|Vintage Pulp||Mar 10 2022|
If you can't tame them join them.
We've been meaning to get to Untamed Youth for a long time because we know it's considered one of the cheesier movies from its era. And who can resist a quality cheese? Since it premiered today in 1957, we decided to give it a screening, and it turns out the film's reuptation is deserved. It stars Mamie Van Doren and Lori Nelson as beautiful sisters railroaded into a hicktown jail. In court, the county judge, who seems as though she'd possibly be lenient, instead sentences the sisters to thirty days of hard outdoor work on a farm. We quickly learn this is a free labor racket engineered by a wealthy rancher who pursued and married the judge, then put the idea in her head. Call it a case of private enterprise exercising undue influence over the judiciary to enable advantageous economic ends. You know—business as usual in America.
But none of that is important. What matters is that Untamed Youth is indeed one of the best bad movies we've seen. Interwoven into the plot is the theme of hipster rebellion, embodied by proto-rock music. For this reason dance parties break out at any and every moment, complete with choreography, air guitar, and bad lip synching even Milli Vanilli would be ashamed to call their own. Van Doren, with her swinging pelvis and wacky dance hands, is more like a mime than a Mame. Golf prodigy Jeanne Carmen plays the standard mean girl—whose fire goes out after one solid punch in the face from Nelson. And Eddie Cochran sings and dances through a couple of numbers, one of which, “Cotton Picker,” goes on waaay too long. The movie is so bad that Mystery Science Theater 3000 took put it through the wringer back in 1990.
What makes the movie special is the dialogue, which contains too many accidental laugh lines to count. Our favorite is when John Russell, as the evil Mr. Tropp, is mentally slavering over the money he's going to make with his forced labor, and goes, “Don't you see honey? After this harvest I'll be rich. And next season, I'll be wealthy!” We also got a kick out of Pinky, the camp cook played by Wally Brown, who stops the music to make an announcement, then tells the kids it's okay to start dancing again with this jaw-dropper: “Intermission over! Back to your African antics!” Yup—these old movies often have anachronistic clunkers like that. This one is a disaster, but Van Doren, Nelson, and others shake, rattle, and roll their way through it, and you can tell they had fun. We had fun watching it, and we suspect you will too.
Untamed YouthMystery Science Theater 3000Mamie Van DorenLori NelsonJeanne CarmenJohn RussellEddie CochranWally BrownYvonne Brownposter artcinemamovie review
|Hollywoodland||Jan 7 2022|
Poitier heads to parts unknown after a long and unique career.
Above is a photo of one-of-a-kind actor and cultural icon Sidney Poitier, who died yesterday aged ninety-four in the Bahamas, where he was born and lived much of his life. He starred in a couple of our favorite lightweight movies, including 1961's Paris Blues and 1992's Sneakers, but this shot is from 1967's unforgettable and topical drama In the Heat of the Night, one of many landmark movies in which he starred. He changed the game. That's really all you can say. See another cool shot of him here.
|Vintage Pulp||Dec 25 2021|
T-Men shows Uncle Sam's money men hard at work keeping the greenback safe.
As you know by now, film noir derived from several sources, one of them being the hard-boiled pulp fiction of the 1930s and ’40s, such as the aforementioned Kiss Me, Deadly. As the cycle rolled onward, filmmakers routinely mined crime fiction for movies, and it became common for a book to be purchased for adaptation immediately after it was published. It was a heyday for crime authors. T-Men, for which you see a cool poster above and another at bottom, was not adapted from a novel. It came from a story idea by Virginia Kellogg, the unheralded brain behind films such as White Heat and Caged.
T-Men is the narrated tale of two treasury agents who infiltrate the Detroit mafia to stem a wave of counterfeiting. Dennis O'Keefe and Alfred Ryder play the duo of undercovers, looking sharp in their tailored suits, as they climb the mob chain of authority pretending to be in the possession of flawless counterfeiting plates they're willing to sell. The two take numerous risks to get close to the unknown head of the mob, and find themselves in hot water more than once. The question quickly becomes whether they can catch the crooks and stay alive.
You get excellent noir iconography here, courtesy of director Anthony Mann and cinematographer John Alton. In fact, though the movie is good anyway, the main reason to watch it is because it's a clinic in genre visuals, filled with beautiful shots where light and darkness intersect in sharp angles or blend like mist. The movie also makes good use of locations tailor-made for shadowplay—the steam room, the deserted street, the nighttime amusement park, the swank supper club, the gambling den, the photographer's darkroom, the industrial maze. If you didn't know better you'd think the filmmakers chose the locations first, then built a movie around them.
For those reasons, T-Men is a mandatory entry for film noir buffs, however it isn't quite perfect. Though there are many surprises, aspects of it related to survivability are predictable, and the narration nestles right up against pro-government propaganda, particularly toward the end. Generally, we think most vintage films could have done fine without narration, but here it's actually needed, so you'll have to ignore the filmmakers intent to teach the audience a lesson. That shouldn't be too hard—T-Men is an almost perfect noirscape, a place to get lost in darkness and enjoy the ride. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
DetroitT-MenWhite HeatCagedDennis O'KeefeMary MeadeJune LockhartAlfred RyderVirginia KelloggAnthony MannJohn Altonposter artcinemafilm noirmafiamovie review
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 4 2021|
The temperature goes up but everything else goes down hard in low budget action flick.
We're drawn by cool promo posters, but even though there's nothing special about the cheap-ass art for the 1976 blaxploitation flick Black Heat, we had to watch it anyway because we love low budget vintage cinema. It's like panning for gold. Usually you end up disappointed, but occasionally you find something shiny and nice. Black Heat stars Timothy Brown, who we last saw in an epic disaster called The Dynamite Brothers, aka Stud Brown, that probably should have ended his cinematic career. But here he is two years later still riding the blaxploitation wave. He plays Kicks Carter, an L.A. cop trying to get to the bottom of illegal activities at a fancy hotel, keep his partner's born loser girlfriend out of gambling trouble, and make time for romance on the side.
Considering the bad luck Brown had with The Dynamite Brothers we'd love to tell you Black Heat is a major step up in his career. It isn't. It's terrible. The only spark is provided by co-star Tanya Boyd, who you may remember from her eye popping turn in Black Shampoo. Anything she's in, we'll gladly watch, because as far as heat is concerned her dial goes to eleven. But she about covers the positives here. Well, her and the fact that the movie features one of our favorite sights from ’70s cinema—the car that goes over a cliff with a dummy in the driver seat. It's a good metaphor for the film—basically driverless, destined to crash and burn. Black Heat premiered today in 1976.
Las VegasBlack HeatThe Murder GangTimothy BrownRuss TamblynTanya BoydJana Bellanposter artcinemablaxploitationmovie review
|Femmes Fatales||Apr 22 2021|
Well, Mr. Warner, I dressed like a vampire because I wanted to look like a bloodsucker when I came to talk with one.
We wonder if the cape will ever come back into fashion. High-waisted pants did, so we imagine anything could. U.S. actress Ann Dvorak shows how to rock a cape as she brandishes a pistol in a promo photo made in 1932 when she appeared in the classic crime movie Scarface. It's considered one of the more significant American films, and every movie buff should see it. Dvorak also starred in such films as The Case of the Stuttering Bishop, Stranger in Town, Heat Lightning, and Three on a Match. The last film was significant for her career. Due to a legal dispute she discovered that Warner Brothers had paid her the same for her leading role as they had paid Buster Phelps, the child actor who played her son and wasn't even credited. Needless to say, Dvorak was unhappy, and eventually went indie in order to control her own career. She wasn't able to secure the best roles anymore, but maybe she at least got a little satisfaction, even if she didn't shoot Jack Warner.
Warner Bros.ScarfaceThe Case of the Stuttering BishopStranger in TownHeat LightningThree on a MatchAnn DvorakBuster PhelpsJack Warner
|Femmes Fatales||Feb 20 2021|
I call this next punch the goodnight kiss.
Virginia Mayo wasn't much of a boxer. In addition to being very light, she telegraphed her punches, like this haymaker roundhouse right she's about throw after winding it up from somewhere around Sausalito. Good thing she could act. She appeared in such classic films as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Flame and the Arrow, South Sea Woman, and, interestingly, in 1946 starred in both White Heat and Red Light. That sounds like a must-watch double bill, and despite the hundreds of vintage crime flicks we've seen, amazingly we've never seen those. So our night is all mapped out.
South Sea WomanWhite HeatRed LightThe Secret Life of Walter MittyThe Flame and the ArrowVirginia Mayo
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 18 2021|
When ragtag crooks hook up with a bevy of Bahama mamas a tropical storm breaks.
Basil Heatter 1963's novel Virgin Cay was an enjoyable tale, so when we saw this Robert McGinnis cover for Harry and the Bikini Bandits we couldn't resist. The novel, which came in 1969 with Fawcett/Gold Medal's edition appearing in 1971, is the story of seventeen-year-old Clayton Bullmore's trip to the Bahamas to see his nutty uncle Harry, who lives on a raggedy ketch and has a magic touch with women of all types. This is where the bikinis come in, but the bikini-wearers are not the bandits (except, technically, one). The bandits are Harry, a couple of his acquaintances, and Clay, who's dragged into a scheme to rob the big casino in Nassau. The combination of coming-of-age story and casino caper is fun, and Heatter mixes in humor, sex, and action, and folds it all into a winning waterborne milieu. He even manages to add a shipwreck, a deserted island, and buried treasure, so we'd say he includes all the most beloved tropes of tropical adventures. It'll make you want to run away to the Caribbean. Heatter is two-for-two in our ledger.
|Vintage Pulp||Dec 3 2020|
A favor turns fatal in MacDonald mystery.
This is just the sort of eye-catching cover any publisher would want from an illustrator, an image that makes the browser immediately curious about the book. Since so many John D. MacDonald novels were illustrated by Robert McGinnis, and the female figure here has the sort of elongation you usually see from him, you could be forgiven for assuming at a glance that this is another McGinnis, but it's actually a Stanley Zuckerberg effort, clearly signed at lower left. We've run across only a few of his pieces, namely The Strumpet City and Cat Man. This is by far the best we've seen.
The story here is interesting. It begins with a woman having drowned in a lake and a sister who disbelieves the verdict of accidental death. She's right, of course, and the detective she hires soon agrees with her. The mystery is quickly revealed to involve taxes, deception, and money—specifically money the dead woman was supposed to keep safe and which has now disappeared. In an unusual move, MacDonald unveils the killer two thirds of the way through the tale, and the detective figures it out shortly thereafter. The final section of the book details his efforts to trap the villain.
This is the last book MacDonald wrote before embarking on his famed Travis McGee franchise. It was within the McGee persona that MacDonald indulged himself in often tedious sociological musings. In The Drowner his characters ring more true, but you can see signs of what is to come in several existential soliloquies concerning the state of the world and the various frail personality types that inhabit it circa 1963. For all our misgivings about the McGee books, they're still good. But we especially recommend any novel MacDonald wrote that came earlier, including this one.
Update: We got an e-mail from Pamela, who told us, "The plot seemed familiar, and sure enough - it was an episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre back in 1964."
We had a look around for it, with no expectations of success, but lo and behold, we found the episode on Archive.org, which often has public domain films and television shows on its platform. We watched the episode, which stars Aldo Ray, Clu Gallagher, and Tina Louise, and we have to say, John. D. MacDonald was probably thrilled. The adaptation is almost exact, with only a bit of license taken with the climax. The only thing he would have hated is that he's credited as John P. MacDonald. The only thing we hated was the lo-rez quality. Oh well. You can't ask for perfection when it comes to early television.
Gold Medal BooksKraft Suspense TheatreJohn D. MacDonaldStanley ZuckerbergAldo RayClu GallagherTina Louisecover artliteraturetelevision
|Musiquarium||May 29 2020|
If you're happy and you know it drop your shirt.
Here's a historical curiosity. Above are two pressings of an album from Angelina, aka Angelina the Singing Model, released in 1957. Sharp-eyed readers may notice that the sleeves use the name and title font of the iconic mid-century tabloid Confidential. The platters were put out by Davis Records, owned by recording entrepreneur Joe Davis, and try as we might, we uncovered no connection between him and Confidential publisher Robert Harrison. Anything is possible, though. They were both New York based, were both publishers—though of different media—so we bet they knew each other. Did Harrison have any idea his font had been borrowed? There's no way we can know.
During the summer of 1957, when this album was recorded and hit stores, Harrison was deeply involved in the libel case that would lead to him selling Confidential. The trial was in L.A., and he stayed in NYC, refusing to appear in court out west, but even so the proceedings kept him plenty busy. Too busy to notice that a novelty album infringed on his logo? We doubt it. Someone, somewhere in Manhattan, would have said, “Hey, Robert, have you seen this new record that uses the font from your magazine?” For that reason we can't help feeling there's some link between Davis and Harrison that led to the look of these LPs, but for now that will have to remain a mystery.
Moving on to the singer, Angelina was actually New York City-based Joyce Heath, who later founded Joyce Heath and the Privateers. These platters, unlikely as the possibility seems, may have actually helped launch her career. As we said, they came in 1957, and Heath's first recordings under her own name were in 1959. Maybe she kept her semi-topless starring role on the cover of Confidential quiet, but we think it more likely she embraced it. While she does show her breast on the second cover, one little boob, after all, was not that big of a deal post-Monroe and Mansfield.
The album had either a repressing or was initially released with two sleeves. Since there are two levels of explicitness, we suspect the latter. Davis probably wanted a suggestive cover, and one that was even more risqué. On the other hand, the change in Heath's hair color suggests the former possibility—two pressings at different times with a change of hairstyle between. Both albums have 1957 copyrights, though, which means little time would have elapsed. Alternatively it could be that Heath wasn't the model for both covers. But we think she was. The second sleeve says in white lettering across her red shirt, “This is Angelina.” So there you go. And the first model, if you look past the hair color, resembles Heath strongly. At least to us.
And now we get to the music. You want to know whether it's any good, right? Well, it's a joke record, with double entendre songs like, “All the Girls Like Big Dick,” “Shake Your Can,” and “He Forgot His Rubbers.” We gave it a listen and all the tunes are cabaret style, pairing piano and vocal with no other accompaniment. Twelve tunes of that ilk would begin to sound similar anyway, but in this case, they really are all the same song. Same key, same tempo, same mood, etc. We have it on good authority Heath recorded this in one afternoon and what we heard sure lends credence to that assertion. Still, limited as the music may be, it's pretty fun. If you want to know more about Joyce Heath, check the blog whitedoowopcollector at this link.
|Modern Pulp||May 20 2020|
Always put your best foot forward.
It's been a while, so here's another Japanese poster for an American x-rated movie. We have many of these and really should share more. Consider that a pledge. This one was made to promote A Scent of Heather, starring Veronica Hart. We shared a different poster for this film a while back, but this one is for the foot fetishists out there. We took a glance at the movie when we made that previous post, and we can attest that Hart's allure extends beyond her feet. A Scent of Heather opened in the U.S. in 1980, but reached Japan considerably later, today in 1983. Below is promo shot of Hart for the non-foot fetishists out there, and you can see that previous poster we mentioned here. We'll see more from her later.