. If you know “coq” is pronounced “cock,” then you know where this is going—after leaping from bed and sprinting nude into the kitchen to save her burning dinner, she exclaimed, “The coq's ruined!” That's writing, folks.
Where am I, how did I get here, and which way is it to the pool?
Danish actress amd model Greta Thyssen looks kind of woozy, possibly from inhaling hair bleaching chemicals, but that just adds to this photo's gonzo appeal. By gonzo we mean it looks like it was shot with a five-and-dime camera, and if so, it just goes to show Thyssen adds substantial worth to anything.
You will see this image identified on many sites as Barbara Nichols. It even fooled us for a while, but it's Thyssen alright. If you want to compare, you can have a gander at Nichols here. We have another image from this session below and Thyssen actually looks awake in that one. We don't have a date on these strange shots, but figure around 1955.
What do you get when you put a bunch of convicts on an island? A lot of dead convicts.
Before Escape from New York there was Terminal Island. And before Terminal Island there was, well, we aren't sure. Maybe The Big Bird Cage or She Devils in Chains. Released in June 1973, and eventually making it to Denmark today in 1977, you see the Danish promo poster for Kvindefængslet på Djævleøen, aka Terminal Island above. The movie stars Don Marshall, Marta Kristen, Barbara Leigh, Ena Hartman, and cult fave Phyllis Davis, plus it features both Tom Selleck and Roger E. Mosley, a duo that would later be cast as besties Thomas Magnum and T.C. on the television show Magnum P.I. What's the plot? It follows the expected blueprint—tough convicts left to fend for themselves except for the occasional supply drop, women in mortal peril from every inhabitant with a functioning dick, and one good-hearted prisoner who doesn't belong there at all. The whole set-up degenerates into a savage confrontation between two opposing factions, predictably fighting over the possession of women, who can only hope to choose between abusers and protectors. While Terminal Island is an early entry in the fertile penal colony genre, what you really want to know is whether it's actually any good, right? Well, let's just say it's good enough to watch if you're a fan of seventies b-movies. We'd like to offer you a better endorsement, but we really can't.
A priest, a cop, and a heroin addict walk into The Mist...
Last night we watched the sixth episode of Spike Television's horror serial The Mist, and though we weren't going to weigh in on the show, we got frustrated enough to bang out this write-up labeling it what it is—a disappointment. Which is too bad, because the Stephen King novella sourced for the series might be the best thing he ever wrote. It's hard to know where to begin discussing the show, so we'll start not with that, but with its medium. Television has changed. Where the real talent once gravitated toward cinema, today some of the best conceptualizing and writing is on television, as top creatives are driven to the small screen because movie studios are almost wholly focused on puerile superhero movies and juvenile comedies. Television is where The Wire, Game of Thrones, and Fargo made indelible marks on American culture. Hell, we can even go back to The Sopranos for an early example. The point is you have to bring your A-game.
But the creator of The Mist, Danish writer-director Christian Torpe, took one of Stephen King's best works, adapted it to a medium that is incredibly receptive to serialized horror, and blew it. King is credited as a writer on all ten episodes, but that's only a nod to him as the originator of the source material. He wasn't involved in the new teleplays, and they're spectacularly botched, put together by the worst kind of horror writers—those who force the characters to serve the convolutions of the plot rather than their own need for self preservation.
We'll give you an example. When a priest and a ’60s flower child disagree on whether the mist is sent by God or is a manifestation of Nature-with-a-capital-N, they decide to both walk into it to see which of them is spared. This is a mist filled with creatures that have caused the most painful deaths imaginable, but ho hum, they have a spiritual pissing match they need to settle, so into it they go, and a group of bystanders allows this lunacy to occur without raising an objection. Maybe next time they're at the zoo they can leap into the lion enclosure to see whether razor sharp claws and fangs are God or Nature.
In another example of the same terrible writing, a group stuck in a mall comes up with a set of rules to ration food and keep order. That's fine. The punishment for breaking any of the rules is expulsion from the mall. That's not fine. That's a sentence of death for even minor infractions, and this has been agreed upon by characters isolated for only a day or two, far too little time to go full Lord of the Flies. Under those circumstances virtually any normal person would say, “No, we don't agree that expulsion from the mall is a fair punishment, and if you get anywhere near us we're going to use a three wood from Dick's Sporting Goods on your cranium.” Those disinclined toward violence would perhaps say, “You know what—this mall is massive, so you have your crazy old testament punishment zone here, and we'll just hang out in the Cinnabon at the far end.”
Another issue with The Mist is that the characters are diverse in unrealistic and manipulative ways. See if this sounds like the beginning of a joke to you: there's a priest, a cop, a heroin addict, a jock, a hippie, and a bully. In the best television shows the characters are very much the same when you meet them, but their differences manifest over time because of who they are inside—not due to the uniforms they wear. In The Mist the cop wears a uniform and the priest wears a different uniform and the solider wears a still different uniform, but no less obvious are the uniforms worn by the flower child (sun dress and pants), the gay kid (eyeliner), the heroin addict (sweat), and the good girl (virginal white skin). Even many of the minor characters are written as clichés. Compare that to a show like The Walking Dead. In season one what is the difference between the two major characters Rick Grimes and Shane Walsh? There is none, except one is duplicitous and one is honorable. What is the main difference between Rick and Carol? It's not their sex. It's that she's more easily capable of cruelty for what she feels is right. What is the difference between Carol and Morgan? It isn't their skin. It's that he abhors lethal violence and has to come to grips with its necessity. Their differences are internal, and watching them revealed is one of the joys of the show. But in The Mist the uniforms—literal and figurative—are there to do the work the writers were too lazy to manage.
Basically, there are no genuine surprises in the way The Mist's characters develop. The cop becomes an authoritarian but later seems to climb down from total assholery. The priest at first seems reasonable but eventually decides he must impose his faith on others. The heroin addict clings to worldly pursuits like money and being high, but later decides she needs to kick. She does this, by the way, in a sequence bracketed by a standoff and fight elsewhere in the building. She'd said the process of medically assisted detox would take five or six hours. As two characters elsewhere in the building argue, she's tied to a bed, where she sweats and screams, and is later untied, presumably five or six hours later. Then we cut back to the argument, which shortly turns into a fight. Did those two argue for five hours? It's the type of egregious timelime weirdness you see only in badly made shows, and it's symptomatic of the lack of deep thought behind The Mist. We stuck with it for more than half its ten episode run, but now we're giving up. It's clear the writers aren't going to overcome any of the show's problems in the next four episodes.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
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.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
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