There are no limits to what Diana Dors can convince men to do.
After all these years working on this website it remains a surprise when promotional posters of extremely high quality are uncredited, but such is the case with these two Italian beauties made for Nel tuo corpo l'inferno, a movie originally produced in England as Tread Softly, Stranger. The Italian title translates as “hell in the body,” which we rather like. It fits the plot, which revolves around George Baker avoiding a gambling debt by fleeing London to the small town where he was raised, only to find that his brother who lives there is also in debt, having stolen money from his employer. He's spent it on femme fatale Diana Dors, who's way out of his league, money-hungry, and willing to pit the brothers against each other if it improves her station in life.
Baker, being of sound mind and body, wants Dors badly. With just a little nudge, he and his brother are convinced by Dors to stage a heist. The phrase “corpus delecti” in legal terms means that a crime has to be proved to have actually occurred before anyone can be convicted of it, but in vintage cinema nobody has to prove anything because the scales of justice tend to be cosmic. As viewers, then, you know the brothers could be convicted by karma for just attempting the crime. They get the loot, but they certainly won't get to keep it—though how they lose it will come as a surprise. And if one of the brothers gets Dors, they probably won't get to keep her either. In mid-century crime movies thems the breaks. Tread Softly, Stranger premiered in Britain in 1958, and in Italy today in 1960.
Wherever she's headed you can be sure it's not good.
Well, we survived. We didn't mention it earlier, but our recent trip took us deep into the heart of covid. It was too late to back out because we had committed to something important, so away we went even as omicron began peaking and virus cases in general rose. While there, someone we spent an evening with messaged two days later that he was positive and feeling quite sick. We tested and came up negative. We wrote in early December about the virus killing one of PI-1's friends. Weeks later her entire close family caught it. Her elderly parents, her brother, her brother's four-year-old, her brother's girlfriend, and her two kids. All of them. All were physically ill. Even the four-year-old had symptoms, but everyone survived. Seven for seven, which is bucking the odds when two of the seven are over sixty-five.
For this reason, as well as the omicron spread, the virus was on our minds more than usual. We were lucky, but we can't celebrate, because we found out that someone we know went through true hell. We have this acquaintance, who we'll call Nikolai. Russian. Stereotypical. Big, broad, physically imposing, but a very nice, very jovial guy. He has a factory in Kazakhstan, lives here in Spain. His wife, who we'll call Yara, went to Kazakhstan, where covid is a particular problem. While Yara was there she had severe stomach pains, went to a doctor, and learned that she had a large, possibly cancerous mass growing right in her core. Kazakhstan, while having skilled doctors, doesn't have top notch facilities. The doctors told Yara they immediately needed to cut her stomach out. The whole thing.
Nikolai heard this and rushed to Kazakhstan to get Yara the hell out of there. Against doctors' wishes he shipped her back to Spain, where Spanish medicos told her they needed to take only a small part of her stomach. Not bad by comparison. Relief. But Nikolai stayed in Kazakhstan to deal with some factory business and immediately caught covid. He was on a ventilator after a week, and dead a week after that. Yara was scheduled for surgery and couldn't see her husband buried, though common sense prevented a return to covidy Kazakhstan anyway. Two kids lost their dad and Yara's situation remains dire. That's about as fast as things can go south.
The point of the story is simply to remind you that this virus ain't no joke. But moving along, above we have for you an Italian poster for the Diana Dors movie Passport to Shame, which we wrote about a little while ago. In Italy it was called Passaporto per l'inferno—“passport to hell.” Films that played there were scrutinized by authorities for themes considered offensive to Catholic values, and prostitution pretty much topped the list, so it's no surprise Dors received a punishment upgrade from mere shame to fiery hell. The movie is worth seeing, and you can read about it at this link. We have some amazing books, photos, and general pulp fun coming for you in 2022, but for the moment here's wishing for the most amazing thing of all—a world that works better than it did this last year.
Katayama finds herself with too much skin in the game.
Above you see two posters for the Japanese movie Tokugawa irezumi-shi: Seme jigoku, which is known in English as Inferno of Torture, and, occasionally, Hell's Tattooers. We aren't going to get too deeply into the film. It's where Japanese cinema delves into bondage and tattoo fetish layered with gore, and deals with two Edo-era master tattooists who play out a bitter rivalry on the skin of Yumiko Katayama, as well as other unfortunates. If you can tolerate the frontloaded blood and torture, the latter two thirds of the movie may be worth watching for the tattoos, which verge on magical rather than merely ornate. The set design and Teruo Ishii's direction are good too. The tateken sized promo at top is rare, if not even nonexistent online until this very moment, so we thought we'd share it. Tokugawa irezumi-shi: Seme jigoku premiered in Japan today in 1969. Below you see Katayama in a nice pose, untattooed.
Food and water may sustain a man, but it's revenge that really fills the belly.
In Inferno, a boorish millionaire played by Robert Ryan breaks his leg falling off a horse during a desert vacation and is left to die by his two-timing wife and her boy toy. While the lovers cover their tracks and try to confuse the police and search parties, Ryan has to figure out a way to escape the desert. We were surprised a movie like this was made back in 1953. There have been a lot of nature horror and survival thrillers in recent years and we had no idea the genre had roots so far back. The movie is solid, though we thought Robert Ryan's voiceover was often unneeded—maybe he should have had a volleyball to talk to like Tom Hanks in Castaway. But it's a minor issue. We gather that this had a 3-D release, which of course we didn't see, but it's obvious, especially during a truly tremendous fight scene where assorted and sundry items fly at the camera. But even watching in two dimensions you still get a nice piece of entertainment, shot in crisp Technicolor, well-paced and acted, as the desert provides assorted challenges and Ryan must come up with the needed answers or die. Inferno premiered in the U.S. today in 1953.
For some directors pushing the envelope comes naturally.
Picture the scene: It’s 1978 and sexploitation director Jesús Franco, who has redefined sleaze cinema for the masses with fifty movies, including several in the women-in-prison genre for the West German market, is chilling on his terrace in Malaga, Spain soaking up the sun. He’s chatting with his frequent collaborator, producer Erwin Dietrich, about the next project, which they’re calling Frauen für Zellenblock 9.
Jesús: "We can probably save money by using the old costumes from Frauen im Liebeslager. Same idea, right? Women all sweaty in some godforsaken prison."
Erwin: "We left those in Cyprus. Did I mention there’s a Frauen im Liebeslager theme restaurant where the old set used to be? I hear it’s real classy. Anyway, it would’ve cost too much to have that clothing shipped out here."
Jesús: "What about the things from Das Frauenhaus or Frauengefängnis? Where’s all that? And Frauen ohne Unschuld. That stuff too."
Erwin: "Warehouse fire. Suspicious circumstances. Insurance paid off, though. But shit, Jesús, why give the girls costumes at all? Just have them be naked the whole movie."
Jesús: "What? Are you nuts?"
Erwin: "I’m just saying—why bother? Audience wants skin, give them skin. Keep the girls chained up naked the whole time. And that escape scene of yours? Just have them do it naked."
Jesús: "They all get shot in the end. I can’t have them shot naked. That’s… I don’t know… eew."
Erwin: "They can be shot naked, trust me. We make it sexy. They get shot, lay them out like centerfolds."
Jesús: "Erwin, cut it out. I mean, I admit I’m intrigued by the idea artistically, but I don’t think the girls would go for it. It’s a little too crude."
Erwin: "Oh, and I suppose all the muff-diving scenes are Shakespeare? What are these girls—aspiring Catherine Denueves or something? Isn’t one of them a porn actress?"
Jesús: "Karine? Sure, but she’s hoping to go mainstream. Anyway, it’s the fucking jungle, Erwin. There are all kinds of thorns and sharp rocks out there. Spiders. Ticks. I can’t have them running around in all that with their great big bushes out. I mean…lice…you know? Although I am intrigued. Artistically, I mean."
Erwin: "Exactly. It’s art. Last Tango in Paris, right? Bertolucci has Brando shove butter up a girl’s poop chute and the critics go bananas."
Jesús: "That’s funny." *sigh* "But I’m no Bertolucci."
Erwin: "You’re right. You’re better. One day you’ll get a lifetime achievement award for all this filth, trust me. You’ll be remembered. The crazy risks you and the girls took will seem amazing to later generations."
Jesús: "You think so?"
Erwin: "I know so. In your own twisted way you’re a genius. So anyway—naked the whole movie, okay? Or at least the entire second half. Oh, and lots of sweat. And a shower orgy. And some torture. And some pee."
Giovanni Simonelli was a virtual one-man industry in Italian cinema.
It’s been too long, so today we’re back to the incomprable Benedetto Caroselli, with a cover he painted for L’incubo scarlatto, aka “The Scarlet Nightmare,” by Simon O’Neil for EPI’s I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell’Orrore, 1970. O’Neil would have been an Italian writer working under a pseudonym, and in this case it was Giovanni Simonelli, who wrote about seventy-five screenplays between 1958 and 1998. Some of those gems include L’uomo dalla pistola d’oro, released in English as Doc Hands of Steel, Dos pistolas gemelas, aka Sharp Shooting Twin Sisters, and Agente 3S3: Passaporto per l’inferno.
L’incubo scarlatto is set in London and involves a woman who thinks she might be a vampire because men around her keep turning up violently killed. Considering one was her potential rapist and another was a sadistic drug lord, they both deserved it, but she needs to know the truth and pairs up with a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of the mystery. Simonelli did more than write macabre books and scripts. He also directed, composed music, and even acted in two movies, appearing in 1966’s Kommissar X - Jagd auf Unbekannt, aka Kiss Kiss, Kill Kill, under the name Sim O’Neill. Quite a career. We wouldn’t be surprised to run across his work again. Meantime, you can see plenty more art from Benedetto Caroselli here.
It’s got tough spies, fast cars, big boats, dangerous women and great scenery. What could possibly go wrong?
It’s amazing how awful and ineffectual 1960s anti-drug movies were. Massimo Mida’s spy caper LSD—Una atomica nel cervello, aka LSD—Inferno per pochi dollari, aka LSD—Flesh of the Devil, falls into that category. It isn’t quite Reefer Madness silly, but it comes close, with an unintentionally hilarious opener featuring a child blowing up two men with a toy car, then using a blowgun to take down a third who runs so slowly he might as well have canoes for feet. That bit is followed later in the film by giggly, spastic, tearful acid trip sequences put together by someone who maybe listened to Surrealistic Pillow but never actually tried drugs. Mida created the moniker Mike Middleton for his directorial credit, and we have to wonder if he was afraid having his real name attached to the film would shame his family. What saves the movie is that it’s got a touch of that ineffable Italian style, numerous location set-ups along the Lake Como shoreline, and plenty of the beautiful Franca Polesello, who you see below. There are worse ways to spend ninety minutes, but this feature is mainly for Italophiles and those with Mystery Science Theater 3000 wit. Others may want to steer clear. At least the poster art, by Moroni (first), and Diovano (second) is great. LSD—Una atomica nel cervello premiered in Italy today in 1967.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
1976—Gerald Ford Rescinds Executive Order 9066
U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signs Proclamation 4417, which belatedly rescinds Executive Order 9066. That Order, signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established "War Relocation Camps" for Japanese-American citizens living in the U.S. Eventually, 120,000 are locked up without evidence, due process, or the possibility of appeal, for the duration of World War II.
1954—First Church of Scientology Established
The first Scientology church, based on the writings of science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, is established in Los Angeles, California. Since then, the city has become home to the largest concentration of Scientologists in the world, and its ranks include high-profile adherents such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
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