Vintage Pulp May 16 2023
MARGIN OF TERROR
Don't lose hope. If we survive this we'll probably both get a chance to act in better movies.


This poster was made for the horror movie The Terror, and we're showing you the Japanese promo art because—as is often the case—it's nicer than the U.S. promo. Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson star, actors passing in the night, Karloff aged seventy-six and on the downward slope of a legendary film career, Nicholson aged twenty-six on the upslope. The latter plays a French army lieutenant named Andre Duvalier who becomes stranded circa 1806 in ye olde creepy-ass castle on the hill, which is occupied by Karloff's rickety Baron Victor von Leppe. Jack sees a mysterious woman wandering around. Karloff explains that she's the ghost of his wife, the Baronness Ilsa von Leppe, who died twenty years ago. Nosy Nicholson doesn't believe that for a millisecond, but the Baron sticks to his story, even admitting he killed the Baronness with his bare hands for the crime of adultery. Nice confession, but the Baron is lying or being duped, as far as Nicholson is concerned. In either case, the question is why?

Director Roger Corman was working from an Edgar Allen Poe template here, and in fact he shot on castle sets originally used for The Raven, which had wrapped earlier in the year. It's always good to save a buck where you can, but any advantage was lost due to Corman working from an unfinished script, which led to reshoots by Francis Ford Coppola, Dennis Jakob, Monte Hellman, and Jack Hill. All that talent wasn't enough to put together a film befitting Nicholson and Karloff, but the two leads do their damndest, and the result, though not good, isn't an embarrassment. Afterward, Karloff continued coasting into the twilight, Nicholson and Coppola moved on to widespread acclaim, Hill helped launch the blaxploitation cycle and make a star of Pam Grier, and Hellman directed the cult masterpiece Two-Lane Blacktop. It's a miracle they all contributed something lasting to cinema, because you'd never suspect it watching The Terror. It premiered in the U.S. in 1963 and reached Japan today in 1964.
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Vintage Pulp Mar 15 2018
THE TONG SHOW
Big trouble in little China.


After running across a poster this pretty we simply had to watch The Terror of the Tongs. Of course, the quality of an old Hollywood movie set in Asia is inversely proportional to the number of times you hear a gong. In The Terror of the Tongs you hear quite a few. You know the drill. Someone says the bad guys' headquarters is in the old part of town—GONG!—cut to the villains in their lair. Usually such movies feature white cast members Asianized with make-up and putty eyelids, and this is also an inverse indicator of quality.
 
But on that score Tongs defies the rule. Most major cast members are white, but the movie, though inherently racist, is not a bad piece of entertainment. A paradox? Indeed, young one. But we mean to say that once you get over the minstrel aspects—if you ever do, and we don't suggest that you should—what you get here is a fun little tale of a white ship captain in the mysterious Orient dealing with forces he can barely comprehend. When he accidentally comes into possession of a valuable item it results in the murder of his airhead daughter and sends him on a mission to make the responsible tong—i.e. Hong Kong mafia—pay.
 
Geoffrey Toone plays the noble and aggrieved captain, while veteran Brit actor Christopher Lee stars as the evil tong honcho Chung King. The film is beautifully made, with big sets and florid colors that dazzle the eye, and it's less predictable than you'd expect. It's clear the filmmakers were deadly serious, which makes it funny that the final product is considered pure cheese today. If you can look past the yellow makeup and prosthetic eyelids you'll find some entertainment here. And if not, at the very least you'll be thankful how far we've all come. The Terror of the Tongs premiered today in 1961.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 22
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
April 21
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
April 20
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
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