Vintage Pulp May 10 2021
WORTH A BUNDLE
Welch proves indispensable to yet another ’60s caper flick.


Above you see a promo poster for 大泥棒, or “Great Thief,” made for the 1968 Raquel Welch/Robert Wagner caper flick The Biggest Bundle of Them All. The U.S. poster was painted by master illustrator Robert McGinnis, but we decided to show you the Japanese art instead because it's rare. There are two more Japanese promos below that are also rare. We'll get to the McGinnis version later. In the film, Wagner and his henchmen kidnap an elderly Italian gangster played by Vittorio De Sica and hold him for ransom. Problem is he has no money. At first they don't believe him, but when it finally becomes clear he's broke, Wagner and Co. try to cut bait. But De Sica is terrified all Italy will find out he couldn't pay his own ransom. His reputation would be ruined. So he convinces his kidnappers to join him in a swindle that will maintain his reputation, make him rich again, and earn the kidnappers more money than they ever imagined. De Sica becomes the boss of his own abductors.

For a crime-comedy, it's an ingenious premise, which makes it a shame it wasn't original. Another movie with an almost identical plot called The Happening was in production at Columbia, and when the studio got wind of The Biggest Bundle of Them All it threatened to sue. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer agreed to give Columbia a cut of Bundle's profits and a legal bloodbath was avoided, but in the same way De Sica's big caper doesn't exactly play out perfectly, Bundle's profits didn't blow the roof off MGM headquarters as planned. And no wonder. It wasn't just the script that wasn't original—the film falls into the same category as continental crime capers like Charade, To Catch a Thief, and Topkapi, and those make for crowded and treacherous cinematic waters. Bundle isn't sophisticated enough, or exciting enough, or infused with enough sexual chemistry to compete with better films of its ilk.

Speaking of sexual chemistry, Welch is naturally the big attraction of any movie she's in, and we've seen enough of her work now to understand that she was more of a persona than an actress during this mid- to late-’60s period. In film after film she basically played herself. Here she smiles and quips and poses, and it's all very Welchian in that groovy way her fans had come to expect—bikinis, lingerie, go-go dancing and all. The movie would be worth far less without her. There are also supporting appearances by Edward G. Robinson and Femi Benussi, while future blaxploitation icon Godfrey Cambridge is one of the kidnappers, so there's plenty for stargazers to enjoy here, but we can't call the movie a success. If you have nothing to do some evening, it might give you a few smiles, but not a bundle of them. After premiering in the U.S. in 1968, The Biggest Bundle of Them All opened in Japan today in 1968.
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Vintage Pulp Apr 28 2021
UNCUT SPEED
It's ride or die on the streets of Kyoto.


Toei Company goes biker culture for Boso sekkusu-zoku, known in English as Hell Riders in Kyoto and Wild Sex Gang, which combines the typical Toei action film with aspects of American b-movies like Easy Rider and The Rebel Rousers. Takashi Shirai is a nihilistic and lawless twenty-something addicted to speed, and especially to motorcycles. When he's caught speeding by police his obsession goes into overdrive, and he decides to buy a 750cc bike that will enable him to outrun even the cops. Tsunehiko Watase is also obsessed with speed. He couldn't afford a bike to satiate his addiction, which is why he became a motorcycle cop. It allowed him to ride the 500cc bike he desired. Now Shirai is outrunning him. The rivalry between these two leads to one-upmanship that spills from the roadway and into other areas of their lives, but just when Shirai seems doomed the beautiful Miki Sugimoto arrives on the scene, and he starts to see that there's some value to life after all. But is it too late? Well, maybe.

Boso sekkusu-zoku is an interesting but not great entry from Toei that, like many crime movies from the ’70s, hinges on the presumption of redeemability. Shirai is lost, and is a danger to all those around him, but with luck and love he could become a good person. Needless to say, this is a retro concept today, in the age of non-forgiveness, and the belief that punishment must be decisive, vengeful, and usually permanent. For that reason it's interesting to watch the filmmakers here weigh Shirai's potential value. And it's also interesting to see how the cop Tsunehiko threatens to be corrupted by his hatred for Shirai. But these themes are not new, and exploring them as perfunctorily as Boso sekkusu-zoku does is a fatal flaw, in our view. More plot, more depth, more stuntwork, and more commitment across the board would have helped immensely. Still, though, it's worth a watch. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
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Vintage Pulp Apr 23 2021
BELLE DELL'INNOCENZA
She's not quite as innocent as she looks.


This Japanese poster was made for Annie Belle's 1976 erotic romp La fine dell'innocenza, and it makes us wonder: Do erotic stars even exist anymore? We don't mean porn stars. We mean stars of erotic films. Have the reactionaries made them extinct, even on late night cable? Well, if so that's terribly sad, because if one believes cinematic sex and nudity are automatically exploitative (or worse, that all nudity in media derives from coercion), in our opinion that person has led a tragic or sheltered life. Sometimes such movies are exploitative, of course, but oftentimes they're life affirming and fun. Just like regular films, there's a range. La fine dell'innocenza, which was also titled simply Annie, falls somewhere in the middle. It has its exploitative elements, but ultimately is about Belle being far too rare and free a bird to be caged by small-minded men. Once upon a time, but not long ago, women struggled and protested and advocated in order to be free birds sexually, to express their sexuality in any way they saw fit after centuries of repression. La fine dell'innocenza is an artifact of that time period. We talked about it a few years ago, and you can read about it at this link.
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Vintage Pulp Apr 14 2021
JOB FROM HELL
She's overworked, underpaid, unappreciated, and has no backup plan. Also there's that whole curse thing.


Can a working girl find happiness à la Pretty Woman? That's the eternal question asked by (Maruhi) jorô seme jigoku, aka The Hell-Fated Courtesan. An Edo-era geisha-turned-prostitute played by Rie Nakagawa is believed by superstitious locals to be cursed because some of those who've had sex with her died. Her only sort-of-friend in this dark existence is a perverted artist, and her pimp is of course cruel and untrustworthy. But eventually she meets a puppeteer to whom she offers herself romantically only to be rebuffed. Surprised, she intones, “This is not an ordinary guy.” She's right. He refused her because he thinks he can only be turned on if a woman looks like one of his puppets, but when he finally samples some of that sweet Nakagawa he changes his mind about that and offers to take her with him to Osaka, where her problems and alleged curse will be behind her. Will she go? Will she be allowed to go? Will fate cut her a break? Pertinent questions all.

In 1973 Nikkatsu Studios' roman porno line had not yet jumped the shark, which means (Maruhi) jorô seme jigoku resembles a normal film in most ways. Its plot is basically linear, though it contains one framing segment; its sexual content is perverse, though not pointlessly misogynistic; and its humor generally works. In fact, there are some truly funny moments in this, such as when Nakagawa lets a carp suck her nipples. We won't even bother to describe what direction that scene goes. Later she slices off a dead man's finger and masturbates with it. Afterward she tells the finger that, though its former owner was a scoundrel and a snake, he will now go to heaven. That's some magical pussy. Maybe Nakagawa isn't cursed after all. Maybe she just embodies male insecurities and fears and they punish her as a result. And if that's true, maybe there is a Pretty Woman ending for her. But you never know. One character observes that a woman's heart is unpredictable and terrifying. (Maruhi) jorô seme jigoku tries to prove that adage true. It premiered in Japan today in 1973

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Femmes Fatales Apr 13 2021
BEACHED WELL
Should she stay or go? The chair may be the factor that tips her one way or the other.


This rare poster of U.S. actress Candice Bergen was printed and distributed in 1972 by a company called Nats Co-operated Reproduction. The shot was made in 1968 by famed photographer Terry O'Neill. There are other photos from the session. A couple even feature the same weathered beach chair that looks set to snap at any moment like something made from chopsticks, but as far as we know only Nats Co-operated used a color shot of Bergen in this particular pose. We've seen a black and white on Getty Images, but never one in color until this treasure. The beach, incidentally, immediately looked to us like our occasional stomping grounds the Balearic Islands, and sure enough, when we checked it turned out Bergen sat for this when she was filming The Magus in Mallorca. Another shot from the session appears below.
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Vintage Pulp Apr 9 2021
MAEDE THE GRADE
When they say high school is torture usually they're kidding.


The beautiful Rushia Santô made only a few films during her brief career. One of them was the Nikkatsu Studios roman porno flick Onna kyôshi: Seito no me no maede, aka Female Teacher: In Front of the Students. Santô plays a high school teacher, and since her school looks like a prison it's no surprise she experiences a prison style shower rape. The student she eventually accuses of attacking her—Tôru Nakane, who the audience knows is innocent—retaliates by grabbing her and keeping her prisoner over spring break. This being a Nikkatsu film, that imprisonment naturally involves making Santô realize she's a sex maniac, and by the end of the break Santó, the studly Nakane, and his girlfriend Rina Oka are humping like rabbits.

The mystery that isn't a mystery is finally solved in the last part of this 70-minute sprint. There are some weak attempts at humor here and there, such as during a sex scene between Nakane and Oka when he's simultaneously eating a sticky bun and she's eating a banana, but the moment for cinematic discussions of whether some women like to be submissive—still ongoing as recently as in 2015's Fifty Shades of Grey—has definitively passed. As far as we're concerned anything done between consenting adults is fine, but consenting is the operative word. Nikkatsu films often play around with that concept, but these days such explorations are discordant, to say the least. Like all the obscure movies we watch, we're looking for forgotten gems. This is no gem, and maybe just needs to be forgotten. Onna kyôshi: Seito no me no maede premiered in Japan today in 1982.
Yay! Recess is over! Back to our soul sucking penitentiary of a high school!

I have a very bad feeling about this movie.
 
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Intl. Notebook Mar 29 2021
A MOMENT TO REFLECT
Tanaka takes a turn in front of the mirror.


We're interested in all things Mari Tanaka, so we had to share this promo image featuring her striking a nice over the shoulder pose. This was made for her movie Rabu Hantâ: Atsui hada, aka Love Hunter: Hot Skin, which premiered in Japan today in 1972. You can see a couple of other interesting promos at our write-up on the film here.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 18 2021
AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL
The things she can teach can't be learned from books.


Falling squarely into the could-not-be-made-today category, the roman porno flick Kyōshi mejika, which in English was titled Teacher Deer, or sometimes Teacher Doe, stars Hitomi Sakae and premiered in Japan today in 1978. When we first meet Sakae, she beats the shit out of three guys who are committing a sexual assault. Soon afterward we learn she's a biology teacher at a stuffy learning institution called Hakuho High School. Thus we've seen her tough side, and her brainy side. There's one more side, which she shows when she explains anatomy to her class by, well, have a look below:

 
You'd think this would make her classes pretty popular, at least with the boys, but the students boycott her and the faculty is scandalized. Things get a little blurry here, because her character is supposed to be mixed race. This actually may have been true of Sakae in real life too, though we can't confirm that. In any case, it may contribute to her outsider status at the school, though we can't confirm that either, because some subtleties in Japanese films are beyond us. But we've learned what her character is—tough, smart, and highly sexual.

After she gets chewed out by the school principal for her unusual teaching methods, she and math teacher Izumi Shima go out to commiserate. They pick up a photographer and have a threesome with him, after which Sakae leaves Shima in his company. Shima then turns up missing. The investigation into her disappearance uncovers some naughty photos from threesome night, and from that point things go in directions nobody could have guessed. Suffice it to say that teacher deer's presence at Hakuho High is more than it seems.

We said this movie couldn't be made today, but not because it's racy. It's the high school sex angle. High school implies non-adults, and that's obviously a cinematic no-no—for good reason. In terms of actual visible sexual content, though, Kyōshi mejika is mild for the genre. On one level we're thankful for that, because these flicks can get purely crazy. But on another level, the film isn't terribly creative in terms of plot. We consider it a non-representative example of Nikkatsu Studios' roman porno output, but that makes it one you can come away from feeling relatively okay about yourself.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 9 2021
DISTINCT BOSSABILITY
Oshida shows how to wield authority with flair.


We have another bo-ekibari style Japanese poster today, the rare two-piece horizontal variety that you don't see many of—except on Pulp Intl. This was made for Zubeko banchô: hamagure kazoe uta, aka Delinquent Girl Boss: Ballad of Yokohama Hoods, which premiered in Japan today in 1971 and starred Reiko Oshida and her katana, which is a useful motivational tool for management types. We shared another poster for the movie several years ago, which you can see here, and if you're interested in bo-ekibari promos, we've posted some fun ones here, here, here, here, and here.
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Femmes Fatales Mar 8 2021
A HAIR RAISING EXPERIENCE
Afro trend makes Watanabe wannabe cooler.

Consider this the flipside of our post on vintage afros a few days ago. While the afro was seen mainly on black actors and actresses, particularly in the blaxploitation movies we're always watching, many non-black actresses also flirted with the style. Celebs from Jane Fonda to Raquel Welch tried out 'fros, and we've even come across the occasional afro/perm on Japanese actresses. For example, here you see Yayoi Watanabe upping her hipness quotient. She appeared in such films as Ero shogun to nijuichi nin no aisho, aka Lustful Shogun and His 21 Mistresses, and was also the star of scores of memorable promo images, such as this one and this one. Probably, a Japanese actress sporting an afro wouldn't go over quite the same way today, but we like the look, and believe that respectfully experimenting with the styles of other cultures in non-costumey ways is fine. But that's just us. This shot is from around 1973.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 19
1953—The Rosenbergs Are Executed
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet spies, are executed at Sing Sing prison, in New York.
June 18
1928—Earhart Crosses Atlantic Ocean
American aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly in an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, riding as a passenger in a plane piloted by Wilmer Stutz and maintained by Lou Gordon. Earhart would four years later go on to complete a trans-Atlantic flight as a pilot, leaving from Newfoundland and landing in Ireland, accomplishing the feat solo without a co-pilot or mechanic.
June 17
1939—Eugen Weidmann Is Guillotined
In France, Eugen Weidmann is guillotined in the city of Versailles outside Saint-Pierre Prison for the crime of murder. He is the last person to be publicly beheaded in France, however executions by guillotine continue away from the public until September 10, 1977, when Hamida Djandoubi becomes the last person to receive the grisly punishment.
1972—Watergate Burglars Caught
In Washington, D.C., five White House operatives are arrested for burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel. The botched burglary was an attempt by members of the Republican Party to illegally wiretap the opposition. The resulting scandal ultimately leads to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and also results in the indictment and conviction of several administration officials.
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