Femmes Fatales Jul 9 2022
THE VERYEST OF ALL
Sometimes you run out of superlatives.


Recently we mentioned, more or less in passing, that Vonetta McGee was very beautiful. We'd already featured her as a femme fatale years ago, but our recent name drop got us thinking about sharing another image or two. We expected photos to be hard to find. Interest acts as a filtering mechanism, and since there are not many people percentagewise who save African American actresses' old photos and slides, fewer who digitize them, and still fewer who place them on their websites, all these factors converge and the result is lowered representation. We see it every day. There are significant and talented black actresses with extensive filmographies, yet they have only a fraction the number of surviving promo photos of non-black actresses who made only a few movies. For that reason we were pretty happy when we not only found the above shot of McGee during her ingénue period, twenty-three years old, but a marvelous shot. A wonderful shot. It was made when she debuted in the 1968 Italian comedy Faustina, and this is what we meant when we said she was very beautiful. After a successful career appearing in films ranging from trendy blaxploitation such as Blacula to high budget features such as The Eiger Sanction, the magnificent McGee died today in 2010.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 14 2022
MR. BIG STICK
Shaft comes out swinging in the third entry in his revered blaxploitation franchise.


This poster of Richard Roundtree brandishing a massive shillelagh or whatever was made for the third film in his iconic Shaft trilogy, Shaft in Africa, which was released today in 1973. Film series often try to go bigger with each entry, so it's no surprise that this one went clear to Africa during the height of the blaxploitation wave. Looking at the poster, we wonder if the stick gimmick influenced the next year's Black Samson, in which Rockne Tarkington carried a shillelagh of his own. Cinema being generally referential, we're guessing yes. But the similarities between the movies ends there. Black Samson was exclusively concerned with urban Los Angeles, while Shaft in Africa spans three continents and touches on some unusual subject matter.

The story revolves around New York City private dick John Shaft being asked to bring down a modern slavery ring. We should note, for any who don't know, that this evil thrives in 2022. In modern slavery, people desperate for work are offered foreign jobs that turn out to be brutal and pay so little—or nothing—that its victims are trapped. They can neither escape nor go to the police, because they soon learn that their work papers are fraudulent, and are told by their enslavers that the police will imprison them for illegal immigration. Operations of this sort have been broken up in recent years in New York, Georgia, and Texas, where a sex slavery ring was uncovered in Dallas. Elsewhere, slavery rings have been busted in the British Midlands, Australia, and perhaps most notably in Dubai, where Amnesty International says forced labor was used to prepare Qatar for the upcoming World Cup.

Shaft is tasked with traveling to Ethiopia, where he will pose as a local and allow himself to be recruited by slavers so he can gather evidence for French authorities, who have learned that the victims end up in Paris. Unfortunately, Shaft quickly realizes his cover has been blown and that he can't trust anyone. In a classic American cinema example of vigilantism becoming the last best option, he decides that rather than gather evidence against the slavers it'd be better if he went human tornado on the whole stinking lot of them. He becomes, in essence, the classic cop out of control, leaving chaos in his wake as his erstwhile handlers survey the damage and occasionally go sacre bleu!

In an interesting subplot, Vonetta McGee plays Aleme, tasked with teaching Shaft local ways and a bit of language. Shaft is dismayed to learn that she's on the cusp of receiving her clitoridectomy, a coming-of-age ritual generally referred to these days as female genital mutilation. Shaft: “Listen, baby, how in the hell are you gonna know what you're missing unless you give it a little wear and tear before they take it away?” It's glib, but there's a serious undertone—probably not enough for anyone horrified by the practice, but you really can't expect more for the time period. It's actually amazing it was mentioned at all. Because this is a Shaft movie, Aleme has a hands-on experience with the hero's big brown stick and decides she better hang onto her clitoris after all.

What can you say about a movie that features Roundtree reprising his immensely popular and groundbreaking private eye, and that deals with two hot-button social issues decades before they were on the minds of the Western public? The budget is big, the pace is fast, and the international setting in and around Addis Ababa, with some scenes shot in Massawa, Eritrea, and a climax staged in Paris, offers plenty of appeal. In addition, there's McGee, a very beautiful actress who in this outing looks even better than usual, while Serbian actress Neda Arnerić plays a ridiculously horny femme fatale who'll do anything to get Shaft in the sack. Action, commentary, sex, and a bit of humor—those are excellent ingredients, but even with all that and the virtual kitchen sink thrown in we don't think Shaft in Africa is as good as the original. But that's no surprise. There's really nothing like the first time.
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Intl. Notebook Mar 5 2021
AFRO CENTRIC
You probably can't pull this look off but there's no harm in dreaming.


Above you see a photo of U.S. actress Rosalind Cash modeling what we like to think of as the classic afro, an image we've posted today because recently we ran across a story on Simone Williams, official Guinness World Record holder for largest afro in existence. We don't know if hers is actually the largest, regardless of what Guinness says, but it's a majestic 'do, beyond doubt. It got us thinking about the hairstyle, which in our book is the coolest of all time.
 
There are different types of afros beside just the classic. We wanted to feature all styles, and we also bent the definition a little to include what might be categorized more accurately as large perms. We've labeled all the variations below, which will help when you start on the long, winding, and ultimately fruitless road toward your own blowout. We're aware, of course, that there were many male celebs who had afros, but we're sticking with women today. Your journey begins below.
The pure joy afro, as modeled by Gloria Hendry, who appeared in such films as Live and Let Die and Savage Sisters.

The regal, by Diahann Carroll, crown not included

The bohemian, by Esther Anderson, who appeared in flims like Genghis Khan and A Warm December.

The aquatic, by Camella Donner, who's a true water sprit, as we've shown you before.

The iconic, by Pam Grier, who did as much to popularize the afro as any film star in history.

The tall and proud afro, worn by trans b-movie actress Ajita Wilson.

The wild child, seen here atop Italian actress Iris Peynado.

The supreme afro, seen here on Diana Ross.

The lovely innocence afro, by Brenda Sykes.

The you-could-be-bald-and-still-be-smokin'-hot, demonstrated by Get Christie Love star Teresa Graves.

The afro-warrior by Cleopatra Jones star Tamara Dobson. Definitely more in the category of a large perm, but she pioneered the high fashion afro, so she's earned some latitude.

The too-cool-for-you afro/perm by Vonetta McGee.

The action afro, seen here on Jeannie Bell. This barely qualifies, but she had one of the largest afros in the history of cinema, so we can cut her some slack. Check her screen shot in this post to be amazed.

The bright-eyed and bushy, by Carol Speed.

The action afro again, this time by Trina Parks, who sported this look in Diamonds Are Forever. Is it technically an afro? Tell her it isn't and see what happens.

And lastly, the too-big-to-be-real afro, worn by Azizi Johari, whose actual hair you can see here.
 
There are numerous other afro shots in our website, but we can't possibly remember where they all are, so you'll just have to find them yourself, maybe by clicking the blaxploitation link below. Besides those, we do recall one more afro you can check out. It's on Desirée West, and you'll need to gird yourself for probably the hottest shot in Pulp Intl. history. Ready? Look here.
 
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Vintage Pulp Aug 25 2019
THE UNFRESH PRINCE
Just call him the noble formerly known as Dracula.


We don't have to tell you what Blacula is. It's clear from the poster alone that it's a retelling of the Dracula legend. It's also an early high point for blaxploitation cinema. It isn't perfectly made, but as an allegory it's on the nose: centuries ago an African prince named Mamuwalde was transformed into a vampire out of sheer racist spite, cursed to eternal hunger, taken as cargo to a strange foreign land, and now fights to survive there, far from his home. William Marshall in the lead role is doubtless the sweatiest vampire in movie history, but he's good in what is by definition a patently absurd role. In supporting parts are Thalmus Rasulala, Denise Nicholas, and the ravishing Vonetta McGee, who Mamuwalde thinks is his long lost wife Luva and treats to some sweet vampire love. As pure horror Blacula is middling, and it's homophobic in parts, but audiences liked the film and made it one of the top grossers of the year. Despite its flaws the undead Prince Mamuwalde embodied a fresh approach to black themed cinema, and it's certainly fun to watch. It opened in the U.S. today in 1972.

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Femmes Fatales Mar 11 2017
V FOR VONETTA
The heat isn't coming from the fireplace.


Above, a photo of U.S. actress Vonetta McGee, who appeared in such films as The Eiger Sanction and Repo Man, seen here looking exceptionally lovely sometime in the early 1970s. She also appeared in several blaxploitation flicks, and since we've been screening those lately we'll doubtless be running into her later.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 30
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant, East of Eden, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause, dies in an auto accident at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
September 29
1916—Rockefeller Breaks the Billion Barrier
American industrialist John D. Rockefeller becomes America's first billionaire. His Standard Oil Company had gained near total control of the U.S. petroleum market until being broken up by anti-trust legislators in 1911. Afterward, Rockefeller used his fortune mainly for philanthropy, and had a major effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.
September 28
1941—Williams Bats .406
Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox finishes the Major League Baseball season with a batting average of .406. He is the last player to bat .400 or better in a season.
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