Modern Pulp Jun 12 2022
CLASH BY NIGHT
Caught between a rock and an ugly place.


A few days ago we wrote about the 1950 film noir Night and the City, and our poking around led to the discovery that the Blu-Ray edition comes with a box cover by one of our favorite modern artists Owen Smith. He first came to our attention because he painted covers for the Daniel Chavarría crime novels Adios Muchachos and Tango for a Torturer, and we see that he remains a unique stylist, perhaps even a modern pulp master. His depiction of star Richard Widmark trapped between tough guys Mike Mazurki and Stanislaus Zbyszko captures the essence of the movie without being an actual scene from it. We like the choice.

While Night and the City revolves around wrestling, it seems that Smith has been busy with another ring art—boxing. He's created quite a few works along those lines, and we've uploaded several below. We'd say he has the subject of men who've had the snot beaten out of them pretty well conquered. Finally, since we brought it up, we'd like to recommend—for adventurous readers—the aforementioned Chavarría novels. Due to our time living in Guatemala and traveling around the region we developed an interest in all things Cuba. He brings that island to life in a way few authors do. Read what we wrote about him here, and see more Smith here and here.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 9 2022
DAMNED YANKEE
An American con man in London.


Amazing that we haven't talked in detail about Night and the City yet, but all things in good time, and the time is now. Directed by Jules Dassin, this is one of the top entries in the film noir cycle, featuring Richard Widmark playing an American named Harry Fabian who's trying to hustle his way to riches in postwar London. Being a hustler, he long ago gave up the idea of working a fair job for a fair wage, and instead has been involved in so many spurious get-rich-quick schemes that nobody believes in him anymore. But when he stumbles upon the greatest greco-roman wrestler of all time, he cooks up a plot to take over wrestling promotion in London—and this scheme is a sure thing.

Widmark's performance hinges upon nervous energy and emotional desperation, as he shapes Harry Fabian into one of the greatest characters in the film noir annals, a man who's equal parts pitiable, ridiculous, and dangerous. He's the ultimate noir loser, a man who simply cannot see the forest for the trees. Gene Tierney, who any normal man would worship twenty-four hours a day, plays his girlfriend, beautiful and forbearing, but whose presence Fabian warps into yet another reason to grift his way to a fortune. He feels that a guy in his meager circumstances doesn't deserve her—which completely overlooks the fact that he already has her.

As Widmark tries to hold his caper together the rug is pulled from under him multiple times, yet like any serious hustler he manages to stumble improvisationally onward with lies and wishful thinking. His constant sowing of the seeds of his destruction is hard to watch, because as viewers we can see where and how he's going to fail—or possibly, just possibly, fate will grant him a miracle though he very much deserves to fail. One of the cool things about film noir is that its leads tend to be terribly flawed, but here Widmark is a human clearing house for bad character traits, and the worst of them is the one he has no control over—he was simply born under a bad star.

All in all Night and the City deserves its reputation. We have a few quibbles, but they're purely personal. For example, female leads in these old films often perform a song and Tierney's is atrocious, sadly. And if we were going to be very picky we'd add that it's also hard to buy the wonderful Tierney and the unctuous, work-averse Widmark as a couple, but of course, willing suspension and all that jazz requires that we go with it. The movie works even if Widmark refuses to. Give it a watch. You won't regret it. Night and the City had its world premiere today in 1950.

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Vintage Pulp | Sportswire Apr 29 2022
DOWN FOR THE COUNT
If a boxer falls when nobody hits him is it still a knockout?


We've been neglecting French promo art lately, so here'a a little something—a poster for Plus dure sera la chute, which is better known as The Harder They Fall. This was painted by Jean Mascii, whose work we last saw several years ago when we talked about the 1960 thriller Plein soleil. We recommend having a look at that to get a better sense of Mascii's skill. He created a very interesting portrait of Humphrey Bogart for this effort. This was Bogart's last movie. He filmed it while gravely ill, having been diagnosed with esophageal cancer, but did his work in legendary style, a true professional, working long hours, shooting retakes, and generally doing all he could to prevent his condition from affecting the production.

Bogart plays a struggling sports writer hired by shady fight promoter Rod Steiger to be the press agent for his new discovery—a gigantic but glass-jawed carnival strongman from Argentina named Toro Moreno. Steiger wants Bogart to sell Toro as the next great heavyweight contender, but in order to do so they need to send him on a bum-of-the-month tour to knock out a series of hapless opponents paid to take dives. After Toro has been built up in the press as the second coming of the heavyweight division, Steiger plans to make a bundle with a match against the champ, played by Max Baer. Bogart signs on for this ride because after all his work in the newspaper business he has nothing, and wants to finally make real money. But it could cost his reputation, and because Toro has no clue the fights he's winning are fixed, the scheme can only end with the poor overconfident dupe slaughtered by the champ.

Steiger would win an Academy Award in 1967 for In The Heat of the Night, and here, more than a decade earlier, you can see that achievement as almost inevitable as you watch him dominate the screen. He's simply great in this, and Bogart gives an excellent performance too, failing physically but soldiering onward, using that world weary mug of his to impart a lifetime's worth of fatigue and disappointment. The movie also features Jan Sterling. We had no idea she'd gone in for rhinoplasty, and at first weren't positive it was her. It is though, and after writing just recently how gorgeous she was we're sad she didn't see her own perfection and instead chose to go under the surgeon's knife. But her body her choice. She's good as always, here playing Bogart's conscience, trying to keep him from sliding down the slippery slope to amorality.

There's another person who should be mentioned—Mike Lane as the lumbering Toro Moreno. This was his debut role, and you'd think there weren't many more parts out there for a guy standing 6'8”, but surprisingly he accumulated almost seventy acting credits, almost all on television, where he appeared in shows of every type, from Gunsmoke to Get Smart. Obviously, any vintage boxing movie involves mimetic acting, and the fighting here isn't realistic—quantum leaps in how to convincingly portray ring scenes came later—but they serve their purpose. And for boxing realists, the movie gets extra credit due to the presence of both Baer and Jersey Joe Walcott. The Harder They Fall opened in March 1956, and had its French premiere today at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.
Fine, Toro, you're huge. Massive. Enormous. But you need to learn how to box or the champ is going to crush your face like a graham cracker.

Hi, champ! Before we start, I just want to say I'm probably your biggest admir—

I thought that whole graham cracker speech was just Bogie being colorful.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 27 2022
BUYERS CLUB
No, my husband doesn't mind that I have sex with other men. Though he probably would if he knew.


Ben Kerr, who we first knew as Mike Moran, then William Ard, might make the trusted author category. His 1957 novel Club 17 is a nice little yarn. It deals with a down-on-her-luck actress finally driven to prostitution, but her first customer is a vice cop out to bust the crime ring she works for, which operates out of an unassuming Manhattan watering hole called Club 17. She can't go through with the deed, which transforms the cop's appraisal of her from hooker to sweetheart, and romance is born.

We know what you're thinking, but the same old motif of love at first sight works because Kerr writes fast and with style. He had to write fast—he churned out three books a year, but his work didn't suffer for it. Some writers just have that gift. He pulls together a cohort of major characters—the cop, the call girl, the groomer, the pimp, a political climber, his two-timing wife, and a private investigator—and effortlessly sets the narrative spinning within only twenty pages.

Turning to the cover, which is amazing, it's unattributed, but we think it's by Ray Johnson. He was working with Popular Library from at least 1955 onward, as we've shown you here and here. The rear cover below reinforces our conviction on this. Look below and note the hair, the shape of the face, and that certain lift of the eyebrows, then check the links. He's the prime suspect. If so, excellent work, from a top rank illustrator.
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Vintage Pulp Feb 18 2022
COCKTAIL TEASE
I'm not only beautiful. I'm expensive, inconvenient, and unreliable. You'll spend years explaining all this to your therapist.

We have another paperback collection for you today, and this one is a no-brainer for a pulp site. There are hundreds of covers featuring women in bars, many of which we've already shared, such as here, here (scroll down), and here. Above and below are more, and as soon as we uploaded them we went to do exactly what the art depicts. Have a happy Friday, everyone.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 13 2022
BOSSY WOMEN
Miki and Reiko rock and rule Osaka in 1973's Sukeban.


We already shared this rare circular poster for Sukeban, aka Girl Boss Revenge: Sukeban, in a group post years ago, but since it's so rare and interesting we're bringing it back for a solo look, and as you see below we've split it in half to allow you to have your own copy of reasonable size, if you're inclined to put the two pieces together. We might as well comment on the movie too. When we first shared the art for this, we figured why discuss the film in detail when there were already plenty of reviews online? We even linked to one back then. Little did we know that Pulp Intl. would still be going ten years later and would be a top repository for vintage Japanese poster art online. That being the case, we figure we'll tell you about the movie this time.

It stars two of the brightest stars of the Japanese grindhouse era—Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike. Miki plays a gang leader who calls herself Kantô Komasa, while Reiko is the girl gang leader of Namairu High School. They meet in a prison van and escape simultaneously, headed different directions but destined to cross paths again. Miki forms a new gang in Osaka called Gypsy Dance, gets into the usual delinquency, and meets a director of dirty movies who she enlists in a revenge plot. But all the fun and games take a nasty turn when she runs afoul of the North Dragon yakuza and they start dishing out pain and suffering. Only with the help of a young North Dragon footsoldier named Tatsuo is Miki able to escape her predicament.

It just so happens that Tatsuo is Reiko's boyfriend. Reiko has been missing since her escape from the prison van, but arrives on the scene just in time to find Miki in bed with her man. That puts Reiko and Miki at odds in the worst way, but Reiko has no idea Tatsuo is working for the North Dragon. She'll find out, though, via a stunning betrayal. We'll end the synopsis there, but add the warning that the North Dragonare mean as hell and the tortures they administer are hard to watch. But gangsters gonna gangster—if they spent their time at garden parties and poetry readings there'd be a different word for them.

Sukeban, which was directed by Norifumi Suzuki, is a prime example of Toei Company's pinky violence genre—wild, colorful, gritty, and bloody, with moments of humor to leaven the hard tone. Movies of this style influenced many later directors, but apart from Quentin Tarantino and maybe a couple of other mavericks such operatic exploitation is a relic of the past. The film is basically Miki's show, and whether rolling fabulously down a hill in her fur coat and platforms or getting dirty in an alley fight, she delivers a freewheeling performance in a production that isn't for the faint of heart. It's worth watching for its historical value as well as for entertainment, but in either case, hold onto your hat.

As a bonus, below we have some production photos, including a rare image of Miki striking the topless pose used to create the promo poster. We always thought her head looked a little warped on that poster. Turns out it's a defect in the original photograph—someone either shot her off-kilter or introduced the flaw during the developing process, and she stayed that way. We're guessing, but we're pretty sure because normally her head is very symmetrical. As is the rest of her. You'll see what we mean below about the photo. Sukeban premiered in Japan today in 1973. You can see our other write-up on it here.
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Vintage Pulp Jan 7 2022
ORANGE CRUSH
Packed with flavor and fortified with the recommended daily allotment of vitamin f.


Victor Kalin went the tight focus route with this cover of an orange femme fatale he painted for William Ard's 1958 thriller Deadly Beloved, also published as The Root of His Evil. We love the art, and we loved the book too. An insurance investigator named Tim Dane is hired to transport a $100,000 gambling debt from an unlucky loser to a Miami hood named John Cashman. Cashman plans to use the money to help finance a war in Latin America, but that's just background. The more immediate part of the narrative involves an exotic dancer named Lissa, real name Elizabeth Ann Miller, who he has ringfenced with the help of 24/7 bodyguards and a lifetime management contract. Dane ignores warnings to keep away and is soon giving Lissa deep nocturnal lovin'—a pleasure that could cost his life if Cashman finds out about it. Ard, who also wrote as Ben Kerr, Mike Moran, et al, is a talented stylist with an approach all his own. His way of cutting transitional exposition is pretty neat. Every writer is required to do it, but Ard can cross town within the space of a sentence and still not sound like he's rushing. We're already trawling the auction sites for more from him. Highly entertaining.
Edit: We got an e-mail asking exactly what we meant by "cutting transitional exposition." We don't want to search through the book for an example, so we'll make up one. It would go something like this. "He decided he'd have to drive to Coral Gables to ask Cashman in person, and two days later when the door opened to his knock, he was surprised that it wasn't a servant but Cashman himself who answered."

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Vintage Pulp Oct 27 2021
GIVE 'EM ENOUGH ROPE
Reiko and Miki chew over a very tough problem.


Reiko Ike (front) and Miki Sugimoto pose together in a rope gnawing b/w promo made for their pinky violence actioner Zenka onna: koroshi-bushi, aka Criminal Woman: Killing Melody, which premiered today in 1973. We found this on Reddit, so thanks to whoever originally uploaded this slightly bizarre item. We have plenty on the movie in our website, including some amazing posters. We recommend clicking its keywords below and scrolling.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 27 2021
NO CASH, NO CREDIT, NO FORGIVENESS
There's hell to pay and the only currency she takes is cold hard ass.


Above is a rare bo-eikibari style promo for Sukeban burûsu: Mesubachi no gyakushû, known in English as as Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee Strikes Again, or sometimes Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee's Counterattack. It premiered in Japan today in 1971. You can see the standard promo at the top of this group post, and you can see the tateken promo here. Basically, Reiko Ike, Miki Sugimoto, Yayoi Watanabe, et al are members of a gang of hot young thieves who extort hapless middle-aged squares by luring them, drugging them, and robbing them. The movie has a little of everything—and lot of Ike, one of the towering figures of Japanese b-movies.

We find it interesting that Sugimoto didn't make it onto the poster (nor the other promos made for the film) while Yayoi Watanabe (prone and restrained) did. Rest assured, Miki is in the film. She gets as much screen time as anyone except Ike, especially in the first forty-five minutes. Mysterious are the minds of pinku poster designers. This isn't the first time they've thrown us a curve by leaving someone important off a promo. Anyway, this movie is well worth a watch for fans of pinky violence. We already showed you a promo image of Reiko Ike yesterday, but what the heck—let's bring her back, below. And Sugimoto too. We can't have one without the other.
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Intl. Notebook Aug 26 2021
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE
She didn't make it to the top of Hollywood just to accept being second banana in Monaco.


Yes, people were stupidly fawning over the rich long before 2021, as this issue of the tabloid Exposed published this month in 1957 proves. There are stories on one percenters ranging from Princess Grace of Monaco on down. Of course, there's an aspirational innocence to these old stories, because very few people, if any, begrudged the rich anything in this era. Those times have gone. Companies make hundreds of billions now and pay zero taxes. The rich have a thousand ways to hide their income, to the tune of 40 trillion dollars in cash hidden in tax havens around the world.

Something else different about the rich of yesterday—they didn't have dick-shaped rocket ships. Instead they had dick shaped yachts. And that's what the feud hinted at on the cover between Grace Kelly and Tina Onassis was about—in part at least. It was also about who threw the best parties, who had the richest and most influential friends, who had the best designer clothes, and who was the greatest beauty. Of course, Kelly was legendarily lovely, but because beauty marries money even when the money is as butt-ugly as Aristotle Onassis, Tina was no slouch.

Exposed tells us of one competitive episode the night Kelly was celebrating the birth of her daughter Caroline, which had happened a day earlier. Kelly lived in Grimaldi Palace, overlooking Monaco harbor, where Aristotle Onassis lived on an 1,800 ton former Canadian navy destroyer retrofitted as a luxury yacht. The night of Kelly's celebration Onassis left his boat totally dark in the harbor, then at one point flipped a switch that illuminated hundreds of light bulbs strung from prow to stern. Kelly's clan took it as an attempt to show her up. Sounds petty, right? Well, Exposed was a tabloid, and its readers absolutely devoured stories showing that they and the next door neighbor they hated weren't so very different from the one percent.

After that boat episode, according to Exposed, Kelly and Onassis barely saw each other in tiny Monaco, such was their determination to avoid each other. Again, the half-century old public obsession with these two seems quaint compared to people's interest in the Musks and Bransons of today. There are opinions and facts, and here is a fact—the U.S. is falling apart and miniscule taxes on the rich and corporations are the reason. During the year this issue of Exposed was published, a year many people now cast their misty eyes toward with longing and nostalgia, the tax rate for top income earners was 91%. No wonder things functioned so well, eh? High taxes kept the government flush and the rich weak.

But the highlight of the issue as far as we're concerned is Vikki Dougan, who we told you would return to Pulp Intl. soon, and who shows up at a party thrown by Hollywood astrologer Carroll Righter wearing one of her infamous buttcrack baring backless dresses. Exposed indeed. Since this is about as low as her gowns went, we zoomed in a bit so you can get a good look at the San Fernando Valley. Dougan by the way, is still around at age 92. Elsewhere in Exposed you get Joan Collins and her romances, restaurateur Mike Romanoff and his legal troubles, Paulette Goddard and her love of money, and vice in New York City. Thirty scans below.
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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 06
1962—William Faulkner Dies
American author William Faulkner, who wrote acclaimed novels such as Intruder in the Dust and The Sound and the Fury, dies of a heart attack in Wright's Sanitorium in Byhalia, Mississippi.
July 05
1942—Spy Novelist Graduates from Spy School
Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels, graduates from Camp X, a training school for spies located in Canada. The character of Bond has been said to have been based upon Camp X's Sir William Stephenson and what Fleming learned from him, though there are several other men who are also said to be the basis for Bond.
1989—Oliver North Avoids Prison
Colonel Oliver North, an aide to U.S. president Ronald Reagan, avoids jail during the sentencing phase of the Iran-Contra trials. North had been found guilty of falsifying and destroying documents, and obstructing Congress during their investigation of the massive drugs/arms/cash racket orchestrated by high-ranking members of the Reagan government.
July 04
1927—La Lollo Is Born
Gina Lollobrigida is born in Subiaco, Italy, and eventually becomes one of the world's most famous and desired actresses. Later she becomes a photojournalist, numbering among her subjects Salvador Dali, Paul Newman and Fidel Castro.
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