Vintage Pulp Dec 2 2020
MURDER BY NUMBERS
Unlike a normal lottery nobody wants a ticket, and against all odds you're bound to get picked eventually.


We all know that in cinema no idea lies fallow for long. They're all reused until they've given everything of value, and plenty that isn't. Part of the fun of watching movies is seeing the lineage of ideas. La decima vittima, for which you see a nice Mario de Berardinis poster above, was known in English as The 10th Victim, and resides in the sub-genre of films about humans killing humans for sport and gain. Other movies in the group include 1932's The Most Dangerous Game, 1972's The Woman Hunt, 1975's Death Race 2000, 1987's The Running Man, 2013's The Purge, and others.

In La decima vittima's near future, violence between citizens has been made legal and placed under the auspices of the Ministero della Grande Caccio, aka the Ministry of the Big Hunt. Those who hunt are given the identities of their prey, along with their locations and personal habits. Anyone can be hunted, even those who previously were hunters. The hunted can kill their hunters in self defense, but if they make a mistake and kill the wrong person—easy to do when you're paranoid and an unknown person is stalking you—that's old fashioned murder and off to prison you go. The purpose of all this slaughter? As the film explains, “Why have birth control when you can have death control?”

Ursula Andress, whose looks kill anyway, plays an adept hunter given an opportunity by a big corporation to monetize her tenth (and by law her final) murder. Marcello Mastroianni plays a one percenter who's been computer selected as her prey, and whom Andress' corporate benefactors want to film her assassinating for a tea commercial. Andress has agreed to kill Mastroianni at the Temple of Venus in Rome. Getting him there won't be easy, but the classic honeytrap, with the sun-kissed Andress as the sticky goodness, is a sure bet to work. It'd work on us.

We said the movie is in the same lineage as The Most Dangerous Game, The Purge, et al. Nearly all those films are better than La decima vittima. There are several problems here, not least of which is emotional tone-deafness—the characters love and hate because the script requires it, but there's no spark, no believability. The movie is probably worth watching anyway because of its super sex symbol cast rounded out by Elsa Martinelli, plus its sleek, retrofuturistic ’60s fashions, but don't go in expecting a landmark sci-fi, a brutal social commentary, a cutting satire, or anything of the ilk. In the end, just like the real future, it's so-so. La decima vittima had its world premiere in Rome and Florence today in 1965.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 27 2018
A NUMBER OF PROBLEMS
There are 777 ways to make a bad 007 movie.


Above you see a Mario de Berardinis poster painted for the Italian spy thriller Agente segreto 777 - Operazione Mistero, known in English merely as Secret Agent 777. The plot of this revolves around a doctor's cell regeneration process—i.e. he can bring people back to life, a miracle somehow made possible through nuclear physics. No, it didn't make sense to us either. But all you need to know is that basically Agent 777 is a low rent James Bond rip-off with a touch of updated Frankenstein mixed in.

It's as silly as it sounds, and has too many problems to enumerate, but we did enjoy the Beirut setting, and it rather amused us when a character spoke of going to the “Portuguese colonies to find his fortune.” Back then that meant going to Angola or Mozambique and extracting something of value that rightfully belonged to the local people—oil, antiquities, jewels, anything. The sequence struck us because at the time Agent 777 was extracting something of value from us—our patience. It premiered in Italy today in 1965.

Help! I'm trapped in this terrible film and I can't get out!

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Vintage Pulp Feb 1 2018
SLASH DANCE
The world of professional ballet is absolute murder.


Suspiria is a legendary giallo, praised by horror fans and mainstream critics alike, and slated for a splashy 2018 remake. The fact that it's being remade is understandable—from Hollywood's perspective it fits with action and horror movies such as Turistas, Hostel, A Lonely Place To Die, Land of Smiles, Taken, et al that over the last decade or so have warned Americans that horrific things will happen to them if they travel overseas. In Suspiria an American dancer gains admittance to a prestigious West German ballet academy, but arrives just in time for a nightmarish series of murders. Jessica Harper stars as the ingenue trapped in this mostly blood red dance academy, a stranger in the strangest land, beset by unexplained illnesses, hallucinatory events, and vicious nocturnal terrors.

Suspiria piles the horror stylings on—from Dario Argento and his surreal direction, to Luciano Tovoli with his baroque lighting schemes and supersaturated colors, to the maggot wrangler who produced many more maggots than could have been reasonably expected, to the scorers (Argento among them) who came up with a percussive and discordant soundtrack that could rattle a bomb disposal robot. The first murder is nothing short of operatic, complete with a shot of a knife piercing the victim's exposed heart. The only real question going forward is whether Argento can possibly keep reaching such heights. And the answer is Suspiria, its brilliance outshining its flaws, is a classic for a reason. The poster above is a classic too. It was painted by Mario de Berardinis to promote the film's premiere in Italy today in 1977.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 8 2017
DIFFERENT BUTT FAMILIAR
Three great artists try to get the feel of an identical pose.


Today we thought we'd illustrate the imitative nature of commercial art by sharing a nice Italian poster for the comedy Tre femmine in soffitta. Originally released in the U.S. in 1968 as Three in the Attic, and starring Yvette Mimieux and Judy Pace, the movie involves a wacky love triangle, and is notable for its breezy interracial theme, as Mimieux, who is white (and hot), and Pace, who is black (and hot), both get involved with the same inordinately lucky guy.

Turning to the art, the figure at the poster's far right, which represents Pace, is a direct copy of one of our favorite Robert McGinnis femmes fatales, the girl on Carter Brown's 1960 novel The Bombshell, who has an unusual fascination with her own butt. Clearly, some imitation is more blatant than others. The poster was painted by Ezio Tarantelli, who had a nice career as an illustrator, particularly in the spaghetti western genre, and whose work on the poster for L’Amore Scotta a Yokohama we lavishly praised several years back. We may have to downgrade the genius label we slapped on him, but obviously he still shows great skill, copied butt grabber or not.

As if Tarantelli's pass at a McGinnis ass wasn't enough, we found another copy of the same pose, executed by another Italian artist, this time the great Mario de Berardinis. His piece promotes the 1975 erotic comedy La nottata, or “The Night,” which starred Sara Sperati and Susanna Javicoli. Did de Berardinis imitate Tarantelli or McGinnis? We don't know, but he truly was a genius, so copying is officially forgiven. You can see our original write-up on The Bombshell here.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 26 2015
MOS DEFINITELY
Mario de Berardinis makes the Mos of his considerable talent.

We’ve shared the work of Italian poster illustrator Mario de Berardinis several times and thought today would be a good day to revisit him. De Berardinis began painting movie posters in the late 1940s, but most of his output seems to have occurred during the 1960s and 1970s, when he created scores of brilliant promos, including the iconic Barbarella poster you see above. He usually signed his work Mos, or sometimes Almos, but some pieces bear his full name. He worked until his death in 1977, and his posters today are collectible and expensive. You can see three of our previous posts on De Berardinis here, here, and here.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 19 2014
VENUS GUYTRAP
Kill her and she’ll kill you back.


Jesus Franco’s Paroxismus was an Italian erotic mystery known in the English-speaking world as Venus in Furs. Basically, an American jazz musician in Istanbul goes to a party and there sees a woman involved in sadomasochistic sex. Later he finds the same woman’s body on a beach, and at that point flees to Rio de Janeiro. In Rio he plays with a jazz group, but one night sees the dead woman from Istanbul walk into the club where he’s performing. Or is it her? Whoever she is, she seems intent on exacting revenge against those who killed her. Or didn’t. Jesus Franco is a polarizing filmmaker, but if you’re ever going to like one of his films, this may be it. It’s dark and surreal, beautifully shot, has an interesting score, and a compelling cast that includes James Darren, Maria Rhome, and the always arresting Klaus Kinski. The late-1960s hepcat dialogue may amuse or repel, depending on one’s sensibilities, and those hoping for a linear plot or Hollywood ending should give up before even settling into their seats, but as a whole we thought it was quite entertaining.

In terms of understanding the film, it helped when we learned that a chance comment by the jazz trumpeter Chet Baker had been the inspiration for the script. We also discovered, on an unrelated note, that the lead as originally written was supposed to be a Miles Davis type guy, which is to say black, but Franco was shot down because American audiences were thought to be unready to see a black man and white woman in bed together. This led to the ethnic reversals of the lead role into a white jazzman and the character of Rita into his black girlfriend. Too bad for Franco he wasn’t allowed to make the film the way he wanted, but it’s impossible to be bummed with the casting of Barbara McNair as Rita, despite the circumstances. Impossible to be bummed about the art, either. The above promo poster was painted by the awesome Mario De Berardinis, who signed his work MOS, and we also have an ultra-rare alternate poster below, painted by unknown. Paroxismus premiered in Italy today in 1969.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 7 2014
WANDER LUST
Italian artist Mario De Berardinis finds a perfect Playmate.

Here’s a rarity—a western film for which we can’t find an official English translation, which of course means it likely never played on American or British screens. The film in question is the Italian sex comedy Giro girotondo... con il sesso è bello il mondo, which loosely means something like “wander wandering… with sex it’s a beautiful world.” Or something. Whatever it means, the unwieldy title surely would have been changed for a run Stateside, which is why we’re pretty sure that never happened. But the title isn’t the reason we’re sharing this poster. The reason is it’s by the Italian genius Mario De Berardinis, who we discussed last year. This effort is actually copied from a photo of 1973 Playboy centerfold Cyndi Wood, one of the magazine’s most popular models. And we’d show that image to you, but one thing we are sure of after working at that company is they’ll sue you in a second. So here’s a link to the shot. Did that make your day? Giro girotondo... con il sesso è bello il mondo premiered in Italy today in 1975.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 9 2013
SUPER MARIO
Just add him to the long list of genius Italian illustrators.

Even though we found no Greek pulp, we do have a related item we want to share with you. The above poster is for the Italian movie Lesbo, which is partially set in Greece. We shared two versions of this promo way back in 2009 and had no idea about the artist. Now we know that the person behind this is Mario De Berardinis. As it happens, we’ve collected other pieces of his and a few appear below. You can see the other two Lesbo posters here, and if you haven’t seen the top notch Italian poster art we’ve already shared, have look at Mafe, Symeoni, Nistri, and Aller.

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Musiquarium Mar 13 2009
STOCKING MARKET
Don't think of me as your pimp dolcezza, think of me as your manager.


Here we have a lovely soundtrack sleeve from the 1971 film Bubù di Montparnasse, which is a drama starring Antonio Falsi as a man who forces his girlfriend Ottavia Piccolo into prostitution. Singer Giorgio Gaber is listed alone on the front cover, but there are actually three vocalists on the vinyl, performing what you might call lounge music, with that special Italian flair. As for the film, Bubù discovers it’s a boo-boo to pimp out his girl. Ché sorpresa! The art here is by Mario de Berardinis.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 05
1956—Desegregation Ruling Upheld
In the United States, the Supreme Court upholds a ban on racial segregation in state schools, colleges and universities. The University of North Carolina had been appealing an earlier ruling from 1954, which ordered college officials to admit three black students to what was previously an all-white institution. In many southern states, talk after the ruling turned toward subsidizing white students so they could attend private schools, or even abolishing public schools entirely, but ultimately, desegregation did take place.
1970—Non-Proliferation Treaty Goes into Effect
After ratification by 43 nations, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons goes into effect. Of the non-signatory nations, India and Pakistan acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons, and Israel is known to. One signatory nation, North Korea, has withdrawn from the treaty and also produced nukes. International atomic experts estimate that the number of states that accumulate the material and know-how to produce atomic weapons will soon double.
March 04
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
March 03
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
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