Femmes Fatales Jul 6 2020
PLANTING ROSEMARY
So you want to me to seriously injure my back here? On this spot right here? Okay, I'll give it a whirl.


Above, American actress Rosemary LaPlanche prepares to attempt an acrobatic pose in 1942, and below we see how it worked out. LaPlanche was what we think of as a career extra, which is to say she appeared in many movies but rarely as a named character. Some of those roles: “hatcheck girl” in Johnny Angel, “guest” in Having a Wonderful Crime, and “Falcon's nurse” in The Falcon in Danger. Probably her best known credited roles were in Strangler in the Swamp, Federal Agents vs. Underworld, Inc., and Devil Bat's Daughter. We can't imagine many actresses trying a headstand for a photo session today, which is why we love this sequence.

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Vintage Pulp May 12 2019
UNDER PRESSURE
Falling into the gutter is easy. Getting out? Not so much.


When does a movie get too cute for its own good? Possibly when the femme fatale is named Cuddles. Despite that laugh inducing bit of characterization, Underworld U.S.A. is the deadly serious tale of a kid who becomes a career criminal in order to exact revenge upon the hoods who killed his father. Cliff Robertson stars and Dolores Dorn plays the aforementioned Cuddles in this cautionary tale about the inexorable gravity of organized crime, which can suck everybody into a place from which there's no redemption or escape. Samuel Fuller steers the production with a sure hand, Robertson broods, Dorn suffers, gangsters plot and scheme, and the final result is tough and wrenching.

Best line: “I know. I'm drunk. But my brain's okay!”

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.

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Femmes Fatales Feb 26 2016
FINEST CHRISTA
She’s a classic work of art, and the sculpture isn’t bad either.


American actress Christa Lang is known for her many collaborations with director and husband Samuel Fuller, including The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, Underworld U.S.A., and his underrated racial drama White Dog. She also appeared in Jean-Luc Godard’s Alphaville, Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up Doc? and  has already wrapped The Queen of Hollywood Blvd., to be released later this year. The above shot, showing her in front of a backdrop depicting Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s famous sculpture "La danse," which is located on the façade of the Opera Garnier in Paris, appeared in the Spanish magazine Triunfo in 1965.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 27 2015
SIN CITY
There’s always something doing in Big Town.

Above are two nice posters for the crime drama I Cover Big Town, starring Philip Reed and Hillary Brooke. The movie was one of four features spun off from the radio program Big Town, which aired from 1937 to 1952. I Cover Big Town was the second feature in the series, but since it and the first installment Big Town were filmed pretty much simultaneously, I Cover Big Town somehow managed to hit cinemas first in some cities, and today is listed on many websites as the opening installment of the Big Town quartet. In any case, what you get here is staff from a big city newspaper (the actual metropolis is never named) called Illustrated Press who get involved in various adventures with police and crime figures. In this chapter, which is barely an hour long, an embattled police chief is about to drummed out of his job for letting a murderer slip through his fingers. Ace reporter Lorelei Kilbourne helps the police solve a second murder, along the way uncovering blackmail and embezzlement, leading to the recapture of the first killer, and managing to save the chief’s hide. Strictly average stuff, but we do love the posters. For reasons that elude us, the film was renamed I Cover the Underworld when it was re-released in 1950. As I Cover Big Town it premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 12
1978—Son of Sam Goes to Prison
David Berkowitz, the New York City serial killer known as Son of Sam, is sentenced to 365 years in prison for six killings. Berkowitz had acquired his nickname from letters addressed to the NYPD and columnist Jimmy Breslin. He is eventually caught when a chain of events beginning with a parking ticket leads to his car being searched and police discovering ammunition and maps of crime scenes.
June 11
1963—Buddhist Monk Immolates Himself
In South Vietnam, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc burns himself to death by dousing himself with gasoline and lighting a match. He does it to protest the persecution of Buddhists by Ngô Đình Diệm administration, choosing a busy Saigon intersection for his protest. An image of the monk being consumed by flames as he sits crosslegged on the pavement, shot by Malcolm Browne, wins a Pulitzer Prize and becomes one of the most shocking and recognizable photos ever published.
June 10
1935—AA Founded
In New York City, Dr. Robert Smith and William Griffith Wilson, who were both recovering alcoholics, establish the organization Alcoholics Anonymous, which pioneers a 12-step rehabilitation program that is so helpful and popular it eventually spreads to every corner of the globe.
1973—John Paul Getty III Is Kidnapped
John Paul Getty III, grandson of billionaire oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, is kidnapped in Rome, Italy. The elder Getty ignores a ransom demand for $17 million, thinking it is a joke. When John Paul's ear later arrives in the mail along with a note promising further mutilation, he negotiates the ransom down to $2.9 million, which he pays only on the condition that John Paul repay him at four percent interest. Getty's kidnappers are never caught.
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