Hopefully there's a direct correlation between runway experience and runaway capability.
Master illustrator John Solie made this promo poster for the low budget exploitation flick Cover Girl Models, and it's another example of his incomparable work. The movie, on the other hand, is very comparable—it's similar to 1973's Fly Me, but with models instead of flight attendants. Cirio Santiago, a legend in the exploitation field, directed both movies, and the plots develop in identical fashion, as a trio of carefree women travel to Asia for work and accidentally become embroiled in a criminal plot. In the case of Cover Girl Models, spies want to secretly transport microfilm, so they arrange to have it sewn into one of the model's dresses. But when the seam rips and the microfilm disappears, bad men come after her. The three models are played by Pat Anderson, Lindsay Bloom, and Tara Strohmeier, with John Kramer as their photographer and Mary Woronov as their agent. You'll also see a few familiar faces from other made-in-Asia grindhouse productions, such as Vic Diaz and Tony Ferrer. None of this group are extremely talented, however the point is for the lead actresses to look beautiful, and they do that well, especially Anderson. We can't call the movie good. Nobody could and be serious. But like many exploitation efforts it's funny in parts. Unintentionally, we mean. Therefore, you know the drill here—watch it with friends and booze, and it might turn out to be one of the more enjoyable nights you've had in a while. Cover Girl Models premiered today in 1975.
Five women meant to be sex playthings instead wreak bloody havoc on their oppressors. Duh.
This is the U.S. poster for the Hong Kong sexploitation action flick Yang chi, aka The Bod Squad, aka Virgins of the Seven Seas, which we talked about a while back. Shorter version: effort by men to forcibly create perfect sexual beings leads to violent bikini uprising. We have no idea why the bad guys didn't anticipate that result. We guess they never saw a ’70s sexploitation movie, in which case they'd know such movies often end with the men toes up. That's half the point of watching them. The Bod Squad premiered in the U.S. this month in 1976.
You moved like they do. I've never seen anyone move that fast.
Usually when we share a foreign poster for a film it's because the foreign version is markedly better. The original poster for Bruce Lee's Hong Kong-produced martial arts thriller Tang shan da xiong is actually pretty nice, but the Matrix-like motion capture attempt on this Italian version is just too cool to ignore. In Italy the film was titled Il furore della Cina colpisce ancora, or “China's fury strikes again,” and the art is by Averado Ciriello. It's an inspired effort, which he almost equals on version two, at bottom. There are also two Japanese posters at this link, and it's here that we mention that the movie was titled in English The Big Boss and Fists (not Fist) of Fury.
Bruce Lee movies are not to be watched for their acting or complex plots, and the dialogue in this one is laugh-out-loud bad. The film is a morality play about Lee, an expert fighter, having promised his wise old uncle never to fight again because “violence is never the answer.” Of course he's immediately dropped into a pit of evil when his new job in an ice factory turns out to be a front for drug smuggling. His intervention in the racket comes exactly too late to help his cousin, who's murdered by the villains, but when he finally fights, it's with lightning quickness and almost mystical ability, as he lethally wades through hoards of baddies and cripples the smuggling enterprise single-handedly, or double-fistedly. Maybe violence is the answer after all.
But it isn't quite that easy. These traffickers didn't reach the top of the heap for nothing. Their continued commitment to violence demands that Lee either walk away or willingly descend into the same cycle. As always there's a final showdown with a crafty old karate master who pushes Lee to his limits. His moral progression from purity through temptation, corruption, shame, revenge, and consequences is cheesy but it's also very entertaining, and one thing is clear. He never needed digital help to dazzle the eye. He'd demonstrate his gifts in three more movies, then be gone, at the age of thirty-two, with his final film—his biggest hit Enter the Dragon—released posthumously. Tang shan da xiong premiered in Hong Kong in 1971 and reached Italy today in 1973.
Taina Béryl and an aquatic companion get into the swim of things.
It was about time for an addition to the Pulp Intl. swim team, so above you see German actress and dancer Taina Béryl from a 1970 issue of the French magazine Moi. She joins vintage water sprites Belita, the Townhouse Aqua Maidens, Ella Raines, the synchronized swimmers of Hellzapoppin, the mermaids of Weeki Wachee Springs, and—if we want to stretch the theme—vintage drowner Christine Todd, but ups the ante with body paint and dolphin accompaniment.
The feature is called “La belle et la bête,” which means, “beauty and the beast.” Needless to say, the dolphin community was up in fins about one of their number being called a beast, and we don't blame them. Last we checked they hadn't eaten almost every living thing in the oceans. Not surprisingly, the dolphin was shunned in the magazine business after the fuss and its modeling career came to an unjust end.
Béryl appeared in nine films during her career, including 1968's Run, Psycho, Run, 1965's Spy in Your Eye, and 1963's L'inconnue de Hong Kong, aka Stranger from Hong Kong. All of those sound like fun to us. Béryl was also popular as a magazine model, scoring covers and centerfolds of publications like Ciné-Revue and Cinémonde. We have a shot of her on land, and if you want to see that just go here.
Hong Kong sexploitation epic isn't very good, but give it credit for ripping the scab off a historical wound.
Above is a poster for the sexploitation flick Nu ji zhong ying, known in English as The Bamboo House of Dolls, and to get right to the heart of the matter, this one must have set Sino-Japanese relations back a few years. The film stars Danish actress Birte Tove as a nurse in Hong Kong who during World War II gets corralled along with her co-workers into Japanese Women's Concentration Camp 13, there to undergo various indignities before finally deciding that escape is her only option. You know the drill.
Tove is the marquee attraction, but the film is largely cast with Hong Kong actresses such as Lee Hye-Sook, Hseih Wang, and others, which means that while the movie resembles entries in the women-in-prison sub-genre—with the scheming wardeness, lesbian sex, group showers, and half-cocked escapees made into examples of what not to do while in a tropical women's prison—the obvious historical context of Japan actually sexually abusing Chinese women during the war gives it an underlying grimness that's hard to ignore.
We suspect that if this were made today it would spark an international crisis, insults traded by high ranking officials on Twitter, and possibly diplomats kicked out of China and Japan, but 1970s filmmakers did not shy away from uncomfortable subject matter—and this is about as uncomfortable as it gets. That isn't the problem, though. Well, that isn't the problem for us. The objective problem is the movie is just bad.
Legendary Hong Kong producers the Shaw Brothers (and by legendary we mean Run Run Shaw would be knighted in 1977) wanted to copy Jack Hill's women-in-prison movies The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House, but possibly overlooked the fact that setting such films in imaginary Central American hellholes as Hill did was worlds away from making the Japanese the villains in a historically laden sexual abuse epic. But what do we know? Run Run got knighted, not us. In any case, Tove's escape plan runs into some snags, but we won't reveal what those are, just in case you're in the mood for politically explosive titillation. Our advice? Give it a pass. Nu ji zhong ying premiered in Hong Kong today in 1973. I get the feeling there's history here. Since I'm from Denmark, maybe I can I just leave?
Sometimes you have to look at things from a whole new angle.
How many mid-century actresses began as Playboy models? An absolute raft of them. The 1957 photo above shows Dolores Donlon, who was the magazine's centerfold in August of that year. Donlon was an unusual case. She had been toiling in Hollywood since 1944, landing minor film roles and scattered magazine covers. She managed to earn seventh billing in 1954's The Long Wait, and third in 1957's Flight to Hong Kong, but they weren't major films. When she finally posed nude it was much later than usual—she was thirty-seven. It's hard to determine whether the new tactic directly paid off, but from that point forward she became a well established television actress, racking up more than twenty-five credits on shows such as 77 Sunset Strip and Miami Undercover. It wasn't movie stardom, but it was success. Was it Playboy that made the difference? Probably only she and her agent knew, and neither of them are around to tell us.
Her story is more dream than nightmare, but that's why it's fiction.
The World of Suzie Wong was the definition of a polarizing film, generally liked by audiences, but often reviled by social observers. For the former group it was just entertainment, a risqué Cinderella fantasy. For the latter group, it was an exercise in cinematic irresponsibility. Few filmmakers have been interested in exploring the human trafficking, physical and psychological abuse, drugs, and destroyed futures that predominate prostitution, but that's no surprise—filmmaking is about moneymaking, and who'd normally go see a movie that was such a downer? While it's true that 2015's Tangerine was acclaimed, it was also shot on three iPhones. Its director has moved on to bigger budgets because he wants to make money too. So let's first of all accept Suzie Wong for what it is: a mainstream film exploring the idea of a rare type of prostitute—the one clearly destined for a better life.
The idea isn't actually so outlandish. Our personal experience has taught us that there are all kinds of hookers. In Brazil, some do it for two weeks bracketing Carnival and make more money than they do working their regular jobs the rest of the year. They don't consider themselves to be prostitutes. They consider themselves to be modern-minded and smart. When PSGP worked at Playboy he was aware of models (anecdotally) and porn actresses (definitely) who did it when they had money troubles. There are plenty of men who'll pay to sleep with his favorite centerfold or porn star, and the money she earns is all hers—none goes to an agent or grifter boyfriend. Models were occasionally invited to certain Middle Eastern oil states and were paid many thousands of dollars per week just to attend swank social occasions and be friendly. The friendliest—interpret that how you wish—would be welcome to stay for months and earn gifts, while the less friendly ones quickly would be shipped out. The point is there are all types.
So while people who hate Suzie Wong are correct that a depiction of prostitution that doesn't explore the typical reality reinforces a false narrative about what is a dirty and dangerous job, the movie is simply a piece of entertainment—and has the right to be. It's no more about real prostitution than Raiders of the Lost Ark is about real archaeology. You'll have to gloss over its imperialist ethnic snobbery too. But if you choose to cross the disbelief suspension bridge, it's a pretty entertaining flick, a drama about an American artist in Hong Kong played by William Holden who meets a local prostitute played by Nancy Kwan, asks her to model for him, and over the course of their increasingly fruitful artistic collaboration finds himself drawn to her. Kwan makes no secret of the fact that she immediately has feelings for Holden, but he resists—not forever, obviously. At that point the difficult question of whether they can actually make a life together—or should even try—is what the plot explores.
Suzie Wong's gimmick of a hooker's love completing a man who's lonely or adrift has been used in films such as Irma la Douce, Night Shift, and Pretty Woman, and audiences responded favorably because, at their core, all those films are romances. But there's more to Suzie Wong than just its sooty Cinderella aspects. At a time of still-rigid ideas about female purity, it asked male viewers to consider the possibility that the number of men a woman sleeps with is immaterial. So in that sense it's a forward thinking film—something usually forgotten by its critics. The source novel by Richard Mason is probably more nuanced, but we haven't read it. We do know, however, that he wrote it after staying at the Luk Kwok Hotel in Hong Kong, which was a brothel. So maybe he learned a little something that gave his book—and the film—a bit more verité than people generally suspect. When you include its great exteriors and sets, and Kwan herself in a starmaking role, the result is exotic, emotional, and at times uplifting. The World of Suzie Wong premiered in the U.S. today in 1960. See more promo images here and here.
From Hong Kong with love (at a price).
Nancy Kwan poses in costume as the title character of her hit 1960 film The World of Suzie Wong, which is about a romance between an American painter in Hong Kong and a local “yum yum girl”—i.e. a prostitute. This shot is excellent, we think. Kwan made numerous movies in Hollywood, including 1961's Flower Drum Song and 1968's The Wrecking Crew, but Suzie Wong remains her legacy, a subject of much debate due to its sex trade subject matter, and a source of interesting memomorabilia, such as here and here. Maybe we'll talk about the movie later.
The skies may be friendly, but the ground is an entirely different story.
When you come across a ’70s movie with bad acting, bad scripting, vaudevillian humor, nude women, and a foreign setting, there's a good chance you're dealing with the output of either American International Pictures or New World Pictures. Fly Me comes from the latter studio, and was directed by Cirio Santiago, one of the kings of Asian sleaze cinema. He directed more than one hundred features, including TNT Jackson, Ebony, Ivory & Jade, and The Muthers. With that kind of résumé you know you're in for a wild ride.
Fly Me deals with three flight attendants played by cinematic obscurities Pat Anderson, Lyllah Torena, and the gorgeous Lenore Kasdorf, who get into various pickles in Hong Kong and Manila—and get various pickles into them. One stew is secretly working for a drug cartel and is kidnapped after failing to perform up to expectations, a second meets and falls for a guy who turns out to be a British secret agent, and the third mostly tries to ditch her mother and get laid.
We'd love to tell you the movie is good, but no such luck. It lurches back and forth from sexploitation to lowbrow comedy, and as usual with Cirio Santiago's films, the action scenes are inept. We'll admit to enjoying TNT Jackson, but based on the preponderance of evidence he appears to be a real hack as a director. He's a Filipino legend, though, who helmed something like a hundred films, so he'll certainly have opportunities to redeem himself as we continue our explorations. We'll keep you posted. Fly Me premiered today in 1973.We love being stewardesses. The pay isn't great but you can't beat the travel. Oh, Captain, I've always wanted to join the five-inch high club. This chick is freaking the fuck out. Excuse me, sir. You're one of the hosts, right? You might want to toss this one with the rest of the empties. Oh no. A creepy foreigner. I heard they attack if you show fear, so just keep walking. Stay calm. Don't run. Screw that plan. Cork-soled wedge sandals, get me outta here! I have an idea. Let's go to your room and have screaming hot monkey sex, okay? Oh! Mom! Hi! Remove your grubby fingers from my daughter's big fat ’70s bush this instant! Incongruous crash-zoom of an actual bush! Hey everyone, I'm looking for my missing girlf— Er... did I say missing? I meant dead. And I miss her very much and would like a replacement. I'll take that one. Don't bother wrapping her or anything. I'm gonna eat her right in the car. Drop dead, creep! I didn't mean on top of me! Ugh, how rude! That's him! The head of the sexual slavery ring! Rip his balls off and stomp them into cracker spread! I've seen things in my police career that were hard to watch, but this is the worst of all. By the way, you okay? Wanna have sex again or do you need a few hours to recover from your trauma? Well, girls, Manila sure was a hoot. I wonder what Mogadishu will be like?
Technically it's a two-three punch but who's counting?
Above are Japanese posters for two Hong Kong martial arts actioners from the immortal Bruce Lee—1971's Tang shan da xiong, aka The Big Boss, and 1972's Jing mo mun, aka Fist of Fury. You notice the numbers on these, 2, and 3. They didn't premier in Japan until 1974, which meant they showed there after 1973's worldwide hit Enter the Dragon. So when these two films finally traversed the East China Sea, they were cleverly marketed as Lee's second and third karate epics to fans rabid for more high kicking adventure. There's an alternate Jing mo min poster of far lesser quality than what you see above, but we've included it anyway, below. We have plenty more Lee in the site, so if you're interested click his keywords. |
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