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.
Ciné-Revue was the go-to publication for movie stars seeking exposure.
Here's your official Christmas gift, a prime example of that mid-century phenomenon we discuss often, the intersection of mainstream and adult cinema during the sixties and seventies. Ciné-Revue, which was published in Belgium and distributed there and in France, Switzerland, Canada, Portugal, Britain, and the Basque region of Spain, was at the vanguard of that idea. It highlighted both popular stars and their adult counterparts, blurring the line between the two. It wasn't hard to do. Famous performers often acted in sexually oriented films, and Ciné-Revue was a platform that helped cinematic explorations of sexual ideas be taken seriously. The issue you see above is the cover of Ciné-Revue Photos 49, a visual compendium of actresses both world famous and somewhat obscure. The names run the gamut from Anita Ekberg to Marina Marfoglia. Marfoglia gets the cover, while Ekberg gets the rear, and that's exactly what we're talking about—the obscure elevated over the known. Both are also featured in multiple pages inside—but while Ekberg gets seven, Marfoglia gets eight and the centerfold. The issue is about a hundred pages, but we're unable to put together a post that long. Instead, we've selected some of the nicer images to warm up this winter day. Enjoy, and don't worry about us slaving over a computer. We put this collection together last week. Right now, on Christmas, we're traveling with the PIs.
A femme fatale's deadliest weapon is never a gun.
We've discussed a few Gil Brewer books without talking much about the man himself. Eventual author of thirty-three novels under his own name and a dozen more under pseudonyms, he started as a literary writer but after selling Satan Is a Woman to Gold Medal Books in 1950 decided that genre fiction was a faster and easier way to earn money. It was also after Satan Is a Woman that drinking began to take a heavy toll on him, to the point of hospitalizations, a near-fatal auto accident, and eventual death. 1961's A Taste for Sin was written during his heavy consumption period, and it's spotty, to say the least, a messily written book, but so crazy it's impossible not to read in a state of wonder.
The story deals with Jim Phalen, a small time crook, an an unlucky one. He meets Felice Anderson, seventeen years old, married at fifteen, recklessly unfaithful from the day she took her vows, and so purely nuts that for sexual thrills she demands to be raped. Explorations of women's alleged rape fantasies were common back then, and at first we thought A Taste for Sin was just another, but Phalen assaults her enthusiastically more than once, making clear that he's had fantasies about this too. Thus, as a shortcut to getting to the essential core of his personality, it's an interesting choice by Brewer. It's clear that Phalen is a throughly bad guy, one who never had much of a chance in life. He won't get much of a chance in this novel either, and doesn't deserve one.
Felice's husband works at a bank and she comes up with a plot to rob it for a million dollars. The only way to succeed is to commit murder. Phalen is horrified at first, but those bedroom games short-circuit his thinking and pretty soon he thinks he sees a way it might work. There are dozens of obstacles, including the police dogging his heels about a robbery he committed early in the story, but it's Felice's wild nature that threatens to become insurmountable. In trying to reflect the confusion in Phalen's mind about her, the pressure he feels from all quarters, and the hasty logistics of the heist, Brewer's narrative becomes like a rock skipping across a pond, hitting and bouncing onward, hitting again, bouncing onward. Phalen even flies to Lucerne, Switzerland, and Brewer expends only a few pages on the entire trip.
We don't feel as if his writing is top notch through any of this, and in our view the narrative is especially loose during its latter third. The story is also rushed during that section—though we do understand that its acceleration may be intended to reflect the lead character's barely maintained control. It just didn't work properly. But we'll give the story credit for its unflinching nature. Did Brewer build it around an underaged femme fatale so nuts as to be unbelievable because he was ambitious, or did she end up on the page due to a booze-fueled lapse in judgment? We'll never know, but Felice, and whether you buy her characterization, is the key to whether you'll like the book. She's a rare creature in the annals of mid-century crime fiction.
Swiss bank receives long deserved exposure thanks to data leak.
We're occasionally asked why we don't do modern true crime write-ups as often as we once did. There are a couple of reasons. We actually have jobs, and the research on crime stories is time consuming. But secondly, modern day swindles, scams, and corruption are out of control to the extent that writing about them seems redundant. But we're making an exception today because one of our previous subjects, who we wrote about way back in 2009, has popped up in the news again. That would be Hisham Talaat Moustafa, who was sentenced to death for hiring out the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim. His was one of thousands of names just revealed in a massive financial data leak from Credit Suisse, one of the most prestigious banks in Switzerland, which hides money for the richest people in the world. We think everyone knows Swiss banks are corrupt, right? Their first secrecy laws were adopted in 1713. It's safe to say they've been corrupt for almost that long. Over the years Credit Suisse's clients have included Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, who stole $10 billion from the Philippine treasury, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Panamanian drug lord and CIA informant Manuel Noriega, thousands of Nazis who were hiding their expropriations, and countless shady shell companies. One can insert the usual objections about taxes here, but the point is that regularpeople must pay them, yet the rich and powerful somehow always manage to avoid their fair share, even when they've generated their loot through illegal or even genocidal means. As with many morally rudderless institutions and people, what Swiss banks do is perfectly legal, but “perfectly legal” is the phrase uttered by people who know they're willfully engaged in behavior that obviously should be illegal—and in fact is illegal for everyone but the rich and connected.
Credit Suisse is trying to pretend that the leak reveals old accounts from before the bank cleaned up its practices (which it never substantially did), but the spin won't be effective because the data reveals that the bank is currently holding money for human traffickers, drug lords, oligarchs, stock cheats, treasury looters, mafia kingpins and—in the case of Hisham Moustafa—murderers. Correction—pardoned murderers, since he was released thanks to presidential decree in 2017. The information on all this corruption was originally passed to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung via an anonymous whistleblower, and the odds are good that in a matter of weeks or months that currently unknown person will be outed and have to make a full time job of trying to avoid the total destruction of his or her life and a prison sentence—no pardon pending.
Tax and corruption problems have exploded globally as elite greed has grown, the profits from criminality have soared, digital technology has created previously-unheard-of fortunes, offshoring of profits has become standard practice, deregulation and the de-facto dissolving of anti-trust laws have allowed corporations to grow more powerful than countries, and austerity has shrunk or eliminated the enforcement mechanisms of public institutions. In fact, in addition to funneling money from regular people to corporations and the rich, the other point of austerity is to shrink government to prevent it prying into the affairs of corporations and the rich. Libertarians rejoice. Insider trading, commodities fraud, and money laundering are all now rampant, and there's nothing people can do about it because the government institutions meant to be centers of oversight were taken over by the rich decades ago.
Moustafa paid to have his girlfriend knifed to death. Unlike murderers able to hide behind the fig leaf of non-conviction, his guilt was established as a fact during a criminal court proceeding. He was sentenced to hanging but was retried and had his punishment reduced to a mere fifteen years. He spent, in total before his pardon, nine years in a country club prison, and all the while managed his wealth, built up his billions, andcame out of jail not disgraced and shunned, but welcomed, feted, and once again demanding and receiving VIP treatment, the best tables in the best restaurants, and the ear of the global elite. He threw a few coins to charity along the way to spit-shine his reputation, had his thriving conglomerate Talaat Moustafa Group donate some COVID vaccines, but still he's a murderer who wriggled loose from the hangman's noose, and today enjoys every privilege he ever enjoyed—while his victim is dead forever.
This is the place in which we find ourselves. We all understand, if we actually absorb factual information rather than apologist propaganda or fanciful myth, that the rich have fucked up this world, and the rest of us, as well as future generations, are going to pay to clean up the mess. If it can even be cleaned up, which is doubtful. And that's why we stopped writing about modern crime and corruption. It's pointless. It's banal. Writing about old crimes is an escape, a window into history and the mad hearts of men and women who are long, long gone. Writing about current crimes is self-flagellation. We'll still do it on occasion when the urge strikes, like today, but we're well aware that people tend to complain more as time goes by and we don't want to fall into that trap. We want Pulp Intl. to be a place of entertainment and wonder—by which we mean amazing art, exciting fiction, bizarre historical and Hollywood facts, and beautiful women.
Look on the bright side. Yes, you'll be dead. But I may be proof God exists, so maybe you won't be dead forever.
Above, one of about a thousand stunning photos of Swiss actress Ursula Andress, one of cinema's all-time beauties. As we noted way back the first time we posted her, she obviously was delivered from the sea on a large clamshell. There's no other explanation. A higher power had to be involved. This shot was made as a promo for her 1975 made-in-Italy comedic thriller Colpo en canna, aka Loaded Guns. We'll get back to that later.
With warmth and tender loving care you can grow anything.
Above are two photos of actress Monica Strebel, who was born in Switzerland but mostly appeared in Italian films. She also, like many actresses of her era, appeared in photo novels and posed nude in magazines, such as the French publication Io, which is where the above shots originated in 1969. Several of Strebel's films had amusingly unwieldy titles, among them 1970's La lunga notte dei disertori - I 7 di Marsa Matruh, aka Operation Over Run, and the 1971 giallo La bestia uccide a sangue freddo, aka Cold Blooded Beast. Perhaps her most notable role was in 1972's Racconti proibiti... di niente vestiti, aka Master of Love. We have a promo shot from it below. Strebel plays Death in the form of a naked woman, and she and star Rossano Brazzi run away together across an open field. They don't make 'em like that anymore.
*smack* *smooch* You're so beautiful. I'll follow you anywhere. What's your name again? Did you say Lady Death? That's weird but whatever... *nuzzle* *smooch*
Laura Gemser is a nun that likes to have fun.
Laura Gemser made more than fifty films, most of them of the erotic variety, which means we'll probably never run out of material on her to share. Above you see a Spanish poster for the her nunsploitation flick Sor Emanuelle, which was originally released in Italy as Suor Emaunelle. We already talked about the movie, but we wanted to share this unusual promo. We've never gotten the nun thing, we suppose because we aren't Catholic, or even religious for that matter, but for some reason these movies represent a full sub-genre of ’70s cinema. That being the case, it was only a matter of time before Gemser got into the habit.
She starred in this with Swiss actress Mónica Zanchi, who's billed as Mónika Zanchi. The two would pair up again a year later in Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali, aka Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, another spectacularly bad sexploitation epic. In addition to the poster, we also—just because we can—wanted to share a couple of magazine images of Gemser and Zanchi, and those are just below. They're super naked. You've been warned. But these are beautiful shots. After its Italian opening in 1977 Sor Emanuelle premiered in Spain today in 1978. Check out our original write-up on the film here.
Pop culture magazine offers a look at post-Franco Spain.
Ages ago we found a stash of Spanish language magazines and books in a neglected closet in a stairwell in our apartment building. They were caked with dust, so we knew they'd been left to rot. We helped ourselves to a few, but didn't scan much of the collection because it was more contemporary than our usual offerings, and because the magazines were in large formats that needed piecing together in Photoshop. But we had a little time today (plus the Pulp Intl. girlfriends want us to clear out some material) so we have some scans from the Spanish magazine Interviu. This issue hit newsstands today in 1977 and features cover star María Carlos, model Virna Lisa, and Swiss icon Ursula Andress, who's the entire reason we did the scans. There's also a feature on nudism in Spain.
On the whole Interviu is a pop culture magazine, but with the crucial difference that it was published in a Spain recently freed from decades of dictatorship. Therefore the focus on politics and conflict is pretty heavy. We found four of these and all them play the dirty trick of placing photos of nude models on the overleaf of pages showing corpses. You're looking at a beautiful woman, then flip the page to see a dude with his skull smashed open. One issue had a photo of a guy torn to shreds by a bomb. We mean no recognizable body at all, just shoes, mangled flesh, and a few bones. In color. If the idea was to force readers to see the consequences of war, mission accomplished. But don't worry—we didn't include any of those scans, so scroll with confidence.
Il dolce corpo di Deborah is pretty but inside it has issues.
Renato Casaro does solid work as always on this poster he painted to promote the Italian giallo flick Il dolce corpo di Deborah. We've featured him often, and you can see some of his best work here, here, and here. If you were translating the title Il dolce corpo di Deborah into English normally, it would be the linguistically economical “Deborah's Sweet Body,” but instead the distributors went literal with The Sweet Body of Deborah. Going with something clunkier than needed is a good metaphor for the film.
The story involves a newly married American woman played by Carroll Baker who honeymoons with her Italian husband in Geneva, where he runs into a former friend who accuses him of murder. The death in question was of the husband's ex-girlfriend. It was ruled suicide, but the acquaintance claims it was murder. He spends a lot of time and effort trying to convince Baker her husband is a killer, but is he telling the truth, or is there something even more sinister going on? That's a rhetorical question. This is giallo.
Normally we'd suggest watching the film to find out what happens, but we won't do that because this is a limp and disjointed thriller made watchable only thanks to good cinematography, interesting Geneva exteriors, and Baker pushing the envelope of allowable skin. Bad scripting and bad acting really hurt here, and the double twist ending feels perfunctory. We won't go so far as to say Body blows, but it could be plenty better. Il dolce corpo di Deborah premiered in Italy today in 1969.
Andress gets picturesque in wine country.
This photo of Swiss actress Ursula Andress in an autumnal vineyard appeared on an issue Paris Match magazine published in September 1964. Fewer than two years removed from her role in Dr. No it's fair to say she was at this moment one the biggest stars in the world. For the most part, the roles she played didn't make splashes as big as that made by Dr. No, but there's little doubt she's one of the more fondly remembered stars of her era. We have an entire series of Dr. No images that are well worth a look, so if you're inclined just click here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions
about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire
in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
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