Cushman's ideas about Indonesia make for an uneven mix.
Above is a nice piece of George Ziel art we found on Flickr for Dan Cushman's The Half-Caste, a book we discussed not long ago. The character referred to by the title is a white woman with a Pacific Islander admixture that only a few can discern, but those who do discern it like the way it looks. Thus, even though The Half-Caste has a title that suggests a tale with sociological musings, it's nothing of the sort. It's an Indonesian island adventure of the usual type, and one that could be better. But Ziel's purple art is cool.
Part of me really loves nature and solitude. But then part of me wants a frappuccino and a cheese danish.
Frisco Dougherty is back, and as impressed with himself as ever, if we judge by how many times he refers to himself in the third person. Last seen in 1951's Jewel of the Java Sea, he's still knocking around Indonesia in 1960's The Half-Caste, eternally seeking the big score that will earn him enough money to escape the tropics for San Francisco. His newest chance comes in the form of a trio of Americans who have arrived in Java to repatriate the bones of an anthropologist who died in the jungle. Dougherty suspects the coffin they plan to recover contains not a body, but a treasure, and formulates a complicated plan to steal whatever is inside. He follows the group into deepest Borneo, funded by the Wuch'ang crime cartel, who he also plans to betray.
There are two main positives to The Half-Caste. First, the exotic setting mixed with deep background concerning the Dutch East Indies evolving into an indepedent Indonesia influenced by a rising China is interesting; and second, the contents of the coffin are a clever surprise. Overall, though, we considered the book an unworthy sequel to Jewel of the Java Sea. Dougherty always verged on caricature, but now he's fully up that river. While still calculating, bigoted, chauvinistic, and pervy, he's bereft of charm, which used to be his saving grace. We suspect Cushman wanted to show how the tropics had decayed Dougherty's psyche since the first book, but he comes across too unsympathetic. It feels as if Cushman returned to the character unwillingly.
As for the half-caste of the title—Annalee, aka Sangra Brueger—she's one of the trio of coffin seekers, but because Dougherty spends nearly the entire book tracking the group from afar, she's barely in the narrative physically until the last forty pages. Dell Publications used Annalee's meager presence, with an assist from Robert McGinnis cover art, to lure readers, but it's a slight misrepresentation. The book is basically all Dougherty, along with his two male partners. During the era of good girl art there were nearly always women on paperback covers, no matter how flimsy the rationale, so you have to expect this sort of thing. We can't really complain, because certainly, the art is brilliant. We're happy to have it.
Gemser always makes sure a fun time is had by all.
Above is another Japanese poster for Laura Gemser's Italian sexploitation flick Emanuelle nera, which premiered in 1975 and reached Japan today in 1976. The art shows Gemser getting frisky poolside with French actress Isabelle Marchall, who made numerous sexploitation and giallo movies. The title of this in Japanese means “love of Emanuelle,” and we echo that sentiment—which is to say, though Gemser's Emanuelle films are abysmally bad, we love them as products of an era of freewheeling, guilt-free erotic cinema.
Watching the films on cable television during our youth, they somewhat affected our views on travel and sex, neither of which we had experienced yet. We explained this influence in our write-up on Mia Nygren's Emmanuelle IV way back. At their best, Gemser's Emanuelle movies (yes, it's spelled differently than Nygren's) were straightforward celebrations of sex, while at their worst they were influenced by horror and action movies, such as the one where she takes on cannibals, and the one where she smashes a ring of snuff filmmakers. Emanuelle nera has few pretensions—Gemser goes to Nairobi and gets laid. You can see everything else we have on the movie here, here, and here. Gemser will be back. Probably sooner than you think.
Zumba, huh? Never heard of it. But anything that involves dancing around in this heat I'll take a pass on.
A glance at this Barye Phillips cover for Dan Cushman's 1951 novel Jewel of the Java Sea and you immediately expect it to be filled with lyrical old place names, with their romantic connotations for Westerners of a certain age—Siam, Burma, Celebes, Dutch East Indies, and broadly “the Orient,” names that have dissipated into history, though colonial memory continues to associate them with riches, adventure, and freedom. The name Java is still in use, and that's where Frisco Dougherty, a musician by training, but a fortune hunter and brawler in practice, has been knocking around for fifteen years attempting to make his fortune.
Dougherty has had little luck at this, which is why when he comes into possession of a yellow diamond said to be part of a priceless larger set, he goes into treasure hunter mode with sharp tongue, clenched fists, and hot lead. This jewel he's stumbled upon is supposedly one of five known collectively as the Taj Nipa, with those in turn married to a larger diamond called the Taj-i-nur. The whole kit and caboodle is presumed to reside in the vault of the Maharajah Sir Jagadipendra Bahadur, G.S., C.I., C.C.E.I., LMNOP. But that presumption could be wrong. Maybe the stones were liberated from their vault, though nobody has reported a theft.
Such capers are the core of these types of books, but there are also women. Anna, a Dutchwoman cast adrift in the islands, tells Dougherty she's searching for her missing father, an army major. She's important, but Dougherty is particularly intrigued by Locheng, an exotic dancer in the town of Pontianak, Borneo, and to his eye, a mix of all things good about Asia. He tells the reader she's, “Indo-Chinese, Malay, child of the melting pot, and [with] white blood, enough white blood make her vivid, give her fire.” Uh huh, Frisco loves him some Locheng, though he has a mighty brusque way of showing it:
He decided not to knock. He swung the door open. She sprang up to face him. She was naked. He took a deep breath and looked at her. She seized her sarong and swung it around her hips, tucked it tightly around her waist. Her breasts remained bare, after the fashion of native women.
“Why did you do that?” he asked. “Is it the Western influence that makes you think a body should be hidden? Let me see you as you were. You are so beautiful.”
The Western influence. We didn't notice him wandering around naked to demonstrate his liberation. But maybe that's his point—he's too corrupted to be free, but luckily—his luck, not hers—she isn't. At this point he's met Locheng exactly once before, and she called him a hodah orang—ugly man, according to the book, though not according to Google translate—and showed him the door. But he clearly thinks being cursed out was just a flirtatious prelude to his inevitable conquest of Locheng, and indeed, as these South Seas novels are usually male literary fantasies, that conquest will come soon enough.
Dougherty is interesting. He's impulsive and self-entitled; bigoted, though this appears to be more class than skin based; and sexist, to which we add no qualifiers considering he always wants women to parade around naked. But he's also sentimental and defends the underdog. We think he's an accurate depiction of a certain type of wayfaring American male endemic to the wilder reaches of the world. As former inhabitants of a couple of those reaches ourselves, we've met the type. Cue the Pulp Intl. girlfriends: “Met? You are the type.” Well, not really, though. We've always sought adventures, but our resemblance to Dougherty stops where he demands unearned respect, crosses lines of consent, and calls grown men, “boy.”
In the end, Jewel of the Java Sea is a South Asian thriller that sits neither at the top nor bottom of the genre. Frisco Dougherty might be worth having a beer with, but only until he says something offensive and refuses to apologize. What we'd prefer to hear from him are reflections about something other than how Western influence has ruined his chances to enjoy boobs al fresco. That may yet happen. Reading the book, we got the feeling he was supposed to become a franchise. A series never took root, but he did pop up in one sequel, 1960's The Half-Caste, also set in Asia. We already purchased it a little earlier today, because Cushman can write. What will be interesting is to see if Dougherty can grow.
It isn't somewhere you want to spend a lot of time.
This photo shows a mushroom cloud in the process of rising to a height of 52,000 feet after a 100 kiloton yield nuclear bomb was dropped from a B-52 bomber near Christmas Island, a coral atoll south of Java, Indonesia, and now part of the Republic of Kiribati. The bomb was set off by the U.S. as part of Operation Dominic today in 1962. As we've mentioned before, the western powers are in the midst of another nuclear arms race, a fact that seems to get lost in a swirl of far less important news. Since mid-century crime fiction and films often touch upon the original nuclear arms race and its enveloping Cold War, we occasionally take a moment to look at these tests, and to remind people that nuclear weapons are pointless and stupid. Have a good day.
We're both starving, and frankly, the way he's behaved he's given us absolutely no reason not to eat him.
During the mid-century period, high quality cover art was seen as the key to paperback sales, thus many types of books received makeovers. Aussie novelist Ronald McKie's The Survivors is an example. You'd assume it was fiction but it's actually the true story of the Battle of Sunda Strait, which occurred in Indonesia between the islands of Java and Sumatra during World War II and pitted two Aussie cruisers against a major Japanese naval force. During a battle in which the outgunned Aussie ships fared better than could have been reasonably expected, both were sunk. In the aftermath a group of stranded men battled innumerable hazards in an attempt to survive. The book sprang from the handwritten account of an Aussie sailor who spent four years in a Japanese POW camp. He was a friend of McKie's, and when the author read the dairy pages he immediately decided to write a full accounting of the battle. As far as we know nobody ate anyone, but raft rides get pretty rough. The Survivors came out in hardback in 1953, with this Popular Library paperback appearing in 1954.
Gemser makes a movie out of spare parts.
In Porno Esotic Love Indonesian sexploitation superstar Laura Gemser finds herself in another exotic locale—this time Hong Kong—where she engages in another series of softcore romps with hirsute westerners. She made something like twenty-six movies along these lines, which is why the makers of this one couldn't resist taking shortcuts. They cobbled together a good chunk of the footage from Gemser's previous outings and shoehorned them into a new narrative about a woman seeking revenge for the heroin overdose of her sister. The cynical usage of previously shot footage makes this one of director Joe D'Amato's worst efforts, but also one of his most profitable, we suspect. We can't possibly recommend the movie, but in order to compensate for the aching sense of loss you probably feel, there's a promo shot of Gemser below kicking back on a large rock, or perhaps the world's smallest deserted island, depending on how you want to look at it. Porno Esotic Love premiered in Italy today in 1980.
Once you go Black Emanuelle you never go back.
Javanese beauty Laura Gemser isn't black in the ethnic sense, but you know that going into Black Emanuelle, first of the Italian-made sexploitation series that borrowed the French Emmanuelle concept and took it to places its originators could never have imagined. Gemser could actually be half black or mostly black, going by skin tone alone, but in a way her being South Asian in real life becomes the whole point, as it makes all her love scenes titillatingly interracial, whether she's getting it on with Africans or white foreigners. This is the tamest of the series—before poor Emanuelle was beset by voodoo priests, cannibals, and worse. In addition to the honeyed Gemser in the starring role you get a scoop of vanilla Schubert on top—German actress Karin Schubert. We aren’t going to bother to tell you about the plot of this one—it follows the form of other movies about westerners who get freaky in the African bush and eventually leave with profound insights and fond memories (cue shot of dreamy eyed actress gazing out airplane window as dark, mysterious Africa recedes below). In addition to the Japanese poster above we were able to locate quite a few promo images, including two of Gemser and Schubert doing field tests of Newton’s laws of physical motion. See below. Black Emanuelle opened in Japan today in 1976.
Rare jewels look best unadorned.
We featured Indonesian actress Laura Gemser as a femme fatale not long ago, and shared some eye-opening stills from one of her softcore romps even more recently—but then we came across this frontal 1973 shot from the Dutch magazine Chick. So we brought her back. That is all.
Whisper dishes dirt from Sukarno to Lollobrigida.
Whisper features a political figure on this cover from March 1964, namely Indonesian ruler Kusno Sosrodihardjo, later known as Sukarno, who we’re told was offered twenty prostitutes while visiting his country’s embassy in Copenhagen in 1961. In fact, the magazine goes on to claim that the embassy housed a brothel. Though it sounds like a typical tabloid tall tale, it’s actually true. Time magazine had written about it in its October 1963 issue, stating: A diplomat may be only a cookie pusher, but the kind of cookies pushed by Indonesia’s charge d’affaires in Copenhagen tumbled, not crumbled. Last week Danish police announced that Gustin Santawirja not only ran his country’s embassy, [snip] but was also a procurer on the side. Santawirja got into the tart tradein 1961 when Indonesia's President Sukarno showed up in Copenhagen on an unofficial visit. Amiably, he rounded up some girls for the visiting entourage. So successful was the venture that he decided to supplement his entertainment allowance by running a fulltime poule hall. “Poule” is French for “hen,” by the way, and Whisper was correct, but it was also late to the party. We give no credit for publishing what was already widely known.
The magazine moves on to the subject of sexual shenanigans at Harvard University, Carol Lynley’s divorce, Sonny Liston’s world, Roland Gilbert’s bed hopping, and George Bernard Shaw’s love child. The latter is a curious story, since Shaw had died in 1950. But the woman in question, whose name was Patricia Joudry, claimed to have conceived spiritually. In addition to Shaw apparently transmitting his seed from the netherworld, Joudry claimed he transmitted a treasure trove of written material to her, explaining, “There are eighteen full length stage plays, a dozen TV plays, two full length novels and essays. At first George and I worked out an alphabet so we could speak, but now I am a clairvoyant and clairaudient. Now I can see him and hear him.” We actually believe this story because our entire website is transmitted to us by Rodney Dangerfield.
Lastly, Whisper offers up an exposé of Gina Lollobrigida’s complicated personal life. For years she had been protesting that she was not a sex symbol (as if she’s the one who actually gets to decide that), but rather a nice girl. She tells an interesting story from her early career about Howard Hughes’ efforts to romance her, which were fruitless but led to her being stuck in a hotel “for six weeks like a prisoner.” In the end,
she fled back to Italy and, because Hughes owned her American contract, she was unable to make movies in the U.S. She became an international star just the same, acting exclusively in Europe, but having attained celebrity claimed it was difficult for her. She complained: “When I am with people I am constantly watched, and I can’t get used to this sort of thing—that they look at me as a chimpanzee in a zoo.” Sounds bad, but she eventually learned to enjoy it. In 2000 she commented to Parade magazine, “I’ve had many lovers and still have romances. I am very spoiled.” So it seems even the worst parts of celebrities’ lives aren’t really all that bad. Assorted scans below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Downtown Athletic Club Awards First Trophy
The Downtown Athletic Club in New York City awards its first trophy for athletic achievement to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger. The prize is later renamed the Heisman Trophy, and becomes the most prestigious award in college athletics.
1968—Japan's Biggest Heist Occurs
300 million yen is stolen from four employees of the Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank in Tokyo when a man dressed as a police officer blocks traffic due to a bomb threat, makes them exit their bank car while he checks it for a bomb, and then drives away in it. Under Japanese statute of limitations laws, the thief could come forward today with no repercussions, but nobody has ever taken credit for the crime.
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
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