Gladiatorial combat is all fun and games until the gladiators decide you're the one who needs killing.
We've featured master fantasy artist Frank Frazetta a few times, so it seems only fair that we feature the yang to his yin, Peruvian born legend Boris Vallejo. Here you see his art on a promo poster for Naked Warriors, which is better known as The Arena, released this month in 1974 starring another legend, Pam Grier, along with occasional co-star, the lovely Margaret Markov. We've talked about the movie twice, shared its Italian and U.S. promo art, and shared rare promo images of Grier once or twice, or maybe even three or four times, as well as a beautiful centerfold of Markov. All of that imagery is worth a look. Vallejo's art is a nice fit for a tale of enslaved gladiators pitted against each other eventually defying their sadistic masters to fight for freedom. He painted when Corcorde Pictures acquired the rights to the film from MGM/UA for a VHS release in 1988. Concorde/New World was formed and run by schlockmeister Roger Corman, and that explains the black wedges at the top and bottom of the promo. When you do thingson the cheap as a matter of course like Corman did, tilting the art in an inelegant way to make the two figures fit a door panel format seems logical. We can imagine him: “Just lean the fucker left. Who cares about the blank spots?” And indeed, who does, really?
In addition to a great piece of art, as a bonus we've also uploaded some Arena production photos we found scattered around the internet over the years. Most of them were shot by Italian lensman Angelo Frontoni, whose work we've admired often. As it is a lusty sort of movie, some of the shots are a bit lusty too. We had these sitting about and didn't have a real good excuse to share them until today, so from the good old days of ’70s sexploitation behold: Grier, Markov, Lucretia Love, Maria Pia Conte, Rosalba Neri, and others in barely-there gladiatorial gear—and sometimes less. We can't say the film is perfect, but it's definitely worth a watch.
Bond. James Bond. Not sure who you are, but stick close anyway.
French illustrator Boris Grinsson outdid himself with this promo for James Bond 007 contre Dr. No, aka Dr. No. This is a framable classic, appropriate for a film that reshaped the spy genre. Its only flaw is that while the Sean Connery figure is a good likeness, the representation of Ursula Andress is not very close. We get it though—her perfect, unlined face doesn't give you much to work with. To get Connery close, you just need to make sure you include his bushy eyebrows and the deep facial lines bracketing his mouth. But Andress is a true test of skill. It's still a great poster. Perhaps even our favorite from the Bond franchise. The movie premiered in France today in 1963.
Filmgoers say yes to No and a franchise is born.
Since we've already talked about two movies inspired by Bond today, why not discuss the landmark that started it all? There had always been spy movies. Even the James Bond films, with their focus on high concept action and fantastical super villains, had predecessors. But United Artists, director Terence Young, Sean Connery, and the rest took the basic notes of those earlier efforts, wove them into a fresh composition, and cranked the volume up to eleven. This Spanish poster painted by Macario Gomez was made for the first Bond film Dr. No, which played in Spain as Agente 007 contra el Dr. No. Ian Fleming's novel had been published in 1958, and the film hit cinemas four years later. Like From Russia with Love, which we watched recently, we've seen it more than once, but not for years, and decided to screen it with fresh eyes.
We imagine audiences had never seen a spy movie quite like this, with its opulent production values and near-seamless construction. Set in Jamaica, the exotic locations are beautifully photographed, and while the filmmakers' portrayal of the island isn't necessarily authentic, it's immersive, and makes the required impression of a land of mystery and danger. An altogether different impression was made by the ravishing Ursula Andress, and we suspect once word got out certain filmgoers bought tickets just to see her. Joseph Wiseman's villainous Julius No, a few hi-budget gadgets, and a secret lair filled with expendable henchmen complete the set-up—and establish the Bond template for the future. Add the unflappable if occasionally imperious spy himself and the fun is complete.
The Bond franchise's success inspired scores of imitators, as discussed in the two posts above, but with a few exceptions those movies usually work today on the level of unintentional comedy or eye-rolling camp. Dr. No, despite Bond's interjections of humor, took itself seriously. Viewers were supposed to believe its most fantastic elements were possible. In addition, they were supposed to see Bond as the uber-male, a man who fights and loves hard, is virtually immune to sentiment, and never mourns losses for long. That notion of ideal manhood has certainly changed—for the better we'd say—but even accounting for the tectonic cultural shifts in the interim Dr. No holds up like the best vintage thrillers. It's stylish, charmingly simple, and—if one assesses it honestly—progressive for its time. It premiered in England in October 1962, and reached Spain today in 1963.
Yeah! This is so fun! These photos will really make people remember me!
If you look around the internet literally every site from IMDB to Ebay will tell you this is U.S. actress Martha Vickers dancing for a photo series made while filming the 1955 United Artists drama The Big Bluff. But surprise! Everyone is wrong. This isn't Vickers. This is actually Rosemarie Stack. It's pretty obvious. She and Vickers don't look alike anyway, and Vickers is blonde in the film, not brunette, but also, Stack plays a hot-blooded showgirl named Fritzi Darvel while Vickers plays an invalid, so clearly this is Stack doing a little riff on her role as a dancer. What are we the internet police? Hah, no. But we thought the forgotten Miss Stack deserved to have her credit restored for starring in this great series. Make a note. And the movie? Meh.
Update: IMDB has now updated its info. It's nice to have influence.
Only my friends get to call me Corny. And you're not a friend.
This United Artists promo photo was made for the political thriller The Next Man and it shows U.S. actress Cornelia Sharpe, who was actually never known as Corny, at least not professionally. She had a minor career dotted with a few notable movies, including Serpico and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. The Next Man was not one of those notable films, but it did star Sean Connery and was directed by Richard C. Sarafian, who helmed the counterculture classic Vanishing Point. This image dates from 1976.
Better men than you have tried to tame her.
Above is a United Artists promo image of New York City born actress Midge Ware, née Muriel Ware, from the 1952 lost world adventure Untamed Women. In the film three downed World War II flyboys wash up on the shores of an island inhabited by primitive but (of course) sexy women. Sound like your thing? You can watch it online here. The photo is from 1952.
La Lollo gives a child's toy a grown up workout.
The UPI photo above was shot today in 1959 and shows Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida hula hooping between takes on the set of United Artists' biblical epic Solomon and Sheba. La Lollo was apparently a big fan of the hula hoop—according to the info on the back of the photo she owned this one and brought it from her home in Rome. Interestingly, she was costumed almost exactly like this—in a glittery bra and skirt while showing a bare midriff—in 1950's Vita di cani, 1952's Les belles de nuit, and wore a circus performer's outfit of very similar style in 1956's Trapeze. Her most famous physical trait was her hair (lollo rosso lettuce is so named because it resembles the curly 'do she wore for much of her career), but it seems producers preferred her navel. Can't say we blame them.
Welcome to fantasy island.
Spanish model and actress Natividad Abascal, aka Nati Abascal, seen here in a United Artists publicity photo, 1971.
And as far as gentlemen go, they’ll take whatever they can get.
Above is a brilliant poster for the film musical Gentlemen Marry Brunettes starring Jane Russell and Jeanne Crain. Both Brunettes and 1953’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had begun as novels written by Anita Loos, in 1927 and 1925 respectively. Blondes (it was actually the second time the book had been filmed) was of course a smash with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the leads. A year later Monroe was unavailable to reprise her role as Lorelei Lee, so both leads were rescripted into entirely new characters and Jeanne Crain scored the new part opposite Russell. Gentlemen Marry Brunettes appeared in 1955, but the result wasn’t quite as electric as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Same old story—it’s almost always pointless trying to capture lightning in a bottle twice, and a sequel without Monroe was destined to disappoint, at least artistically. But it did become one of the top box office movies of 1955. Amazing, considering it’s almost forgotten today. Seems the audience has stated its preference rather clearly. Well, even if Brunettes fell short of Blondes in the memorability department, there’s nothing forgettable about its Japanese poster.
Diamonds are forever, but Connery wasn’t.
Sean Connery makes as many appearances in sixties and seventies tabloids as just about any celeb of the time, so here he is again in an article promoting his role in Diamonds Are Forever, which would premiere just a couple of weeks after this December 1971 National Police Gazette hit newsstands. Connery talks about his futile struggle to portray James Bond as a balding hero, and quips about making his stylist thin his wigs so there was almost no point in wearing them at all. Connery said about Bond’s aging, “No one is immortal—not me, not you, and not James Bond.” It was a commendable sentiment, but naïve. Seems as though Connery didn’t realize United Artists had already branded Bond well beyond the point where the character was tethered to any concept of aging. The studio proved that when it brought the much younger Roger Moore on the scene for 1973’s Live and Let Die. Moore would later give way to Dalton, who gave way to Brosnan, who gave way to Craig, as Bond himself remained eternally forty-ish through the passing years. Elsewhere in the Gazette you get a report on the hash capital of the world, the world’s greatest racing systems, and the usual assortment of random beauties in bathing suits. All that, plus hashish toasted cheese, below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Downtown Athletic Club Awards First Trophy
The Downtown Athletic Club in New York City awards its first trophy for athletic achievement to University of Chicago halfback Jay Berwanger. The prize is later renamed the Heisman Trophy, and becomes the most prestigious award in college athletics.
1968—Japan's Biggest Heist Occurs
300 million yen is stolen from four employees of the Nihon Shintaku Ginko bank in Tokyo when a man dressed as a police officer blocks traffic due to a bomb threat, makes them exit their bank car while he checks it for a bomb, and then drives away in it. Under Japanese statute of limitations laws, the thief could come forward today with no repercussions, but nobody has ever taken credit for the crime.
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
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