Vintage Pulp Nov 30 2022
THE ROAD WORRIER
Tom Neal takes an alternate route directly to trouble.

Years ago we shared a poster for the low budget Tom Neal/Ann Savage film noir Detour, which premiered today in 1945. That promo is a photo-illustration and one of our favorite film noir posters. Above is an alternate poster for the movie, and it's also nice, but not in the same class as the previous piece. We touched on the movie only briefly back then, making a few comments from our memories of seeing it years earlier, but we gave it a close watch yesterday for the first time in a long while.

Tom Neal stars as a nightclub musician who hitchhikes from New York City to Los Angeles to reunite with his girlfriend, who'd gone there earlier to try her luck in show business. He takes a ride from a “Miama” bookie, ends up accidentally killing him, and flees with the car. The next day and a ways down the road he picks up another hitchhiker—Ann Savage—who happened to have accepted a ride from the bookie earlier. Neal has picked up the only person in the world who can turn his bad luck into a one-way trip to the gas chamber. She figures out right away that the bookie must be dead, and uses her knowledge to cruel advantage:

“Just remember who's boss around here. If you shut up and don't give me any arguments, you'll have nothing to worry about. But if you act wise, well, mister, you'll pop into jail so fast it'll give you the bends. [snip] As crooked as you look, I'd hate to see a fella as young as you wind up sniffin' that perfume that Arizona hands out free to murderers.”

You get plenty of film noir attributes here: tough dialogue, voiceover, flashback, nightmare, silhouette, rear projection, rain, fog, bad luck, terrible decisions, lonely highway, and a dangerous femme fatale. Thinking beyond the confines of the screenplay, there's an interesting discussion to be had about why Savage is so mean. There's a suggestion that men have made her that way, and an equal amount of suggestion that she's bad by nature. In either case, she's one of the worst passengers any snakebitten cinematic sap ever picked up on the road. She makes Detour about as good as cheapie film noir gets.
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The Naked City Nov 30 2022
ALLAH THE MONEY
I'll tell you one thing. After today we won't complain so much when someone steals a couple of our towels.


The two photos above show an LAPD detective and two witnesses re-enacting a robbery (notice the detective is aiming a gun in the top photo) that occurred today in 1951 at the Garden of Allah Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. Two gunmen had gotten away earlier in the day with a bundle of cash. Newspaper accounts differ about how much. The San Bernadino County Sun, in its evening edition published later, pegged the amount at $1,073 ($12,275 today), but the Los Angeles Times morning edition printed the next day claimed it was $500 ($5,731). The Times is probably a more reliable source, and with more time to get the amount right we'd tend to think its report is correct, but $500 is a conveniently round number, whereas the $1,073 reported by the Sun is very specific. Either way, we imagine the terrified hotel employees surrended every dollar on hand.

The reason the story caught our eye, though, is because the Garden of Allah was one of the most famous hotels in Los Angeles at the time. The Spanish revival complex consisting of a main building, villas, restaurant, bar, pool, and landscaped grounds, opened in 1927 and quickly became a favorite stopover for Tinseltown glitterati. Everyone from Lauren Bacall to Orson Welles spent time or stayed there, and the place was described by one resident as in “continual tumult” because of all the intrigues, disturbances, and minor scandals. But all of its celebrity history and architectural significance amounted to nothing among the ranks of those who sought so-called progress, because like so many other Hollywood landmarks, this iconic property fell to the wrecking ball when it was demolished in 1959 to make way for a bank.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 18 2022
SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE
I plan to rise from soul crushing poverty into the soul crushing middle class, and if you play your cards right I'll take you with me.

This 1955 Bantam edition of Steve Fisher's 1954 novel Giveaway has a front by James Hill that's at once beautiful and sordid. We've always been drawn to this art, so after seeing the book around for years we finally decided it was time to give it a read. Fisher tells the story of a seventeen-year-old Midwestern runaway named Eddie Shelton who ends up in Los Angeles and meets a mother and daughter who make their living by selling prizes they win for appearing on (fictional) game shows such as Down Melody Street and Cookies or Cash. It's difficult to get on the shows because the producers prefer novices, rather than “pros.” Jane, the daughter in this duo, sees Eddie as her ticket to being booked on a show called Man and Wife that offers huge prizes, including a trip to Hawaii and a year's wardrobe. She's willing to do anything for the chance—even convince Eddie she's in love with him.

The allegory is strong with this book. It reminded us of They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, with its capitalist critique folded within the characters' constant hope that a jackpot will lift them out of their meager circumstances, but it's also indebted to Catcher in the Rye because it features the same sort of youngish character who thinks the entire world is phony bullshit. Like that book, Giveaway is written in first person with copious slang and the feel of trying to make sense of a confusing society. We saw it labeled somewhere as juvenile fiction. It isn't. It stars two teens, but the themes from veteran pulp magazine contributor, crime novelist, and screenwriter Fisher are adult, and overall he crafts a good tale. His screenplays include Dead Reckoning, Lady in the Lake, and Johnny Angel, so a foray into the criminal underworld with him is mandatory. We have one of his crime novels, so that'll be an upcoming read, and we'll report back.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 1 2022
THE REAL MR. T
There are only three sure things: taxes, death, and trouble.


Above is a poster for the drama Trouble Man, a well known movie from the blaxploitation cycle, not least because Marvin Gaye wrote the excellent soundtrack. In fact, a line from his theme song provided our subhead about taxes, death, and trouble. Like his music, unusual talent went into the film. That goes for the direction by Ivan Dixon, the writing, and the acting. All of that is pretty well known. The movie usually makes it onto lists of best blaxploitation movies. But it can also hold its own with most detective movies from outside the genre made during the early seventies, and because blaxploitation had so many cheap, fly-by-night productions, the fact that you don't have to squint beyond many shortcomings to see it as a good movie is something to appreciate.

Robert Hooks plays a Los Angeles badass who everyone calls simply Mr. T. He makes his money as a fixer, taking care of people's troubles for payment. That's where the “T” comes from—T for trouble. Two underworld figures who run craps games come to him because their game nights are being robbed by masked men. For $10,000 T agrees to stop the thieves. Unfortunately, the robbery tale is a set-up. The two underworld guys plan to frame T for murder. The how of it is a bit complicated to explain in a short write-up, but the important detail is why—the planned mark is a top henchman of a rival gangster, and his death will make the rival's territory ripe for a takeover. The plan works, as does the frame, but T doesn't end up in jail or dead, which means he's on the loose to dig for answers.

Hooks had already been a working actor for years by the time he took on the role of Mr. T, and the experience shows. He's far better than the music stars and ex-athletes that often headlined blaxploitation productions (though a few of them were good too). An ace cast is needed because this is the type of film where the audience knows exactly what's going on from the beginning, while T and the cops are in the dark. Without a mystery, the tension is provided by filling the movie with numerous tough guys who don't give an inch. Hooks has more than enough presence to hold his own. Thanks to him and his capable co-stars, including the regal Paula Kelly as his girlfriend, Julius Harris as a top criminal figure, and Vince Howard as Harris's main strongman, Trouble Man delivers the goods. It premiered today in 1972.
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Modern Pulp | Sex Files Oct 4 2022
HOLEY TRINITY
There's never a cop around to perform a cavity search when you need one.


You probably suspect at a glance that this is a Japanese poster for an x-rated movie, and you'd be right. It was made for Trinity Brown, starring Sharon Kelly, aka Colleen Brennan, who's backed by a supporting cast of stalwart porn studs and b-level starlets. This is the fourth movie of Kelly's we've looked at, after Love, Lust and Violence, Gosh!, Scream in the Streets, and Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks. Do we have a special affinity for her? Not really. But the Japanese did, apparently. We've found Japanese posters for many of her flicks. They've retitled this one 弾を握る, which means “woman holding a bullet.” Or possibly they've retitled it SEXリボルバー, which means “sex revolver.” The rest says, “Right now, a miraculous comeback, Sharon Kelly. A trap of terrifying passion, the scent of lavender drifting in the cloudy darkness. A man never forgets the smell of Sharon.” Indeed.

You can always expect a plotline with vintage porn, and in this case Kelly plays a tough L.A. cop partnered with John Leslie, who she also happens to be banging off-duty. The two are assigned a murder case in which a strip club owner is thought to have shot a local gangster. Brennan and Leslie delve into the world of exotic dancers and show business to unravel the mystery. It isn't much of a mystery—psst the gangster's girl set him up—but getting to the end is reasonably fun.

Generally vintage porn features realistic sexual performances, without a lot of asinine screaming and backbreaking positions. It was made before the medium became festishistic performance art, and takes itself seriously as erotica for normal people. This particular flick was made without any of the most inspiring porn beauties from the era (Ginger Lynn, Angel, Shauna Grant, Jody Swafford, Annette Haven, et al), so it's possible some viewers might be aesthetically nonplussed by Kelly and company, but everything is real, rather than silicone, and that's worth something. We'll discuss some of those top stars again, and Kelly will be back too, on yet another Japanese poster we have. Trinity Brown premiered in the U.S. in 1984 and reached Japan today in 1986.

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Hollywoodland Sep 10 2022
OLD NEWS
Geez. They're all about me again.


Philippe Halsman shot this sly commentary on fame featuring one of the most famous women in America, Marilyn Monroe, as his subject. She checks out a newspaper, and next to her you can see machines for the afternoon tabloids Mirror, Daily News, and Herald-Express, the latter of which is a publication we've mined often for historical crime photos. In that issue the front page says, “Fight Grows to Keep Chaplin Out of U.S.,” a headline that dates the photo to sometime in late 1952. Why was there a fight? People had been led to believe Chaplin was a communist theat to America for saying things like he wanted every person to have a roof over their heads. He wouldn't return to the U.S. for twenty years. So, the tabloids weren't all about Marilyn every issue. Just mostly. Even gossips need a little variety.

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The Naked City Sep 8 2022
BOLD FOLKS HOME
They may have been in the winter of their years but their tempers still ran hot.


Courtesy of the University of Southern California's archive of Los Angeles Herald and Los Angeles Examiner photos, above you see the aftermath of yet another violent act. This happened in a boarding house on Second Street today in 1951, and you see prone murder victim Enrico Venencia with neighbor David Dyer in the first shot, the killer James Demarco accompanied by LAPD detectives in frames two and three, and Demarco handcuffed to a bed in frame four, looking every day of his seventy-two years, and a little battered besides. But this is one situation where age prevailed.
 
There's no information with the photos about what exactly happened. There isn't even a cause of death. The only information, besides the names of those involved, is that Dyer was an intended victim. That's how we were able to discern who was who—Dyer must be the one who isn't dead, and isn't handcuffed. We're not ballistics experts, but these archive images can be blown up to about 9000 pixels, and taking a close look it seems as if Venencia was possibly shot behind his left ear, suffered a gaping exit wound in the front of his skull, and went down hard. What an ugly way to go.

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Femmes Fatales Jun 24 2022
ONE GIANT LEAP
Hughes takes a not-so-small step in the right direction.

Kathleen Hughes heard about the Pulp Intl. gymnastics team and is busily getting into top condition in this 1955 promo image made in Los Angeles. This represents a real turnaround compared to when she was younger and lazier, and all we can say is if she keeps up the good work she might get to hang with Bardot and Co. eventually.

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Hollywoodland Jun 18 2022
SHE'S NO DAY AT THE BEACH
I love it here. Sun, sand, surf. It's almost enough to make me stop thinking about cold-blooded murder.


Above and below: a series of photos made for the classic murder drama The Postman Always Rings Twice, with Lana Turner and John Garfield busily frolicking on Laguna Beach south of Los Angeles. The movie was released in April 1946, but began filming in June 1945, which means these photos were made sometime during that summer. Postman features two long seaside sequences, plus one brief beach scene of Garfield alone, and all the shooting was of the day-for-night variety—filmed during the day but filtered to simulate night. We're fans of the film, but even more so of James M. Cain's pitch dark novel. For two enjoyably amoral experiences, ring twice.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 7 2022
HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS
She's a love and let love type of girl.


Above: a cover for Love Life of a Hollywood Mistress by Florence Stonebraker, 1950. The artist is uncredited. There's interior imagery in the form of photos of models posing scenes from the story, and as usual when these digests contain such pages, they're difficult to scan without destroying the book. Besides the front, we were able to scan the inside of the front cover and five of the fourteen interior photos. Stonebraker tells the story of Wanda Russell, who one fateful night tries to resist being forcibly taken by a date and accidentally pushes him out a high window to his death. Good on her, but remember, these were the days when a single woman in a man's hotel room could not have claimed self defense, so Wanda goes on the run.

She can't hide without help, so she turns to her acquaintance Chet, who, when he finds out Wanda is a virgin, decides he can make a fortune by pimping her out to a rich acquaintance. Yeah, it's a little flimsy as a method for cop avoidance goes, but this is mid-century sleaze, so you follow where the author leads. Wanda is to become mistress to Shelby Stevens, big time romantic actor, who would love to have a virgin. But wanting to thwart these creepy men in the one way she can, she gives her virginity to her friend Danny, who has always loved her. Danny is crushed when she leaves him and goes to live in Shelby Stevens' beach house for the summer. These triangles are, you know by now, the rocket fuel that powers digest romances.

So Wanda lives with Stevens, but Stevens turns out to be a rat, and Wanda decides to flee. Stevens won't let her go, but Danny, who has sat by in silent suffering as Wanda has been used as a plaything, shows up to beat Stevens within an inch of his life. He doesn't do it because of Wanda. He does it because it turns out his younger sister Thelma had been an earlier plaything for Stevens, and had ended up dead. In one fell swoop Danny gets revenge for his sister, sort of, and rescues his true love Wanda. Oh, and Chet the pimp ends up dead, shot by his girlfriend Bertie, who considers Wanda a rival. We won't even go into all that. And the guy Wanda pushed out a window? That's never truly resolved.

Stonebraker churned out a lot of these books, some under the names Florenz Branch and Thomas Stone. Thirteen were published in 1950 alone. She would eventually write more than eighty, and she didn't even start until she was forty-one. All of which is to say Love Life of a Hollywood Mistress feels rushed, with its pat ending and central concept that barely hangs together. But Stonebraker, despite her full work schedule, has done well in other tales, so she can have a mulligan on this one as far as we're concerned. After all, she's a sleaze and romance author—expectations need to be kept in check. We have a couple more of her novels lined up, and we'll see how she does.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 08
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
December 07
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
December 06
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
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