….then he ate their livers. Anyway, I think he went that way. You check it out and I'll light your way from back here.
First rule of dark places: make sure you never go in first. Jean Salvetti paints a sinister scene on this cover for 1953's Des clous! by Robert Tachet, which is about crime, smuggling, and espionage in Perpignan on the French/Spanish border. The title, pronounced like “clue,” means “nails,” or maybe “spikes.” In the least surprising revelation imaginable, Tachet was a pseudonym for André Héléna. Why is that no surprise? Because Héléna was a pseudonym machine who also published as—ready?—Noël Vexin, Andy Ellen, Andy Helen, Buddy Wesson, Maureen Sullivan, Herbert Smally, Jean Zerbibe, Kathy Woodfield, Sznolock Lazslo, Clark Corrados, Peter Colombo, Alex Cadourcy, Joseph Benoist, Lemmy West, and C. Cailleaux. He was not only prolific, but was also one of the few mid-century writers to have his books translated into English from another language. Salvetti was prolific too. We have a few more examples of his brushwork if you're interested. Check here, here, here, here, and here.
She's so ready even the book cover is moist.
Above: a simple but striking piece of dust jacket art by French illustrator Jef de Wulf we found on an auction site for André Dinar's, aka, Georges-André Delpeuch's 1968 novel Dévergondée, a title that translates literally as “wanton.” Obviously, the paper got damp at some point, and being us, we ran with that idea for our subhead, and being them, the Pulp Intl. girlfriends told us we're gross. But that's the pulp life. You just gotta roll.
100 pounds of trigger pull weight.
Above is reedy Iso Yban, here pictured with a toy machine gun and not much else. Her various bios say she was born in Essen, Germany, but moved to Paris, where she became a dancer at Le Crazy Horse, and as a model posed under the aforementioned name, as well as Yso Iban, Isi Yban, Marlène Funch, Christina Madison, Belinda, et al. This bold shot was made by French lensman Serge Jacques and it dates from the late 1960s.
Cancans de Paris is always uncanny.
Above: a few pages from the French burlesque publication Cancans de Paris, the seventh time we've taken a look at this mag, with this example dating from September 1965. As always there are mainstream celebrities mixed in with the peelers, including Carroll Baker, Brigitte Bardot, Elke Sommer, Kim Novak, Sean Connery, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, and French born ballerina Ludmilla Tchérina. At the top of panel two there's also a minor Raymond Brenot illustration. See some major ones here, and just click the Cancans keywords below if you want to see more issues.
Ouch! Oof! I get it! I get it! You don't want to pick on someone your own size!
Above is another fun cover from Société d'Éditions Générales, or SEG, for its series Service Secret 078. Graine d'espion translates as “spy seed,” another inscrutable title, which by now you know is par for the course when it comes to French paperbacks. Francis Richard was in reality Paul Bérato, who you can learn a little bit more about here. As usual with SEG, the art is uncredited.
And this stretch is great for the shoulders. We violent ones know how to take care of bodies in more ways than one.
Above is a Barye Phillips cover for Howard Hunt's 1950 novel The Violent Ones, about World War II vet Paul Cameron, summoned by his buddy Phil Thorne back to Paris, where they spent part of the war. Thorne needs help with an unspecified jam, but he's killed not long after Cameron arrives, who then vows revenge against any and all. There's nothing subtle here. He turns bull-in-china-shop, knocks heads, gets knocked, uncovers commies, and manhandles various women—who fall for him anyway. The murder has to do with the smuggling of gold to Hanoi. Cameron mocks the head smuggler at one point, “So now you're sending gold to your cousins in Indo-China so the Little Brown Man can come into his own?” Hunt couldn't imagine Vietnam escaping the western orbit, but it happened anyway. That's irony. He's an intriguing author and a uniquely interesting man, which means he may appear here again.
If it feels good just do it.
This rare and striking poster was made for the Japanese run of the French softcore flick Je suis une nymphomane, known in English as Libido: The Urge to Love, and I Am a Nymphomaniac. The Japanese text here, 色情日記, translates as “lust diary.” Filmed in Paris and Antibes, in the story Sandra Julien falls down an elevator shaft and the accident changes her personality from prim and proper to sexually insatiable. She hates her new urges, but has no control and proceeds to have relations with everyone around her, from her boss's slimy nephew to co-star Janine Reynaud. She also poses for dirty photos, has a threesome with a pair of carny workers, and even commits sexual assault. Possibly her low point comes when she seeks answers by enrolling in philosophy classes. You have to be really far gone to do that. In the end the answer to her problem is deceptively simple: find someone who likes her for more than her body. We can't count ourselves among that group, because other than Julien's nakedness, we don't feel there's much that's worthwhile here, but we'll give it points for being artsy. Je suis une nymphomane had its Japanese premiere today in 1971.
From stem to stern everything is in perfect condition.
Above: French actress Mylène Demongeot, who we revisit regularly, appears here in another promo image for her 1960 seagoing adventure Sotto dieci bandiere, aka Under Ten Flags. Demongeot took shorts to new heights—literally—which we've talked about before. We should talk about Sotto dieci bandiere too, but it'll have to wait until later.
Even Powell and Loy's legendary act was bound to get tired eventually.
There's nice Roger Soubie art on this French poster for Song of the Thin Man, the last of six movies in the Thin Man series, which premiered in the U.S. in 1947 and reached France today in 1948. After six sessions the concept might seem a little worn to some viewers, but it still has William Powell and Myrna Loy as the leads. The mystery involves the death of an orchestra musician and the search for a missing bandleader, which leads to Powell and Loy exploring New York City's jazz underground. It's an all-white underground spread across various clubs, gambling boats, and parties, populated by at least fifty musicians, none of them of color. Of all the sight gags in the movie, the barring of black musicians from a film revolving around the art form they invented is the most notable one of all, but that's mid-century moviemaking for you.
The jazz gimmick is useful anyway, because it gives the filmmakers the opportunity to have Powell—as upper class supersleuth Nick Charles—play the role of a fish out of water. He understands neither the hipster jazzcats nor their customs and slang, and in about half a decade probably turns into the white-haired bartender from The Wild One. Even so, he needs to find and unmask a murderer in order to free a wrongly accused acquaintance from police custody. In true Thin Man fashion, he quips his way through the proceedings, plays cagey with femmes fatales Marie Windsor and Gloria Grahame, and finally unveils the killer in a nightclub populated by all the suspects. Loy is reliable as always in the sidekick role, and even amusingly picks up a few words of hep lingo.
While Dashiell Hammett originated the two characters of Nick and Nora Charles, he didn't touch Song of the Thin Man. Instead it was written by veteran crime novelist Steve Fisher and comedy writer Nat Perrin. Their union, unlike Nick and Nora's marriage, is an uneasy pairing, though it's hard to put a finger on what exactly is wrong. The mystery has an interesting backdrop, but is never compelling, while the humor seems clunkier than in the past. Powell and Loy do their best, but the movie failed to earn back its production budget, and the franchise came to an end. There were screenwriting and production issues, but we suspect that the real culprit was simple boredom—slayer of movie series and marriages alike. Audiences had simply moved on. World War, generational cynicism, and the emergence of grittier cinema will tend to cause that. Song of the Thin Man premiered today in 1947.
Any port in a storm—except maybe this one.
This French poster for the British made film Port Afrique was painted in a style that made us certain it was the work of Constantin Belinsky. But nope—it's signed by André Bertrand, and it's a very nice piece. As the art indicates, the movie is a North African adventure, a vehicle for Italian rising star Pier Angeli, and it can be described with one word—exotic. The filmmakers turned the E dial up to 11, location shooting in Tangier to create a fictional city of Port Afrique that's part Berber, part French, and part Spanish. Casablanca comparisons are inevitable, but solely in terms of exteriors Port Afrique is greatly superior. There's simply nothing like the real thing. The movie is also shot in color, which adds to its appeal, even if it detracts a bit from its noirish ambitions.
As in Casablanca, much of the action in Port Afrique revolves around a bar, in this case Le Badinage, which seemingly can afford to have more performers than customers. The bar's beautiful chanteuse—there's always a beautiful chanteuse—is played by the elfish Angeli, who's stuck in town without a passport and suffering under the attentions of the proprietor Nino. The threat in his overtures is unspoken but clear—no punani, no passport. Into this situation arrives a wounded American pilot with the unlikely name Rip Reardon, played by future b-movie stalwart Phil Carey. After his onscreen run he would find himself in soap opera purgatory as Asa Buchanan on One Life To Live, but here he gets his chance to help anchor a big drama. Shortly after Rip arrives his wife turns up dead. The cops call it a suicide, but Rip decides to take the investigation into his own hands, with all the usual twists and turns.
Port Afrique has a lot of problems. The script is clunky and improbable, the motivations of its characters murky, and the chemistry between its stars lukewarm. Carey ended up on soap operas for a reason, clearly on display here. He has little range, and none of the heft needed for his role. As for Angeli, she never became the superstar her advocates intended, and again, you can see why. She's better than Carey for sure, yet she still lacks the fire her role needs. But here's the thing—we think, for serious film buffs, the movie is worth watching anyway. It looks amazing, from the cinematography to the production design, and its goal of being a Technicolor noir is worth examination and discussion. But casual film fans may want to steer clear. After premiering in the U.S. in 1956 Port Afrique reached France today in 1957. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions
about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire
in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
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