Aw, look. She's all puckered up and ready for a kiss.
Sure, we went there. Why not? We built our own wesbite so we can write any damn thing we want. Above you see another Europa Books foldout cover, Fritz Jantzen's 1963 sleazer Berlin Bed, which we found on Flickr, then brightened up a bit. The author obviously used a pseudonym, possibly for Charles Nuetzel, who is known to have used the name Jantzen. The art here is by Bill Edwards, identifiable anyway from the style, but doubly so thanks to the band-aid. If you want to see more Europa foldout covers, and learn a little about the company just click its keywords below and scroll.
There's no jealousy like a femme fatale's jealousy.
It's amazing how much easier James M. Cain makes writing seem than scores of other authors. His 1950 novel Jealous Woman starts at a gallop. Here's the first line: At the desk, when they said she was in 819, I knew hubby or pappy or somebody was doing all right by their Jane, because 19 is the deluxe tier at the Washoe-Truckee, one of our best hotels here in Reno, and you don’t get space there for buttons. And just like that we're off. Cain gives readers ambitious insurance man Ed Horner of General Pan-Pacific Insurance of California. Horner lives, works, and parties in Reno, where unhappy marrieds migrate to be freed from their nuptial bonds. He gets involved in a complex divorce/annulment scheme between Jane Delavan, her rich husband, Jane's ex-husband, and his current wife. Yes, it's a bit complicated, but a messy murder uncomplicates it a little. At least for readers. For Horner, things get weird. Jealous Woman isn't Cain's best, but it's still a slice of devious fun worth reading, and this Ace version with John Vernon cover art is the edition to buy if you can.
The name's Cooper. Brian Cooper. What—you were expecting some other secret agent?
The Italian spy thriller New York chiama Superdrago, which we had a chance to watch during our little break last week, was known in English as Secret Agent Super Dragon, and is another in a spate of hipster spy movies that came in the wake of James Bond's massive cinematic success. It premeired in Italy this month in 1966. Three of its promo posters were painted by the great Sandro Symeoni, and while the above example is also attributed to him on some websites, that's incorrect. It's really by Enrico de Seta. Or said to be by one long-running online poster vendor. We're not actually sure about that because the signature doesn't look like his, but who are we to argue with the experts?
In the film, Ray Danton plays a retired agent codenamed Super Dragon—civilian name Brian Cooper—who's roused from his yogic meditations and drawn back into the spy game when a friend dies in a suspicious auto accident that may be related to previous strange deaths. The clues lead from a U.S. college town to Amsterdam (because what kind of spy movie would it be without some globetrotting?), and into the lissome arms of fellow spies Margaret Lee and Marisa Mell (because what kind of spy movie would it be without hotties à la carte?). Between romances Danton learns that the plot revolves around the untraceable drug synchron-2. Purpose: unknown (but don't be shocked if it's to do with world domination).
Few of these Bond knock-offs are sufficiently budgeted or technically proficient enough to result in good final products. Whether you like them has to do with nebulous factors. In this case, we thought Danton's unctious self-entitlement and blasé approach to world saving were funny. We loved when one of his many assailants swallowed cyanide, Danton said, “I'd better get rid of him,” then dumped the corpse out the nearest window. Cue sound effect of splashing water. New York chiama Superdrago is a bit camp without being a satire, and just poorly written enough to provide a few laughs without being a total screenwriting train wreck. But don't pretend we said it's actually good.
1959 flood thriller proves that even during a natural disaster money, booze, and women are all that matter.
Ernest Jason Fredericks', aka Paul Ernst's 1959 novel Cry Flood!, for which see an Ace paperback edition above with nice art by George Ziel, is a thriller in the flood/hurricane sub-genre on which we've gotten hooked in recent years. We've read entires from John D. MacDonald, Theodore Pratt, Malcolm Douglas, and others. It seems as though the close quarters and ticking clock aspects built into disaster settings bring out the best in authors.
In Cry Flood! Fredericks sets the action in a New Jersey diner perched on high land as two hurricanes to the south and unseasonable rain in the region bring the nearby river to the record crest of a 1936 flood—then beyond. Converging on the diner are a bank-phobic miser carrying twenty-six thousand dollars, four married couples, and two criminals who catch wind of the money and intend to steal it. The problem is the flood waters rise too high for anyone to leave, which means the crooks must bide their time, prompting them to spend it terrorizing those with whom they're trapped.
In Fredericks' hands, the two bad men are synonymous with the flood, implacable and unavoidable, forcing the couples to face their fears and admit their failings before death sweeps them away. Or not—but only if they're brave and lucky. It was quite well done, and consistently enjoyable. For our money, the best of the flood/hurricane lot so far has been John and Ward Hawkins' A Girl, a River, and a Man, but Cry Flood! held its own in what has continued to be fertile pop fiction territory.
Mature and Dors pair up for a bloc buster thriller.
The 1957 Victor Mature/Diana Dors vehicle The Long Haul premiered in Italy today in 1958 as La strada è bloccata, which means “the road is blocked.” The art here is by Italian illustrator Anselmo Ballester. This is one of his better efforts, we think, with his Dors figure reflecting light from some off-canvas source, while a fire lights the background. You can see more from him here and here. As for the movie, we talked about it a while ago. You can read our thoughts here. And you can see a cool Japanese poster for the film here.
Everything out there wants to kill you—including the people.
We've shown you many magazines and books on the subject of headhunters (check here and here for our absolute favorites). Mid-century interest in the subject made its way to the silver screen more than once, in this case with Jivaro, which premiered today in 1954. The title references hunter-gatherer cultures centered in the northwestern Amazon rainforest across Ecuador and Peru who shrank human heads for ceremonial reasons. The movie was a 3-D production, a fact that becomes apparent as pottery, chairs, spears, and occasional flaming arrows fly toward the camera, and it was shot in Technicolor. For those reasons, we wouldn't call it a b-movie exactly, but it still could have used a boost in budget.
Fernando Lamas plays a rough and tumble trader who plies the Amazon River in a rat trap boat. This is a rough gig. People are mean as hell down there. Even the local priest knows martial arts. Lamas agrees to conduct hot redhead Rhonda Fleming to meet her fiancée, who has ventured far from the nearest trading post in search of gold. She's fresh from California and has no idea her man has turned into a drunk and is canoodling with a local girl played by Rita Moreno.
Fleming's fiancée goes incommunicado, and eventually Lamas decides to trek into the forbidden Valley of the Winds (cue wind machine and sound effects) in order to find him. There isn't much upside to this quest, but something has developed between Lamas and Fleming, and if they don't know whether her fiancée is dead or alive, he'll always stand between them. Or something like that. They head into the wilds, endure struggles that will look familiar to fans of Raiders of the Lost Ark, and in due time find answers to all their questions, if perfunctorily.
For us, the movie raised new ones, such as where was the screenwriter during all this? Lost in the jungle too, we guess. But we can't say Jivaro is bad. While shot entirely in Hollywood with second unit footage from South America added to fill in the margins, it's actually somewhat convincing in its setting. And Fleming is good, though with her red hair we can't believe the Jivaro we able to miss her with so many arrows. But that's film tradition for you—even today, using better weapons, villains still have terrible aim. If you aim to watch Jivaro, we recommend drinking some firewater to make it a more entertaining diversion, and keeping your expectations in reasonable territory.
I don't have my degree yet, so for now my recommendation for your sex addiction is to hire a good booking agent.
Above: Swap Psychiatrist, from 1968, with art by Robert Bonfils. The author, John Dexter, was credited with three-hundred and fifty books, according to the comprehensive website Greenleaf Classics Books. His name was used as a pseudonym by many, including Lawrence Block, Vivien Kern, Harry Whittington, and others. We have more than a few Dexter covers in the website, but our favorites are here and here.
I did it the same way you became a boy reporter, but with less respect and more talent.
How I Became a Girl Reporter was first published in 1951, and as the title and cover indicate, Hyman Goldberg's novel is a breezy little number about men and women who have various workplace encounters that presage romance. The book was well received, and while we were tempted to buy it to learn just how different the co-ed workplace was back then (as if we couldn't guess), venturing anywhere near the boundaries of comedy is a dodgy proposition when you're talking about this time period. Maybe we'll read it down the line. The cover art is by an unknown.
The lawless of the jungle.
The curious and certainly never-to-reappear style of movies referred today as women-in-prison, or WIP, is a subgenre of sexploitation cinema that came about for one reason: it used settings in which women were helpless. Well, in theory. The dramatic thrust of the plots always derived from attempts to retain dignity and to escape captivity. The protagonist was usually an odd woman out—an unjustly imprisoned victim or an undercover operative—surrounded by a mix of prisoners who were hopeless, cruel, sexually predatory, and complicit, plus the abusive guards, one of whom nearly always was a sadistic woman.
Hotel Paradis stars Anthony Steffen, Ajita Wilson, and the slinky Cristina Lay, sometimes referred to as Cristina Lai. There are numerous posters for it, but we like the above Danish effort featuring a fight to the death. Its text notes: This film is banned in many countries because of its strong scenes.... it's shown in Denmark in uncut version. Indeed. Interracial lesbian sex might be to blame for the banning. There are other possible reasons too. We won't waste our time trying to figure it out. As an aside, the movie was filmed concurrently with the WIP flick Femmine infernali using the same cast, director, and sets. So consider this a write-up of that movie too, since the pair are basically identical.
Plotwise, a group of women are being transported to a jungle hellhole prison where forced labor is used to dig for emeralds. When their guards are ambushed and killed by patriot soldiers seeking to steal the emeralds to fund a nebulous revolt, the women agree to continue posingas prisoners in order to aid the infiltration of the camp. Behind bars is one inmate—Wilson—who has the shining or something, and keeps telling the others that violence, death, and freedom are coming. Also coming are WIP staples such as the evil wardenness, languorous shower scenes, whippings, baroque tortures, and sexual assault. It all ends pro forma with a climactic shootout.
Obviously, you have to go into these types of movies with a sense of humor if you can. When Lay first meets Wilson in the camp, she says, “My name's Maria. I'm frightened.” Why, oh why, didn't Wilson respond, “I'm Ajita. I'm a virgo”? Too bad we didn't write the script. Lay then helps herself to Wilson's pipe—which Wilson just a bit earlier had used to masturbate. If she can obtain a pipe you'd think she could get a dildo, but whatever, in prison you have to find your pleasures where you can. And in women-in-prison movies the same holds true—we thought the scene was hilarious. It was merely one of many.
It should be noted that while Wilson is the female lead, and we've shared a couple of racy images of her and highlighted her importance as a trans trailblazer, Lay is the audience draw here. She's unusually beautiful, and director Edoardo Mulargia and the movie's producers know it quite well. She gets the most loving camera work, the wettest shower scene, a nice interlude with Wilson, and goes through the entire final shootout obviously naked beneath her tattered prison tunic and with the top of it hanging wide open. It's not quite Frauen für Zellenblock 9, in which Karine Gambier and company perform their long escape sequence completely starkers, but it's notable just the same. Hotel Paradis is obviously sexist and exploitative. As we've said before, in the same way blaxploitation movies usually show a racist power structure before the hero shatters it, sexploitation movies sometimes do the same with sexism. Sometimes. Not here. There are additional flaws. Compared to better WIP efforts it lacks the winking sense of humor, the empowerment undercurrent, and the sense of actors having fun while making something they know is ridiculous. There's a hardcore cut of this film with explicit scenes spliced in. It merely amplifies the aforementioned issues, so we suggest you avoid that version. But really, if you avoid Hotel Paradis entirely you'll probably be a better person for it. It premiered in Italy as Orinoco: Prigioniere del sesso in the autumn of 1980, and in Denmark today in 1983. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Flag Raised on Iwo Jima
Four days after landing on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, American soldiers of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division take Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag. A photograph of the moment shot by Joe Rosenthal becomes one of the most famous images of WWII, and wins him the Pulitzer Prize later that year.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
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