When you cross the line trouble is sure to follow.
This bright poster for Dödsdalen was made for the Swedish run of the U.S. drama Border Incident, an interesting vintage film about illegal immigration—a hot button issue everywhere these days. Ricardo Montalbán stars as a Mexican investigator named Pablo Rodriquez who goes undercover as a migrant worker and crosses the border illegally to try and get to the bottom of why and by whom migrants are being exploited and sometimes murdered. He gets support from U.S. immigration cop George Murphy, who's equally eager to apprehend the evildoers.
We were curious what sort of treatment migrants would get in the screenplay, and it was generally compassionate. The years we lived in Guatemala we became acquainted with some locals and learned quickly that the vast majority of those who left for the States didn't want to go. Well, we didn't learn it—we already knew it because it's a no-brainer. Leave their families, wives, children, culture, social networks, and all sense of security? Of course they don't want to do it. But for the most part it's go north or go hungry. If that kind of dilemma isn't worthy of a person's compassion, we don't know what is.
Montalbán brings authenticity and passion to his performance. You may remember we thought he should have starred in Touch of Evil instead of Charlton Heston. His character comes under suspicion immediately—his hands are too soft to belong to a migrant. Murphy, working undercover from the other end, also gets into hot water, but survives a beating and torture to get next to the crooks. They're from the U.S., which of course is plausible. No industry as profitable as human trafficking is controlled from only one side of a border. Americans make money on it and always have. These particular Americans will kill to keep the profits coming in, which means Montalbán and Murphy have their hands full.
Border Incident scores well in mood, tension, and seriousness, and is well photographed in noir style, and in fact qualifies as a film noir, though one that's rarely cited. It was helmed by Anthony Mann—the noir veteran behind T-Men, Railroaded!, and Raw Deal, and his expereience and style help make the movie more than the sum of its production budget. When you add it all up, what you have here is a flick that's worth seeing, not least because Montalbán is a natural star. He's great in this. Border Incident premiered in the U.S. in late 1949 and opened in Sweden as Dödsdalen—"valley of death"—today in 1950.
Alexa please find alternate route to redemption.
You wouldn't think a movie titled One Way Street would be set almost entirely in rural Mexico, but that's exactly the case with this obscure oddity that's like a film noir wrapped around a South Seas drama. Veteran thief Dan Duryea and his henchman William Conrad stage a bank heist, get away with $200,000, and hole up in an apartment. But medical attention is required, and a doctor is called. You've heard of mob lawyers. This is a mob doctor. Played by James Mason, he's 100% crooked, bent by years of treating gangsters and hiding evidence of their crimes. But he's tired of scratching out an existence, so after he gives Duryea a couple of supposedly helpful pills, he reveals that they were really poison and walks out with the bank loot, using the antidote as his guarantee of safety. And he doesn't only steal the money. He also steals Duryea's girlfriend Märta Torén.
The duo charter a small plane to Mexico City, but the aircraft has mechanical trouble and makes an emergency landing, after which they're stuck in a remote village somewhere in the jungle east of Guadalajara. Mason gave up practicing real medicine a long time ago, but he's drawn to idyllic life off the grid and takes an interest in the villagers and their health issues, in the process regaining his medical ethics and self respect. But renewed ethics and healed self respect also cause him to—you guessed it—decide to make good with the gangsters from whom he stole. Why? Because he can never be free unless he does, and so forth. The fool. He could have just mailed the money back, but no—he had to face them for the sake of his own integrity. Sometimes you need someone to tell you you're going down the wrong road, but that technology wouldn't show up for many decades. In the end One Way Street, despite its talented cast, is lightweight, unimpressive, and has an ending meant to shock with irony, but which merely comes across as lazy. We can't recommend it. It premiered today in 1950.
There are lots of ways to enter and no way to leave.
Sam Peffer painted this beautiful cover for The Trapped Ones by Louis Charbonneau, originally published in 1959 as Night of Violence, with this renamed edition from Digit appearing in 1963. Either title works. The characters are trapped, and it's violent. The location: a motel in nowheresville New Mexico. The violence: a mob guy who's stolen $50,000 and whose pursuers catch up to him right when he stops for a rest. How to solve the problem? Taking a few hostages might work. The other characters include the studly owner, the beautiful best girl, the ex-wife, the hateful couple, the confirmed coward, the dangerously precocious daughter who's mistaken the secretive criminal for her favorite singer, and the minor league pitcher-turned-hitman eager to throw his “fastball”—i.e. a hand grenade. Personal demons come to the fore, seduction has a cost, the premises become a battleground, people get shot, and that grenade explodes. The book is well written, if a little melodramatic. Certainly it's in the upper half of the quality curve for mid-century thrillers. We'll be back, Charbonneau.
What's being stolen? A previous movie's most successful ideas.
Every Hollywood star has that brief moment when they're invincible at the box office, but it seems as if Robert Mitchum, more than most others, was a guy who maintained his power for many years. When The Big Steal came out he'd already run the gauntlet of a drug bust, jail time, and the public repentance circuit, and seemed to emerge unscathed. The executive brains at RKO decided to match teflon Rob with Jane Greer in an attempt to replicate the pair's runaway success in the film noir monument Out of the Past. This time the studio went for a lot of banter and not much in the way noir style, as Mitchum plays an army lieutenant accused of a payroll robbery who pursues the real thief Patric Knowles through Mexico. Greer plays Knowles' fiancée, who he cold-heartedly divested of two-thousand bucks, because thieves are just a little more pragmatic than they are romantic.
The movie is fueled by that Mitchum/Greer chemistry, plus high speeds, resort wardrobe, wry looks, and the Out of the Past memories of movie audiences. Greer brandishes a gun again, just as in that seminal sequence in Out of the Past. Mitchum has a desperate fistfight, just as in Out of the Past. All of this retreading is supported by visually helpful location shooting in Veracruz and other areas of Mexico. The end result is a pleasant little chase film that's even comical at times. Or maybe the laughs came from our dark senses of humor. For example, you know how car pursuits sometimes go right through flocks of chickens, but the chickens never get hurt? In this movie one actually gets run over—at least if the numerous feathers drifting in the car's wake were any indication. That really amused us. Also nearly flattened were goats, a few cows, mules, children, and middle-aged ladies. In fact, all the near misses felt like a running gag about how Americans are always in a hurry.
Other aspects of the movie are equally tongue-in-cheek, including Mitchum's ugly-American stabs at Spanish, but however lightweight this is at times, in the end it's still categorized as a thriller, which means it needs to make pulses race. We wouldn't say it fully achieves that requirement, but it isn't bad either. Mitchum gonna Mitchum, and that's all a studio needed at this moment in time to make a movie work. He'd go on to headline Where Danger Lives, Angel Face, and a long string of good-to-middling dramas and noirs, all the way up to his other cinematic monuments, 1955's The Night of the Hunter and 1962's Cape Fear. The Big Steal is an okay flick, but its true value may be that it shows what the Mitchum charm can do for material that doesn't even deserve him. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1949.
Some people just can't say no.
Above is an alternate cover for N.R. de Mexico's classic drug sleaze novel Marijuana Girl, a surprisingly good tale of addiction and redemption we wrote about last year. That edition was from Uni Books and had a photo cover. This Beacon edition has a nice painted cover, which is signed but illegible. Have any idea whose signature this is below? Drop us a line.
Don't hate the Playa, hate the games.
Playa prohibida was a Mexican-Spanish co-production filmed on Mallorca, starring Rossana Podesta, that premiered in Mexico today in 1956 and reached Spain the next year, in March 1957. Above are the Mexican and Spanish posters, both quite nice we think. They're differentiated by the fact that one gives second billing to Carlos López Moctezuma, who was Mexican, while the other gives second and third billing to Spanish actors Fernando Rey and Alfredo Mayo.
Podesta plays a woman living in a beach town, and everyone thinks she's daft. When she's found on the beach standing over a corpse and looking guilty, the cops want to pin the crime on her, but a screenwriter passing through takes up the mystery and—with the help of his story construction skills—tries to figure out what happened. He narrates a significant part of the film, but other characters apply voiceover too, including the allegedly mad Podesta. The puzzle is eventually solved, and as you'd expect it's layered with jealousy, greed, betrayal, and all the usual games.
If you're thinking this sounds a bit familiar, that may because the setting bears some resemblance to Podesta's 1953 Mexican made thiller La red, in which she was also a somewhat enigmatic woman living in a small seaside community. We suppose when Mexican filmmakers thought "exotic beach beauty" Podesta came to mind, and why not? Just look at her. Her presence alone makes Playa prohibida worth a viewing, at least for us. And possibly for you too. For the moment—i.e. while the link lasts—you can watch it on YouTube and decide for yourself. Spanish required.
Sometimes you need to take a moment.
We know this moment well. Occasionally you need the world to just stop. In fact, we've built our lives around making this feeling last for weeks at a time. The person you see here having some she-time is Lilia del Valle, a Mexican actress—though born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic—who was active throughout the 1950s and ’60s, with this promo shot dating from 1955. She made about thirty movies, including 1952's El bello durmiente, aka The Beautiful Dreamer. Which is what it looks like she's doing here. In that case let's move on and not disturb her.
Jennings goes after big game in mid-1970s schlockfest.
Incredible though it seems to us, Truck Stop Women will be the 745th movie we've reviewed on Pulp Intl. And we never meant to do any. But writing reviews, commentaries, et al, gives us more latitude, legally speaking, to use all the imagery we upload. Tumblr doesn't have to worry about that. It's too sprawling, too decentralized, and ostensibly protected by a user agreement (which everyone ignores anyway). But as a dedicated website we don't have that luxury. So here we are with review 745, Truck Stop Women, which we watched solely owing to the participation of cult star Claudia Jennings.
Jennings was entertaining in efforts ranging from the swamp rat adventure 'Gator Bait to the futuristic dystopian thriller Death Race 2000. Here she's placed into another b-movie sub-genre—the hi-octane road adventure, which would beget such Americana as Smoky and The Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard. She plays a New Mexico truck hijackerworking for her criminal mom, whose operation is coveted by two mafia goons. The titular truck stop women, along with a few of their truck stop men, decide to resist this attempted takeover. The wonderfully named Lieux Dressler is one tough mother—unsentimental, opportunistic, and willing to battle to keep what's hers and her daughter's.
If the movie were a pure actioner, and Dressler and Jennings had been given 70% of the lines, the filmmakers might have had something good here. But with bluegrass backed sexual interludes and comedy riffs that mostly fall flat, this is not a movie we imagine Jennings was proud of. In fact, she's probably too good an actress to be subjected to its low grade parade of campy trucker tropes, but you take the work when it comes.
The good news is threefold—the movie improves as it veers farther away from its initial slapstick tone, the sexual vignettes, while dumb, do include Jennings, as well as the uber-stacked Uschi Digard, and the action scenes throughout are well staged. If you're a Jennings fan, her presence will suffice to get you to the end, but you'll certainly be thinking how much better this could have been. Truck Stop Women premiered today in 1974.
Everybody's gotta go sometime.
We don't find much Brazilian pulp, but above is an interesting—if battered—cover for Tarn Scott's, aka Walter Szot and Peter G. Tarnor's Não Me Deixem Morrer, which is a translation of their U.S. released 1957 kidnapping tale Don't Let Her Die, a book we read and enjoyed a few years ago. This was put out by the Rio de Janeiro based imprint Ediex for its Selecrimes series in 1964. We gather that Ediex was a branch of the Mexico City publisher Editormex Mexicana, and that the company released quite a few translations of English crime books during the 1960s.
The art, which is by an unknown, is a low rent copy of that found on the cover of 1958's The Lusting Drive by Ovid Demaris, which you see below. That cover is also uncredited, but some think it's by Ernest Chiriacka. We agree. In fact, we don't think there's any doubt. Not only is the style—particularly of the female face—a dead match, but Chiriacka was pumping out illos by the cartload for Gold Medal during the mid- to late-1950s. So we're going to go ahead and call this one a lock. We may share a few more Brazilian paperback covers in a bit. Stay tuned.
Jealousy leads to near-fatal attack. But hey, that's marriage for you.
You know the adage curiosity killed the marriage? An interesting story came across the wire from Sonora, Mexico that falls into the mondo bizarro category. Leonora N. (whose real name has been withheld by authorities) stabbed her husband Juan N. (real name also withheld) multiple times after finding photos on his phone of him with a younger woman. The problem is the younger woman was her. Not-his-real-name, in an act of love that could bring tears to your eyes, scanned and uploaded some old photos of Not-her-real-name to keep on his phone, but she, in an act of anger that would definitely bring tears to your eyes, found the photos, went straight for the knife drawer, and came out cutting. Not-his-real-name was saved only thanks to a neighbor who heard his screams and rescued him.
Now you may think this is pretty clear cut, so to speak. Good man, evil woman. Pulp in its most basic form. But in our view, you can't really fault a wife for failing to recognize her younger self, because men who've been married for a long time no longer recognize their wives either. Inside we mean. Many great minds have observed that, over time women are guaranteed to change, while men are guaranteed to try like bloody hell not to. If there's phone checking going on, Not-his-real-name should check Not-her-real-name's phone. You know what he'd find? Love poems. And he'd think she'd been hooking up with some young stud, before realizing with a shock that they're his old poems she painstakingly texted into her own phone. Because she doesn't recognize him anymore either. That guy's long gone.
So we think Not-his-real-name needs to forgive Not-her-real-name because, ultimately, it was his fault. If the guy who wrote poetry were still around maybe the young minx he married would still be around too, and none of this would have happened. We know what you're thinking. She stabbed him. That's unforgivable. Well maybe. But wives are always thinking of stabbing their husbands, at least a little. We don't mean a little as in time spent thinking about it. We mean they are constantly thinking of stabbing their husbands, but lightly. Hourly, but non-fatally. So we come down firmly on the side of Not-her-real-name. Hubby fucked up. And our opinion has nothing to do with the fact that the Pulp Intl. girlfriends read our site.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
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