You think you're the first spurned woman to try to shoot me? Baby, that's how my ex-girlfriends all say hello.
Above is the Fawcett Publications 1967 edition of Richard Stark's, aka Donald E. Westlake's landmark crime thriller Point Blank, which was originally published in 1962 as The Hunter and was first in the long-running Parker series. Parker was one of the cruelest and most sociopathic anti-heroes in mid-century literature. The Robert McGinnis cover makes him look like some kind of sophisticated rogue, but don't let the art fool you—Point Blank is rough stuff. You like Jack Reacher? Reacher has the personality of a yoga instructor in comparison. This was our first Parker, but we've read another since and it looks like we're going to have a long, entertaining relationship with this character.
James Bond's daughter leaves the Soviets shaken and stirred.
The 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale was a box office disaster, but it had its moments. London born actress Joanna Pettet, playing Mata Bond, estranged daughter of Mata Hari and Sir James Bond (David Niven), performed an eye-catching, Buddhist-themed dance number in a faux temple that must have cost a huge chunk of the movie's budget. We don't know how actual Buddhists feel about the bit, but it looks like Pettet had a laugh or two. In the film she's sent to take on SMERSH, the Soviet spy agency that appeared in fictionalized form in Ian Fleming's Bond novels. Pettet appeared in a handful of other films, but her career mostly comprised television roles on shows such as The Fugitive and Night Gallery. Her Mata Bond dance is short but probably worth a look. You can see it while the link lasts here.
If the budget had been 10¢ for every eye they might have ended up with a good movie.
Above is a promo poster for the sci-fi b-flick The Beast with a Million Eyes, a $33,000 cheapie that premiered in the U.S. today in 1955. This film is nightmarishly bad. It has to do with an alien intelligence that can take over the minds of any creatures on Earth, and uses these animals as the vanguard of an invasion. But in one of the worst strategy blunders since Agincourt, the alien uses its power to control the animals on and around a podunk farm in Ojai, California. This alien is only briefly shown, by the way. There's a double exposure of a rubber eye and a cheap-ass foam rubber monster head from another film, and there's a pint sized spaceship three feet high that was built by efx supervisor Paul Blaisdell for $200. These were tacked onto the film after investors had conniptions upon seeing the monsterless rough cut. We suspect more money went into the poster, which is sort of interesting, in a cheap way. But the film? It's cheap, in an uninteresting way. We recommend a hard pass.
I'm not worried. I know something you don't. I'm the star of an entire series.
Above, a 1959 cover painted by James Meese for John Ross MacDonald's 1950 thriller The Drowning Pool. We looked at a 1951 cover for this a while back, but rather than talk about the story made some dumb jokes and called it a day. So about the book. The novel features franchise detective Lew Archer trying to solve a drowning murder while dealing with a family torn apart over an inheritance. Liking the book is a matter of liking the character. Archer is cynical, quippy, and pretty rude most of the time—in short, a typical mid-century fictional detective. And therein lies the issue. He's standard, which means the mystery needs to be unique, but instead it's a drop-off from the series debut The Moving Target. It's not bad, though, and consensus is the eighteen Archer adventures improve as they progress. We'll see, because we plan to keep reading them. Hopefully Archer will make us glad he survived this gun to his head.
Don't change a thing for anybody.
You know we're Stella Stevens fans here. Though we prefer the thirty-plus version of her, she first turned heads as a model in her early twenties, posing for a Playboy centerfold published in 1960, sessions from which the above shot originates. Stevens had begun acting before then, appearing in three films released in 1959. The next year she won a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year, and eventually appeared in dozens of films and television shows. She was always a good actress, but never scored prestige roles. She did, however, grace some low budget classics, foremost among them the blaxploitation flicks Slaughter and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. Mixed in were cheeseball hits like The Poseidon Adventure and The Silencers, and an occasional good movie, such as The Ballad of Cable Hogue. All in all she's had an amazing career, on pause since 2010. But she'll never be on pause on this website. More Stella here and here. Edit: We recieved an e-mail from Herman, a man who knows a thing or two about mid-century celebs and has helped us with corrections, and he wanted to remind us:
I certainly appreciate that image of Stella. Although I have been a fan of PB since the mid 50s as a boy, I don't believe I have seen this particular photo. Of course, I have to say I believe you left some important points out of your commentary about her. I believe you said once you are not a particular fan of Elvis Presley (that may have been someone else) but without the 1962 Girls, Girl, Girls appearance I don't think she would have caught on so quick. Don't forget that the reason PB recognized her in the first place was because of her appearance in Li'l Abner in 1959. I know you didn't set out to do a biography on her, but these were points I think are important in her chronology.
Agreed, H, Stevens has a long and interesting story. We didn't set out to write a biography, as you said, but we may need to spend a little more time on her to give her proper due. She's not a subject we'll tire of easily.
When an evil mastermind plans to take a bite out of the Middle East, only Modesty Blaise stands in his way.
Above you see a cover for Peter O'Donnell's Sabre-Tooth, his second Modesty Blaise novel, and as with the first book Modesty Blaise, Fawcett Publications managed to land Robert McGinnis for the cover chores. He chose a scene from the narrative in which Blaise uses “the nailer,” a move in which she walks into a room topless, and in the split seconds gained by shock and awe, proceeds to kill everyone in sight. This could only happen in an erotic style adventure, but instead of keeping things as light as the debut novel, O'Donnell veers in a darker direction. There's still plenty of waxing about his main character's physical beauty and sexual prowess, but in terms of actual plot, he takes things in a radically non-erotic direction, and in so doing attempts to show just how far Blaise will go in her pursuit of justice. We won't say what she does, or whether it's realistic, but we'll hint that if a mainstream writer did it today it would spark an online conflagration the intensity of an Australian wildfire.
One thing O'Donnell does well is villains and their henchmen. In this book the main malefactor is a brutal would-be king named Karz who plans to invade and take over Kuwait. His top henchmen are Lok and Chu. Get this: they're twins born conjoined at the shoulder. They lived much of their lives that way, grew to hate each other, but learned to fight and defend themselves in tandem as a matter of mutual survival. When they were finally separated they realized they had no purpose apart, and now go about wearing a leather harness that keeps them conjoined. They still hate each other, but also give each other purpose. As killers they fight back to back and side by side, switching configurations, baffling opponents. That entire concept is O'Donnell in full flower. Take Karz and his twin killers, add the Kuwait takeover, sprinkle in an international mercenary army holed up in an Afghan stronghold, and finally fold in equal portions of Blaise and deadly sidekick Willie Garvin, and you've got yourself a thrill ride worth reading.
What can I say? My parents taught me to always demand more.
Above, classic sleaze from Gordon Semple, Man-Crazy Hussy, aka Blonde Temptress, 1954, from Croydon Books. Often these novels seriously examined ’50s stereotypes, particularly those concerning what was appropriate sexual behavior for women, but the authors had little control when their serious stories were given crazy titles and wrapped in titillating covers. We can't tell you whether this novel is an attempt at real literature or if it's pure sleaze, because we aren't going to pay thirty bucks for it. We never go above ten dollars per—including shipping. But we're tempted. The art here is by Bernard Safran. See another example of his work here.
I'm smiling now, but if another man asks where my on button is located he'll regret it.
These photos show Elmina Humphreys bizarrely costumed as the official Radio Queen for the 1939 Radiolympia trade and consumer show, at which she greeted guests as a personification of the spirit of radio. This was held in London, and was the last Radiolympia before World War II forced a long hiatus. It's likely that Humphreys was a show business hopeful, but we found no mention of her anywhere except in reference to her appearance here.
The things we put ourselves through in the name of fashion.
What we've subjected ourselves to over the ages in order to be alluring is astounding. Bone corsets, Victorian wigs, thongs, bikini waxing, back waxing, ball waxing, nostril waxing (which we recently learned is a thing), stiletto heels, and the list goes on. Obviously, women have it far worse than men. We don't want to sound unduly incredulous, because we get that all the things we do to ourselves show how important the mating game is. If a fashion trend gets you that partner you seek for a night, a lifetime, or any time between, is there really any length that is too far? Still, though, from our generational perspective, the torpedo bra is among the strangest of all fashion items, and this shot of model Donna Reading shows how extreme the look could get. It comes from an issue of Daily Girl and dates from around 1970. Reading, who was also known as Donna Marlowe (sometimes Marlow), acted as well as modeled, and appeared in a dozen or so television series, including The Benny Hill Show and Monty Python's Flying Circus. The real circus act was wedging herself into this medieval device. We've expressed our wonder concerning this subject before, here and here. Meanwhile, below, Marlowe bans the bra. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
NBC radio broadcasts the cop drama Dragnet for the first time. It was created by, produced by, and starred Jack Webb as Joe Friday. The show would later go on to become a successful television program, also starring Webb.
1973—Lake Dies Destitute
Veronica Lake, beautiful blonde icon of 1940s Hollywood and one of film noir's most beloved fatales
, dies in Burlington, Vermont of hepatitis and renal failure due to long term alcoholism. After Hollywood, she had drifted between cheap hotels in Brooklyn and New York City and was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct. A New York Post
article briefly revived interest in her, but at the time of her death she was broke and forgotten.
1962—William Faulkner Dies
American author William Faulkner, who wrote acclaimed novels such as Intruder in the Dust and The Sound and the Fury, dies of a heart attack in Wright's Sanitorium in Byhalia, Mississippi.
1942—Spy Novelist Graduates from Spy School
Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, graduates from Camp X, a training school for spies located in Canada. The character of Bond has been said to have been based upon Camp X's Sir William Stephenson and what Fleming learned from him, though there are several other men who are also said
to be the basis for Bond.
1989—Oliver North Avoids Prison
Colonel Oliver North, an aide to U.S. president Ronald Reagan, avoids jail during the sentencing phase of the Iran-Contra trials. North had been found guilty of falsifying and destroying documents, and obstructing Congress during their investigation of the massive drugs/arms/cash racket orchestrated by high-ranking members of the Reagan government.
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