Please don't die. I promise from now on instead of going hiking we can sit on the sofa and watch sports.
With winter slipping into spring we thought we'd share the above cover of someone who possibly slipped into the great beyond. The 1951 novel Le forces de l'amour was written for Éditions Mondiales Del Duca's popular Collection Nous Deux by Italian author Lucienne Peverelly, who also published as Luciana Perverelli and Greta Granor. We said a while back we thought she might be Lucienne Royer too, but we found no evidence to confirm that. Peverelly was a prolific writer who churned out more than 300 novels, always of the romantic and adventure type. She also served as editor-in-chief of the Italian weekly Il Monello starting in 1933, wrote for many women's magazines, daily newspapers like Il Tempo, and movie periodicals like Stelle. Del Duca didn't credit this cover, so it goes in the unknown artist bin.
Wake-up calls at the Hiltons' are murder.
We were drawn to Il sesso della strega, aka Sex of the Witch, because of its excellent posters painted by Lamberto Forni, an artist whose work you've seen here before. But as often happens, the movie didn't live up to the promo imagery. The strange tale begins with Sir Thomas Hilton, a wealthy wine grower, who dies of old age. His family gets a surprise when the will is read: all those closest to Hilton, including his secretary, benefit from the profits of his holdings, but nothing can be broken up or sold, his sister gets nothing, some heirs don't benefit immediately, and if anyone dies their share is distributed among the others. Basically, the will is a blueprint for the Hiltons to start murdering each other. When that happens, the spurned sister is suspected of being a witch. But is she?
None of it matters. The movie is an merely excuse for a lot of overlong softcore sex scenes of the worst kind. You know the ones we mean—interminable slow wriggling devoid of even a hint of erotic heat. You have to really drop the ball to make naked people boring—especially naked Italian women from the ’70s, with their enormous bushes*—but director Angelo Pannacciò, aka Elo Pannacciò, accomplishes that here, in his debut. It's impossible to care about the movie's central mystery, and despite Pannacciò somewhat giallo visual stylings there's just nothing to get enthusiastic about. Except those posters. Nice work, Forni. Il sesso della strega premiered in Italy today in 1974.
*We love enormous Italian bushes, both tactilely and visually. This one is large, but not stupendous. You know when a bush is really big? When the moment it's revealed you think there's suddenly been a citywide blackout.
I don't care if his schedule is packed today. I found him and I'm keeping him.
This nice image shows U.S. actor Woody Strode and Italian actress Vittoria Solinas posing together at the Lido in Venice, Italy, in 1967, probably during the Venice Film Festival. Solinas acted in only five films, but was a popular magazine model, and later became a singer and author. Strode is somewhat forgotten today, but was a prolific actor who appeared in more than sixty films, most in small roles, though many were noticeable, such as when he played the gladiator Draba who fought Kirk Douglas in Spartacus. Strode's calling card—as if you couldn't guess—was a body he'd honed as a college athlete and professional wrestler. Think of him as the original Rock, with the main difference being that his neck was smaller than his head. Other movies of his include Genghis Khan, Black Jesus, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, and Colpo en canna, aka Loaded Guns. We hope he and Solinas had a lovely afternoon.
Four thousand nine hundred... four thousand nine hundred fifty... Hmm... Make it an even five thousand, then maybe.
Above: A paticualrly nice Franco Picchioni cover for Per piacere, non toccate le signore!, written by Mark Wheeler for Edizioni MA-GA and published in 1965 as part of its Il Cerchio Rosso collection. The title means, “please don't touch the ladies.” You can get more peeks at Picchioni by clicking his keywords below.
A city with no exit.
Milano Calibro 9, for which you see a promo poster painted by Renato Casaro, is a fun entry in the ranks of Italian crime cinema. Derived from a book of twenty-two short stories by Giorgio Scerbanenco, the plot follows a career thief played by a deadpan Gastone Moschin who's suspected by a crime kingpin of stealing $300,000 of his money. When Moschin is released from prison he's dogged by the kingpin and the local cops, who both want him to produce the cash. But he says he doesn't have it. The fact that the money is missing is what's keeping him alive for the moment, but if he doesn't come up with it the kingpin will kill him.
This trapped ex-con scenario runs along classic lines familiar to fans of vintage noirs, which works to the movie's benefit and disadvantage simultaneously. On the negative side, the plot offers little new in the gangster genre, and contemporary reviews pointed that out, but on the positive the movie has gritty Milan exteriors (shot when air pollution was still a major problem throughout the industrialized West), a cold-as-ice mood, a set of great character actors as various brutal criminals, and the presence of Barbara Bouchet as the world's least rhythmic but most beautiful go-go dancer.
What really sets Milano Calibro 9 apart, though, is its political undertones. The police investigation is hampered by a bitter division between classic rightwing commissioner Frank Wolff and far left head inspector Luigi Pistilli. Their ideological conflict and its implicaition of widespread class struggle in Italy gives the movie's fight over loose money a significance that still resonates today. In our era characterized by (among other serious problems) a yawning financial inequality gap, Milano Calibro 9 is a reminder that cinematic thrillers weren't always politically mindless. We recommend it. It premiered in Italy today in 1972.
The artist is actually the one who's out of this world.
Above is the Italian poster for the sci-fi/horror movie La cosa da un altro mondo, which opened in Italy today in 1952 but originally premiered in the U.S. in 1951 as The Thing from Another World. We talked about it several years ago while sharing its Belgian promo. Today's effort is the work of Italian illustrator Sandro Symeoni, a genius who painted in so many modes he can be unrecognizable from piece to piece. See some of his best work here, here, and here.
There's something very fishy going on.
This promo poster just screams winner, don't you think? If it isn't a good movie, it's got to be deliciously terrible. It was made for L'isola degli uomini pesce, known in English as The Island of the Fishmen, a movie that starred Richard Johnson, Barbara Bach, and Claudio Cassinelli. No surprise what it's about, thanks to the title, but nothing is spoiled—the fishmen show up within the first few minutes of the film when a group of convicts in a lifeboat are attacked and the five survivors end up stranded on a swampy island. Since the fishmen hunt there, the attrition rate on this parcel of land is a bitch. Two cons are killed almost immediately upon arrival, and a third barely survives a pit trap. They soon learn humans live there too—paranoid misanthrope Richard Johnson, his companion Barbara Bach, their servant Beryl Cunninghman, and others, all residing in and around a baroque slave plantation house.
Johnson, who is a quack scientist, is trying to train the fishmen for what shall here remain undisclosed purposes. It involves going deep underwater where humans can't survive—but strangely, not so deep that Johnson can't simply drop down in his unpressurized wooden submersible and watch them at work. It's all a crock, even for bad sci-fi. But there are three points of note with the film: first, you can actually see that some budget went into creating the fishmen; second, Johnson speaking in a constipated Dick Dastardly voice is flat hilarious; and third, Barbara Bach is Barbara Bach. Or maybe we should have listed her first. The producers at Dania Film, perhaps realizing Fishmen was a total woofer, rode Bach hard, putting out a bunch of skinful promotional photos and getting her a Fishmen-themed nude shoot in Ciné-Revue. There's always a silver lining in 1970s exploitation cinema—and on Pulp Intl. L'isola degli uomini pesce premiered in Italy today in 1979.
Trouble comes with two guns blazing.
We'll assume we don't have to define the vernacular term “G” as used in our header, and will merely point out that this is a very nice Italian promo poster for the 1972 blaxploitation movie Trouble Man. In Italy it was titled Detective G., and in Italian the G stands for something non-vernacular—guai: “trouble." There's no release date for Italy, but the movie—which is well worth seeing—probably played there sometime in 1973.
Hold the balloon in your teeth and don't move. I've gone through too many partners this year to lose another one.
Italian superstar Sophia Loren looks her most beautiful in this promo image made for the 1962 anthology film Boccaccio '70, in which she starred in the Vittorio De Sica-directed segment, “La riffa,” about the owner of a sharpshooting concession at a carnival who consents to be the prize in a lottery. Most agree that of the four segments Loren's was the best, which we're sure comes as no surprise. She's a unique talent. See a few more fun images of her here, here, and here.
Expectation and reality don't meet in Rat Pack classic.
This is a tasty poster for Colpo grosso, and at first glance you'd expect the movie to be a dark thriller, giallo, or film noir. But then you notice the cast list at top—Martin, Sinatra, Davis, Jr.—and it probably dawns on you that this must be Ocean's Eleven. The poster was painted by Averado Ciriello and we have no idea why he went so dark with what is basically a comedy, but it's great work. Actually, it's better than the movie. For Sinatra-philes, Rat Pack lovers, or people who haven't yet seen Ocean's Eleven, that statement may seem sacriligious, so we won't try to back it up with our words—we'll just note that reviews of the day called it lazy and too long, and currently it has less than a 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Basically, despite being a cultural touchstone of a film, it isn't that good, with its main problem being that it's plain boring in parts. However...
The movie has tremendous value. A lot of contemporaneous reviews hated it because of its insouciant attitude toward the heist. New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther said it was “nonchalant and flippant towards crime,” and also described it as amoral. “Young people,” he wrote, “are likely to find this more appropriate and bewitching than do their elders. The latter are likely to feel less gleeful in the presence of heroes who rob and steal.” So it's clear that Ocean's Eleven flagrantly defied the strictures of the Hays Code censorship regime, which was weakening but still intact. The Code stated that in no film should the sympathy of the audience be “thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil, or sin,” yet audiences loved Sinatra and his party bros, and their laissez faire attitude was a needed course correction after decades of creative suppression. It's a shame then, that Ocean's Eleven isn't just a bit better. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.
1910—First Seaplane Takes Flight
Frenchman Henri Fabre, who had studied airplane and propeller designs and had also patented a system of flotation devices, accomplishes the first take-off from water at Martinque, France, in a plane he called Le Canard, or "the duck."
1953—Jim Thorpe Dies
American athlete Jim Thorpe, who was one of the most prolific sportsmen ever and won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football at the collegiate and professional levels, and also played professional baseball and basketball, dies of a heart attack.
1958—Khrushchev Becomes Premier
Nikita Khrushchev becomes premier of the Soviet Union. During his time in power he is responsible for the partial de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union, and presides over the rise of the early Soviet space program, but his many policy failures lead to him being deposed in October 1964. After his removal he is pensioned off and lives quietly the rest of his life, eventually dying of heart disease in 1971.
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