Susan George demonstrates the Fright or fight reflex.
This fraught photo features British actress Susan George, who's not discussed today as much as she should be. She was a bold performer who appeared in movies too envelope pushing for at least 90% of actresses of this day and age. Several of her films are routinely described as controversial. The efforts we're thinking of are Straw Dogs, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Mandingo, and A Small Town in Texas. Not all of those were top notch, but they were all uncompromising. The above photo comes from her also intense 1971 fight-or-flight thriller Fright. We'll get back to George soon.
She could tell them the secret but it would be a bad Korea move.
Holly Roth, who also wrote as P.J. Merrill and K.G. Ballard, originally published The Shocking Secret as The Content Assignment in 1954. This Dell edition came in 1955 with William Rose cover art. The story, set beginning in 1948, deals with John Terrant, a British reporter in Berlin whose American love Ellen Content is a CIA agent who disappears during a mission. Nearly two years later her name turns up in a newspaper story that says she's a dancer in New York City. So Terrant crosses the pond to track her down but ends up in the middle of the Cold War, with bad commies and the whole nine.
Roth infuses her tale with an Englishman in New York fish-out-of-water quality, which is occasionally amusing and adds interest, but in the end the entire enterprise comes across lightweight—which is to say it lacks menace and the proper amount of intellectual heft needed for a book about the political/ideological clash of the era. And another issue, though an admittedly nit-picky one, is that the surprise of the title, which we mostly gave away in our subhead, isn't all that shocking. Dell never should have renamed the book.
Moving on to Roth herself, she's one of those writers whose life had an eerie parallel with her fiction. Her 1962 novel Too Many Doctors is about a woman who falls off a ship and loses her memory. In 1964 Roth disappeared from her husband's yacht one stormy night off the coast of Morocco and was never seen again. Officially, her death was an accident. If we get ambitious maybe we'll read Too Many Doctors. While we can't recommend The Shocking Secret, we wouldn't be surprised if several of her other books are better. Her reputation would seem to suggest it.
You're intimidated by this little thing? It's just a fully loaded .38 Special that I look for any excuse to use.
Even a dangerous weapon can't make doe-eyed British actress and singer Anita Harris look anything other than harmless. But ask the Pulp Intl. girlfriends and they say she looks completely mad. They say she has crazy eyes. Well, as far as we know she never harmed anyone unless you count a few bad acting performances. Harris appeared in such films as Love Is a Woman and Carry On Doctor, as well on numerous television shows, and as a singer charted several hits during the 1960s. Actually, one or two of those so-called hits are pretty hurtful too. Another frame from this photo session was used for the cover of her 1966 album Somebody's in My Orchard. Somebody she then blew away, we suppose.
Okay, first of all he never listened to me. That's where the blame for this really starts.
Above: an unusual cover for Hank Janson's novel Beloved Traitor, published by the British imprint Roberts and Vinter in 1960, with a lettering style the company used to good effect on other novels. The cover painting is by the Spanish artist Joaquin Chacopino Fabré, sometimes known as merely Chaco. We have two more good examples of his work here, and we'll see if we can dig up more later.
You never know when your time is up. Usually.
Above: Veronica Lake stars in a menacing promo photo made for her 1944 spy movie The Hour Before Dawn. She plays a pure femme fatale, a bad woman living in London as a double agent in the employ of the Third Reich. The movie was poorly reviewed, but we give this image five stars.
Plane lands on autopilot after pilots spend entire flight in passenger cabin hanging with Swedish actress.
What is it about flights to London? First Rita Hayworth arrives a mess from Los Angeles, then Swedish star Christina Lindberg arrives missing some clothes. We've shown you three other photos made of her on the Heathrow tarmac that were shot the same day (today in 1972) which indicate that she did not in fact travel in this outfit. But we do enjoy imagining the reaction on the plane if she had. These photos were used as press handouts promoting both Lindberg and her 1970 movie Rötmånad, which played in England in 1972 as What Are You Doing After the Orgy? We watched it several years ago and it's an odd little film, meant to be comedic, we suppose, about a very bad mother who tries to turn her daughter into a prostitute. The ’70s, right? There was nothing filmmakers wouldn't try back then.
The rear of the photos both say the following: In her native Sweden, Christina Lindberg has fashioned a successful career for herself almost overnight. Less than one year ago she was an unknown schoolgirl with Latin and archeology as special interests. Then, suddenly she was discovered by one of Sweden's biggest weekly magazines. They widely publicised her as a pin-up girl and she created a tremendous stir with her innocent yet voluptuous beauty. Soon she was discovered by leading Swedish film directors, and now plays the part of Sally in the new film What Are You Doing After Orgy?, a very black comedy set in the Swedish archipelago. Christina is twenty-one, unmarried, and at one time girlfriend of Prince Gustav. The film opens at the Cinephone, Oxford Street, January 6th.
Going under for the second time.
John D. MacDonald was a widely read author whose popularity endured, which means there are multiple editions of most of his books. We already showed you a cover for his 1963 thriller The Drowner. Here's a second version. This came from publisher Robert Hale Ltd. of England in 1964, and the art is by the incomparable Barbara Walton.
In the Ministry of Fear they bake better than they spy.
Fritz Lang was one of the most important directors of his era, both in his native Germany and in the U.S., and was a pioneer of the film noir form. Movies like Scarlet Street and especially The Big Heat are essential noir viewing. Ministry of Fear dates from a bit earlier and finds Lang saddled with what we consider to be a substandard script that through sheer artistry he makes into a watchable film. Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds, and Dan Duryea headline in a spy tale that revolves around Lang's favorite villains—the Nazis. Jewish and German, he left his homeland for Paris and beyond during the ascent of the Nazis during the 1930s, so the subject was personal for him, and was one he'd dealt with in previous films such as Cloak and Dagger and Hangmen Also Die.
In Ministry of Fear Milland plays a man who spends two years in a British asylum and is released at a time when World War II is raging and London is being bombed. He goes to a charity carnival and is enticed into guessing a cake's weight for a chance to win it, and because he's been given the correct answer by a fortuneteller, is victorious. But it's soon clear that the correct weight wasn't supposed to be given to him, and he isn't supposed to have won the cake. But he really wants it and resists attempts by the carny folks to take it back. He loses it during a train ride when a passenger beats the snot out of him for it, and at that point finally realizes the obvious—sweet though this confection may have been, it wasn't sought by various and sundry for its flavor, but because inside was something important. He wants answers, and he'll have to risk his neck to get them.
Generally with movies it's best to simply accept the premise, but there are limits. We were never clear on why it was necessary to put this important item in a cake. We understand subterfuge is involved in the spy game, but why not just hand the item over in an alley, or a pub bathroom, or a parked car? And if food must be involved, why a cake? Why not a haggis, or something else very few people want to just gobble up on the spot? A dried cod maybe. A blood sausage would have done. Plus they're easy to transport. You can just stick them in your pockets. And in a tight spot a whack across the nose with a blood sausage is far more effective than shoving cake in someone's mug. The cake gimmick was probably—strike that—certainly better explained in Graham Greene's source novel. We haven't read it but we're confident about that. It could have been Lang who screwed the pooch, but it was more likely Seton I. Miller. He was screenwriter as well as executive producer.
In any case Milland bumbles his way through a train trip, across a moor, in and out of a crazy séance, and into a maze of misdirection to the eventual revelation of what's inside the cake, but the whole time we kept thinking the movie should be called Ministry of Cut-Rate Spies. We don't mean to say it's a total loss. It isn't like the Eddie Izzard comedy routine, “Cake or Death.” You won't choose death over cake. But it's a pretty uninspiring flick. The old dramas that have survived have done so for a simple reason. Most of them are good. Ministry of Fear isn't bad. It's just meh. It's like a cake that fell—it's flat and dense, but teases you with how yummy it could have been. It premiered in England today in 1944.
Here, have your cake. And eat it too. Heh. I prefer blood sausage for train trips, but I guess it's better for you I'm not shoving one of those in your face, eh? Wow, you sort of... crush the shit out of your cake before eating it. Have I been eating cake wrong the whole time I've been in England?
Crook and cop play hide and seek in Maurice Procter's Brit crime thriller.
1954's Murder Somewhere in This City by Maurice Procter was originally published as Somewhere in This City, and it turns out it was the source material for a movie we saw last year called Hell Is a City. We didn't know that when we started the book. We just liked the cover (which it turns out is uncredited). The plot deals with a criminal and cop who have been enemies for so long their feud is personal. A robbery, a kidnapping, and a murder pit them against each other for what both suspect will be the decisive last time. But the cop has to actually find his nemesis, who's in hiding somewhere in the big city, making plans, achieving objectives, laying groundwork for his final escape overseas. The plot began to seem familiar pretty quickly, and no wonder the movie was good, because the book is too. Procter writes an entertaining story that is part detective procedural, part heist thriller, and part domestic drama. The film tracks it closely, which means you can find out more about the novel at our write-up on the movie here.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. You have no choice about that when you spend twelve years in prison.
This is a nicely evocative poster for the British crime drama The Long Memory. The couple embracing against a backdrop of flames gets the mood across perfectly, because the film is, in fact about a couple, and especially one man, trying to hold onto something good amidst a moral conflagration. The story involves him being wrongly imprisoned, being released twelve years later, and immediately going on a mission to take revenge on the people who lied at his trial. We just talked about revenge yesterday, and here we go again with a character who has murderous impulses but who's basically a good person. Can he really go through with killing his persecutors?
We were surprised by this one. We watched it based solely on the poster and feel well rewarded for expending the time. Probably the newness of the movie's setting in 1950s London and the outlying areas along the River Thames helped a bit, but it's an effective tale on its own merits. John Mills stars, and is accompanied by John McCallum, Elizabeth Sellars, Geoffrey Keen, and beautiful Norwegian obscurity Eva Bergh. In the end the film asks a simple question: Is revenge worth it? Well, we can't say, but the movie is worth it, in our opinion. The Long Memory premiered in England today in 1953.
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