1957 crime farce offers Slim pickings—at least until Dominique Wilms comes along.
We were busy little beavers last night. We watched a second vintage drama. At least, we thought it was a drama. Above you see an Italian poster for Slim Callaghan... il duro, which was originally made in France as Et par ici la sortie. It had no English title since it never had an English language release, but it was adapted from a novel by British author Peter Cheyney, who made a career of imitating American hard boiled detective novels. As many reviews of his fiction note, the vernacular was tricky for a guy who'd spent little if any time Stateside, making for some clunky prose at times.
When you watch Et par ici la sortie, it's clear that French filmmaker Willy Rozier picked up on the quirkiness of Cheyney's writing and decided to inject heavy doses of comedy into his film version. Thus in addition to gunplay there's a cream pie fight, a slapfest of attrition between Dany Dauberson and Pascale Roberts, a comedic brawl on a passenger airliner that almost results in a crash, and another brawl features that hoary vaudeville classic—seltzer water sprayed in the face. Much of this is hilarious, though not in the way Rozier and Co. intended—you'll laugh out of amazement.
The plot involves a Scotland Yard detective who is the virtual double of a criminal arms dealer, and decides he can infiltrate and bust the arms gang by relying upon this resemblance. But the arms dealer likewise realizes the resemblance and embarks on his own scheme to take advantage. Sounds positively scintillating, doesn't it? Erm... maybe not. But the movie isn't a total loss. Dominique Wilms gets a co-starring role here as the femme fatale Myrna de Maripasula. Think she isn't reason enough to watch? Think again. Et par ici la sortie premiered in France today in 1957.
In giallo it's not the final destination that matters. It's the endless journey in circles.
Spasmo is what you used to call your little brother, but amazingly it's also the name of an Italian giallo flick, and like other giallos, this one comes with sly looks, loaded dialogue, appearing mannequins, disappearing bodies, creepy bit players, coincidences that aren't really coincidences, and baffling extraneous events. The plot here here is set into motion when Robert Hoffman shoots an intruder. The body disappears and he spends the rest of the film trying to figure out what happened. Which is impossible, of course, because in giallo the plots are often nonsensical and the characters behave irrationally in ways both minor and major. At one point co-star Suzy Kendall, who needed a long soak in a tub after this torturous journey, says, “I don't understand. I don't understand anything!” And that neatly sums up the film. But giallos (or gialli for you purists) aren't usually meant to be understood. They're puzzles with no solutions. Extremely self-conscious and stylish mindfucks. Some are better than others, but for us, everything about this one falls short except the three excellent, creepy promo posters you see above. Spasmo premiered in Italy today in 1974 I am a normal... and well adjusted... adult female... human being. Hide? Heh-heh. What makes you think I have anything to hide? I just pop up and scare the shit out of people when they least expect it. I'm really good at it, too. I'm like the Hendrix of that. Giuseppe said my plaid leisure suit was ugly and now he must die.
Usually they're pretty bold but these are impossible to find.
It's rare for us to be unable to find a U.S. or European movie, but it happens. We didn't let it stop us from sharing this amazing poster, though, which was made for the French thriller La loups chassent la nuits, known in English as Wolves Hunt at Night. It's a spy flick set in Trieste and Venice, and stars Jean-Pierre Aumont and Italian actress Carla del Poggio. The poster was designed by Léo Houper using a photo of del Poggio as its central element. We'll keep looking for this film and maybe one day we'll get lucky. It premiered in France today in 1952.
5,000 volts, amps, ohms—whatever. The point is I'm gonna blow your mind.
Volts, joules, watts, kilowatts, jigawatts—we get units of energy mixed up. But this cover is electric however you measure it. William (undoubtedly a pseudonym) Bentley's 1964 thriller Amore a 5000 volts is another example of Edizioni MA-GA's Il Cerchio Rosso series, which has produced consistently excellent cover art. This one is uinsigned, but probably by Franco Picchioni. Click the keywords below and you'll see what we mean.
Edit: the art is confirmed by Picchioni, plus we found the original.
Hepburn has to overcome blindness, bad guys, and the script.
Above are three beautiful posters for the suspense film Gli occhi della notte, which is better known as the Audrey Hepburn classic Wait Until Dark. You've doubtless heard of it. Hepburn plays a blind woman terrorized by a sociopath. The film also starred Richard Crenna and Alan Arkin, and was directed by Terence Young, who had previously helmed the James Bond movies Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball, so there's plenty of star power here, in front of and behind the camera.
And as often happens when a movie supposedly can't miss, this one goes wide of the mark. The main problem is recurring plot unbelievability, perhaps best exemplified by the fact that Hepburn, who lives in a building where there are other apartments, and has an ally who lives in one of those flats, doesn't simply hole up at the neighbor's when the crazy man targets her. She can get there without being seen, but she doesn't take the easy escape available to her.
In real life people don't always see the best solution to a problem, but in a movie, if the filmmakers want the audience to be fully invested, the heroine or hero should make smart choices, which ratchets up the fear when those choices still fail. We wrote an essay touching on that theme a while back. Hepburn's lack of survival instinct is a pretty big issue, but okay, she's great in the film, of course, and if you really immerse yourself it will still scare you once or twice. Just don't let anyone tell you it's perfect. After opening in the U.S. in 1967 Wait Until Dark premiered in Italy today in 1968.
The hat doesn't match the swimsuit, but it'll come in handy if she needs to be spotted by air rescue.
You saw a photo of Italian beauty Nuccia Cardinali not long ago, but when you make shots as nice as hers a return engagement is mandatory. The last one showed her lighting up the French Riviera as a blonde, while this brunette image shows her— Well, we have no idea where she is, and maybe she doesn't either. The shot was only published, as far as we know, as part of a series of cheesecake postcards in the mid-1960s. Cardinali thrived in unusual media. She began her career in photo novels, which were a mainly European phenomenon, and basically were comic books with posed photos instead of illustrations. She karate chopped and headlocked her way through sixty-nine of those, then graduated to singing and released several singles in 1968. She had already acted sporadically beginning in 1964, and had a steady run on the silver screen from 1971 to 1975, when she had eight credited roles, including in 1974's Lo strano ricatto di una ragazza perbene, aka Blackmail, and 1975's La tigre venuta dal fiume Kwai, aka Tiger from the River Kwai. We have a few other interesting photos of her, so maybe we'll get back to her in a bit.
A rag is a gown, 'til a man comes around.
Above is an Italian poster for Il vestito strappato, better known as The Tattered Dress, starring Jeff Chandler, Jack Carson, Jeanne Crain, Gail Russell, and the lovely Elaine Stewart. The art, depicting an evening gown reduced to a useless rag by a disembodied male hand, is actually accurate in terms of the film's visuals. We mean a dress is ripped and you don't get a good look at who's attached to the hand. We talked about it a while back. Shorter review: disorder in the court.
Next stop—FBI headquarters, Rome.
Above, a striking cover from Italian publisher Edizioni MA-GA for Wallace MacKentzy's, aka Mario Raffi's, Alla prossima fermata, or “at the next stop,” published in 1965 as part of MA-GA's Federal Bureau of Investigation Stories. The art is uncredited, but was certainly worth sharing. See another nice MA-GA FBI cover here, and another MacKentzy here.
The view from the below is plenty thrilling in Gemser sex comedy.
We're sure you can take a gander at the above poster for Malizia erotica and instantly come to the conclusion: Ahhh yes, good ole European sex comedies. The movie was originally made in Spain but released as El periscopio in Italy today in 1979. It stars lanky erotic icon Laura Gemser in a story that would surely ruffle feathers—if not spark litigation—were it to be made today. In short, a teenaged schoolboy played by Ángel Herraiz lives with his parents in an apartment beneath that of supersexed nurses Gemser and Bárbara Rey, and like any rational kid would, he uses a periscope to spy on them.
There are other plot threads here, but forget those. This peeping teen angle leads to an amazing scene: Herraiz gets so heated up by his voyeurism that he develops pains in the groin area. His parents know the upstairs pair are medical professionals and ask Gemser to diagnose the kid's problem. She discerns immediately that Herraiz has a debilitating case of blue balls and gives the kid some manual relief—in front of his parents! Ahhh yes, good ole European sex comedies. Sure, her nursely fap session happens out of direct view under the kid's blanket, but still.
It just goes to show that little is out of bounds in this genre. The older woman introducing a boy to sex has been the subject of scores of films, but what was once thought of as a lucky manchild's rite of passage is now considered sexual predation. We don't disagree, however we know two guys this has happened to and neither of them regret it. Real life is full of contradictions that way. In any case, what would have been nice is if this particular coming-of-age story were better written, acted, and filmed. But ahhh yes, good ole European sex comedies—they're nearly always inept. El periscopio does not reverse the trend.
Unlike a normal lottery nobody wants a ticket, and against all odds you're bound to get picked eventually.
We all know that in cinema no idea lies fallow for long. They're all reused until they've given everything of value, and plenty that isn't. Part of the fun of watching movies is seeing the lineage of ideas. La decima vittima, for which you see a nice Mario de Berardinis poster above, was known in English as The 10th Victim, and resides in the sub-genre of films about humans killing humans for sport and gain. Other movies in the group include 1932's The Most Dangerous Game, 1972's The Woman Hunt, 1975's Death Race 2000, 1987's The Running Man, 2013's The Purge, and others.
In La decima vittima's near future, violence between citizens has been made legal and placed under the auspices of the Ministero della Grande Caccio, aka the Ministry of the Big Hunt. Those who hunt are given the identities of their prey, along with their locations and personal habits. Anyone can be hunted, even those who previously were hunters. The hunted can kill their hunters in self defense, but if they make a mistake and kill the wrong person—easy to do when you're paranoid and an unknown person is stalking you—that's old fashioned murder and off to prison you go. The purpose of all this slaughter? As the film explains, “Why have birth control when you can have death control?”
Ursula Andress, whose looks kill anyway, plays an adept hunter given an opportunity by a big corporation to monetize her tenth (and by law her final) murder. Marcello Mastroianni plays a one percenter who's been computer selected as her prey, and whom Andress' corporate benefactors want to film her assassinating for a tea commercial. Andress has agreed to kill Mastroianni at the Temple of Venus in Rome. Getting him there won't be easy, but the classic honeytrap, with the sun-kissed Andress as the sticky goodness, is a sure bet to work. It'd work on us.
We said the movie is in the same lineage as The Most Dangerous Game, The Purge, et al. Nearly all those films are better than La decima vittima. There are several problems here, not least of which is emotional tone-deafness—the characters love and hate because the script requires it, but there's no spark, no believability. The movie is probably worth watching anyway because of its super sex symbol cast rounded out by Elsa Martinelli, plus its sleek, retrofuturistic ’60s fashions, but don't go in expecting a landmark sci-fi, a brutal social commentary, a cutting satire, or anything of the ilk. In the end, just like the real future, it's so-so. La decima vittima had its world premiere in Rome and Florence today in 1965.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong
, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
1912—First Parachute Jump Takes Place
Albert Berry jumps from a biplane traveling at 1,500 feet and lands by parachute at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The 36 foot diameter chute was contained in a metal canister attached to the underside of the plane, and when Berry dropped from the plane his weight pulled the canopy from the canister. Rather than being secured into the chute by a harness, Berry was seated on a trapeze bar. It's possible he was only the second man to accomplish a parachute landing, as there are some accounts of someone accomplishing the feat in California several months earlier.
1932—Lindbergh Baby Is Kidnapped
The twenty-month-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh, Charles Augustus Lindbergh III, is kidnapped from the family home in East Amwell, New Jersey. Over two months later the toddler's body is discovered in woods a short distance from the home. A medical examination determines that he had died of a massive skull fracture. A German carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann is arrested, tried, and convicted for the crime. He is sentenced to death and executed in April 1936.
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