She's usually the goddess of love but this has been a bad week.
We meant to get right back to Italian illustrator Franco Picchioni, but in typical fashion it's taken us a few years. But today you see another of his nice creations, this time for Georges H. Boskero's Le Veneri Ardenti, which translates to The Fiery Venus. It was published in 1966 by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore for its Il Cerchio Rosso series, a series of thrillers that featured some of the best Italian cover art of the period. We'll show you some of those in a bit and at the same time revisit Franco's art. In the meantime, check out what he did with a James Bond cover here.
A trapper's job turns into a battle of wits and a test of survival.
The movie Swamp Water is based on Vereen Bell's 1941 novel of the same name. We read the book a while back and loved it, so having a look at the movie adaptation was mandatory. Jean Renoir directs a heavyweight cast: Walter Brennan, Walter Huston, Dana Andrews, an eighteen-year old Anne Baxter, and even John Carradine. Brennan is the key character, playing a murder suspect hiding in the Okefenokee Swamp. He's considered an all-time great actor, and here he plays a backwoods good ole boy, mouthing dialogue like, “I bet I been cottonmouth bit a dozen times.” When we heard that line we had to laugh, because it prefigures his famous soliloquy from 1946's To Have and Have Not about being “bit by a dead bee.”
There's more excellent dialogue in this. Our favorite line: “It's gettin' so I don't expect nothin' from you 'cept a bossified tongue and a cussin' out.”
While the script is fun, we didn't think Bell's book would be easily adaptable and we were right. One of the pleasures of the novel is its extensive focus on the geography of the swamp, but there was no way that could fit into the film. The air of deep foreboding and mystery is also missing. For those and other reasons what you end up with is a so-so old movie made from an excellent old book. The script closely follows the source material, so if you want to know a bit more about the plot, we posted a short write-up on the novel here. Swamp Water opened across the U.S. in November 1941, but before its national debut had a special premiere in the town of Waycross, Georgia, where much of the movie was made. That was today, 1941.
Don't let her name fool you—she wreaks Havoc all year round.
Above, a very nice promo photo of Vancouver born actress June Havoc from her 1949 drama The Story of Molly X. Also among her long list of films were Gentleman's Agreement, Once a Thief, Lady Possessed, and The Iron Curtain. Though her real name obviously wasn't Havoc, it was close—she was originally Ellen June Hovick. Molly X looks interesting, so we'll see if we can track that down and report back.
I used to be over easy, but that was during my wild college years.
Above, a beautiful 1950 Venus Books cover for Hard-Boiled, originally published in 1935 as Struggle, written by Harmon Bellamy, who was in reality Herman Bloom. The book deals with an embittered misogynist who meets up with a hardboiled woman of low repute, and finds his feelings for her evolving from contempt to a growing desire to peel her and have her for a meal. The main attraction here, though, is the art by George Gross. He was good at everything, but in the area of dressing his women, he was top of the heap. This lacy bodysuit is perfect. For more examples of Gross fashions, check this collection, especially the top example.
Technically it's a two-three punch but who's counting?
Above are Japanese posters for two Hong Kong martial arts actioners from the immortal Bruce Lee—1971's Tang shan da xiong, aka The Big Boss, and 1972's Jing mo mun, aka Fist of Fury. You notice the numbers on these, 2, and 3. They didn't premier in Japan until 1974, which meant they showed there after 1973's worldwide hit Enter the Dragon. So when these two films finally traversed the East China Sea, they were cleverly marketed as Lee's second and third karate epics to fans rabid for more high kicking adventure. There's an alternate Jing mo min poster of far lesser quality than what you see above, but we've included it anyway, below. We have plenty more Lee in the site, so if you're interested click his keywords.
There's been entirely too much downsizing around here. How about today you and I do a little upsizing?
When does a growth spurt occur in a typical business? In mid-century sleaze fiction, it happens whenever secretary and boss agree, as suggested in this brilliant cover by George Gross for John Hunter's 1957 novel Office Hussy, previously published in 1951 as The Loves of Alice Brandt and credited to Gene Harvey. We like to interpret this as the woman being the boss, having just told her subordinate to pour a couple of tall bourbons, and be damned quick about it. But it can be seen the other way if you wish. Doesn't matter, because when consenting parties get together everybody gets a bonus. You already know George Gross was close to the best paperback artist ever, but if you're unfamiliar with him, check here, here, and here.
I'm not worried. I know something you don't. I'm the star of an entire series.
Above, a 1959 cover painted by James Meese for John Ross MacDonald's 1950 thriller The Drowning Pool. We looked at a 1951 cover for this a while back, but rather than talk about the story made some dumb jokes and called it a day. So about the book. The novel features franchise detective Lew Archer trying to solve a drowning murder while dealing with a family torn apart over an inheritance. Liking the book is a matter of liking the character. Archer is cynical, quippy, and pretty rude most of the time—in short, a typical mid-century fictional detective. And therein lies the issue. He's standard, which means the mystery needs to be unique, but instead it's a drop-off from the series debut The Moving Target. It's not bad, though, and consensus is the eighteen Archer adventures improve as they progress. We'll see, because we plan to keep reading them. Hopefully Archer will make us glad he survived this gun to his head.
Lana Turner and Co. stumble badly in counterculture drug thriller.
This Italian promo poster was made for the 1969 thriller Geometria di un delitto, better known by its original title The Big Cube. Plotwise a woman played by Lana Turner marries a rich man and comes into conflict with his twenty-something daughter, played by Karin Mossberg. Their problems worsen when the rich man dies and bequeaths his money to his wife, leaving only a monthly stipend for his daughter. However, according to the will—see if you can follow this—if the daughter marries she inherits everything, but only provided stepmom gives her consent.
No, it doesn't make a bit of sense. The filmmakers wanted to generate conflict and tension, but a nonsensical stipulation in the will isn't needed to do that. Families fly apart over money all the time, even when there's plenty for everybody. But okay, you have to go with it. As the movie wears on the problems between stepmom and stepdaughter are exploited by Mossberg's drug dealer boyfriend, who comes up with the bright idea of driving Turner insane by repeatedly dosing her with LSD. Instead of the perfect murder, he's come up with the “perfect freak-out,” as he describes it. If Turner is certified insane she loses control of the fortune.
This is a movie you watch strictly for laughs, because it's ridiculous. The script and acting are terrible, and the plot must have been conceived under the influence of whatever leftover acid Turner didn't ingest. Basically The Big Cube is a drug scare movie, and like most examples from that sub-genre it's fatally dumb. But you could do worse. Mossberg is radiant, and screen legend Turner is always worth a gander even when her non-elite acting skills are exposed. There's no known Italian release date, but The Big Cube premiered in the U.S. today in 1969.
It's a movie with the power to make a blind man see.
We may never run out of beautiful Japanese posters. Today we have one for the goofball spy thriller Hyappatsu hyakuchu: Ogon on me. The title on this one gets complicated. It was retitled in English Booted Babe, Busted Boss, and mostly referred to as such. Yeah, pretty bad title. In Japanese it was known as 100発100中 黄金の眼, which means “golden eyes 100 shots out of 100.” That title was shortened in English to just Golden Eyes. We like that better than Booted whatever.
The film was a sequel to Hyappatsu hyakuchu, known in English as Ironfinger. We had somewhat high expectations for this, considering Ironfinger was pretty entertaining in that stupidly funny sort of way. Akira Takarada stars again as Andy Hoshino. He goes to Beirut, is asked by a little girl to kill her father's killer, and is paid for his services with the only currency the girl has—a silver dollar. Neither of them knows that this coin is in reality a priceless Spanish gold medallion covered in silver.
Soon numerous parties are chasing Andy around Beirut, and later Tokyo, trying to retrieve this priceless artifact. The main pursuer is the arch-villain Mr. Stonefeller, a blind Emilio Largo clone (think Thunderball) whose hearing is so precise he can pick foes off with a sniper rifle. So why isn't the movie called Golden Ears? Just doesn't have that snap to it, does it? We guess Toho Company called it Golden Eyes because the villain wants the gold so badly, therefore he has eyes for it, so to speak. Best guess.
The plot is less important than the gags here, and there are a couple of good ones, particularly during a gunfight in which Andy kills several foes by throwing a machine gun at them, then shooting the trigger of the machine gun in mid-air, thereby causing it to fire, plowing the bad guys under like weeds. But still, the sophomore jinx is a real thing, and Golden Eyes has diminished sequel syndrome. It's watchable, though, if likely offensive to anyone of Lebanese descent. You'll see what we mean. It premiered in Japan today in 1968.
Must dodge hook. Must dodge hook. Must dodge hook. Really must dodge hook! Must dodge hook! Must dodge hook! Oww! Motherfuck me! Anyone got more shoe polish? Lebanese Brown if you have it. I ran out before I finished my ears. The irony is he told me he'd learned he was being racist and came up here to wash it off in the bath. Ten more minutes and there'd have been no justification for this. I can hit anything with this pistol. Including d-flat. Here, listen. Isn't that cool? Wait until you hear Miss Tomoni sing, Mr. Stonefeller. This will blow your mind. She's considered the Bob Dylan of Tokyo because of her incisive and politically relevant lyrics.
You're right, she's amazing. And though I'm blind, and technically shouldn't be able to see her, I also find it incredible how she changes costumes multiple times mid-song like that. Oh, that's nothing. The midnight show she goes full frontal. Maybe your off-and-on vision will be on around then. Room service, sir. You ordered two duck dinners? Surprise! Duck à l'Agent Orange! Gotta run! Hope you die! Go vegan! You can leave my tip on the nightstand! Hi! Commercial Girl here. You haven't seen me for a while, right? Hate to interrupt, but I've been called by the Pulp Intl. girlfriends to put a stop to this endless post. The Pulp guys are on virus lockdown and it's making them a little loopy. But under threat of sexual boycott they're done for today. See you soon! |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire
in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
1934—Baby Face Nelson Killed
In the U.S., killer and bank robber Baby Face Nelson, aka Lester Joseph Gillis, dies in a shoot-out with the FBI in Barrington, Illinois. Nelson is shot nine times, but by walking directly into a barrage of gunfire manages to kill both of his FBI pursuers before dying himself.
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
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