Not exactly your average princess.
No introduction needed here. Carrie Fisher portrayed one of the most iconic characters in cinema history when she became the double hair-bunned Princess Leia Organa of the planet Alderaan for 1977's blockbuster space opera Star Wars (we're not going to bother with the unwieldy chapter title foisted onto the public afterward). Fisher memorably begged Obi-Wan Kenobi for help, saying, “You're our only hope,” but she was pretty useful herself—good with a blaster, infused with the Force, and determined as hell. We're pretty sure Leia Organa and Carrie Fisher will be well remembered for as long as cinema exists.
She's tougher than Tarzan, meaner than Sheena, and lustier than Gungala.
You can look at this cover and correctly assume that we've shared it because it was painted by Frank Frazetta, considered by many to be the master of sword and sorcery art. It's a beautiful piece, rightly famous. Alan Dean Foster is a master too. He isn't what you'd call a significant author in the sense that he's produced lauded original material, but he may be the king of movie novelizations. Among his output: The Black Hole, Clash of the Titans, Outland, Starman, Pale Rider, and The Chronicles of Riddick, as well as novelized series based on Star Wars, Star Trek, and Alien. We love Foster for his Star Wars sequel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which came out before The Empire Strikes Back (notice we don't bother with that Episode nonsense) and followed Luke and Leia—not siblings in Foster's universe—as they adventured on strange worlds and discovered their love for each other. We still think the film series should have followed Foster's lead, but whatever.
His Luana is a novelization of the 1968 movie of the same name starring Mei Chen Chalais, which we talked about a while back. Sometimes novelizations are published before the film, sometimes after. Foster published Luana six years after the film in 1974 for reasons that are obscure. It was among his first published books. While template for a novelization is provided by the filmmakers, the author is who gives it color and life. Foster fulfills that duty with obvious relish, mining literary and cinematic antecedents like Tarzan, Tarzana, Gungala, Sheena, Shuna, and Ka-Zar for familiar tropes. A kilometer long pit filled with army ants? A lion and panther, both larger than any ever seen before, working in tandem with a huge chimp? A pitched battle between blowgun wielding Tanzanian tribesmen and an expedition of white explorers? A secret city of solid gold buildings? As lost world tales go, by standing on the shoulders of his predecessors, Foster crafts something better than average. And far better than the movie too.
Cinematic encounters of the worst kind.
The sci-fi adventure Starcrash was made to copy the success—as well as the basic blueprint—of Star Wars. But the only aspect of the movie that's comparable is the promo art. We already showed you the great U.S. poster. This is the Colombian poster made for the movie's premiere there today in 1979 as Ataques estelar del tercer tipo. Elsewhere in Latin America the film had titles like Infierno en el cosmos (Argentina), and Starcrash: Ataque interstelar (Mexico).
Looking more closely, you'll notice a ship similar to the Millennium Falcon. The engines are at the opposite end, but it's basically the same design. These guys were shameless. In addition, Ataques estelar del tercer tipo would translate as “star attacks of the third type.” Obviously, not content to merely rip off Stars Wars the producers decided to also borrow from Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But what you get is a cinematic encounter of the worst kind, though a very funny one. We talked about it already. Check here.
Stars Wars conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie dies.
Sci-fi artist Ralph McQuarrie died yesterday due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. McQuarrie’s concepts for Darth Vader, R2-D2, C-3PO and other characters indelibly shaped the Star Wars franchise, and, closer to Earth, he was also a go-to paperback cover artist during the 1980s. Below is one of our favorite McQuarrie pieces, the cover of Alan Dean Foster’s excellent Star Wars sequel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. McQuarrie was eighty-two.
Some movies just can’t be improved upon.
Somehow, the fact that this original Star Wars promo photo is filled with pinholes and dings adds to its charm, since it mirrors the condition of Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder. There are some who would say the franchise drowned in cynicism, that it collapsed under the weight of fast food tie-ins, and fuzzy toys, and ill-considered digital revisionism. Those people would be right. Like this photo, and like Skywalker’s landspeeder, the original Star Wars had some scratches and dings, but cinematic believability derives from a well-known viewer psychology aptly described as willing suspension of disbelief. The key word is willing. You can’t bludgeon people into acceptance, no matter how slick the fx are. People willingly believe because the story and characters work. And in Star Wars, the simple story of a boy rising from his dusty roots to battle impossibly powerful galactic foes—and yet win—worked on every level. It still works. That’s why people who loved it as kids still watch it today as adults. Anyway, we’re just going to go ahead and call this photo one of the coolest artifacts we’ve ever found.
Hungarian graphic designers re-imagine promo art for a classic American series.
We have something a little different today, a bit of modern pulp from Central Europe. These are Hungarian posters for George Lucas’s Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, which incidentally were going for the equivalent of $350.00. Yes, seriously. Premiere dates on these are a little obscure, but the Hungarian re-releases took place in 1997, so we’ll go with that. Of course, it’s worth pointing out again that the main reason wonderful posters like these make it to the foreign marketplace is that the designers are freed from the anti-artistic influence of Hollywood marketing departments, which tend to be hands off when promoting big re-releases overseas (new films, of course, have the same promo art as in America, i.e. incredibly bad, which in turn leads to the sad sight of your humble authors trying to slink unnoticed past displays for Saw 3D and Zookeeper, but that’s another post entirely). See a great Star Wars poster from Poland here.
The three faces of Trisha.
Above we have Australian actress Trisha Noble on the German pamphlet art for Diese frau ist Gefährlich, which was a 1966 spy film originally released as Death Is a Woman. For some reason, the movie was retitled to Love Is a Woman for its American run, and you see that art below. But perhaps wanting to provide audiences with a three-dimensional portrait of the subject matter, the film also bore the title internationally of—you guessed it—Sex Is a Woman. We couldn’t find the Sex Is a Woman art, so the promo photo after which the German and American posters were based will have to do. Although she isn’t well known now, Trisha Noble is actually one of those people that has been in show business her entire life. As a teenager she released six hit albums in Australia as Patsy Ann Noble, then turned to acting. If you’re old enough, you may remember her from the American television series Strike Force, with Robert Stack. And if you’re young enough, you may recognize her as Padmé Amidala’s mother in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. And if you remember none of that, check her out here getting groovy to her hit single “Accidents Can Happen” and you’ll never forget her again.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
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