I'll be taking all your awards, thank you very much.
Though she looks more blonde than red in this particular photo, Sissy Spacek is one of Hollywood's best known redheads, and one of its most talented too, with six Academy Award nominations and one victory, for Coal Miner's Daughter. All told, she's been nominated for about one hundred awards, netting numerous wins—including taking home four New York Film Critics Circle Awards in five nominations. The above shot was made for Robert Altman's drama 3 Women, in which Spacek starred with Shelly Duvall and Janice Rule. It's from 1977.
We're not on the fence about it—this magazine is a lot of fun.
As macho names for men's magazines go Matclif Publications' Savage Adventure is right at the top of the list. This issue from October 1960 was its debut. We gave it a read and it lived up to its name. Our favorite story was “Lizzie Russel and Her Riverboat Bordello,” by George Peterson, which deals with a floating brothel called The Virgin Queen plying the Yukon River during the 1890s gold rush. Basically, the tale is one of bad decisions and bad luck, and indeed gets pretty savage.
The brothel's owner is warned that her paddlewheeler is too big to make it upriver to White Horse, and sure enough, it runs onto a sandbar in a remote area. Left aground in deadly below freezing temperatures, the boat's two Chinese engine stokers decide to take advantage of the work stoppage with a little opium break, but overdose. Late that night everyone wakes up to a freezing ship. The captain discovers the bodies and simply chucks them overboard. When they thud instead of splash that's how he discovers the river has frozen solid. Pretty savage already, this story, but it gets crazier.
The captain gets the fire going again, but because he doesn't know what he's doing the engine boiler explodes. Fire ravages the boat so quickly that half the women going overboard don't even have clothes. One prostitute jumps but lands head first on the ice. Not good. Another catches on fire. A third runs from her flaming cabin directly into the sub-zero air and the shock stops her heart. Stranded ashore, miles from White Horse, the only heat source is the flaming boat, but once the conflagration dies they're all going to freeze to death, some of them naked.
We'll stop there—remember, no spoilers—but as savage tales go, “ Lizzie Russel and Her Riverboat Bordello” is pretty good. Other wild stories include Carl Williams' “The Grizzly Came for Breakfast,” and Jim Cooley's “I Listened To Them Scream.” We're glad we picked this magazine up. We imagine, since it was the debut issue, the editors really tried hard to get it just right. Mission accomplished, at least in our opinion, but Savage Adventure folded after only four issues. That makes this example exceedingly rare.
The cover is signed, illegibly, but thanks to the internet we were able to learn that the cropped scrawl at the bottom of the art says Norm Eastman. We've featured his work before—here. Aside from the fiction, Savage Adventure offers readers a couple of exposés, some glamour photography, and several rather interesting ads. We scanned our two favorites—one for burlesque dancer Honey Bee, and another telling readers that they can make a mint investigating auto accidents—sexy auto accidents. You'll see what we mean below.
Some guys just can't see the warning signs.
The cover art on this Planetmonk Books digital re-issue of Charles Willeford's 1956 novel Wild Wives enticed us with its faux-vintage look, plus the fact that this particular publisher has resurrected a few amazing old novels. This story was surprisingly one-note. You get a San Francisco gumshoe who crosses paths with an unhappily married femme fatale who's trouble with a capital T, and to that volatile mix is added a murder and 10,000 hidden bucks. The result is perfunctorily executed by Willeford. It's more frank than you'd expect, both in terms of violence and sex, and it's unusual for the hero's accepting attitude toward a gay character, but overall this isn't one of Willeford's, aka W. Franklin Sanders', top efforts. He's done well in the past, though, so we're confident about returning to him later.
She gets her best work done during overtime.
Above, a beautiful poster for Danchizuma wasureenu yoru, known in English as Apartment Wife: Unforgettable Night. The wife in this third entry in the Apartment Wife series is Junko Miyashita. The plot is typically convoluted, but basically she's sexually unfulfilled by her hubby and finds pleasure in an anonymous office encounter. Her repeated trysts with this person leave her vulnerable to blackmail of sorts, and— Actually, it's really hard to describe this without giving everything away. Let's just call it a twisted sexual awakening tale with an ironic ending. Which is what most of the Apartment Wife movies are. This one premiered in Japan today in 1972.
Pink and yellow are normally so cheery.
Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi, for which you see a poster above, is another Nikkatsu roman porno movie, with a serial killer/rapist on the loose dispatching women in baroque and horrible ways. The star of the movie, Erina Miyai, falls victim to a rapist early on but is not killed. When the murders start she wonders if it's the same man. That question is answered quickly, but mystery is not really the point here. The goal seems to be making a mash-up of Japanese pinku (pink film) and Italian giallo (yellow film).
For example, during one of the killings a woman is pursued past an apartment block, but in filmmaking terms she's running in place, which lends the scene the nightmarish quality characteristic of giallo. All the windows beyond her are illuminated, but as she screams for help the lights go out one by one. As far as mixing filmmaking palettes goes, it's nice work. As far as the message, was director Naosuke Kurosawa also trying to tell viewers Japan was becoming inured to violent crime? Perhaps.
Based on the existence of roman porno Japan was for sure becoming inured to violent movies. Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi is more violent than most, but with its deliberate attempt to transcend—however slightly—the requisites of roman porno, it's also better than most. Does that mean it's actually good? Not as such, but for serious film buffs it's worth a glance and a discussion. It premiered today in 1980.
That moment when you realize your neighbors have known all along you've been watching them.
Above, a poster for Danchizuma: Kanki no yoru, aka Apartment Wife: Night of Pleasure, starring Junko Miyashita, Tatsuya Hamaguchi, and Masumi Jun. This is of course another Nikkatsu roman porno romp, with all that the label suggests. This entry was seventh in a franchise that eventually totaled twenty-one films. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
Eli Roth and AMC make History with a seven part look at horror cinema.
Those of you in the U.S. who appreciate horror cinema may want to carve out a little time Sunday night for the final episode of the retrospective Eli Roth's History of Horror. It's been airing weekly on the cable network American Movie Classics, aka AMC, since mid-October. Though the British network BBC broadcast a very good three part horror retrospective in 2010 (and it even had a similar title—A History of Horror), genre landscapes shift quickly. The Brit series was made before important films like Get Out, It, Let Me In, its remake Let the Right One In, et al hit cinemas. Eli Roth's History of Horror is a newer and deeper look at fright films. Each 60-minute episode focuses on a specific type of terror, such as vampires, monsters, demons, and slashers.
Overall the series is great. Roth discusses not just the movies, but horror's cultural impact, and weights those observations toward the last ten years. Because of the change that has occurred this decade those sections resonate nicely. Horror's ability to make social issues digestible as allegories is a key part of the form's worth. For instance, Get Out's idea of the sunken place, a metaphor for living (and dying) while black in America, would be rejected by many white filmgoers if it were in a standard narrative. But for us the social impact of horror movies is merely a bonus. We love them viscerally first, intellectually second. We lovethe tension that results from not knowing—usually, at least—which characters will survive. We love how the films' kinetic and often low budget natures lead to amazing little accidents, such as the bit in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when Leatherface grabs Teri McMinn on the porch of his house and both the girl's sandals fly off. That sort of detail isn't in a script. It happens during the shoot, and the director thanks the filmic gods for the extra iota of serendipitous realism.
While very good, the series isn't perfect. In the episode on zombies, Roth discusses slow moving zombies for a while, then erroneously credits the arrival of speedy zombies to Danny Boyle 2002 hit 28 Days Later. But it was 1985's Return of the Living Dead that featured the first sprinting zombies in an American movie, and this was preceded by the 1980 Italian zombie epic Incubo sulla città contaminata, aka Nightmare City. We also were surprised Near Dark was ignored in the vampire episode. Timehas shown it to be better and more influential than The Lost Boys, which was discussed at length. If you doubt that, note that Near Dark's critic score on Rotten Tomatoes is 88%, while Lost Boys' is 27%. Critics are often wrong, especially when it comes to horror, but that level of variance is no fluke. And just to settle the argument, the audience rater on that website also prefers Near Dark. We suspect either box office receipts or Roth's personal preference played a role there, when quality should have been the deciding factor.
But we were gratified to see that many of our cherished beliefs were echoed by Roth and his co-hosts Rob Zombie and The Walking Dead producer Greg Nicotero. Yes, the towering werewolf from The Howling is the scariest ever put on screen. Beyond a doubt, John Carpenter's The Thing, which was close to universally panned upon release, is a top tier thriller. We're anticipating the segment on ghosts, the focus of Sunday night's series finale. We imagine these were saved for last because viewers are most interested in the subject, a curiosity that derives from the fact that many people actually believe ghosts exist. We expect the episode to discuss such old and new classics as The Haunting, The Shining, The Ring, and The Woman in Black. We'll see. But no spoilers, please. If you're in the States you can watch it before we do, whereas we'll have to (totally legally, we swear) download it the next day. But whenever you watch it, the show has been a nice treat for horror aficionados.
You guys have fun on the mountain. I'm skiing directly over to the chalet and hot tub.
There are those that ski and those that get loaded on Champagne in the jacuzzi. U.S. born actress Jane Wald seems to be in the latter category. Though she may have been a high altitude partier, she was more of a medium altitude actress, with a career comprising mostly guest slots on television shows, including two appearances on Batman. But this shot is epic. It's from 1966 and first appeared in the Belgian magazine Ciné-Revue.
Maybe I should have listened to my parents and stayed in community college.
Above, a nice James Avati cover for Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham, copyright 1949. The hardback of this came out in 1946, and it was adapted to the big screen in 1947 with Tyrone Power in the lead role, so this art reflects the movie, which is why the cover femme looks like and is dressed like co-star Colleen Gray. This is one of many mid-century novels set in and around carnivals, and it's one of the better ones, we think. The film version adheres reasonably close to Gresham's original vision. We talked about it several years ago, so check here if you're interested. We've also talked about several other carnival books over the years and now we have an idea to put together a cover collection along those lines. We'll have to see if there are any examples left to find. But in the meantime you can see what we've already collected here, here, here, and here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1960—Adolf Eichmann Is Captured
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, four Israeli Mossad agents abduct fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who had been living under the assumed name and working for Mercedes-Benz. Eichman is taken to Israel to face trial on 15 criminal charges, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. He is found guilty and executed by hanging in 1962, and is the only person to have been executed in Israel on conviction by a civilian court.
2010—Last Ziegfeld Follies Girl Dies
Doris Eaton Travis, who was the last surviving Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl, dies at age 106. The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 through 1931. Inspired by the Folies Bergères of Paris, they enjoyed a successful run on Broadway, became a radio program in 1932 and 1936, and were adapted into a musical motion picture in 1946 starring Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, and Lena Horne.
1924—Hoover Becomes FBI Director
In the U.S., J. Edgar Hoover is appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a position he retains until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modern innovations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories. But he also used the agency to grind a number of personal axes and far exceeded its legal mandate to amass secret files on political and civil rights leaders. Because of his abuses, FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms.
1977—Joan Crawford Dies
American actress Joan Crawford, who began her show business career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies, but soon became one of Hollywood's most prominent movie stars and one of the highest paid women in the United States, dies of a heart attack at her New York City apartment while ill with pancreatic cancer.
1949—Rainier Becomes Prince of Monaco
In Monaco, upon upon the death of Prince Louis II, twenty-six year old Rainier Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand Grimaldi, aka Rainier III, is crowned Prince of Monaco. Rainier later becomes an international household name by marrying American cinema sweetheart Grace Kelly in 1956.
1950—Dianetics is Published
After having told a gathering of science fiction writers two years earlier that the best way to become a millionaire was to start a new religion, American author L. Ron Hubbard publishes Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. The book is today one of the canonical texts of Scientology, referred to as "Book One", and its publication date serves as the first day of the Scientology calendar, making today the beginning of year 52 AD (After Dianetics).
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