Vintage Pulp Jul 30 2023
HOUSE OF PAIN
Life there is an ongoing domestic disturbance.

The posters you see here were made for the French thriller Les félins. While the French posters are fine, we thought these Italian promos were a bit more interesting. The first two were painted by Enzo Nistri, the second two by Sandro Symeoni. The movie was called Crisantemi per un delitto in Italy—“chrysanthemums for a crime.” No idea why. But fine, it's lyrical, which is never bad. It's based on the imaginative Day Keene novel Joy House, which is the title the movie retained for its U.S. run. In the book a derelict is plucked from a Chicago homeless shelter by a rich widow who needs a chauffeur, but her benevolence seems likely to backfire because her new driver was in the shelter only because it offered a perfect hiding place from mobsters seeking to kill him. But she has her own secret plans, and they're as sinister as they come.

Working from a screenplay co-written by director René Clément and crime author Charles Williams, the movie slightly alters the approach of Keene's book. With Lola Albright playing the widow and Alain Delon as the hunted man, the story is transplanted from urban Chicago to the Côte d'Azur. Pre-Barbarella Jane Fonda features in a co-starringrole as Albright's cousin and household helper. The two are soon in competition for Delon's affections, though he never forgets that his main goal is to escape the mobsters. While the general thrust of the plot remains a mystery as in Keene's novel, there's a heavy dose of action too, with excellent stunts. The ending differs as well.

The result is good, but also an example of both the highs and lows of French cinema of the period. Delon, Fonda, and Albright are decent actors bestowed a good script, and are all gorgeous and charismatic, but the movie spends a lot of time being cute. Even so, Clément and company pull it all together. Make sure you appreciate the production design, especially the Rolls Royce that Delon drives, with its completely transparent roof, c-pillars all. It's something we never knew existed. To us it looked like a good way to get heatstroke, but we guess it was made for rich occupants to see and be seen. We think Joy House should be seen. It premiered in France in June 1964, then opened at the Taormina Film Fest in Italy today the same year.
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Vintage Pulp Apr 11 2020
LOW NOTES AND HIGH NOTES
Goodis gets down and dirty while Hooks takes it up a notch.


This cover for David Goodis's 1956 novel Down There was painted by Mitchell Hooks, one of the unique talents of the paperback art era. Hooks worked in different modes. Often he utilized the type of line art you'd find in a high quality comic book or graphic novel, such as here and here. Other times he used color blocking for his backgrounds, such as on the above cover and the one you see at this link. He also used a lot of color bleeds, an example of which you see on his brilliant front for Madball, the second one at this link. And he worked in a more realistic mode too, when the mood struck. For Down There he mixed techniques, using a bleed in black to impart a film noir feel, and pairing his two figures with his trademark color-blocking. The effect is magnificent. Hooks was simply a highly versatile artist who always managed to surprise, and that makes his work a constant pleasure to seek out.

His cover for Down There fits Goodis like a glove. The novel is the unrelentingly grim story of a man whose piano playing genius saves him from a life of crime and transforms him into a classical music star, but who is inexorably dragged back into the depths of violence and revenge when his criminal brother needs protection. We soon learn that there are two brothers, both crooks, both neck deep in organized crime trouble. The reader catches no breaks—Goodis is matter-of-factly dark, spinning the tale from the point-of-view of an emotionally crippled main character, and crushing hope in heartwrenching ways that make the turning of pages a real effort at times.

Why put yourself through something like this? Well, it's very stylish, so much so that French director François Truffaut fell in love with it and adapted it to film in the form of Tirez sur le pianiste, known in English as Shoot the Piano Player. Truffaut was world famous after winning best director at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival for Les Quatre Cents Coups, aka The 400 Blows, so choosing Down There for his next project says plenty about the book. Goodis was well received by French directors in general. Other adaptations of his work were made by Pierre Chenal, Jacques Tourneur, Henri Verneuil, Francis Girod, René Clément, Gilles Behat, and Jean-Jacques Beineix. That's just remarkable. We'll probably watch some of those films, and you can be sure we'll revisit both David Goodis and Mitchell Hooks imminently.

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Femmes Fatales Jan 4 2013
LA ISA BONITA
How many carry-on bags do I get again?

One never hears her name mentioned today, but Italian actress Isa Miranda, née Ines Isabella Sampietro, was one of the most popular performers of her time. She was a star throughout Europe during the 1930s, and during World War II continued to act in Italian films. As a result, she is linked to fascist cinema, though is not known to be a fascist sympathizer herself. Ultimately she carved out a fifty year career and earned a Best Actress award at the 1949 Cannes Film Festival for René Clément’s Le mura di Malapaga. She’s seen here circa 1935.  

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 26
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
February 25
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
February 24
1920—The Nazi Party Is Founded
The small German Workers' Party, or DAP, which was under the direction of Adolf Hitler, changes its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Though Hitler adopted the socialist label to attract working class Germans, his party in fact embraced mainly anti-socialist ideas. The group became known in English as the Nazi Party, and within the next fifteen years expanded to become the most powerful force in German politics.
1942—Battle of Los Angeles Takes Place
A object flying over wartime Los Angeles triggers a massive anti-aircraft barrage, ultimately killing 3 civilians. Initially the target of the aerial barrage is thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but it is later suggested to be imaginary and a case of "war nerves", a lost weather balloon, a blimp, a Japanese fire balloon, or even an extraterrestrial craft. The true nature of the object or objects remains unknown to this day, but the event is known as the Battle of Los Angeles.
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