Grier is ready for a battle royal.
Above you see a rare Thai poster for Pam Grier's 1975 detective thriller Sheba, Baby. The text refers to Grier as the “queen of hearts,” and the “queen of private eyes,” which we think is rather nice. But why stop there? Since the distributors at Go Brother Film were so eager to crown her, let's cover all bases and go with the Queen of Thailand—with respect to Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana. The poster has a date of some sort, but we can't interpret it. Since the movie didn't make it to Europe until late 1976 at the earliest, we're inclined to think the date refers to a Thai premiere in ’77 or ’78. There's also a signature that we can't read. It's a shame not to be able to give the artist credit, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Read more about Sheba, Baby here, and see a cool Egyptian promo poster for it here.
The woman who set fire to France.
First degree Arsan is the highest level of Arsan, which is the act of starting a fire or explosion with the intent to destroy or damage something. So above you see Thailand born Emmanuelle Arsan, who did exactly that, setting fire to and destroying French censorship standards. She was known by several names, including Marayat Rollet-Andriane and Marayat Bibidh, but it was as Arsan that she found fame in France by writing the erotic novel Emmanuelle, which was immediately banned. While its publisher Eric Losfeld was jailed and fined, the book was clandestinely and anonymously sold from 1959 until its official publication in 1967.
Today the novel is thought to have been written by Arsan's husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane, and “Emmanuelle Arsan” is thought to be a pseudonym they shared, with he as writer and she as its public face. Arsan parlayed the literary recognition into modeling, acting, an uncredited directorial turn at the helm of the 1976 sexploitation flick Laure, and celebrity status as the personification of France's naughty libido. This wonderful image is from 1976, and she's 40 in it. You can see numerous more impressive shots of Arsan in the write-up we did on Laure a few years back.
Nature is red in tooth and claw. Then there's its romantic side.
We found this rather nice Thai promo poster for the 1980 sexploitation flick Tanya's Island and were reminded what a bizarrely interesting film this was. We talked about it a while ago. It stars Vanity—yes, Prince's Vanity from the sex-pop music group Vanity 6—as an often nude woman who gets involved with an apelike creature on a tropical island. She performs pre-Vanity under the name D.D. Winters, and while she's no Susan Hayward she gives her all, and that's the most you can reasonably expect in a movie in which her love interest is a furry primate. Thanks to her performance Prince decided to pluck her from b-moviedom and make her a star, though from a purely selfish perspective we'd have enjoyed a few more low budget romps from her. But what can you do? We don't have a Thai release date on this, but figure sometime in mid-1980s. You can check out our earlier write-up and see some amazing promo images at this link.
When the Belle rings it's time for everyone to get it up.
Above is a Japanese poster and a pamphlet front for the French sexploitation flick Laure, aka Forever Emmanuelle, which premiered in Japan today in 1976 after opening in Italy nine months earlier. We watched it, and first of all the movie looks great. It's crisp, bright, and colorful—three things you really want when Annie Belle is the star. We gather that the palpably high budget was due to an infusion of big studio money from Twentieth Century Fox via Cinecittà Studios, as they tried to cash in on the 1970s sexploitation phenomenon. None of this means the movie is good.
Emmanuelle flicks are chaste and atmospheric, more romance than raunch, and Laure is no exception. Belle plays a highly sexed minister's daughter running wild in the Philippines, from Manila to the jungly outer reaches. There's a plot having to do with searching for the isolated Mara tribe, but the movie is more a series of swinger lifestyle lectures and sexualized vignettes, such as when Belle drops her skirt so she can walk around in public wearing nothing but a shirt that flashes her muff, and when she gets laid in a bamboo hut that's being dragged through the woods by a dozen Filipino workers. She's wanted by everyone whose path she crosses, but it's Al Cliver who piques her interest, thanks to his unwillingness to attempt caging her or cooling her hot blood. At one point he announces, “Jealousy is an obscenity.” It takes quite a man to watch the woman he loves have explosive orgasms with every stranger who happens along.
Of special note is a co-starring turn from Thai/French personality Emmanuelle Arsan, who in 1959 anonymously published the book Emmanuelle, source of the film franchise. Or at least she was thought for years to have been responsible for the book. Her husband Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane is now considered the author. Arsan was also credited with directing Laure, or at least co-directing it, but that was Rollet-Andriane again, whose name isn't on the film for reasons too involved to go into here. Well, it's definitely Arsan playing the role of Myrte, adding to the film's visual allure by looking great naked at age forty-four. She can't act, but she's good at giving wise looks and secretive smiles. She's easy to buy as the source—or at least inspiration—for Emmanuelle, because she's a very sexy woman. Despite all the film's beauty, we aren't going so far as to recommend it generally, but for lovers of globetrotting softcore or fans of Annie Belle it's mandatory.
His martial arts are lethal and his wardrobe is killer.
Above is a poster for the Hong Kong actioner Quan Ji, aka Duel of Fists, which, based on the placement of the English text, you'd actually expect to be called Duel of Nuts. Or are we the only ones seeing that? Anyway, what you get here is the story of a nerdy engineer slash ace martial artist who learns from his ailing father that he has a long lost older brother, the result of a whirlwind affair with a Thai girl. Sent to Bangkok to find his sibling, geek boy eventually discovers him in a fighting ring. A series of circumstances that begins with big brother beating the local crime syndicate's champion brings the wrath of the bad guys, and the brothers have no choice but to go medieval on the entire mob.
This movie is worth watching for two reasons. First, some of the fighting is Muay Thai, which was obscure to westerners back then and makes Quan Ji one of the first films to showcase that particular discipline. And second, David Chang plays the unsophisticated younger brother while wearing a series of gaudy outfits that you'd absolutely love to have for your next ’70s party. Chang has made more than a hundred movies and was still active just a couple of years ago, but we doubt he ever surpassed the discofied wardrobe he wore here. Despite the Rick James flavor he brings to the party we'd describe the movie as merely adequate. But it did make us want to listen to "Super Freak." Quan ji premiered in Hong Kong today in 1971.
I've met so many girls. Then I come to Bangkok and meet one who sees as much value in primary colors as I do. What are the odds?
By the way in Hong Kong one of our official languages is English, and in English Bangkok sounds like... Well, I'll explain it in detail later.
I told her what Bangkok sounds like and she loved it. Total keeper.
I know every dojo in the Far East and I've never heard of your Studio 54.
You wouldn't shoot the best electric slider in all of Thailand, would you?
I'm going to demonstrate this one more time. It's called the hustle and I learned it in the East Village.
Everybody was Muay Thai fightin'.... HUAH! Those kids were fast as lightning...
You better run, losers and haters! Come back when you learn how to dress!
Depending on the opponent's particular style and what the deejay is spinning these dance-offs can get pretty violent.
Some things are better left undimensioned.
Stuart Gordon's cult classic horror film From Beyond premiered in the U.S. today in 1986, but we're sharing this Thai poster because it's more attractive than the American promo. For the uninitiated, From Beyond is loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name about a scientist who discovers what is today a standard terror motif: if you can see them, they can see you. Lovecraft came up with this idea way back in 1920, spinning a tale about a machine called a resonator that enables humans to see horrific beings that surround us but reside in an invisible adjacent dimension. But once the scientist perceives them, the monstrous entities likewise perceive him—and come calling.
The film starred Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, two alumni from Gordon's bravura gorefest Re-Animator, released the previous year. From Beyond doesn't push the envelope as far as the earlier film, but that doesn't mean it's bad. It just means Gordon tempered his vision a bit. In other ways the films are quite similar. Both play the naked-woman-as-victim card, which can be uncomfortable to watch, since these days such sequences are not benignly received. As always, times change.
In From Beyond the nudity isn't gratuitous exactly. One of the side effects of the resonator is that it frees the id, which is why you see Crampton go from buttoned up schoolmarm to brazen dominatrix in the promo shots below. Males are similarly affected. We searched for shots of co-star Ken Foree in his banana hammock undies—one of many famous moments from the film—but came up empty, so to speak. Regardless of the cultural shift that has placed movies like From Beyond, with its depiction of sexual assault, on shaky ground in 2017, we recommend it for true horror fans. The viewing may discomfit, but the villain is after all both man and monster, which makes him/it an interesting symbol for our modern age.
Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.
This poster was painted by the Thai illustrator Kwow for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.
Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in how she approached her roles, and we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree with her. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high-priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified by that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.
It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.
The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.
Bond takes a shot at Thai readers.
The above book covers for the James Bond novels Live and Let Die, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, For Your Eyes Only and Goldfinger come from Thailand, where a martini is a “hăy láa bprà-pâyt kók-tayn,” a phrase sure to leave even international badass James Bond a sputtering mess. At the very least, he can forget about getting it shaken not stirred. No way he can pronounce those words, cunning linguist or not. Of course, being Bond, there’s always some slinky English-speaking femme fatale happy to help him out before a) bedding him and b) trying to kill him. It’s the same for us, except the slinky femmes are the Pulp Intl. girlfriends, and after bedding us they make us help with chores, which is a little like being killed. Bond never did chores. And next time they ask us we’re going to say that to them with a straight face—James Bond never did chores. We’ll let you know how that works out.
Confidential dishes dirt but tries not to cross the line.
Confidential gives Kim Novak the cover and Lili St Cyr the inset on an issue published this month in 1965. Inside, the editors offer readers mostly lukewarm rehash, as was Confidential’s usual approach during its fangless mid-1960’s years, but there are also a few interesting tidbits. We learn that Lili St. Cyr took more than thirty Nembutals during her 1958 suicide attempt, yet still managed to survive though as few as three pills can be fatal. Ramfis Trujillo’s wild Parisian parties are detailed, including the time he and his entourage shot up the lobby of the Hotel George V. And we find out that Frank Sinatra paid a $400 fine in Spain for disturbing the peace when he blew up after a woman threw a drink on him.
But make no mistake—the once mighty Confidential was walking on eggshells after being on the wrong end of some costly lawsuits. Maverick owner Robert Harrison had sold the magazine to Hy Steirman, who realized the easiest way to avoid litigation was to take on targets that either wouldn’t fight back or couldn’t be bothered to care. Ramfis Trujillo, for example, was a mass-murderer and likely found articles about his crazed partying flattering. Thailand’s dictator Sarit Thanarat is also slammed in this issue, and you can bet he gave less than a shit about the write-up—if he was even aware of it. Editors sling mud at Marilyn Monroe, who was dead. Amorphous group targets, like the “limp wrist set,” the Mafia, real estate swindlers, and escaped Nazis make up the rest of the subject matter.
But even if Confidential wasn’t kicking ass and taking names in 1965, its visuals were still quite nice, with those impactful black, white and red graphics, and that super hip language that’s so much of its time but which is still amazing to read today. Try this on for size: “Call the men in the white coats and get the whacky wagon rolling, your favorite swinging correspondent is ready for Flipsville!” We’re always ready for Flipsville, and we’re always ready for mid-century tabloids, too. How many of these do we have left in our collection? You wouldn’t believe us if we told you. We’d sell some, but how could we possibly part with them? We’re stuck with them. And so are you. Twenty-plus scans below.
Who knew doom and destruction could look so pretty?
Something a little different today, above are five Thai sci-fi and horror posters, showing the baroque stylings that make them so visually pleasing. The movies are, top to bottom, The Hidden, Scanners, Hex, Lifeforce, and The Believers.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
1976—Gerald Ford Rescinds Executive Order 9066
U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signs Proclamation 4417, which belatedly rescinds Executive Order 9066. That Order, signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established "War Relocation Camps" for Japanese-American citizens living in the U.S. Eventually, 120,000 are locked up without evidence, due process, or the possibility of appeal, for the duration of World War II.
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