Nadia Cassini is just what the witch doctor ordered.
There's no erotica quite like 1970s sexploitation. With a focus on pure pleasure, fanciful plots, and a touristic approach toward lush locations, films from the genre are usually pretty fun to watch. Il dio serpente stars Nadia Cassini as a woman who moves to Colombia with her rich, older husband in order to spice up their relationship. She partakes of the regional beaches, the local shopping, and sights such as Cartagena's Castillo de San Luis de Bocachica, before being told by local friend Beryl Cunningham about the cult of a serpent deity named Djamballà, the god of love.
Cassini has little interest in island religion, but Djamballà has an interest in Cassini—at least that's what Cunningham tells her when Cassini says she was approached by a huge snake while on the beach. She begins to develop an interest in the cult after all, attends a voodoo style ritual presided over a by witch doctor, and ends up the star participant along with Cunningham. Cassini's husband then chooses that moment to fly away on business and leave her alone in paradise, which no right thinking man would do unless compelled by a script, and a lonely Cassini starts to get into those Djamballà rituals—and Djamballà inevitably gets into her.
Cassini is blazing hot and sensual as hell, so you can't blame the snake god for his fascination. The film's director Piero Vivarelli also knows he has someone special on his hands, and spends plenty of time in loving close-ups of his star, but in our opinion his direction is far too chaste for what's basically supposed to be a ninety-minute turn-on. In addition, the film seems padded, with its extended ritual drumming sequences. In the end, what you get is just another movie about island religion and a white girl cutting loose. We've seen versions of it before. If this one is worth watching at all, it's only because Cassini's rare beauty makes it thus. Il dio serpente premiered in Italy today in 1970.
And now an important message from the underbelly of American publishing.
And the message is: sex sells. It's been several years since we delved into an issue of National Bulletin. It was the brainchild of New Rochelle, New York based Beta Publications, which was also behind Spotlite Extra and Close-Up Extra. All Beta's tabloids were about nudity, and this issue, published today in 1973, continues the trend. Bulletin editors used handout photos to build the issue. Handouts were, we've mentioned before, photos sent around to magazines for purposes ranging from promoting movies to generating exposure for unknown models. Of course, the process works properly only if the photos are credited, and few in this Bulletin are, not even the cover model. One face is recognizable to us, though—actress and sex symbol Nadia Cassini, whose image is used to illustrate a feature called "You Name It...We've Done It," about two women experimenting with some juicy nouvelle cuisine.
Handout photos were never meant to be used without credit, but back then it wasn't possible for publicists to know what happened to all the shots they sent out. Generally they asked magazines to send clippings back to the agency, and those mailings were then compiled into folders that publicists shared with clients to prove the efficacy of their work. But if a tabloid like Bulletin simply never mailed any clippings, publicists never knew their clients' photos had been used. A good thing, because we have a feeling Cassini wouldn't have wanted to be described as “inching her tongue between the lips of [a woman's] vee.” Although, personally, we can't think of a better usage of spare time. In any case, a lot of women were borrowed to create this nudity packed issue of National Bulletin, and we doubt any of them were properly credited. Twenty-plus scans below.
Imperial battleship—suddenly give me godlike powers to win this war!
Whenever the subject of the worst movie ever made comes up you can count on everyone to have an opinion. When that discussion happens Starcrash is the film we mention. Generally people are skeptical. Everyone has their beloved favorites. Sometimes we'd have to prove our point, we'd end up renting this puppy to show to friends, and by the third reel any doubters were staring agape at the colossal implosion this movie is. It was a Star Wars knock-off, obviously, filmed in Italy and Switzerland with Marjoe Gortner and Caroline Munro in the leads, and written and directed by Luigi Cozzi working under the pseudonym Lewis Coates.
Whenever we watch this with friends the question always arises: did they mean it to be a good film? Yes. They did. But no. It isn't. Not even remotely close. And that's what makes Starcrash such a treasure. Not merely that it's terrible, but that the filmmakers wrapped the production feeling good about what they'd done. They thought they'd made an exciting, visually stunning, somewhat humorous smash hit. It's the sincerity of ambition that makes Starcrash, in our opinion, the best bad movie of all time. Worse (better) than Roadhouse, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and all the usual contenders. While Cozzi does an okay job directing, his script and budget sabotage him at the outset.
We'll give you an example (yes, it's a spoiler, but in a movie like this it doesn't matter). Near the finale, with no previous indication that such a power existed, Christopher Plummer, the emperor of the galaxy, bellows this command: “Imperial battleship—halt the flow of time!” You can't just suddenly go deus ex machina like that. It would make as much sense if Plummer shouted: “Imperial battleship—make my enemies' dicks fall off!” He explains in a smirky aside, "You know, my son, I wouldn't be Emperor of the Galaxy if I didn't have some powers at my disposal." That's amazing. And don't even get us started about how Cozzi forgot that space is a vacuum.
Get some friends over, get some booze flowing, get Starcrash rolling, and see if watching Gortner and Munro ham it up across a Christmas lighted galaxy isn't one of the best movie nights you've ever had. One thing that isn't terrible about it, at least, is the U.S. promo art by John Solie you see above and below. The international posters are nice too, though we don't know if they were painted by Solie. We'll show you those later. In the meantime you can see another beautiful Solie effort here. Since Starcrash was Italian made it premiered in Italy and West Germany before reaching the U.S. today in 1979.
This is not a light saber.
This is not like Princess Leia's hologram.
He in no way resembles Darth Vader.
But to be fair, motifs in sci-fi repeat. In a universe of ideas, writers for some reason tend to think of the same stuff. Below are aspects of Starcrash that—suspiciously?—recurred in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back.
Han Solo's deep freeze in carbonite in no way resembles this.
Princess Leia's slave costume is not similar to this at all.
The ice planet Hoth is near here, but is a totally different planet.
And below are more production photos from the film. If these don't make you want to watch it, well, you probably don't have a pulse. Or possibly you just have good taste and think life's too short to watch terrible films. Either way.
Excuse me—there’s a guy in my soup.
Sticking with the recent tabloid theme, above is a National Informer Weekly Reader that hit newsstands today in 1974. Inside is a rather funny story about a Honolulu restaurant called Dunes, which was allegedly staffed by nude waiters. Do we buy this tale? We didn’t at first, but we checked online and sure enough—there was such a place and owner Jack Cione did indeed feature nude waiters during lunch service. We’re for nudity of any sort, male included, but we don’t want any stray dick tips in our shrimp salad, so maybe we’d pass on the actual lunch aspect.
Also in the issue editors ask, “What Ever Happened To June?” That would be British pin-up June Wilkinson, who not been seen on the showbiz circuit since starring with her husband—NFL star Dan Pastorini—in the film Weed: The Florida Connection. After Weed Wilkinson didn’t appear onscreen for eleven years. Occasionally, that’s a sign you’ve made a disastrous movie, and Weed is indeed terrifically bad. We’ll talk about it a bit later. We have eleven more scans from National Informer Weekly Reader below, including a nice shot of Italian sex symbol Nadia Cassini.
She can be either or both depending on her mood.
Here's another nice shot of b-movie actress Nadia Cassini, who we last saw back in 2010. Cassini, who in our view is one of the better products from low budget cinema, was born in the U.S., but worked mostly in Europe, appearing in such films as Pulp, Il dio Serpente, and Starcrash, the latter of which we'll definitely write about soon, since it's one of our favorite bad movies ever. But don't blame Cassini—she was absolutely fine in it. And she's absolutely fine here too. This image first appeared in the magazine Oui in 1972.
The stuff that bad dreams are made of.
Any movie called Pulp is one we must watch, and since Mike Hodges of Get Carter fame helmed the production we were confident going in, especially since we knew it featured bombshell Nadia Cassini and numerous locations in some of the prettiest and most remote parts of Malta. In fact, as a travel piece the film is flawless (Hodges could have written it for the sole purpose of getting a Mediterranean vacation on the Hollywood dime), but as satire, it’s torturous, despite a few clever sight gags and four or five sharp one-liners. Don’t get us wrong—there are merits: always-interesting star Michael Caine, character actor Lionel Stander, and Hollywood icon Mickey Rooney. But there was also a lot of bad: star Michael Caine sleepwalking through the production in owl glasses and a pompadour, character actor Lionel Stander in a cock-hugging one-piece bathing suit, and Hollywood icon Mickey Rooney getting his dangle on in size forty tightie-whities. To quote our girlfriends, “Eew.” Yes, we know they’re riffing on their own tough-guy images. But still, eew. The main problem with this movie is there’s simply no—if you’ll excuse the term—thrust to the plot. Even satire needs to go somewhere, otherwise it's just middle-aged men showing their packages for nothing. If Rooney and Stander ever watched Pulp without cringing they did better than us. However, since scantily-clad men are rare in the macho world of pulp, we’ve posted some beefcake as a treat, below. And afterwards, we have some shots of Malta that’ll really turn you on. Pulp opened in the U.S. this week in 1972.
She's the best thing in the woods since campfires and s'mores.
Above, a photo of U.S.-born Italian/German actress Nadia Cassini, née Gianna Lou Muller, who was a major sex symbol of the 70s, appearing in films like Il dio serpente and Starcrash, but who retired young after plastic surgery left her facially disfigured. She's seen here circa 1973.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
The newspaper Pravda is founded by Leon Trotsky, Adolph Joffe, Matvey Skobelev and other Russian exiles living in Vienna. The name means "truth" and the paper serves as an official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party between 1912 and 1991.
1957—Ferlinghetti Wins Obscenity Case
An obscenity trial brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, owner of the counterculture City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, reaches its conclusion when Judge Clayton Horn rules that Allen Ginsberg's poetry collection Howl is not obscene.
After a long trial watched by millions of people worldwide, former football star O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the murders of ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson subsequently loses a civil suit and is ordered to pay millions in damages.
1919—Wilson Suffers Stroke
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. He is confined to bed for weeks, but eventually resumes his duties, though his participation is little more than perfunctory. Wilson remains disabled throughout the remainder of his term in office, and the rest of his life.
1968—Massacre in Mexico
Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics
in Mexico City, a peaceful student demonstration ends in the Tlatelolco Massacre. 200 to 300 students are gunned down, and to this day there is no consensus about how or why the shooting began.
1910—Los Angeles Times Bombed
A massive dynamite bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California, killing 21 people. Police arrest James B. McNamara and his brother John J. McNamara. Though the brothers are represented by the era's most famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, they eventually plead guilty. James is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His brother John is convicted of a separate bombing of the Llewellyn Iron Works and also sent to prison.
1975—Ali Defeats Frazier in Manila
In the Philippines, an epic heavyweight boxing match known as the Thrilla in Manila takes place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is the third, final and most brutal match between the two, and Ali wins by TKO in the fourteenth round.
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