Shit, that waiter is fast! The meal sucked and his service was worse, but maybe we should have tipped him anyway.
This cover for the 1965 Ace Edition of Martha Albrand's 1959 novel A Day in Monte Carlo caught our eye for a couple of reasons. One is the nice art by an unknown, but the other is because we're almost finished with David Dodge's 1952 travel book The Poor Man's Guide to Europe, and it encompasses the south of France. Why read a 70 year-old travel book? We knew it would be like a priceless time capsule—and it is. We'll get to it a bit later, but suffice to say it made us see this cover as two vacationers stiffing a waiter who's now chasing them with a scimitar. As you'd expect, however, this is actually an espionage novel, and a well reviewed one.
But sadly, A Day in Monte Carlo, which you might categorize as romantic suspense, is silly. Its main flaw is that the central relationship between American spycatcher Mark and French dancer Fleur is built on the gimmick of love at first sight. They meet, fall in love within minutes, and agree to marry before half a day has passed. After that point one of the main sources of plot tension becomes: how can Mark carry on a love affair and still chase the great and mysterious Timgad, mastermind behind the Algerian rebel movement, who flits from the Sahel to the Riviera with the ease of a migratory hawk? Well, there's an answer to that, though not a good one.
Albrand was something of an expert at this type of fiction, having published other novels in the same vein, but reputations can deceive. A great writer, perhaps, could pull all this off, but Albrand, whose go-to lines are things like, “Oh, Mark, I was so afraid. Is it really worth it to love this much?” is not a great writer. At least not in this book. We've actually seen her compared to the aforementioned David Dodge, who in addition to travel books wrote fiction classics like To Catch a Thief. But while Dodge wrote with wit, panache, and a touch of romance, he also wrote with gravity and grit. A Day in Monte Carlo needs a dose of the latter two qualities. Onward and upward.
It's nothing a good stain remover won't fix.
Above: a cover for Poupée de chair, 1963, by Hans J. Nordling, from Éditions Baudelaire—not to be confused with the publisher currently partnered with Hatchette. In French “poupée” means doll, and “chair” means flesh, so there's your title in English—"flesh doll." The book deals with a woman trapped in an unconsummated marriage, whose rival for her husband's affections is her own mother. How very French. We like the art on this, which we're going to say with a high degree of confidence was painted by James Hodges. It was cropped from a larger piece, we suspect, because his femme fatale is reaching for a gun you can barely see at lower right. See more from Hodges here, here, and here.
Casablanca drifts 2,500 miles east and loses a little something along the way.
Above you see a nice French poster for the Humphrey Bogart adventure Sirocco, which we touched upon briefly several months back. As we noted then, Columbia Pictures promoted the film as being, “beyond Casablanca...” but Sirocco comes up short in that department. How could it not? It's like saying, “beyond chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream,” or “beyond a raspberry gin Ricky,” or “beyond the 2003 Hurricanes-Buckeyes NCAA Championship Game.” These things are not possible. But Sirocco is actually pretty good anyway, owing largely to its setting in 1925 Damascus, Syria (the film was actually shot in Yuma, Arizona, but the illusion worked adequately). Plotwise, local independence fighters are trying to drive out French occupiers via any means deemed necessary, including what we call today terrorist bombings. Bogart plays Rick from Casablanca, except he's named Harry Smith. But he's the same cynical, opportunistic, womanizing lone wolf he was before, who instead of running a bar, runs guns. He has no ideology in his profession, except love of money, and will work for whoever can hire him, Syrian or French. As the situation in Damascus grows increasingly fraught he finds himself unwillingly stuck between the locals and the occupiers. He also finds himself in a love triangle with slinky Märta Torén and a French military officer played by Lee J. Cobb.
The movie quickly coalesces around what we like to think of as the big three Bogart plot devices: romantic feelings threaten to upset his hard-won cynicism, he must make a choice between desire and conscience, and he must beat the clock if he hopes to get out of Dodge with his skin intact. Beyond Casablanca? Columbia pretty much strip mined Casablanca, is what happened. Even so, Bogart had few serious misses in his career, and Sirocco isn't one of them. Fans will get to see him doing exactly what made him an icon, and for that reason alone we think it's worth a watch. After premiering in the U.S. in mid-1951, it opened in France today the same year.
All the best people showed up.
The West German pop culture and celeb magazine Party, which was produced in Hannover by Lehning Press, is an obscure publication. It's very vivid, with bright color, many full page photos, and many film celebrities represented. Equal time is given to unknowns too, for example, the cover features Annelies Niessner, who was... we have no idea, and inside a color page is given to Cornelie, identified only as a “millionärstochter geht eigene wege,” a millionaire's daughter who goes her own way.
In terms of celebs you get Carol Lynley, Jane Russell, Sandra Dee, Stella Stevens, Laya Raki, a beautiful portrait of Jane Fonda, numerous shots of Ursula Andress, and many others. This publication didn't waste words, even on the copyright date. The cover tells us this is issue eight, so we're going to say it came in August, and we're thinking it's from 1967. Though it may be short on info, Party is an appropriate name, because it's a very fun magazine. We have several more issues, so look for those later.
That sound you hear is a great author spinning in his grave.
Guy de Maupassant? Really? We had no idea the master of the short story form and leader of the Naturalist school also wrote smut. Shows what we know. When we looked around for Folli piaceri delle porno prigioniere we learned it was originally made in West Germany in 1980 as Gefangene Frauen, but known in English as Caged Women. And instead of the highbrow rumination we expected from a movie based on de Maupassant, what we got was director Edwin C. Dietrich pushing the far bounds of sexploitation in ways that are crude, stupid, and unrepentant. Perhaps as compensation or apology, he also offers up more nudity per screen minute than a Jesús Franco film—and that's saying something.
Karine Gambier and Brigitte Lahaie headline a cast of bare blonde women and just-as-bare hairy eurostuds, as plotwise, a tinpot dictator worried about a U.N. sex trafficking investigation into his country's brothels hides his trafficked European prosties in a godforsaken island prison. You get every trope of women in prison flicks, but stretched to the max. There are showers, medical exams, naked whippings, naked manual labor, naked skeet shooting, naked arena wrestling, a naked prison break (but with comfortable shoes), and more. Notice how that went from standard sexploitation fare to waaay out there? Is it satire? Edwin Dietrich doubtless would have claimed it was. But merely turning the volume up to eleven is the dumbest kind of satire.
And as far as Guy de Maupassant goes, it's more like Guy de wishful thinking. We found no evidence the acclaimed author influenced this production in any way, regardless of what its writer (also Edwin Dietrich) said. It wasn't the only time Dietrich claimed he was inspired by classic literature. No surprise—when you make something like forty of these flicks you intellectualize them any way you can. De Maupassant's influence, we suspect, was merely to lend a veneer of credibility to the promo poster. If you watch Folli piaceri delle porno prigioniere, don't be a pretender like Dietrich. Just embrace your inner horndog and admit you're watching it for the skin.
From chieftain's daughter to chief attraction.
We're back to burlesque today with a photo of the famed Crazy Horse dancer who went by the name of Miss Zabou. Born and raised in Mali, she was the daughter of a village chieftain, and at sixteen became a member of Mali's le Troupe de Ballet. After a few years she went to Dakar, Senegal for more prosaic work as a hairdresser, and from there moved on to Paris to do the same. Upon visiting Crazy Horse she became interested once more in dance, which we imagine says a lot about either how thrilling Crazy Horse extravaganzas were, or how much more money Parisian burlesqueteers made than Malian ballerinas. In any case, she jettisoned hairdressing, and the beautiful Zabou and her radiant smile became the talk of Paris. We have one more photo of her we may post a little later.
How do you show your man you love him? Show your love to other men.
Here's another amazing and framable movie poster, this time for Le trottoir, which was originally made in England as The Flesh Is Weak. The art is by René Brantonne, who typically illustrated book covers, such as here and here. This is stylish work, very different from what we've seen him do before. It's cartoonish, but captures the mood of the film, an urban drama starring John Derek. Yes, that John Derek, the one who— Or has he been forgotten already? We'll reacquaint you. Derek was an actor, photographer, screenwriter, and director, but he's best known as a sort of Svengali who directed his fourth wife Bo Derek in several erotic films in which male actors got to squeeze and lick her soft parts. In 1984's Bolero he shot Bo in three love scenes, one of which made viewers wonder if there was more than acting involved. That's unlikely, but even so, actual penetration was about the only thing missing, which makes John Derek a different kind of husband indeed.
His partnership with Bo in using her body to make money is even more interesting considering the subject matter of The Flesh Is Weak. He plays London agent who meets naive Milly Vitale and convinces her to attempt resolving his debt problems by selling her womanly favors. Of course, he has no debt problems, and he's no agent—he's a pimp, and chose Vitale to convert to prostitution. She ends up tricked into selling herself because she's in love, and though for some readers that surely seems impossible to comprehend, we read Iceberg Slim's autobiographical Pimp some years back and he confirmed from a firsthand perspective that love was what he often used as a lever. It's hard to imagine but true. And its pretty sad, even in the sanitized version presented in The Flesh Is Weak. Is it worth watching? There's no need to clear your schedule, but overall it's pretty good. There's no known French release date, but it had its world premiere in London today in 1957.
I'm off to see my hair stylist, then I'm headed to the pet groomer. Conveniently, they're the same person.
Bet you didn't notice the dog at first, but there he is, such a happy boy, clutched to the bosom of French actress France Anglade. The beautiful mademoiselle Anglade was born in 1942 in Constantine, France, and if you can't quite place that town, that's because today it's in Algeria. See, the French thought of Algeria as just a southerly department of France, which must have made the locals who'd had their land taken over feel a little better about it. Anglade briefly took over French cinema, appearing in an amazing seventeen films from 1962 to 1964. She continued acting until 1994, and when all was said and done had starred in efforts such as Le plus vieux métier du monde, aka The Oldest Profession, 24 Hours To Kill, and Les bricoleurs, aka Who Stole the Body? This amazing photo first appeared in Cinémonde magazine in 1967.
They may be cannibals but you have to credit their exquisite culinary taste.
The above poster for was made to promote Sergio Martino's La montagne du dieu cannibale, which was originally filmed in Italy as La montagna del dio cannibale, and in English was known as Slave of the Cannibal God and The Mountain of the Cannibal God. Basically, Ursula Andress ventures into the New Guinean jungle to find her husband, who disappeared during an expedition to Ra Ra Me Mountain, considered by native tribes to be cursed. The movie was actually shot in Sri Lanka, but details, details. Andress is accompanied on her quest by her brother, played by Antonio Marsina, a professor, played by Stacy Keach, and some unlucky locals. Their jungle trek brings on interpersonal strife, native attacks, gruesome murders, eventual capture, and additional gruesome murders, all to the accompaniment of creepy drum and synth music.
You'll sometimes see this movie classified as horror, but it's really a mondo revulsion flick, padded with real animal deaths that most people will find unwatchable. These gross-outs are somewhat balanced by the imminently watchable Ursula Andress, who's forty-two here and looking just fine. We don't mention that in passing. The entire point of this gorefest is to get her tied to a stake, stripped, and caressed by hot native girls. The plot about her missing husband—which morphs into a scheme to get rich with uranium—is just a fig leaf. We don't recommend the movie even with Andress undressed in it, but if you watch it maybe don't eat lunch beforehand. After originally premiering in West Germany, La montagne du dieu cannibale opened in France today in 1978.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
1989—Guildford Four Exonerated
The men known as the Guildford Four, who were imprisoned for a series of bombs attacks on British pubs that left five dead and 100 injured, are decreed not guilty after an investigation reveals that police colluded in doctoring statements that appeared to incriminate the defendants.
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