Vintage Pulp Feb 17 2024
ENTER THE SUPERDRAGON
The name's Cooper. Brian Cooper. What—you were expecting some other secret agent?


The Italian spy thriller New York chiama Superdrago, which we had a chance to watch during our little break last week, was known in English as Secret Agent Super Dragon, and is another in a spate of hipster spy movies that came in the wake of James Bond's massive cinematic success. It premeired in Italy today in 1966. Three of its promo posters were painted by the great Sandro Symeoni, and while the above example is also attributed to him on some websites, that's incorrect. It's really by Enrico de Seta. Or said to be by one long-running online poster vendor. We're not actually sure about that because the signature doesn't look like his, but who are we to argue with the experts?

In the film, Ray Danton plays a retired agent codenamed Super Dragon—civilian name Brian Cooper—who's roused from his yogic meditations and drawn back into the spy game when a friend dies in a suspicious auto accident that may be related to previous strange deaths. The clues lead from a U.S. college town to Amsterdam (because what kind of spy movie would it be without some globetrotting?), and into the lissome arms of fellow spies Margaret Lee and Marisa Mell (because what kind of spy movie would it be without hotties à la carte?). Between romances Danton learns that the plot revolves around the untraceable drug synchron-2. Purpose: unknown (but don't be shocked if it's to do with world domination).

Few of these Bond knock-offs are sufficiently budgeted or technically proficient enough to result in good final products. Whether you like them has to do with nebulous factors. In this case, we thought Danton's unctious self-entitlement and blasé approach to world saving were funny. We loved when one of his many assailants swallowed cyanide, Danton said, “I'd better get rid of him,” then dumped the corpse out the nearest window. Cue sound effect of splashing water. New York chiama Superdrago is a bit camp without being a satire, and just poorly written enough to provide a few laughs without being a total screenwriting train wreck. But don't pretend we said it's actually good.
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Vintage Pulp Jul 22 2021
KEY MOMENTS
The difference is in the details.


The phenomenon of vintage illustrators copying each other is a subject of interest and bafflement to us. We've talked about it a lot. When it happens, usually it's a great illustration being copied by an anonymous artist of far lesser ability. Other times, though, it's two top level artists painting the same piece. We assume these are initiated by the copyright holders, whether movie studios or publishing houses.

Today we have an interesting example from the literary world. In 1962 Enrico de Seta painted a brilliant cover for a Digit Books edition of Dashiell Hammett's classic mystery The Glass Key. The same year, amazingly, Digit commissioned another, almost identical cover from illustrator Dan Rainey. You see it at top, with the de Seta cover underneath. We also have de Seta's piece in our usual pixel size, here, from a post back in 2014, so if you're on a mobile device feel free to click over there for more resolution. De Seta originated this tableau, so we give him more credit, but it's great work from Rainey too, even if it's almost a copy. We'll show you more from him later. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 8 2016
SADA MASOCHISM
She always had a problem letting go.


This could be a Pulp Intl. first—a Japanese movie where a foreign poster is the nicest version out there. Usually the Japanese whip all competing asses in the poster design department, but just this once the Italian iteration is better, probably because it was painted by Enrico de Seta, one of the best illustrators of the period. The movie is Jitsuroku Abe Sada, which was called in Italian Abesada—L'abisso dei sensi. That means “Abesada—abyss of the senses,” but the English title decided upon was actually A Woman Called Sada Abe. The story tracks real-life murderer Sada Abe, who habitually practiced sexual asphyxiation with her lover Kichizo Ishida, and in 1936 strangled him to death with the sash of her obi. The sensational story grew into an epic folk legend, interpreted by painters, writers, and poets, and when Japan's roman porno film genre came along the incident was a perfect fit.
 
Jitsuroku Abe Sada was one of several films to tackle the subject. In real life, Sada followed up her killing of Ishida by castrating the corpse and fleeing with the severed organ. The movie covers this aspect of the incident too, and eventually ends with Sada's arrest. The real life Sada was convicted of murder and other crimes, but despite begging to be executed was sentenced to prison, released after a few years, and went on to live four more interesting decades. We won't go so far as to recommend Jitsuroku Abe Sada. It has its worthwhile points, among them the reliable Junko Miyahsita in the lead, but if you're going to watch a telling of the Sada Abe incident, maybe try the more famous and more explicit In the Realm of the Senses, which appeared in 1976. Jitsuroku Abe Sada premiered in Japan today in 1975.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 15 2014
MASTERFUL KEY
Glass Key paperback art is tops thanks to another Italian master.

Alan Ladd, Brian Donlevy, and Veronica Lake’s film noir The Glass Key, which was Hollywood’s second try at Dashiell Hammett’s novel, premiered this month in 1942. To be exact, it opened yesterday in New York City and throughout the U.S. on October 23. The poster most often seen online is the theatrical release version we showed you several years ago, but alternates were produced and two of them appear below. What we really wanted to share, though, is this great paperback cover from UK-based Digit Books. It’s from 1961 and features the art of Italian illustrator Enrico de Seta, who we’ve mentioned before. If you haven’t watched The Glass Key we recommend it, and if you haven’t read the book, just know that it was Hammett’s personal favorite.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 22 2010
LAST BEST TOPO
Now I will make you kiss with only the immense power of my mind!

A while back we shared a rare poster for Alexandro Jodorwoski’s 1970 cult classic El Topo specifically because of the Enrico de Seta artwork. Well, turns out he painted two posters for the film. Above is his rather ominous second effort, and you can see the first one—which is amazing—by clicking this link.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 2 2010
SUPER MOLE
Once upon a time in the west.

We’re starting 2010 out right, with an absolutely amazing poster from an equally amazing film. At least, we think it’s amazing. Reactions to Chilean-born director Alexandro Jodorowski’s El Topo run the gamut—some hail it as high art; other think it’s a pretentious and garbled mess. However, it’s undeniable that the film hails from a much more daring cinematic era. It’s also one of the first true midnight films, gaining popularity during its 1970 Stateside run among New York City’s artsy, nocturnal filmgoing crowd after a slow start in conventional release. Basically, El Topo ("topo" means "mole" in Spanish, but is used as slang to describe an awkward person) is a western, but it’s also a commingling of Biblical and eastern religion themes. Doesn’t that sound fun? The two halves of the film have different flavors, and this tends to turn off some viewers. Jodorowski confessed that a couple of important transitional shots got ruined and were never replaced. Add in all the nudity, dwarves, and random events, and it’s easy to think of the film as sloppy. But what isn’t sloppy is the Italian poster by Enrico de Seta, one of the true masters of cinema promo art, who we’ll be featuring again in the future. In the meantime, we recommend a viewing of El Topo. It’s a unique vision by a singular filmmaker—grand, violent, disturbing, and most of all, pulp. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 30
1914—Aquitania Sets Sail
The Cunard liner RMS Aquitania, at 45,647 tons, sets sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York City. At the time she is the largest ocean liner on the seas. During a thirty-six year career the ship serves as both a passenger liner and military ship in both World Wars before being retired and scrapped in 1950.
May 29
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
May 28
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
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