|Vintage Pulp||May 12 2019|
It's interesting that on many websites Underworld U.S.A. isn't classified as a film noir. But it has most of the elements—overriding sense of doom, moral ambiguity, police corruption, scenes in bars, copious shadows, rain slick streets, extreme close-ups, et al. And Fuller had previously helmed the excellent 1953 film noir Pickup on South Street. But often you'll see Underworld U.S.A. slotted as a drama or melodrama. Well, it's definitely those. Viewers will see that Fuller, who was influenced by pulp novels and tabloids, had a unique vision. While Underworld U.S.A. doesn't stand up against the best film noir has to offer, it's successful on its own terms. It premiered in New York City today in 1961.
|Modern Pulp||Aug 1 2017|
Not only did Atlantic City, U.S.A. win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, it's one of the few movies to be nominated for all five major Academy Awards—Best Actor (Burt Lancaster), Best Actress (Susan Sarandon), Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay. With a résumé like that we don't have to tell you the movie is good. Watch it. You'll like it. The woman on the poster, by the way, looks nothing like Susan Sarandon, but it was early in Sarandon's career, and we suspect Jano wasn't too invested in getting her likeness correct. It was within his capability, certainly—his Lancaster looks great. We don't know why he got Sarandon wrong. Considering how famous she eventually became, we have a feeling he wished he'd done better.
|Hollywoodland||Jan 3 2017|
Above, a promo photo of actor and icon Humphrey Bogart. Widely considered the greatest star in American film history, the hard-living Bogart—who was a founding member of Frank Sinatra's infamous Rat Pack and once said the problem with the world was that everyone was a few drinks behind—died of cancer this month, 1957.
|Intl. Notebook||Jun 6 2014|
Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day—the Allied landings in Northern France—and since most observances take the same form, we thought it would be a good opportunity to look at the event from a different angle by sharing something you might not see anywhere else. So above and below are some front and back covers of Signal, a German propaganda magazine printed from 1940 to 1945 and distributed in neutral, friendly, and occupied countries. These are from Yugoslavia, and their text is Croatian. Glancing at the images is to marvel at the always yawning chasm between propaganda and reality, for though Signal showed Hitler’s soldiers defeating foes while winning hearts and minds, when most of these were printed his army was not only the most hated entity in the Western world, but was already in the process of being fatally smashed in the crucible of a bitter Russian winter against a hardened foe that had always considered ice, snow, wind and frostbite its most important allies.
|Intl. Notebook | Politique Diabolique||Nov 22 2013|
Stories about John F. Kennedy’s assassination have been appearing in the media for several weeks leading up the 50th anniversary of the event, as various outlets try to get ahead of the wave of interest, but we’re purists here, so we’re sharing this poster today, on the actual anniversary of the murder. Let’s get the basics out of the way first. As we’ve mentioned before, a Gallup poll taken days after the killing showed that a majority of Americans believed Oswald was not the only participant. That percentage has gone up since, reaching more than 80%, according to some surveys. That means people who believe Oswald acted with others have always been the majority, and today are the vast majority. That’s something your trusted media outlet always leaves out, doesn’t it? The point is if you think there was a conspiracy, you are the norm, part of an overwhelming norm, rather than some crackpot minority.
It’s an important point because many of the articles published today ask questions like, “Why do people believe in conspiracies?” The problem with that question lies in its framing—it implies that we live in a world that has no or few conspiracies, that it’s silly to believe they exist. That’s very interesting, considering that in the Libor scandal up to 20 major banks conspired to rig interest rates in a $350 trillion derivatives market, that Britain’s spy agency GCHQ conspired to secretly tap into the fiber optic cables that carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic, that the bank HSBC conspired to launder billions of dollars in South American drug cartel money, that ING conspired to violate sanctions against certain types of business dealings with Cuba and Iran, that News of the World conspired to illegally hack the phones of private citizens, and that Merrill Lynch conspired to deliberately overcharge 95,000 customers $32 million in unwarranted fees. All of these happened in just the last few years.
|Sportswire||Sep 20 2013|
The death of boxing champ Ken Norton has produced some nice tributes, but we wanted to mention that he also made a couple of interesting movies. The one most worth watching is 1975’s Mandingo, a slavery tale that has gone unsurpassed for realism in depicting America’s antebellum South. A few movies are at the same level of historical accuracy (including the amazing Addio Zio Tom, which we’re going to feature here in a couple of weeks), but Mandingo remains notable for its sweaty, oppressive feel and rich cinematography. Norton wasn’t chosen for the pivotal role of Ganymede because he could act. He was chosen because of his physical build and good looks—the first was necessary for scenes in which his character takes part in brutal pit fights, and the second makes the movie’s subplot of forbidden sexual desire plausible. When we featured Mandingo a few years ago we didn’t recommend it fully, but any film which some prominent critics have hailed as a classic and was a clear influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but which Robert Ebert originally rated a zero has to be worth watching, if only to see what the fuss is all about.
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 30 2013|
Something a little different today, above is a poster produced by the American soft drink brand Pop Kola touting their beverage as the biggest thirst value under the sun. Though this poster uses a World War II motif, the brand was launched as a subsidiary of Hub City Bottling Works in Jackson, Tennessee way back in 1919, and seems to have survived at least into the early 1970s. We only know the latter because we came across a newspaper story about Pop Kola sponsoring NASCAR star James Hylton during his last year as a full-time professional racer in 1972. He was excited about the partnership, calling it the best deal he ever had. As far as how far beyond 1972 Pop Kola lasted, we don’t know. It was a bit before our time. In any case, we always enjoy WWII memorabilia, and this poster featuring the elegant, gull-winged Corsair fighter plane caught our eye. It seems like an aggressive image for selling soda, but we’re sure it was well received at the time.
|Intl. Notebook||Jun 26 2013|
This is one of the more famous images of a nuclear detonation, a shot of the American blast codenamed Dakota, which was part of Operation Redwing, conducted at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, today in 1956. The layered effect you see is sometimes called a Wilson cloud, and consists of water vapor condensed out of the atmosphere by rarefaction, an aftereffect of a shockwave traveling through humid air. In order to perform tests on Bikini Atoll, about 200 Micronesian inhabitants were forced to relocate. They and their descendants hope to return one day, but as of now their home is still too contaminated with radiation.
|Intl. Notebook||Feb 18 2013|
Above, a photo of the American nuclear test codenamed Wasp, part of Operation Teapot, detonated at the Nevada Test Site today in 1955
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 31 2013|
Although there aren’t any psychedelic mushrooms in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Cave Girl, it’s still a fun book. Basically, a wheezy, wimpy, uptight city dweller named Waldo is swept overboard during a Pacific sea journey and fetches up on an island of Neolithic savages. He meets a girl and the rest of the book involves him turning into Rambo in order to defend her from the men of her own undeserving (obviously) tribe. Ultimately it turns out she was never a savage, but rather a regular white chick born on the island twenty years earlier to a shipwrecked American woman. The woman died and the girl was raised as an islander. So it’s a good thing Waldo washed ashore to keep those primitives from defiling her flesh. Burroughs helped pioneer the entire Lost World genre, so despite its flaws, The Cave Girl is worth a read for that reason alone. It began as two separate stories in 1914, was melded into a novel in 1925, and in 1949 was released in the Dell paperback edition you see above, with the title shortened to simply Cave Girl, and with cover art by Jean des Vignes. Interesting and action-packed, this one should keep you entertained for a couple of days, and it’s in the public domain, which means you can download it.