Intl. Notebook Mar 5 2022
DIVING BELLE
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.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 21 2021
UNLUCKY BAMBOO
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 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?

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Femmes Fatales Nov 30 2021
FROM HER PERSPECTIVE
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.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 10 2021
DON'T WAKE UP LITTLE SUZIE
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.
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Femmes Fatales Dec 9 2020
RARE GOLD KWAN
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.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 28 2020
LAYOVER IN HELL
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.
 
The story 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?

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Vintage Pulp Jul 20 2020
ONE-TWO PUNCH
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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Vintage Pulp Jun 21 2020
RIGHT FROM THE JUMP
There's no kung fu like topless kung fu.


These Italian posters were made for the sexploitation/kung fu flick Schiave nell'isola del piacere, originally released in Hong Kong as Yang chi, and known in English as The Bod Squad, or alternatively, Virgins of the Seven Seas. This is a Shaw Brothers production, and when a company makes forty films a year not all of them will be scintillating. What you have here are five western women, all allegedly virgins, who get kidnapped by Chinese pirates. They're to be sold for big bucks to a brothel, but only after some training in delightful and arcane sexual arts. The plan to remake these inexperienced white girls into perfect carnal receptacles goes pear-shaped when an unexpected ally also trains the women in martial arts, and the five end up fighting alongside downtrodden locals to help take down an organized crime cartel.

Some of the things the squad learn—both sexually and for combat—are pretty funny. Like when they're taught to spit olive pits at lethal velocity. Or when they get a lesson in Chinese sex techniques—knowledge which is of course derived from a crinkly old parchment. There's also quite a bit of slapstick humor. The entire point of the movie, however, is to show five women going through various contortions in their undies, and on that score the movie is a slam dunk. The five squad members, Sonja Jeannine, Diane Drube, Gillian Bray, Tamara Elliot, and Deborah Ralls, give the physical acting their all, and in the end confirm that toplessness—like red sunsets, fine wine, and good music—makes everything better. After premiering in Hong Kong today in 1974, Yang chi reached Italy sometime in 1975.

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Intl. Notebook Jul 15 2019
MADE IN HONG KONG
Suzie Wong gets with the program.


When we watched The World of Suzie Wong several years ago we were aware that it had been a pretty big hit. It's no surprise, then, that we keep running across memorabilia from the film. Here we have a promotional pamphlet from Hong Kong, with a very cool cover of the prostitute title character, who was played by Nancy Kwan. Yes, it's faded as hell, but we kind of like that. These Hong Kong items are often in terrible shape, but there's such a thing as beautiful squalor. Is it the humidity that did this? Check out this other Suzie Wong item we shared way back, made with better paper, and seemingly stored with better care. We have scans of a few deteriorated but still interesting interior pages below, and if you read Chinese, all the better.

We may talk about The World of Suzie Wong a bit later. We watched it without the Pulp Intl. girlfriends, and we imagine they would have hated it—as any contemporary woman would, when it comes to romanticizing prostitution. Additionally, since PI-2 is Filipina, we suspect she'd have a particularly incisive perspective. Yes, the Philippines are a long way from Hong Kong, but considering how encompassing attitudes were in mid-century Hollywood toward Asian women, we think she's well qualified to comment on a set-in-Hong Kong movie. In any case, it's a discussion for another day, perhaps. Scans below.

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Vintage Pulp May 21 2019
NO BANG FOR THEIR BUCK
Brothers can you spare a production budget?


It's fair to suggest that most blaxploitation movies weren't good in the traditional sense. But The Dynamite Brothers, aka Stud Brown, which premiered in the U.S. this month in 1974, is probably close to the worst movie of the genre. It's a low budget The Wild Ones with a chop socky revenge thriller tacked on, and it has “rush job” scribbled all over it. Everything is off, from the direction to the screenplay to the sound effects. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's films like this that helped kill blaxploitation.
 
Picture the first screening for the studio, Asam Film Company. Director Al Adamson managed to put up a brave front during the shooting schedule, but he's made his final cut and knows the movie is shit. He's cringing. He's slumped so low in his seat he looks like he's lost air pressure. He even considers scuttling for the exit during the second reel. If he stays low, like a crab, he might make it unseen. But he's still there when the lights come up, and various execs and investors are sitting around looking stunned. They're just white guys with money and don't know dick about this blaxploitation thing, so they have no idea what to think.

Finally someone ventures hopefully, “Was that good? Or...”

Someone else: “Al? Al? Where are you?”

Al: *sigh* “I'm down here.”

“What the hell are you doing on the floor?”

“Uh, my back. Laying flat helps with—”

“Were you hiding?

“I was just—”

“Are we fucked?

“Well....”

“Did you FUCK US?

He fucked them. The Dynamite Brothers was an unremitting disaster. It turned out to be the only movie Asam Film Company ever made. Co-star Timothy Brown in particular had to be disappointed with the final product, considering his film debut was the all-time classic M*A*S*H, in which he played Corporal Judson. Top billed Alan Tang also had to be bummed. Back in Hong Kong when he was first approached about the project, someone told him mixing kung-fu into a blaxploitation flick was a no-brainer. Halfway through the screening he began to wonder if he'd misunderstood the meaning of that term.
 
Nevertheless, somehow both he and Brown survived The Dynamite Brothers and went on to have long careers, which is a tribute to their talent and persistence. Al Adamson kept working too, which is possibly a tribute to filmgoers' short memories. But like Bran the Broken in Game of Thrones, allow us to serve as the memory for all humanity here—steer clear of this one like the un-defused bomb it is. Get a tactical robot to delete it from your movie queue. It's baaaad. We don't mean cool-bad or funny-bad. It's just bad-bad.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 23
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
May 22
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
May 21
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
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