Gladiatorial combat is all fun and games until the gladiators decide you're the one who needs killing.
We've featured master fantasy artist Frank Frazetta a few times, so it seems only fair that we feature the yang to his yin, Peruvian born legend Boris Vallejo. Here you see his art on a promo poster for Naked Warriors, which is better known as The Arena, released this month in 1974 starring another legend, Pam Grier, along with occasional co-star, the lovely Margaret Markov. We've talked about the movie twice, shared its Italian and U.S. promo art, and shared rare promo images of Grier once or twice, or maybe even three or four times, as well as a beautiful centerfold of Markov. All of that imagery is worth a look. Vallejo's art is a nice fit for a tale of enslaved gladiators pitted against each other eventually defying their sadistic masters to fight for freedom. He painted when Corcorde Pictures acquired the rights to the film from MGM/UA for a VHS release in 1988. Concorde/New World was formed and run by schlockmeister Roger Corman, and that explains the black wedges at the top and bottom of the promo. When you do thingson the cheap as a matter of course like Corman did, tilting the art in an inelegant way to make the two figures fit a door panel format seems logical. We can imagine him: “Just lean the fucker left. Who cares about the blank spots?” And indeed, who does, really?
In addition to a great piece of art, as a bonus we've also uploaded some Arena production photos we found scattered around the internet over the years. Most of them were shot by Italian lensman Angelo Frontoni, whose work we've admired often. As it is a lusty sort of movie, some of the shots are a bit lusty too. We had these sitting about and didn't have a real good excuse to share them until today, so from the good old days of ’70s sexploitation behold: Grier, Markov, Lucretia Love, Maria Pia Conte, Rosalba Neri, and others in barely-there gladiatorial gear—and sometimes less. We can't say the film is perfect, but it's definitely worth a watch.
This tree right here? It's mine. This patch of land around the tree too. Actually this whole forest is pretty much mine.
You never know what wildlife you'll come across during a walk in the forest. If it happened to be U.S. actress Margaret Markov, well, she beats the hell out of a white-tailed deer or a black-rumped woodpecker or any other kind of fauna. Markov starred in the unforgettable prisonsploitation flick The Hot Box, the indelible blaxploitation flick Black Mama, White Mama, and the ineradicable swordsploitation flick The Arena. You won't get this photo out of your mind either. It appeared in the Belgian magazine Ciné-Revue in 1975.
Machine gun Margaret strikes again.
In the tropical Republic of San Rosario four beautiful nurses—Margaret Markov, Rickey Richardson, Andrea Cagan, and Laurie Rose—are kidnapped and forced to teach the healing arts to a revolutionary army so it can bring medical care to villages it liberates. While one of the nurses begins to agree with the captors, the others just want to escape. But when they do, they are captured by an army leader and what they learn prompts them to escape back to the revolutionaries' jungle compound to warn them of an impending government attack.
Scripted by Jonathan Demme and produced in the sweaty Philippines by sexploitation specialists New World Pictures, The Hot Box features most of the elements you expect from jungle sleaze, with perhaps less skin than the standard. But there's plenty of leering, drooling, and general depravity, followed by punching, kicking, stabbing, and Margaret Markov going cyclical with a machine gun. By the way, we'd not note this ordinarily, but post-massacre we'll add that mowing down people with machine guns is fine for cinema, but all other applications are idiotic and tragic.
There's a debate online about whether this is a women-in-prison film. People often get obtuse online—of course it's a women-in-prison film. The nurses don't spend three reels inside a bamboo cage being hosed down with river water, but they are twice held against their will and escape both times. Textbook stuff. Do we recommend the film? Not quite. But Markov is always worth the time. Amongst a slate of atrocious performers, she can almost act. Almost. The Hot Box premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.
Grier reappears in her rightful place.
Remember the two excellent Italian posters for the 1974 swords-and-sandals/blaxploitation epic The Arena? Usually the American posters for films from this era compare unfavorably to the foreign versions, but in this case the U.S. promo painted by John Solie is also very good. And as a bonus Grier actually gets to star on this one. On the Italian versions she was entirely whitewashed from one, and relegated to secondary status on the other. Not only that—on the text of both posters Italian actress Lucretia Love is given top billing, though she’s actually a supporting character in the film. We can only assume the distributors thought Italian audiences wouldn’t flock to cinemas to see a movie headlined by Grier, and dissed her twice over. Well, above we see her where she belongs.
Grier and Markov team up for a Roman gladiator epic.
Though Margaret Markov stars on this poster for La rivolta delle gladiatrici, aka The Arena, aka Naked Warriors, while co-star Pam Grier is nowhere to be seen and barely manages to secure a spot on poster two, below, let there be little doubt—Grier is the center of this film about women thrown into a Roman arena to fight for their lives. The women begin as domestic and sex slaves, but when they get into a kitchen brawl the ferocity of the fight gives their owner Timarchus the bright idea to convert them into gladiators. What follows ends with a showdown between Grier and Markov, once rivals, now friends, but pitted against each other in a battle to the death. The two had already starred together in Black Mama White Mama, but this effort is better. Filmed in Rome and Lazio, it has a realistic look, a script that works, and co-leads with a developed chemistry as screen partners. As a bonus you get Rosalba Neri and Lucretia Love in supporting roles. Recommended stuff. La rivolta delle gladiatrici premiered in Italy today in 1974. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
1969—Woodstock Festival Begins
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which was billed as an Aquarian Exposition, takes place on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. It would run for three sometimes rainy days and feature thirty-two acts performing at all hours of the day and night. Today the festival is regarded as one of the greatest events in popular music history.
1977—Radio Signal Arrives from Deep Space
An unidentified radio signal, nicknamed the WOW Signal for the notation a scientist made on a computer readout, is briefly detected by the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project's Big Ear radio telescope. Despite a month of searching the same section of space, the signal is never found again.
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
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