Justice is served—ice cold.
Above: poster art for the blaxploitation flick Black Belt Jones, starring Jim Kelly as the last man standing between honest folk and a mafia land grab. We talked about it last year, and you can read what we thought and see the Italian promo art by Ermano Iaia at this link. You can also see two nice Kelly promo shots here and here. The movie premiered in the U.S. today in 1974.
Isabel Sarli is too hot to handle.
Fuego is a movie from Argentina but we were so taken with this Japanese poster that we decided on it over the original promo art. The colors laid atop the black and white background are nice. As for the movie, which originally premiered in 1969 and reached Japan today in 1971, it's a bizarre sexploitation flick about Isabel Sarli and her servant Alba Mujica, who carry on a lustful lesbian affair while Sarli is simultaneously pursued by local alpha male Armando Bo. The triangle is complicated by the fact that Sarli has a little problem: she wants sex so much she doesn't care where, when, or from whom she gets it. The movie's theme song tells the story:
Fuego en tu boca,
Fuego en tu cuerpo,
Fuego en tu sangre,
En tus entrañas,
Que queman mi alma,
Fire in your mouth,
Fire in your body,
Fire in your blood,
In your guts (eww), or alternatively, bowels (eew)
That burns my soul,
It's a good thing Sarli has fire in her blood, because she makes love in the snow. No blanket under her or anything. She's so overheated she goes around her provincial Patagonian town randomly flashing men. She's so inflamed she even squirms and moans when she sleeps. “I don't know if I'm fickle or wicked,” she muses. Her problem is neither. It's really that she's hostage to a cheeseball sexploitation script. She tells her suitor Bo she'll be unfaithful if they marry, but he doesn't care. “I want to be good,” Sarli says. Mission unaccomplished. As her doctor explains, her condition is caused by sexual neurosis. “A neurosis that is particularly manifested in the genitals.”
Okay then. It's unsurprising that the quack doctor next takes a comprehensive feel around Sarli's vagina. But no cure is to be found, there or anywhere, and her condition continues to consume her. Bo (who wrote and directed, as well as did most of the boob kissing) presents her narratively as an almost cursed figure, a kind of tragic sex goddess of Andes. But even so, the movie is no more than a bad South American soap opera. Or really, even a classical opera—it needs only an aria to complete its ascent up majestic Mount Melodrama. Sarli is a legendary sex symbol in South America and she shows why, over and over, but in the final analysis we can't recommend Fuego. However, we doubt we'll ever forget it.
He doesn't have a hook for a hand yet, but he's always practicing for that day.
The first thing to know about Naked Paradise is that it's an early Roger Corman movie, made by Sunset Production and distributed through American International Pictures, companies he helped establish. Corman also directed, so it's safe to say he had near-total control of the movie on and off the set. While he's made some real stinkers over the years, by his standards Naked Paradise isn't terrible. That doesn't mean its good. It's still laughably dopey in parts, the type of movie you can riff on from start to finish, but narratively it hangs together reasonably well and a couple of the actors practice their craft with competence.
Plotwise, three criminals led by Leslie Bradley travel to Oahu disguised as pleasure cruisers to try lifting a massive pineapple and sugar cane plantation's payroll. Their escape is via the same method as their arrival, unbeknownst to their boatmates, who at first are too busy sunning themselves and romancing to realize there are three dangerous criminals in their midst. Tensions between the boat's captain Richard Denning and the crooks soon come to a frothing head when the lead heister and his arm candy Beverly Garland acrimoniously split from each other.
The group are then stuck together during a tropical storm, a plot turn which brings to mind Key Largo. In fact we can hear screenwriter Robert Wright Campbell's pitch to Corman: “You see, it's Key Largo, sandwiched on one side by deep backstory showing the audience why Johnny Rocco and his henchmen are on the run, and on the other by an extended aquatic climax.” That's exactly the movie Corman made, though doubtless done far more cheaply than Campbell ever envisioned.
Corman has a genius for conjuring final results that are better than their shoestring budgets should allow, and he certainly is an unparalleled wrangler of nascent talent. He's given opportunities to directors such as Coppola, Demme, Scorsese, and Ron Howard, and performers like Jane Fonda and William Shatner. If there's such as thing as a pulp filmmaker he's the guy. His stories nearly always aim for the gut by focusing on action with a hint of innuendo, and rely upon the most standard of cinematic tropes. Naked Paradise is quintessential Corman. Is it good? Not really. But it's certainly watchable. It premiered this month in 1957.
The lady is a tramp, and the director is a scamp.
Junko Mabuki is back on Pulp Intl., as you see on this poster for the roman porno movie Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei, known in English as Office Lady Rope Slave. It premiered in Japan today in 1981, and basically, Junko plays a straight-laced nine-to-fiver who gets involved with a pair of bondage fetishists. These types of films were, of course, her specialty, and she once again gives viewers everything they'd become accustomed to seeing. But we're less interested in the plot of the movie than the reaction at Japan's censorship board Eiga Rinri Kikō. Adherence to its restrictions was ostensibly voluntary on the part of film studios, but the body had real enforcement power. Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei must have shaken the place to its foundations.
Let's set the scene. One of the censors has shown up at the Eiga Rinri Kikō office for an emergency meeting with the board chief. He and the other members of the body are proud of themselves for their work, which basically just hews to Japanese obscenity standards by forbidding shots of sex organs and pubic hair. But they never really thought it out from the perspective of directors determined to skirt the edges, which suddenly is happening with increasing frequency. Now at least one censor is in a tizzy. He'd be even more agitated if he knew digital technology would make roman porno films globally available, and thus decades later raise uncomfortable questions about Japanese culture and misogyny, but at this point he has no clue about that.
Censor: I'm beginning to think our censorship regime has backfired. I just screened Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei and that fucker Katushiko shows dripping semen.
Chief: We didn't ban that?
Censor: No. We overlooked it.
Chief: Well, what's a little semen?
Censor: It's dripping from Mabuki Junko's mouth. He also shows vaginal juices, vaginal blood, and strongly implies that Mabuki-kun gets her clitoris clothes-pinned.
Chief: Hmm... that does sound provocative.
Censor: I watched it twice just to be sure of my eyes. It's depraved. Additionally, there's all the usual bondage, some bizarre insertions, an enema, oral sex both heterosexual and lesbian...
Chief: All this without violating a single one of our rules?
Censor: Nothing is actually shown. It seems quite revealing, though, because, well, Mabuki-kun is a very good actress. Great boobs too.
Chief: Agreed. Mabuki-kun has excellent boobs.
Censor: But in general, it feels like these roman porno directors are ridiculing our censorship standards. There's even a moment—I swear—when I felt like the actors looked directly at me and sneered.
Chief: Now you're being paranoid. Regarding the standards, we could change them, make them more restrictive, but it's hell keeping Nikkatsu and the other studios in line already. Any alteration now may cause serious problems.
Censor: *sigh* But the semen...
Chief: What's a little semen? So, that screener is VHS?
Censor: Betamax. It's a better format. Soon everything will be Betamax. I have it with me.
Chief: I better check it out—just to confirm your findings. Leave it by the Beta player over there, and close the door on your way out. Also, tell my secretary I'm not to be disturbed for ninety minutes.
Okay, a scornful look for the censorship board on one... two... and now! At first I thought this was a citrus reamer, but now I'm not sure. How the hell do you expect me to flush this way? I'll help him. I've been hiding in the shower the whole time. I have to take a short break. There's an office pool on my chair. We'll all have what she's having!
Unlike mama's boys, they're fully able to take care of themselves.
Ages ago we shared a Turkish poster for the blaxploitation flick Black Mama, White Mama, with Pam Grier and Margaret Markov. Today we're sharing the U.S. promo, as well as a nice production photo of the stars. The movie, which premiered today in 1972, was a regendering of The Defiant Ones, but done with a lot more skin and a lot less budget. Even so, it was pretty fun, as women-in-prison flicks go—if you start with modest expectations. You can see more promos from the film here.
There's something very fishy going on.
This promo poster just screams winner, don't you think? If it isn't a good movie, it's got to be deliciously terrible. It was made for L'isola degli uomini pesce, known in English as The Island of the Fishmen, a movie that starred Richard Johnson, Barbara Bach, and Claudio Cassinelli. No surprise what it's about, thanks to the title, but nothing is spoiled—the fishmen show up within the first few minutes of the film when a group of convicts in a lifeboat are attacked and the five survivors end up stranded on a swampy island. Since the fishmen hunt there, the attrition rate on this parcel of land is a bitch. Two cons are killed almost immediately upon arrival, and a third barely survives a pit trap. They soon learn humans live there too—paranoid misanthrope Richard Johnson, his companion Barbara Bach, their servant Beryl Cunninghman, and others, all residing in and around a baroque slave plantation house.
Johnson, who is a quack scientist, is trying to train the fishmen for what shall here remain undisclosed purposes. It involves going deep underwater where humans can't survive—but strangely, not so deep that Johnson can't simply drop down in his unpressurized wooden submersible and watch them at work. It's all a crock, even for bad sci-fi. But there are three points of note with the film: first, you can actually see that some budget went into creating the fishmen; second, Johnson speaking in a constipated Dick Dastardly voice is flat hilarious; and third, Barbara Bach is Barbara Bach. Or maybe we should have listed her first. The producers at Dania Film, perhaps realizing Fishmen was a total woofer, rode Bach hard, putting out a bunch of skinful promotional photos and getting her a Fishmen-themed nude shoot in Ciné-Revue. There's always a silver lining in 1970s exploitation cinema—and on Pulp Intl. L'isola degli uomini pesce premiered in Italy today in 1979.
Sometimes you have to hunt for something fun to do.
After watching the 1932 hunter-stalks-humans flick The Most Dangerous Game a few months ago we stumbled across a 1972 variation on the theme titled The Suckers. Both movies, surprisingly, were derived from the same source, a 1924 short story by Richard Connell. The Suckers stars Richard Smedley, Steve Vincent, Laurie Rose (aka Misty Dawn), and Sandy Dempsey, and the aforementioned variation is sex. We knew that going in, and we were thinking, hell, this might be fun—a classic pulp story adapted for the sexploitation-happy ’70s. But we were wrong. It turns out The Suckers had a $30,000 budget—which is infinitesimal even for a grindhouse flick—and the lack of expenditure shows across the entire spectrum of production, from acting, to staging and blocking, to pacing, to screenwriting and more.
In Connell's short story and the 1932 adaptation the unfortunate guests land on an evil guy's desolate island because their yacht runs aground. In The Suckers, the guests—who are models, an employee of the modeling agency, and his wife—show up voluntarily after being invited. They're soon running for their lives after being told by their host that their sole purpose for visiting is to be stalked by professional hunters. Obviously, there comes a point when they realize survival means fighting back. But they seem unlikely to manage that effectively. Why? Did we mention that they're models? And that the agency guy is a total schlub? Luckily, great white hunter Richard Smedley and his monobrow side with the prospective prey. He's a lardass but at least he has a rifle. With his help, the fashion plates just might make it back to the Garment District alive.
Even though The Suckers is a sexploitation movie, we expected the ratio of skin to action to be roughly equivalent, but the hunting scenes take up only about twenty minutes, while sex consumes about thirty minutes, a couple of sexual assaults take about ten, and bad dialogue fills out the rest of the running time. Except for one sex scene that manages to get pretty steamy the movie is a waste of all those aforementioned minutes. The film's main value, to us anyway, is as an example of what we're referring to whenever we point out that it wasn't just Japanese studios that explored unsavory themes during this period. The difference is those films were artfully made. The Suckers is just gratuitous and haphazard. Its failure is probably why it was later released as The Woman Hunt—because a certain segment of the male population would see it based on that title alone. Those who did were—you guessed it—suckers.
The future is a dead Issue.
Once again we've chosen what we think is the best poster for a vintage film. In this case it's the urban drama Dead End with Humphrey Bogart, and the poster is one painted by Jean Mascii for the French release as La rue sans issue. Bogart features prominently in both the art and film, but the rest of cast includes Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, Claire Trevor, and Wendy Barrie. We're talking good, solid actors—two of them future Academy Award winners—and they make Dead End an excellent movie. In addition it was based on a play by Sidney Kingsley, with the script penned by Lillian Hellman, more top talent. Kingsley had already won a Pulitzer Prize, and Hellman had written many hit plays.
The plot of Dead End covers a day on a slummy dead end street in Manhattan on the East River, and the characters that interact there. The area is in the midst of gentrification, with fancy townhouses displacing longtime residents mired by the effects of the Great Depression. Because of construction on the next block the cosseted owners of a luxury home must for several days use their back entrance, which opens onto the dead end street. Thus you get interaction between all levels of society. There are the lowliest streets punks, an educated architect who can't find work, a woman who intends to marry for security instead of love, a gangster who's returned to his old neighborhood hoping to reconnect with his first love, and the rich man and his family.
There's plenty going on in the film, but as always we like to keep our write-ups short, so for our purposes we'll focus on the gangster, Humphrey Bogart, and his former girl, Claire Trevor. Bogart has risen to the top ranks of crime through smarts and ruthlessness, but to him Trevor represents a cleaner past and possibly a better future. He waits on the street for a glimpse of her, and when that finally happens he's thrilled. Trevor is less so, but there's no doubt she still loves Bogie. When he says he'll take her away from the slum she balks. It soon dawns on Bogie that she doesn't intend to leave, and he's devastated and confused. Trevor is evasive at first, then, pressured by Bogart, finally shouts, “I'm tired! I'm sick! Can't you see it! Look at me good! You're looking at me the way I used to be!” With that she moves from shadow:
Bogart takes a good look, from bottom to top:
And he realizes she is sick. Though it's unspoken, he realizes she has syphilis. All his dreams come crashing down in that devastating moment. He's disgusted, and it leads to an astonishing exchange of dialogue.
Bogart: Why didn't you get a job?
Trevor: They don't grow on trees.
Bogart: Why didn't you starve first?
Trevor: Why didn't you? Well? What did you expect?
Bogart escaped the poverty of that dead end street through organized crime, and killed on his rise to riches. Trevor had to survive through prostitution. Bogart thinks he's better than her; she tells him he's not. In his toxic male world, murder is less offensive than sex. He's the one who's twisted—not her. In addition to a great film moment, it's a clever Hays Code workaround. Nothing about sex, prostitution, or venereal disease could be stated, but through clever writing, acting, context, and direction—by William Wyler—the facts were clear to audiences. The rest of the story arcs are just as involving, and the movie on the whole is a mandatory drama. Dead End premiered in the U.S. in 1937, and in France today in 1938.
Rare Maltese bird migrates to Asia.
Above: a very nice Japanese poster for the classic early film noir The Maltese Falcon, with Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, and Peter Lorre. The movie was titled in Japanese, “colors of Malta,” which we can't see as any better than the original, but whatever. It's a great piece of art. We've talked about the film only briefly, because what more can we offer than the numerous film experts who've reviewed it? However, we do have a lot of associated poster and book art, some of which you may not have seen. We suggest looking here, here, here, and here.
Trouble comes with two guns blazing.
We'll assume we don't have to define the vernacular term “G” as used in our header, and will merely point out that this is a very nice Italian promo poster for the 1972 blaxploitation movie Trouble Man. In Italy it was titled Detective G., and in Italian the G stands for something non-vernacular—guai: “trouble." There's no release date for Italy, but the movie—which is well worth seeing—probably played there sometime in 1973.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1916—Paris Is Bombed by German Zeppelins
During World War I, German zeppelins conduct a bombing raid on Paris. Such raids were rare, because the ships had to fly hundreds of miles over French territory to reach their target, making them vulnerable to attack. Reaching London, conversely, was much easier, because the approach was over German territory and water. The results of these raids were generally not good, but the use of zeppelins as bombers would continue until the end of the war.
1964—Soviets Shoot Down U.S. Plane
A U.S. Air Force training jet is shot down by Soviet fighters after straying into East German airspace. All 3 crew men are killed. U.S forces then clandestinely enter East Germany in an attempt to reach the crash but are thwarted by Soviet forces. In the end, the U.S. approaches the Soviets through diplomatic channels and on January 31 the wreckage of the aircraft is loaded onto trucks with the assistance of Soviet troops, and returned to West Germany.
1967—Apollo Fire Kills Three Astronauts
Astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee are killed in a fire during a test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Although the ignition source of the fire is never conclusively identified, the astronauts' deaths are attributed to a wide range of design hazards in the early Apollo command module, including the use of a high-pressure 100 percent-oxygen atmosphere for the test, wiring and plumbing flaws, flammable materials in the cockpit, an inward-opening hatch, and the flight suits worn by the astronauts.
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