A single hard look is worth a thousand threats.
Peter Held is another new author for us. He's a pseudonym used by sci-fi author Jack Vance. Take My Face was first published in 1957, with this Pyramid paperback coming in 1958 fronted by John Floherty, Jr. art featuring a clever upper body variation on the classic alpha pose. The book is about a teenaged boy whose face is burned and permanently scarred in a scooter accident. When he's later humiliated by four girls during a sorority initiation (one of whom had caused the original accident), he snaps and ends up in a reform school. The girls forget him and go on with their lives. Years later when the quartet start being murdered, there are no suspects—until someone remembers that long ago incident of youthful callousness toward the burned boy. But is he now grown up and committing the murders, or is something else going on? We thought Take My Face had a good premise, but it reads a bit dispassionately, which led to diminished involvement for us. We won't go running back to Held, but we won't run away either, should we encounter him again.
*sob* Have a few affairs, trash a hotel room, wreck a car, slap a child—and your reputation is ruined. It isn't fair.
Above is a cover for Day Keene's 1954 novel Notorious, republished in Italian by Longanesi & Co. in 1958 with cover art by John Floherty, Jr. The art reminded us that we have a couple of Keene books, so we're going to move him near the top of the pile because he's always given us a wild read. Meanwhile, if all goes well, one of our beloved pulp mules will be bringing us a group of fun paperbacks from the U.S., including efforts from Milton K. Ozaki, Lou Cameron, Chester Himes, and Dorothy Salisbury Davis. We hope to have a summer of great reading.
Obscure men's magazine roars but has no bite
Tiger was a Chicago based men's magazine launched in 1956 by George Fox, Jr. that had as its premise the dubious idea that great men are tigers. It had features on “tigers of the past,” and “modern tigers,” and we suppose this was Fox's attempt at clever branding. Sounds a bit forced, right? It didn't seem to work for the public, because though Wikipedia claims that the publication lasted into the mid-sixties, we found no evidence anywhere that it lived past 1957. But we'll keep an eye out and see if we're wrong about that.
In the meantime, above you see the front of an issue that hit newsstands this month in 1957, and the cover star is famed nudist and model Diane Webber, aka Marguerite Empey, who we've seen a whole lot of around here. She's also featured in four pages at the back of the issue, and along with her are photos of Zahra Norbo, Gunnar Gustafson, obscure actress Melinda Markey, an unknown model lensed by Russ Meyer, and shots of Nona Van Tosh by Earl Leaf. In the writing department, Fox swapped out his editor/publisher hat for a journalist's fedora and contributed a profile on George S. Patton, one of those so-called tigers of the past. If Tiger was anything like the magazine we once ran, Fox probably wrote the story in a panic to fill space after one of his writers torched a deadline. His writing is fine, but overall the magazine doesn't have any spark, literarily, artistically, or pictorially. We hate to say it, but it's a pretty tame tiger. But it's worth a look just because of Webber's presence. You'll find thirty-some scans below.
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.
Minuit puts the country's hospitable reputation to the test.
Ever since we discovered a while back that the U.S. tabloid Midnight was actually a spin-off of Montreal based Minuit we've been looking around for issues. We finally had some luck. This example hit Canadian newsstands today in 1968, and on the cover is British actress Mollie Peters, or Molly Peters. Inside, various Hollywood stars are spotlighted in unflattering ways. Edy Williams was allegedly attacked by a lesbian; Paul Newman resorted to transcendental meditation to cut down on his drinking; Jason Robards, Jr. broke everything Humphrey Bogart related in Lauren Bacall's house; Robert Vaughn paid off his extensive gambling debts and cancelled his credit cards; Janet Margolin allegedly ate a pound of ground beef every day for health reasons; and Ursula Andress attacked Anita Ekberg in a Paris restaurant for making eyes at Andress's boyfriend Jean-Paul Belmondo. There's also a note on Babsi Zimmermann, who Minuit claims just refused a nude role in a French film. We noticed the blurb because of her name, which seems too good to be true, and familiar too. We looked her up and she did exist. It turns out she was better known as Barbara Zimmermann. She changed her stage name after the release of her first film, a counter-culture sexploitation romp called Heißer Sand auf Sylt, aka The New Life Style (Just to Be Love). Maybe she wanted a fresh start because the movie was such a stinker. We know it was bad because we wrote about it, which is why her name sounded familiar. She's naked as a donskoy cat in it, so Minuit's claim that she refused the French movie makes sense if she wanted to rebrand herself. The change still has people confused. Currently IMDB has separate entries for Babsi and Barbara. Minuit reserves special attention for U.S. actor George Hamilton, who had been generally targeted by tabloids for avoiding military service in Vietnam. Why him? We wrote about the reason a long while back, and if you're curious you can check. Minuit wryly informs readers that, “George Hamilton somehow managed to break his toe the day after he received a notice to report to the U.S. Army recruiting center. This gives him an interesting three-month [deferral]. It's clever, isn't it?” Obviously, toes heal. Hamilton eventually received a full deferral for other reasons.
Also in this issue, Minuit editors treat readers to a story about a man cut in half by a train. We feel like it's urban folklore, but there are photos—for any who might be convinced by those—and a long story explaining how a man named Regerio Estrada caught his wife Lucia in bed with another man, beat him unconscious, and tied him to a train track to await the next express. Do we buy it? Not really. The internet contains only a fraction of all knowledge and history, but we think this tawdry tale is so bizarre that it would have found its way online. There's nothing. Or maybe we're just the first to upload it. Anything is possible. We have additional colorful Canadian tabloids we'll be sharing in the months ahead. You'll find eighteen scans below.
For a fulfilling killing nothing beats a blade.
Today we have for your pleasure a collection of vintage paperback covers featuring characters on both the giving and receiving ends of knives—or knifelike tools such as icepicks. Above you see Harry Bennett art of a poor fella getting a knife from nowhere. Maybe Damocles did it. It's a funny cover because we don't think we'd grab our throats if we got stabbed in the spine, but let's hope we never find out. Below, in addition to numerous U.S. and British offerings, you'll see covers from France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. There are many, many paperback fronts featuring knives—we mean hundreds—but we decided to stop ourselves at thirty-two today. These do not represent the best (as if we could decide something like that), or our favorites, but merely some interesting ones we've come across of late. If you're super interested in this particular motif we have plenty more examples in the archives. They'd be hard to find, because we don't keyword for knives, so here are some links to get you there: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.
Everyone says she isn't real but could a figment of his imagination cause this many problems?
Secretaries make a habit of saving the boss's ass. It's in the job description. In Phantom Lady, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1944, the ass saving is literal, as Ella Raines finds herself the only person who believes her employer Alan Curtis didn't kill his wife. Curtis's alibi is as weak as they come—he spent the evening with a woman he never met before, whose name he never got, who he can only describe as wearing a strange hat, and who nobody can find to confirm his story. She's the phantom lady of the title—doesn't exist, at least as far as everyone besides Curtis is concerned. So after a quick trial, off to the death house he goes, where he sinks into a state of dismal acceptance of his own oblivion. That's when Raines decides to work her secretarial krav maga and crack the case. You think shorthand is hard? Try unraveling a vast conspiracy.
Phantom Lady also stars the great Franchot Tone, Elisha Cook, Jr., and one-ethnicity-fits-all character actor Thomas Gomez. As performers, the top end of the cast ranges from good to great, but the script isn't the best clay with which to mold. There are positives, though. The direction by Robert Siodmak is interesting, the set design is eye-catching in places, particularly in Tone's wacky bachelor pad with its odd concrete bed, and there's a great bit set in a jazz cellar that plays like something out of Reefer Madness without the drugs. It'll teach you that jazz music is crazy enough to bend reality all by itself. You'll also learn that in case of murder it's good to have someone in your corner. Preferably someone with a winning smile, a nice figure, and excellent investigative skills.
She didn't make it to the top of Hollywood just to accept being second banana in Monaco.
Yes, people were stupidly fawning over the rich long before 2021, as this issue of the tabloid Exposed published this month in 1957 proves. There are stories on one percenters ranging from Princess Grace of Monaco on down. Of course, there's an aspirational innocence to these old stories, because very few people, if any, begrudged the rich anything in this era. Those times have gone. Companies make hundreds of billions now and pay zero taxes. The rich have a thousand ways to hide their income, to the tune of 40 trillion dollars in cash hidden in tax havens around the world.
Something else different about the rich of yesterday—they didn't have dick-shaped rocket ships. Instead they had dick shaped yachts. And that's what the feud hinted at on the cover between Grace Kelly and Tina Onassis was about—in part at least. It was also about who threw the best parties, who had the richest and most influential friends, who had the best designer clothes, and who was the greatest beauty. Of course, Kelly was legendarily lovely, but because beauty marries money even when the money is as butt-ugly as Aristotle Onassis, Tina was no slouch.
Exposed tells us of one competitive episode the night Kelly was celebrating the birth of her daughter Caroline, which had happened a day earlier. Kelly lived in Grimaldi Palace, overlooking Monaco harbor, where Aristotle Onassis lived on an 1,800 ton former Canadian navy destroyer retrofitted as a luxury yacht. The night of Kelly's celebration Onassis left his boat totally dark in the harbor, then at one point flipped a switch that illuminated hundreds of light bulbs strung from prow to stern. Kelly's clan took it as an attempt to show her up. Sounds petty, right? Well, Exposed was a tabloid, and its readers absolutely devoured stories showing that they and the next door neighbor they hated weren't so very different from the one percent.
After that boat episode, according to Exposed, Kelly and Onassis barely saw each other in tiny Monaco, such was their determination to avoid each other. Again, the half-century old public obsession with these two seems quaint compared to people's interest in the Musks and Bransons of today. There are opinions and facts, and here is a fact—the U.S. is falling apart and miniscule taxes on the rich and corporations are the reason. During the year this issue of Exposed was published, a year many people now cast their misty eyes toward with longing and nostalgia, the tax rate for top income earners was 91%. No wonder things functioned so well, eh? High taxes kept the government flush and the rich weak. But the highlight of the issue as far as we're concerned is Vikki Dougan, who we told you would return to Pulp Intl. soon, and who shows up at a party thrown by Hollywood astrologer Carroll Righter wearing one of her infamous buttcrack baring backless dresses. Exposed indeed. Since this is about as low as her gowns went, we zoomed in a bit so you can get a good look at the San Fernando Valley. Dougan by the way, is still around at age 92. Elsewhere in Exposed you get Joan Collins and her romances, restaurateur Mike Romanoff and his legal troubles, Paulette Goddard and her love of money, and vice in New York City. Thirty scans below.
Don't mess with the man upstairs.
Stranger on the Third Floor is sometimes cited as a proto film noir, coming a year before the first official noir, 1941's The Maltese Falcon. In this day and age, any vintage crime film is called a film noir on crowdsourced websites like IMDB, so depending on where you look film noir isn't as pure a cycle as it used to be. But in this case the debate is fair. The film is about newspaper journalist John McGuire, who serves as a witness at a sensational murder trial, while his fiancée Margaret Tallichet frets about the impact of recognition on their lives. The two of them are planning to move out of their boarding houses and find a place together, but McGuire's building has lately been haunted by a mysterious stranger played by Hungarian actor Peter Lorre. Who is he? Why is he hanging around? Is he somehow connected to the murder?
Gene D. Phillips, in his book Out of the Shadows: Expanding the Canon of Film Noir, cites Stranger on the Third Floor as a film that “codified the visual conventions of film noir.” It has flashbacks, a brilliant nightmare sequence, a sense of growing dread, a false accusation (or possibly two), a narration (though not of the hard-boiled variety), and a usage of angles and shadows that is extravagant. Where it differs from film noir is in its general lack of cynicism and world weariness. In fact, it's the opposite. McGuire ponders whether doing his civic duty by testifying will have consequences, but at no point does he feel like a sucker for doing so. He believes in society and its basic functions. The Maltese Falcon, by contrast, offers civic duty as an option, but Sam Spade acts as he does because of his personal code. Duty is secondary, and ultimately, so is love.
Despite these differences between Stranger on the Third Floor and canonical film noir, casting the net wide enough to include this movie makes sense. It definitely gets its influences from the same places as film noir, particularly in German Expressionist cinema of the early 1900s. Interestingly, Lorre would feature prominently in The Maltese Falcon, as would Elisha Cook, Jr., who plays the defendant at the trial. So the connection between Stranger on the Third Floor and film noir is concrete on that level at least. All that said, does our opinion matter? Watch Stranger on the Third Floor and debate whether it's a film noir yourself. You'll see a visual masterwork regardless of which cinematic bin you stick it in. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1940.
Monroe finds herself in a room with no space to maneuver.
It says plenty about Don't Bother To Knock that we queued it up last night, popcorn and adult beverages in hand, having forgotten that we already watched it several years ago. That has less to do with the overall film than with Marilyn Monroe, but we'll get to that in a minute. The film was based on Charlotte Armstrong's Mischief, which was serialized in 1950 in Good Housekeeping magazine, and deals with a mentally disturbed babysitter watching over a child in a fancy New York City hotel suite. Along with Monroe it stars Richard Widmark and Anne Bancroft, with their three characters suffering respectively from derangement, detachment, and disillusionment—three ailments suggested to be caused or exacerbated by life in the big city. Widmark as a cynical single looking for easy action and Bancroft as a world weary torch singer working the hotel lounge don't have any problems a change in luck wouldn't solve, but the movie revolves around Monroe, who, thirteen credited roles into her career at this point, gets a chance to stretch her range as a nutty nanny in need of a lot more than just kind words to get back on the beam.
Monroe's performance in this heavy drama is tough to judge. To us it feels a bit flat, but contemporary reviewers generally liked it, and it's fair to say it helped her climb that last rung to the superstardom she'd reach a year later with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Watch that film and you'll see that, while Don't Bother To Knock asked her to stretch, it did so by requiring that she suppress her natural charisma. That's no easy trick for an actor, let alone someone as incandescent as her, and that, in short, is probably why we forgot we'd already watched the movie. Monroe was so big in her other performances that this flick went down the memory hole. Her iconic movies feel as if they could only have starred her. This one feels like it could have starred anyone. Monroe just isn't Monroe in it. But that probably means her performance is a success. Watching it afresh, we can tell you it's certainly a must for Marilyn fans, and will probably work for vintage film fans of all types. But those unschooled in the oldies might walk away from this effort thinking, Meh, I don't get all the Monroe fuss. But the fuss was appropriate and deserved. Don't Bother To Knock—not a film noir as labeled on many sites, by the way—premiered today in 1953.
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