Femmes Fatales Jun 27 2021
FRESH STALEY
Oh, hi there. You're just in time. I was about to towel off.


We're going to use a non-word to describe this photo. It's sunshiny. It's the most sunshiny shot we've seen in a while. It shows U.S. actress Joan Staley and was made somewhere in Southern California in 1958. Staley mostly acted on television in shows such as The Asphalt Jungle, Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip, and Mission: Impossible, amassing more than one hundred smallscreen credits, by our quick count. Her bigscreen appearances were sporadic, but included Breakfast at Tiffany's, All in a Night's Work, Johnny Cool, and Cape Fear. Most of those roles were uncredited, but she piled up almost twenty. Altogether she had quite a résumé. Did she ever towel off, as our juvenile quip suggests? She did. She was a Playboy Playmate of the Month in November 1958, which means that, like Marilyn Monroe, she made the leap from nude model to Hollywood star. Actually, considering those one hundred-plus television roles you could even argue that, in a way, she was just as successful as Monroe. In a way.

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Vintage Pulp May 17 2021
PUSSYCAT DOLLS
Who says cats don't like to get wet?


We're back to Japan today, with another Nikkatsu Studios pinku flick, this time Mesunekotachi no yoru, known in English as Night of the Felines. We like cats, so this one should be a slam dunk. It's about three women who work in a sort of massage parlor in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo called Turkish Paradise, where they provide soapy rubdowns and other services to male customers. They manage to get involved in efforts to convert an ostensibly gay youngster named Makoto to heterosexuality. Two items of note here: apparently soapy rubdowns are a thing in Japan; and apparently the filmmakers considered sexuality a strictly a-or-b deal. But whatever, in this all-or-nothing milieu conjured up by writer Akira Nakano and director Noboru Tanaka, men can be converted from totally gay to totally straight, which totally leads to troubles in typical Nikkatsu fashion. The movie is partly comedic in nature, and lurches between laughs—or attempts at generating them, anyway—to surprisingly dark interludes involving voyeurism, suicide, and more. It was interesting, and the gender bending nature of it was different. For us most of its value was in watching the Turkish Paradise felines and their bubbly slippings and slidings. Soapy rubdowns. Who'd have thought? Since we can't visit Turkish Paradise we're going to show the movie to the Pulp Intl. girlfriends and see if they can learn some tricks. Wish us luck. Mesunekotachi no yoru premiered in Japan today in 1972.
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Vintage Pulp Apr 28 2021
UNCUT SPEED
It's ride or die on the streets of Kyoto.


Toei Company goes biker culture for Boso sekkusu-zoku, known in English as Hell Riders in Kyoto and Wild Sex Gang, which combines the typical Toei action film with aspects of American b-movies like Easy Rider and The Rebel Rousers. Takashi Shirai is a nihilistic and lawless twenty-something addicted to speed, and especially to motorcycles. When he's caught speeding by police his obsession goes into overdrive, and he decides to buy a 750cc bike that will enable him to outrun even the cops. Tsunehiko Watase is also obsessed with speed. He couldn't afford a bike to satiate his addiction, which is why he became a motorcycle cop. It allowed him to ride the 500cc bike he desired. Now Shirai is outrunning him. The rivalry between these two leads to one-upmanship that spills from the roadway and into other areas of their lives, but just when Shirai seems doomed the beautiful Miki Sugimoto arrives on the scene, and he starts to see that there's some value to life after all. But is it too late? Well, maybe.

Boso sekkusu-zoku is an interesting but not great entry from Toei that, like many crime movies from the ’70s, hinges on the presumption of redeemability. Shirai is lost, and is a danger to all those around him, but with luck and love he could become a good person. Needless to say, this is a retro concept today, in the age of non-forgiveness, and the belief that punishment must be decisive, vengeful, and usually permanent. For that reason it's interesting to watch the filmmakers here weigh Shirai's potential value. And it's also interesting to see how the cop Tsunehiko threatens to be corrupted by his hatred for Shirai. But these themes are not new, and exploring them as perfunctorily as Boso sekkusu-zoku does is a fatal flaw, in our view. More plot, more depth, more stuntwork, and more commitment across the board would have helped immensely. Still, though, it's worth a watch. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
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Femmes Fatales Feb 22 2021
NATURAL BORN KEELER
The calm at the center of the storm.


Christine Keeler, who died several years ago, was born today in 1942. You've seen this image of her before. It shows her in 1963, infamous at the time due to her relationship with the married British Secretary of State for War John Profumo. You know that episode as The Profumo Affair. While we've seen this shot many times, today it really struck us how nice it is—as is its variation below. They were made by Lewis Morley to promote The Keeler Affair, a film that was never released. But Morley's shot was leaked to The Sunday Mirror, and it exploded over the stuffy British public like a bomb and remains one of the most iconic images of the 1960s. Some websites say Keeler is straddling a chair made by famed designer Arne Jacobsen, but it was actually a cheap copy. We've written on Keeler before—as has everyone else—but if you want to see what we did, you can check here, here, here, and here. We also have one more link for you. If you follow it, you'll see that the above shot is the latest in an ongoing series featuring famous women in unusual chairs. Trust us, it's worth a look.

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Femmes Fatales Dec 8 2020
LANG STORY SHORT
MGM's sure bet didn't quite pay off.


Above is a beautiful, blindingly colorful MGM promo shot of U.S. actress Barbara Lang, née Barbara Jean Bly, someone we've shown you in black and white in the past. The accompanying text, which we've cropped out, explains that Lang “is a sure bet for stardom,” but she acted in only three movies and made about twenty television appearances on shows such as 77 Sunset Strip and Lock Up, with her entire career lasting from 1955 to 1961. Mixed in there was a 1959 suicide attempt that doubtless derailed her momentum. But once upon a time she was a contender, and this shot befits a burgeoning star.

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Femmes Fatales Nov 22 2020
PRICELESS RUBY
She had more facets and more talent than most.


This photo shows U.S. actress, poet, screenwriter, playwright, journalist, and activist Ruby Dee. That's a lot of professions, but we're mainly concerned with her acting. In pursuit of that passion she appeared in such films as St. Louis Blues, Raisin in the Sun, and on television shows like The Fugitive and Peyton Place. This is a mighty nice image of one of Hollywood's most respected multi-hyphenates. It's from 1962.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 6 2020
A HOLE IN HER LIFE
Tanaka is crazy like a fox in diamond hunting caper.


Nikkatsu Studios goes cute on this fun poster for the pinku comedy Kôshoku kazoku: Kitsune to tanuki, known in English as Amorous Family: Like a Fox and a Raccoon. This starred the iconic Mari Tanaka, along with Mikiko Sakai and Michiko Komori, and the story revolves around several horny sisters and the search for a missing cache of diamonds worth 200 million yen. There's the usual sex and perversion, plus a typically pinku ending steeped in irony. We also managed to track down a promo image from the same shoot that spawned the poster. Looks like it was a fun session. We'll get back to Tanaka a bit later. Kôshoku kazoku: Kitsune to tanuki premiered in Japan today in 1972.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 26 2020
PYRAMID SCHEME
Ancient Zapotec treasures bring out the tomb raider in everyone.


This poster was made for the 1953 adventure Plunder of the Sun, a title which may sound familiar from David Dodge's 1951 novel. The movie starred Glenn Ford, Patricia Medina, and Diana Lynn, and follows the basic gold hunting theme of the book, but with numerous plot details altered, and the exotic locations around Latin America—particularly Peru—condensed to only Havana and the province of Oaxaca, Mexico. The Havana scenes were shot in Mexico, but the Oaxaca scenes were indeed shot in southeastern Mexico, with location work at the Zapotec ruins in Monte Alban. You can practically hear the head honcho at Wayne-Fellows Productions saying, “I love this book, but we've got to make it cheaper. Why go all the way to Peru when there are perfectly good ruins in Mexico?” The Oaxaca locations are great, though, and extensively used, which really helps the film. Are we saying Plunder of the Sun is good? Well, no we aren't. It doesn't have the depth needed to earn a place in the top ranks of vintage cinema, but it's well shot, and its proto-Indiana Jones feel is interesting enough to keep you watching. We have a few promo images below, and you can learn more about the plot by checking our write-up on the novel here.

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Vintage Pulp May 30 2019
SETTING SAIL
Mari Atsumi goes searching for her place in the sun.


Above, two beautiful posters for Taiyo wa mita, aka I Saw the Sun, with Mari Atsumi. We couldn't track this one down but we know it's a drama set in a seaside town and know it premiered in Japan today in 1970. We already shared a really nice promo image for the film here, and if we learn more we'll report back.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 10 2019
SINGLE BULLET THEORY
The shot heard 'round Japan.


This unusual poster was made to promote a film called Teppôdama no bigaku, known in English by the cool title Aesthetics of a Bullet. The movie came from Art Theatre Guild, or ATG, producers of films in the loose category known as Japanese New Wave, meaning to take a new approach to filmmaking by rejecting traditional ideas and techniques. This one was directed by Sadao Nakajima and stars Tsunehiko Watase as a hot-headed two-bit hustler named Kiyoshi who tries numerous schemes to get ahead, including being a chef, gambling, and breeding rabbits. He fails at all of them, and he's desperate for a break.

When he's given a job by a local yakuza cartel known as Tenyu Group, he quickly learns about the power of a gun. With it he can command others, make them fear and respect him, make them literally kneel. With this gun his sense of self worth is first restored, then inflated. He caresses it, brandishes it, polishes it, treats it better than even the women he lusts for, and the gun confirms that he's superior to others. And once he feels superior he becomes—not to put too fine a point on it—a total asshole. He's actually an abusive chump even before the gun, but the weapon fully unleashes his destructive, hyper-masculine impulses.

The things he does are too ridiculously stupid to get into. Suffice it to say that even for a regular guy these would lead to trouble, but he's Tenyu Group's thug-at-large, which means his erratic behavior and explosive anger offends the other crime bosses. Pretty soon he discovers that he's torn a dangerous rift in the yakuza network. But what Kiyoshi doesn't know—which the audience does from the beginning—is that Tenyu Group hired him in the first place precisely because he's a disruptive fuck-up. Their theory was always that he would spark a gang war. All he has to do is fire that beloved gun once and Tenyu Group will have the excuse it needs.

Aesthetics of a Bullet is obscure, so we knew nothing about it, but we liked it. It's concise, has a strong point of view, and a good supporting cast that includes Miki Sugimoto and Mitsuru Mori. Its only flaw—perhaps unavoidable—is that the lead character is such a misanthropic troublemaker that we could barely tolerate watching him. But we guess that's where the whole rejecting traditional filmmaking comes in. Who needs a likeable or even sympathetic lead? Real life is more complicated than that, and Kiyoshi's fictional life gets plenty complicated too. Even if you can't root for him, at least he won't bore you, and neither will the movie. Aesthetics of a Bullet premiered in Japan today in 1973.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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