James Bond heats up the Cold War in Istanbul.
We take it on faith that everyone has seen all the old James Bond films, and that most people love them. But we haven't actually sat down and watched some of them in twenty years. So when we saw all these Japanese posters for 007ロシアより愛をこめて, also known as 007/危機一発, but much better known as From Russia with Love, we said why not take a fresh look at it like we'd never seen it before. Plus, you know, lockdown. Bond seemed like just the sort of reliable adventure we needed to spice up the idle hours. The film definitely proves that when it comes to action movies budget is almost everything, and a decent script helps. Call it Q=BS2. Budget and script squared equals quality. From Russia with Love scores well there.
We had forgotten how fun Pedro Armendáriz is as Ali Kerim Bey, Bond's counterpart in Istanbul, which is where much of the film is set. Interesting factoid about Armendáriz: he'd been diagnosed with cancer and was already fatally ill when he made the movie. After filming he shot himself to skip the suffering that was on tap and never got to see the finished product. Another bit of trivia is that Eunice Gayson, who was reprising her role as Sylvia Trench from the earlier Dr. No., was supposed to appear in six films, serving as Bond's recurring love interest and the central figure in a running gag. In short, every time Bond would try to get hot and heavy with her, headquarters would interrupt and call him away, leaving the loyal Gayson serially unfulfilled.
We love that idea, but studio heads changed their minds, possibly because they wanted to make Bond a little sluttier than originally written. Don't quote us on that, but it was the ’60s, after all. Make love not war. Of course, in the end, Bond makes both. In any case, if you have time to kill, From Russia with Love might just do the trick. It's exotic, reliable, and familiar, but since you probably haven't seen it for years it will also be fresh enough to keep you interested. Also, Robert Shaw as the secondary villain doesn't hurt, nor does Daniela Bianchi as the primary female character, and Lotte Lenya as a Russian assassin with a dagger that extends from the toe of her pump is a hoot. Talk about the cruel shoes. From Russia with Love premiered in England in 1963, and reached Japan today in 1964.
Schell, Mercouri, and Ustinov plan a field trip to the local museum.
This French promo poster was made for the big screen Technicolor thriller Topkapi, which was based on a novel by Eric Ambler, who was such a popular author that the book was optioned before it even hit bookstores. The sedateness of the poster, which was painted by Yves Thos and René Ferracci, belies how outlandish the movie is at points. It starred Greek actress Melina Mercouri, British actor Peter Ustinov, and Austrian actor Maximilian Schell, with American Jules Dassin in the director's chair, filming mainly in Istanbul and using the location to voyeuristic effect as he documents exotic aspects of Turkish life. Inside all the window dressing is a heist flick about a group intent on stealing a priceless jewel encrusted dagger from the Topkapi Palace Museum. Aspects of this will look familiar to fans of the Mission: Impossible films, but Dassin adds extravagances such as direct-to-audience narration by Mercouri, a touch of Hitchcockian vertigo, and some overly broad comedic digressions that make the final result thrilling and bizarre in equal parts. While we had issues with the movie, who are we to argue with the top critics of the day? They mostly liked it and audiences did too. Topkapi had its world premiere in France today in 1965.
A stranger in strange lands comes to know pure evil.
Because Eric Ambler's 1939 thriller The Mask of Dimitrios is the source of the 1944 film noir of the same name starring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, we should have read it long ago, but better late than never. The book tells the story of a writer in Istanbul who becomes interested in a killer, smuggler, slaver, and political agitator known as Dimitrios Makropoulos. In hopes of finding inspiration the writer begins to piece together the life of this mystery man.
The investigation carries him from Istanbul to Sofia to Geneva and beyond. That sounds exotic, but the story is almost entirely driven by external and internal dialogues, with little effort spent bringing alive its far flung locales. While we see that as a missed opportunity, and the book could be shorter considering so much of the aforementioned dialogue fails to further illuminate matters, it's fascinating how Dimitrios is slowly pieced together. Here's a line to remember, as the main character Latimer reflects upon the modern age and what the world is becoming:
“The logic of Michelangelo's David and Beethoven's quartets and Einstein's physics had been replaced by that of The Stock Exchange Yearbook and Hitler's Mein Kampf.”
That isn't one you'd soon forget. Ambler sees casino capitalism and Nazism as twin signposts on a road to perdition built by people like Dimitrios. We can't even imagine that being written by a popular author today without controversy, but Ambler, writing in England during the late 1930s, had zero trouble identifying exactly what he was looking at. This Great Pan edition of The Mask of Dimitrios appeared many years later in 1961, and it has unusual but effective cover art from S. R. Boldero.
Cheapie tabloid offers priceless advice to American males.
Remember when Midnight explained that virgins make lousy wives? Not to be outdone, this issue of Rampage published yesterday in 1971 reveals what type of women make the best wives. Can you guess? Give up? The answer is—wait for it—prostitutes. The magazine’s reasons are many, but the one we agree with unreservedly is this: “They’ve already seen the worst men have to offer.” Elsewhere, the editors tout a cure for inverted nipples, reveal “lezzies slurping over female bodies,” and tell the tale of a woman talked into smuggling heroin in her vagina from Istanbul to New York City. Because this is a tabloid, after all, there’s an actual heroin stuffed dildo involved that the amateur smuggler secrets inside her lady parts for two days of air travel. Quote: “I felt full down there, like I was being perpetually screwed by a guy with a really big dick. It was a funny feeling, but sexy. I may have had an orgasm on the plane.” Everybody who thinks that was written by a dude raise your hands. Yep, we’re unanimously agreed. We also get America’s most popular seer the (not so) Amazing Criswell (on loan from his regular gig at National Informer), who drops this nugget: “I predict a lawsuit will reveal that one of our top glamour girls has a wooden hand!” Rampage is a gift that keeps on giving and we have about ten more issues we’re going to share. We know you can hardly wait. Scans below.
During the 1950s Nejla Ates was the multi-media queen of exotic dance.
We mentioned Romanian-Tatar dancer Nejla Ates yesterday, and commented on her appearances on numerous bellydancing album sleeves. Well, above are five of those with Ates as the model. At the height of her fame, she danced in some of the most famous clubs in the U.S., and at one point, to promote her role in the 1954 Broadway production Fanny, producer David Merrick commissioned a nude statue of her and had it clandestinely installed in New York City’s Central Park. The statue didn’t last long, but the publicity helped Fanny run for 888 performances. Ates eventually returned to Istanbul, where she died of cancer in either 2005 (if you believe most sources) or 1995 (if you believe her husband’s detailed account). Below are three shots of her in her prime performing at the NYC nightclub Latin Quarter in 1953. If you want to see her in actual motion, her short dance from 1955’s Son of Sinbad is here, and there’s more of her in yesterday’s post.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1931—Schmeling Retains Heavyweight Title
German boxer Max Schmeling TKOs his U.S. opponent Young Stribling in the fifteenth round to retain the world heavyweight boxing title he had won in 1930. Schmeling eventually tallies fifty-six wins, forty by knockout, along with ten losses and four draws before retiring in 1948.
1969—Stones Guitarist Is Found Dead
Brian Jones, a founding member of British rock group Rolling Stones, is found at the bottom of his swimming pool at Crotchford Farm, East Sussex, England. The official cause of his death is recorded as misadventure from ingesting various drugs.
1937—Amelia Earhart Disappears
Amelia Earhart fails to arrive at Howland Island during her around the world flight, prompting a search for her and navigator Fred Noonan in the South Pacific Ocean. No wreckage and no bodies are ever found.
1964—Civil Rights Bill Becomes Law
U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Bill into law, which makes the exclusion of African-Americans from elections, schools, unions, restaurants, hotels, bars, cinemas and other public institutions and facilities illegal. A side effect of the Bill is the immediate reversal of American political allegiance, as most southern voters abandon the Democratic Party for the Republican Party.
1997—Jimmy Stewart Dies
Beloved actor Jimmy Stewart, who starred in such films as Rear Window and Vertigo, dies at age eighty-nine at his home in Beverly Hills, California of a blood clot in his lung.
1941—NBC Airs First Official TV Commercial
NBC broadcasts the first TV commercial to be sanctioned by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC began licensing commercial television stations in May 1941, granting the first license to NBC. During a Dodgers-Phillies game broadcast July 1, NBC ran its first commercial, from Bulova, who paid $9 to advertise its watches.
1963—Kim Philby Named as Spy
The British Government admits that former high-ranking intelligence diplomat Kim Philby had worked as a Soviet agent. Philby was a member of the spy ring now known as the Cambridge Five, along with Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross. Of the five, Philby is believed to have been most successful in providing classified information to the Soviet Union. He defected to Russia, was feted as a hero and even given his commemorative stamp, before dying in 1988 at the age of seventy-six.
1997—Robert Mitchum Dies
American actor Robert Mitchum dies in his home in Santa Barbara, California. He had starred in films such as Out of the Past, Blood on the Moon
, and Night of the Hunter
, was called "the soul of film noir," and had a reputation for coolness
that would go unmatched until Frank Sinatra arrived on the scene.
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