Vintage Pulp Feb 15 2023
DEBT AND DEATH
One way or another someone has to pay.


This unusual poster was made for the gritty John Cassavetes drama The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, and features co-star and Playboy model Azizi Johari. It's an alternate promo that was never used in cinemas, however it appeared at auction several years ago, and thence onto the internet. We noticed it because of the lovely Johari, who we've highlighted before, but we also knew the movie, which is one of Cassavetes' more discussed efforts. It's about a cabaret owner, played by Ben Gazzara, who has a serious gambling problem. After making the last payment of a loan shark debt he's been whittling down for seven years, he goes right out accompanied by Johari and two of his club's dancers, loses big again, and must sign over his club as collateral on the debt. Later, as the film's title suggests, his creditors demand—none too politely—that he kill someone.

Gazzara is one cool cucumber. His aplomb makes you wonder whether he's self-contained or just stupid. But really, how smart can you be to fall right back into a hole it took seven years to climb out of? Now it's called gambling addiction, but we think of it as merely being a mark. We wondered whether his cabaret Crazy Horse West, which features amazingly mediocre acts, was meant to embody his generally poor judgment. In any case, his bill will come due. Cassavetes puts all this together in his trademark patchwork style, with small moments stitched together to create the main character's life, and what a crazy quilt it is. The style may be off-putting to some, and the movie is marred by substandard acting from a couple of minor castmembers, but overall The Killing of a Chinese Bookie shows why Cassavetes was such a respected director. It premiered today in 1976.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 14
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
July 13
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
Richard Speck breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
July 12
1971—Corona Sent to Prison
Mexican-born serial killer Juan Vallejo Corona is convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers. He had stabbed each of them, chopped a cross in the backs of their heads with a machete, and buried them in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. At the time the crimes were the worst mass murders in U.S. history.
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