Vintage Pulp Jul 10 2023
THE ROAD TO LEVANT
If you let yourself be free what amazing things you'll see.


Nudism or naturism is yet another staple of mid-century publishing. Numerous magazines were devoted to the practice, and many novels we've read, such as Marriage Can Wait, Murder Doll, High Red for Dead, and of course, the immortal Nudist Camp, feature nudism. It's also featured in some pretty fun movies, such as 1962's Blaze Starr Goes Nudist. So when we saw this poster for Isle of Levant, one of the seminal nudism movies of the 1950s, we decided to have a look.
 
The film was made by Swiss director Werner Kunz and originally titled Lockender Süden. In its English language version it's professorially narrated by E.V.H. Emmett. The story told is about a trio of young Danish women and their dog who take a road trip through Germany, Switzerland, and France to arrive in the Côte d'Azur and get naked on Île de Levant.
 
It's largely a travelogue, but it's also pretty interesting from purely historical and architectural perspectives. Aided by the familiar visual of a crawling line on a map, you see the sights as the trio passes through Hamburg, the Rhine Valley, Rottenberg, Zurich, the Rhône Valley, Avignon, Cannes, Nice, Saint-Tropez, and Le Lavandou, all before the era of modern mass tourism, in a classic Fiat 600 Multipla, with its rear engine and backward front doors.

As for the nudism, Kunz makes you wait for it. About forty minutes into the sixty-eight minute exercise the girls hit the island and their clothes hit the sand. At first, many people wear g-strings, but later there's nothing. As is typical for such films, the nudists are the best-looking examples from far and wide. Activities range from volleyball to hiking to sketching to snorkeling to boating, but as this is a lifestyle film, there's no sex nor hint of it.
 
Because nudism isn't—and wasn't then—considered sexual by its practitioners, there are a few brief shots of naked children. We live in a country where naked children on beaches are not a strange sight and we pay them little mind, but in terms of filmed reality, this is where things acquire a double layer. Selling films of naked children changes everything. Though these nudism flicks were ostensibly educational, and the nudists themselves agreed to appear as a way demonstrating the advantages of their lifestyle, a large percentage of the actual consumers of the movies—surely—got off on them. And for a small subset, thence, nude children.

In a sense, the nudists of the era, despite the purity of their beliefs, were exploited by filmmakers, who knew—again, surely—that the money that flowed in was from seekers of knowledge about nudism and seekers of boners over naked women and men. As for pedophiles, though they were a segment of society that were basically never thought about by the populace at large back then, we suspect the filmmakers were aware of them. In any case, nobody is unaware today, which is why those shots now stand out in neon.
 
But if you wear your shiny happy 1950s glasses, Isle of Levant is worth a gander. It's a historical curiosity, and one that made us nostalgic for an era in which we never lived. Because they were uncredited, we'll never know who the trio of roadtrippers were, but we had an overwhelming sense of time passed and innocence lost watching them. And we thought: To have made that journey with them from Denmark through the Rhine Valley to the idyllic Côte d'Azur would have been so very fun.
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Modern Pulp Jan 23 2023
SCENES FROM AN OFFICE
The lady is a tramp, and the director is a scamp.

Junko Mabuki is back on Pulp Intl., as you see on this poster for the roman porno movie Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei, known in English as Office Lady Rope Slave. It premiered in Japan today in 1981, and basically, Junko plays a straight-laced nine-to-fiver who gets involved with a pair of bondage fetishists. These types of films were, of course, her specialty, and she once again gives viewers everything they'd become accustomed to seeing. But we're less interested in the plot of the movie than the reaction at Japan's censorship board Eiga Rinri Kikō. Adherence to its restrictions was ostensibly voluntary on the part of film studios, but the body had real enforcement power. Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei must have shaken the place to its foundations.

Let's set the scene. One of the censors has shown up at the Eiga Rinri Kikō office for an emergency meeting with the board chief. He and the other members of the body are proud of themselves for their work, which basically just hews to Japanese obscenity standards by forbidding shots of sex organs and pubic hair. But they never really thought it out from the perspective of directors determined to skirt the edges, which suddenly is happening with increasing frequency. Now at least one censor is in a tizzy. He'd be even more agitated if he knew digital technology would make roman porno films globally available, and thus decades later raise uncomfortable questions about Japanese culture and misogyny, but at this point he has no clue about that.

Censor: I'm beginning to think our censorship regime has backfired. I just screened Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei and that fucker Katushiko shows dripping semen.

Chief: We didn't ban that?

Censor: No. We overlooked it.

Chief: Well, what's a little semen?

Censor: It's dripping from Mabuki Junko's mouth. He also shows vaginal juices, vaginal blood, and strongly implies that Mabuki-kun gets her clitoris clothes-pinned.

Chief: Hmm... that does sound provocative.

Censor: I watched it twice just to be sure of my eyes. It's depraved. Additionally, there's all the usual bondage, some bizarre insertions, an enema, oral sex both heterosexual and lesbian...

Chief: All this without violating a single one of our rules?

Censor: Nothing is actually shown. It seems quite revealing, though, because, well, Mabuki-kun is a very good actress. Great boobs too.

Chief: Agreed. Mabuki-kun has excellent boobs.

Censor: But in general, it feels like these roman porno directors are ridiculing our censorship standards. There's even a moment—I swear—when I felt like the actors looked directly at me and sneered.

Chief: Now you're being paranoid. Regarding the standards, we could change them, make them more restrictive, but it's hell keeping Nikkatsu and the other studios in line already. Any alteration now may cause serious problems.

Censor: *sigh* But the semen...

Chief: What's a little semen? So, that screener is VHS?

Censor: Betamax. It's a better format. Soon everything will be Betamax. I have it with me.

Chief: I better check it out—just to confirm your findings. Leave it by the Beta player over there, and close the door on your way out. Also, tell my secretary I'm not to be disturbed for ninety minutes.

Okay, a scornful look for the censorship board on one... two... and now!

At first I thought this was a citrus reamer, but now I'm not sure.

How the hell do you expect me to flush this way?

I'll help him. I've been hiding in the shower the whole time.

I have to take a short break. There's an office pool on my chair.

We'll all have what she's having!

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Vintage Pulp Dec 20 2022
ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE
Hello? Is anybody there? Santa? Is that you?


Our sprint through movies this December continues today with the Italian Christmas favorite—Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea, for which you see a festive yule themed poster above. It was painted by Mario Piovano and just oozes holiday spirit. Right. Well, obviously not. This couldn't be a Christmas movie unless Christmas makes you want to kill everyone around you. But it qualifies as a gift from us to you, because we're going to save you the time you might have spent watching it.

The title translates as, “extract from the secret police archives of a European capital,” but was shortened to Tragic Ceremony for its English language release. The Italian title would seem to indicate that this is a giallo flick, but it's actually more in the realm of gothic horror. Basically, a quartet of carefree hippies stumble upon and must survive assorted evils, including a black mass, a phantom gas station, and spurts of megaviolence, all loosely related somehow to a string of possibly cursed pearls.

The movie stars Camille Keaton, who's not well known today, but headlined perhaps the most infamous grindhouse offering of the 1970s—Day of the Woman, better known in some quarters as I Spit on Your Grave. Keaton appears here six years earlier, and is stranded with her hippie-hedonist friends in a creepy old manse where she's seized upon by the loony, aristocratic occupants as a potential sacrifice. She escapes, but the aftereffects of her close call are numerous and gory.

Critics hindered by their own knowledge of niche cinema to the extent that they can't see the forest for the trees tend to describe this movie as underrated, but it really isn't, even if you accept it as a sly commentary on the generational clash between the counterculture and the gentry. At one point a distressed Máximo Valverde asks, “What's happening? What's going on?” Well, you've ended up in a below average horror movie, Max. It happens. Revisionist critics can't help you. Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea premiered in Italy today in 1972.
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Modern Pulp May 17 2022
HER MAJESTY'S DISSERVICE
Of all the different types of queens, I had to be the damn queen of S&M.

Maybe Junko Mabuki wasn't the queen of Nikkatsu Pictures' roman porno cycle, but she was certainly one of its major figures, and oh, the ordeals she went through in her fifteen films. This poster that has her looking like she somehow got stuck inside Batman's mask was made for Dan Oniroku hakui nawa jigoku, known in English as White Uniform in Rope Hell and—unfortunately—All Women Are Whores. We couldn't locate the movie, which caused us to breathe a sigh of relief. But if you want to know what Mabuki was all about, cinematically speaking, the films of hers we have watched include (English titles only) Female Teacher: Rope Hell, Female Beautician Rope Discipline, Secretary Rope Discipline, and Blazing Bondage Lady. Those titles should answer any questions. We also watched her in Hell of Roses, which, while its title seems to suggest a thematic and tonal change from Mabuki's usual fare, is also about ropes. Dan Oniroku hakui nawa jigoku premiered in Japan today in 1980.

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Femmes Fatales Sep 29 2020
WHO'S YOUR MAMI?
She's very angry with all of you.


Though we're a vintage art site, we sometimes look forward all the way into the 1980s for material, so today we have a brilliant photo and zoom of Japanese actress Mami Fujimura looking like trouble incarnate. Fujimura starred in several pinku movies in 1985 and 1986, notably the Nikikatsu roman porno Hana to hebi: Jigoku-hen, aka Flower and Rope: Sketch of Hell, and OL yûkaihan – Hagu!, which was part of the popular Office Lady series. Despite her short career, she's well remembered by Japanophiles thanks to her work in other areas. As we've noted before, Japanese actresses were relentlessly cross-marketed, and photo books were a go-to medium to raise a performer's profile. Fujimura starred in a photo book called Jōnetsu Airando, or “Passion Island,” but subtitled in English Sexual Message. It came from the publishers Shishobo in 1985, and we consider it one of the better examples of the photo book phenomenon. It's where the above image came from, and numerous others are noteworthy. To prove that, we've included the cover and a few interior pages below. No further words are needed.

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Modern Pulp May 29 2020
KNOT ENOUGH
Once is bad luck. Twice is a trend. Six times looks more like a career choice.


Yes, Junko's back. Counting this movie—Dan Oniroku onna hisho nawa chyokyo, also known as Secretary Rope Discipline—we've now watched six of Miss Mabuki's roman porno outings, and what can we say? They're all crazy. In fact, sources say she retired because her body couldn't stand up to all the kinbaku in these flicks. This time around she's a worker at a fashion house, mostly filing and typing her days away. But she's also stealing trade secrets. When she's caught, she refuses to reveal who put her up to it, and to make her talk, the company's chairman... well, you can figure out what happens next. It involves ropes, whips, and enemas.

There's a subplot. Does anyone care? Okay, her boyfriend is a cheating dawg. He even does it right in front her because he's a terrible guy. It gets worse and worse for Junko. Later the chairman's son takes a liking to her and assumes the duties of disciplining her, which leads to her being forcibly tattooed—a standard and terribly disturbing motif in these films. The two plot streams intertwine, so to speak, in a final manic orgy. We knew fashion was a tough industry, but we had no idea it was anything like this. Next time you buy a new outfit, try to remember the pain and suffering that went into it. Dan Oniroku onna hisho nawa chyokyo premiered today in 1981.
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Modern Pulp Jan 7 2018
GIRLS NIGHT IN
When we get together we do the usual stuff—chat, drink wine, endure whippings, have a forced enema or two.


We don't share pinku and roman porno posters just because we're interested in the films. We also share them because, first, the art is always great, and second, it's easy to get. Its availability is a reflection of how many productions of the type were made—in a word, many hundreds. That's two words. Let's go with thousands—which is not an exaggeration. These were incredibly popular films is the point, made by multiple studios trying to place double features into vertically integrated, wholly dependent cinemas every weekend. Many of the movies have fallen prey to the ravages of time, which occasionally leads to us sharing art from movies that no longer exist, but today's offering, Nawa to chibusa, aka Rope and Breasts, starring Nami Matsukawa and Izumi Shima, is one we did in fact find and watch.

The movie premiered in Japan today in 1983, and it involves a couple running a traveling bdsm show who arrive in Kyoto and are hired for a private performance that turns into something more. The woman is planning to retire, but now learns what bondage and discipline really are as she and her man are teased and tortured to within an inch of their sanity. When all is said and done the woman forgets retirement, not because she loves torture, but because she realizes her life is hell anyway and if she has to live in hell she'd like to at least make money from it. Very upbeat stuff. An interesting aspect of the copy we saw is its use of pixelation to obscure the private parts of the actors (see below). Since roman pornos are softcore the masking is purely directorial flourish, designed, we suppose, to give the action a veneer of the forbidden.

For those who've missed our previous discussions about the roman porno genre, the filmmakers generally contend that the sexual abuse depicted is symbolic of patriarchal Japan's subjugation to occupying Americans, or to modern life, or to a burgeoning counterculture, etc. As a smart man once said, when something is symbolic of everything, it's symbolic of nothing. In other words, we don't buy the boilerplate on roman porno, at leastnot fully. We think it was primarily money driven, and the more intellectual aspects were secondary, distantly. But the main thing we try to remember as outsiders looking in is that cultural judgement is a slippery slope, and while in this particular 2018 moment of discussion about the all too prevalent dangers men present to women, it's easy to dismiss roman porno films as masculine horror fantasies sprung from the brows of unrepentant misogynists.

But times change, and there are layers to the issue that make such assessments a bit too facile. It's possible to be on one side of a cultural issue during a certain moment in time, but be judged as on the exact opposite side a generation or two later. Today's observers could easily conclude that roman porno filmmakers were conservative nationalists, but in reality many were liberal feminist allies satirizing conservative patriarchs/patriots. Their sexualization of women was spurred in part by studio demands, but there's also no doubt many thought of themselves as modernist trailblazers smashing social barriers through the use of sexual symbolism. The path their output has taken through the decades is parallel to that of Hugh Hefner, hailed as a women's rights hero in 1967, reviled as a cog in a destructive porno machine half a century later. Times change.

If Japanese viewers of 1980s American horror movies had demanded to know why so many productions featured people being lured into the woods to be slaughtered it would have led to some uncomfortable conversations about apocalyptic American attitudes toward sex, as well as the eternal American worship of violence. These discussions would have been much more needed than any concerning 1970s Japanese mores. But as for modern observers, they get to judge earlier filmmakers only up to a point. They weren't there. They forget that work incommercial media has its demands, if the work is to be secured at all. Old targets are no longer fully relevant, as well as being way too easy to criticize in hindsight. Subversive messages are often slipped into popular art and those messages matter. They wink at us. They say, “You and I both know this is just entertainment, but this other thing—if you are detecting it—is what we're really about here.” But modern viewers of old films often miss these important messages. As culture changes receptivity to these small signals changes too.

So, okay, Nawa to chibusa is a weird movie. It's a weird movie hailing from a weird genre. The genre was meant to both make money and provoke people, and all these years later the films remain as artifacts of an industry embarked upon a radical social discussion, spearheaded by filmmakers who hadn't yet realized that images also carry weight apart from their alleged political intent. In other words, the question becomes whether the same goals could have been achieved by other means—i.e. other means of provocation, other types of imagery. We can't answer that. We weren't there. We don't know of anyone who has tallied the social gains and losses, if any, brought about by all this shocking cinema. All we have is an inadequate twenty-first century perspective, an inadequate Western perspective, an incomplete male perspective, and a whole lot of crazy posters.

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Femmes Fatales Nov 29 2017
INTERIOR DECORATOR
Calvet proves red warms up any room.


Corinne Calvet, née Corinne Dibos, was born in Paris and tried a few different careers before migrating to Hollywood. She studied criminal law at the Sorbonne, then became an interior designer, where we assume all she did was walk into a room to redecorate it. When she made the move to Hollywood in 1940 she generally played French characters, appearing in On the Riviera, Rope of Sand, The Far Country and numerous other films. This is really a stunning shot of an especially beautiful star but we aren't positive of the date. Best guess—1950.

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Modern Pulp Nov 27 2017
WEAK LINKS
Junko Mabuki starts a chain reaction.


Junko Mabuki is an important actress of second generation Japanese S&M movies, and that's her above on a poster for Dan Oniroku onna biyoshi nawa shiku, aka Female Beautician Rope Discipline. What you see is what you get here. Junko is a hairdresser who meets a photographer who shoots bondage and discipline. At first she's repulsed, but this being a roman porno flick, the thought of it grows in her mind. Meanwhile we meet Izumi Shima, who's one of Junko hairdressing clients. Junko is attracted to her—and who wouldn't be? Shima also happens to be the ex of the perverted photographer. It's a pretty big coincidence, but not the biggest in the film. The photographer also randomly stumbles upon Junko after she's been tied up and assaulted. It's just the beginning of a descent into degradation, jealousy, sexual assault, and serious male-driven pee-version.

We're still trying wrap our heads around the various forms of Japanese cinema. Toei's pinky violence films usually had cool ’70s street action and ass kicking gang girls, whereas Nikkatsu's roman porno had submissive women and sexual subjugation. They're all generally considered to be pink films, along with output from OP Eiga and other studios, but to us they're night and day. Pinky violence and roman porno represent two big studios in competition with each other, but more and more the patriarchy smashing ethos often embedded in the former versus the sexist subjugation usually present within the latter feel like a corporate level political divide writ large. In this one, though, the sadistic photographer gets his—spoiler alert!—head deservedly bashed in. So lines were occasionally crossed. Dan Oniroku onna biyoshi nawa shiku premiered in Japan today in 1981.
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Vintage Pulp May 12 2017
EVERYTHING OKA
Likes include fine saki, sunset walks, and light humiliation.


Above, five promo posters featuring Naomi Oka, who appeared in dozens of pinku and roman porno films between 1972 and 1987, with 1979 being her banner year as twelve films hit Japanese screens. As you might imagine based on the above evidence, she was one of the queens of bondage. The posters above are for, top to bottom, Onna keimusho shikei, aka Women's Prison: The Lynching, Hentai shikijô nawa fujin, aka Abnormal Rope Wife, Hitozuma hentai, aka Abnormal Bride, Nihon no rinchi, aka Japanese Lynching, and Kinbalu ijo-ma, aka Distributing agency: Shin-Toho, also sometimes referred to as Disturbing: Rope Master. It's always important to note that restraint and bondage have a special place in Japanese culture, where it's considered—if not quite normal—not outstandingly weird either. Below you see Oka mercifully freed from bondage.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 21
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
June 20
1967—Muhammad Ali Sentenced for Draft Evasion
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was known as Cassius Clay before his conversion to Islam, is sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. In elucidating his opposition to serving, he uttered the now-famous phrase, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”
June 19
1953—The Rosenbergs Are Executed
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet spies, are executed at Sing Sing prison, in New York.
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