They're trouble in triplicate.
The above poster was made for Sanbiki no mesubachi, usually known in English as Three Pretty Devils, starring Reiko Ohara, Yoko Ichiji, and Junko Natsu. It concerns three female con artists who are running loose during the gigantic World Expo in Osaka. They engage in every type of grift—they pick pockets, sell counterfeit parking passes, coax free meals from bedazzled older men, engage in a little sexual blackmail, and more. Eventually they get the bright idea to put together an escort service for foreigners, but in order to do so have to cross the local yakuza. Needless to say, that's a bad idea.
The yakuza boss, who's played to the edge of caricature by a frowning, sneering Tsunehiko Watase, perceives the girls more as an opportunity than as competition, and wants to turn them into escorts. Ohara's mancrush Saburo, a yakuza footsoldier, tells her to leave Osaka before it's too late, but when the yakuza find out about his betrayal they shoot the poor sap dead. No self-respecting devil gives up easily, so even cold-blooded murder doesn't end the girls' scheming ways. Eventually their chance for a big score finally comes when Natsu appropriates a bank document worth 200 million yen. The yakuza, as always, stands in their way.
Our synopsis makes this all sound dramatic, but the movie is mostly lightweight, with serious moments but a lot of comedy and music. Regarding the latter, legendary gay performer Pītā has a featured role as a transvestite nightclub singer. It was an early role for him. He's on the promo art in the red turtleneck, which is why there are seemingly four pretty devils on a poster where you'd expect three. While he serves as local color in a nightclub that features prominently in the plot, his treatment by the filmmakers is completely respectful, which is noteworthy considering the year. On the whole, Sanbiki no mesubachi is a pretty good movie. It premiered today in 1970.
No one's gonna save you from the beast about to strike.
Burt Lancaster as a doomed boxer named Ole Anderson, shot dead one night by a couple of hit men, is a seminal character in film noir. He epitomizes the major characteristic of the genre, that of a person caught in dangerous circumstances beyond their control. He's so caught he never tries to run or defend himself. He lets the killers shoot him. We didn't spoil anything by telling you that—Anderson is dead ten minutes after the movie opens. Using Ernest Hemingway's short story of the same name as a starting place, The Killers takes a typical endpoint for a film noir and flips the timeline around so that the drama becomes finding out why Anderson suffered such a hopeless demise. Sunset Boulevard would pull the same trick later in visionary fashion by having the dead character actually narrate the movie. We've shown you several posters for The Killers, but this one made for the Australian market is, well, killer. Compare it to the U.S. promo here. The movie premiered in Australia today in 1947.
Sometimes you have to look at things from a whole new angle.
How many mid-century actresses began as Playboy models? An absolute raft of them. The 1957 photo above shows Dolores Donlon, who was the magazine's centerfold in August of that year. Donlon was an unusual case. She had been toiling in Hollywood since 1944, landing minor film roles and scattered magazine covers. She managed to earn seventh billing in 1954's The Long Wait, and third in 1957's Flight to Hong Kong, but they weren't major films. When she finally posed nude it was much later than usual—she was thirty-seven. It's hard to determine whether the new tactic directly paid off, but from that point forward she became a well established television actress, racking up more than twenty-five credits on shows such as 77 Sunset Strip and Miami Undercover. It wasn't movie stardom, but it was success. Was it Playboy that made the difference? Probably only she and her agent knew, and neither of them are around to tell us.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1927—La Lollo Is Born
Gina Lollobrigida is born in Subiaco, Italy, and eventually becomes one of the world's most famous and desired actresses. Later she becomes a photojournalist, numbering among her subjects Salvador Dali, Paul Newman and Fidel Castro.
1931—Schmeling Retains Heavyweight Title
German boxer Max Schmeling TKOs his U.S. opponent Young Stribling in the fifteenth round to retain the world heavyweight boxing title he had won in 1930. Schmeling eventually tallies fifty-six wins, forty by knockout, along with ten losses and four draws before retiring in 1948.
1969—Stones Guitarist Is Found Dead
Brian Jones, a founding member of British rock group Rolling Stones, is found at the bottom of his swimming pool at Crotchford Farm, East Sussex, England. The official cause of his death is recorded as misadventure from ingesting various drugs.
1937—Amelia Earhart Disappears
Amelia Earhart fails to arrive at Howland Island during her around the world flight, prompting a search for her and navigator Fred Noonan in the South Pacific Ocean. No wreckage and no bodies are ever found.
1964—Civil Rights Bill Becomes Law
U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Bill into law, which makes the exclusion of African-Americans from elections, schools, unions, restaurants, hotels, bars, cinemas and other public institutions and facilities illegal. A side effect of the Bill is the immediate reversal of American political allegiance, as most southern voters abandon the Democratic Party for the Republican Party.
1997—Jimmy Stewart Dies
Beloved actor Jimmy Stewart, who starred in such films as Rear Window and Vertigo, dies at age eighty-nine at his home in Beverly Hills, California of a blood clot in his lung.
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