Vintage Pulp Aug 2 2023
ANATOMIC BOMB
Welch emits immeasurable degrees of heat in working class sports fable.

We've seen a number of Raquel Welch movies, and we appreciate her as a personality, but she wasn't a good actress. Not to speak ill of the dead and all that, but it's just true. She was unsubtle and inconsistent. She made some highly entertaining films, but an accomplished artiste she was not. Kansas City Bomber, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1972, is a drama that uses the milieu of roller derby but follows the blueprint of classic boxing flicks in which a fighter is eventually asked to take a dive in order to get ahead. Because of the gender flip involved in Welch playing this archetype, an extra layer of plot involves a usurious money man who's having his way with her in bed. But the theme of an athlete selling their soul remains familiar.

Welch was a tremendous sex symbol, generally considered the hottest thing going ever since 1966's One Million Years B.C., so Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, sometimes had her hook up with transparently undeserving men in her flicks so her male fans could scream, “Noooooo!” In this case it's too-old and too-fat team owner Kevin McCarthy. The jealousy that her preferential treatment by management causes among her co-skaters generates much of the movie's conflict, but a secondary drama is that Welch's character K.C. Carr must face one of life's most sobering realizations—that no matter how good a person you may feel (or pretend) you are, it's everyone else who gets to decide whether you're actually just an asshole. You can claim to be misunderstood, but it makes no difference at all.

In the film the other skaters think Welch is a sexual opportunist who'll do anything behind the scenes—and between the sheets—for advancement. Welch understands on some level that it's her face and body that get her to the top ranks of roller derby. She can go, “Gee! I guess he just really appreciates my talent!” all she wants, but nobody is buying it. We think that's a fine cinematic premise, but the problem with Kansas City Bomber is that it's silly and faddish. The drama is way over the top, and the introspection Welch should bring to the role doesn't resonate. Which is surprising. You'd think she'd really identify with this character—again, not to speak ill of the recently departed. We adore Welch. As a persona she was tops. As a portrayer of deep and affecting emotion... well...
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Vintage Pulp Mar 10 2021
DRIVEN TO EXTREMES
I stole a fortune, shot a guy, pushed an old lady, and jaywalked—all to impress you. Now will you go out with me?


This poster was made to promote the thriller Drive a Crooked Road, which premiered today in 1954, and starred Mickey Rooney as a shy runt who finally meets the woman of his dreams in the form of Dianne Foster. Though this is classified as a film noir on some sites, that's off the mark. We call it a straight drama, and the experts at the American Film Institute agree. Rooney works in an auto garage and wants to be a racer. He's known around town to be a very good driver and an excellent mechanic. Through his new crush he meets Kevin McCarthy, who offers a deal—one-time use of Rooney's driving skills in exchange for $15,000 that will allow him to get into the racing game. What could McCarthy need Rooney behind the wheel for? Take a guess. But the scheme is trickier than it at first seems. For that matter, so is Dianne Foster, but no shock there—it's a given that the only way she could be interested in a lonely twerp like Rooney is if she were a honeytrap.

Of course, the funny part is that in real life Rooney was a legendary carouser. As a credited actor from age six, and a huge star during his teens, desirability was never an issue for him, which means he certainly must have thought he was playing against type here. We can picture him, all five-two of him, standing on a footstool and staring into his bathroom mirror asking himself, “How in the hell am I going to convincingly play this unattractive little geek when I am, in reality, such a strapping stud and masculine deity? I mean, geez—I've already been married to Ava Gardner and Martha Vickers. I mean, Liz Taylor blew me when she was fourteen for God's sake! I imagine in the future that will be a serious stain on my legacy, but I'll worry about that later. The question now is how will I manage to play this timid little wallflower?”

Well, that's why they call it acting. Rooney adopts a tentative voice and an unsteady gaze, and you really feel for the guy. His character is definitely in over his head. With a little nudge from femme fatale Foster he finally agrees to lend his skills to McCarthy as—you probably guessed—getaway driver for a bank robbery. $15,000 back then would be about $145,000 in today's money. Many people would kill for far less, so in a way you can't blame Rooney for taking the risk. But movie robberies rarely go off without a hitch, if not during the actual commission, then certainly afterward, and movie honeytraps are often all trap and no honey. Watching Rooney work his way through this maze is the attraction here, and he carries off his role flawlessly. Nice work, from starting gun to finish line.

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Modern Pulp May 23 2017
BIG BAD WOLVES
It isn't the wind making that howling noise.

Above you see two colorful Japanese posters for The Howling, Joe Dante's 1981 werewolf thriller starring Dee Stone, Patrick Macnee, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers hero Kevin McCarthy. As werewolf movies go, The Howling was a bit of a gamechanger simply because the principle werewolf was more terrifying than any that had been put on screen to that point. It looks more than anything like a ten-foot tall Wile E. Coyote, with a long crooked snout, and devilish ears that stick out from its head like horns. Covered with wiry hair and perched upon long canine legs like a walking dog, the brute physicality of this beast is cringe inducing. On the other hand, the ancillary werewolves might make you laugh. The filmmakers obviously wanted to genderize the creatures, which led to the idea of making the female wolves somehow cute. Instead they end up looking like Ewoks. The giallo-styled soundtrack might also be jarring for modern audiences. We love it, even though it's right in your face like doggie breath.

But the film is definitely worth watching these thirty-six years later. The plot involves a television reporter whose investigation into serial killings in New York City result in her—seemingly in random fashion—spending time in a rural retreat to recover from emotional trauma. There she realizes a coven of werewolves rules the woods. Dante went for a slow build-up to the big reveal, and when that first encounter came it forever recalibrated the werewolf genre. Today some of the balloon effects may look quaint, but objectively they're more visceral than anything computer graphics have managed thus far. Other effects, including a brief animation, aren't as convincing, but no movie is perfect. The Howling is a landmark, and our only regret is we were never able to see it in a cinema (though that may change if ever our local horror festival screens it). The film premiered in the U.S. in March 1981, and first howled across Japan today the same year.
In retrospect, maybe this solo hiking trip wasn't the best idea. Oh well, I'll be fine. But next year: Burning Man.
 
Hmm. So she disappeared down there in that bizarre nimbus of light? I think it's about time for my donut break.
 
Okay, okay! Let me just find the leash and we'll go. Geez—sometimes I can't tell who's the owner and who's the pet.
 

Arooooooo! Bacon! Bacon! Bacon! Baaaaacooooon!
 

So, you loaded this with the silver bullets, right? Right? Baby, did you hear me?

Well, the thing is, werewolfing helps me relax. Fronting my speedmetal band is really stressful.

I think the night went bad after the third Jäger shot. Could be worse, though. Garth got a tribal tattoo on his calf.

Man, these beasts are seriously horr— Whoa. Single white werewolf at twelve o'clock. Bitch got some fucked up teeth but I can work with that. 

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Hollywoodland May 12 2011
FULL MONTY
In one instant Montgomery Clift’s life changed forever.

Above is a photo of American actor Montgomery Clift’s automobile after it skidded off a dark road and smashed into a telephone pole. Clift, along with actor Kevin McCarthy, had been attending a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s house in Beverly Hills. When they left, they got into their respective cars and began driving down the steep, curving road. We’ll let McCarthy describe what happened next: Behind me I saw Monty’s carlights weave from one side of the road to the other and then I heard a terrible crash. A cloud of dust appeared in my rearview mirror. I stopped and ran back. Monty’s car was crumpled like an accordion against a telephone pole. The motor was running like hell. I could smell gas. I managed to reach in the window and turn off the ignition, but it was so dark I couldn’t see inside the car. I didn’t know where Monty was. He seemed to have disappeared. I ran and drove my car back and shone my headlights into Monty’s car. Then I saw him curled under the dashboard. His face was torn away—a bloody pulp. I thought he was dead. I drove back to Elizabeth’s shaking like a leaf and pounded on the door. “There’s been a terrible accident!” I yelled. “I don’t know whether Monty’s alive or dead—get an ambulance quick!” Mike Wilding and I both tried to keep Elizabeth from coming down to the car with us, but she fought us off like a tiger. “No! No! I’m going to Monty!” she screamed, and she raced down the hill. She was like Mother Courage. Monty’s car was so crushed you couldn’t open the front door, so Liz got through the back door and crawled over the seat. Then she crouched down and cradled Monty’s head in her lap. Then he started to choke. Some of his teeth had been knocked out and his two front teeth were lodged in his throat. I’ll never forget what Liz did. She stuck her fingers down his throat and pulled those teeth. Otherwise he would have choked to death. That was today in 1956. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
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