She was a showgirl, a yellow hat atop her hair, and a pistol out to there...
Lola Falana fronts these collectible posters for the Italian adventure flick Lola Colt, a movie made during the spaghetti western craze of the late sixties, and later re-released in the U.S. during the blaxploitation era as Black Tigress. It tells the classic western story of a town controlled by a ruthless landowner and the town's efforts to topple him. It won't be easy, not least because El Diablo, as they call him, keeps hostages on his ranch. Falana plays a showgirl (with a repertoire of modern musical numbers) who decides to set up El Diablo for a fall. A doctor played by Peter Martell tries to help, but he mostly gets pummeled, which does not set a good example for others concerning potential rewards for bravery. But as always happens in these movies, the townies will be pushed too far eventually, and that happens when the gang shoots a kid. You can guess what happens next—a mass showdown pitting local yokels against evil cowpokes.
But we don't want to dismiss the film. It's not good, but it is significant. We can't think of another western up to this point that has a black woman in the lead (maybe one of you out there in pulpland can correct us). That makes Falana a trailblazer, and while she rewards the filmmakers' risktaking with a game performance, overall we wish the result had been better. Well, at least we have a photo of Falana naked on a horse. If only it had happened in the movie. Lola Colt premiered in Italy today in 1967.
They say you can't buy love, but you just have to know where to shop.
Above: a striking if weathered cover for Gilbert Miller's novelization of the 1957 movie The Flesh Is Weak, which is about how a ring of sex traffickers trick naive women into street prostitution. It stars Milly Vitale, and the painting here by John Richards is a very good likeness of her, despite its cartoonish style. We also like the fur. She must have borrowed it from her pimp. To see our other material on this film just click its keywords below and scroll.
Sekkusu and you shall find.
The above poster was made to promote the Japanese roman porno flick Sekkusu hantâ: Sei kariudo, aka Sex Hunter, and we should note, as we do periodically, that roman porno films are not porn, but imaginative softcore excursions made by very twisted minds. Proving once again that it's amazing what you can imply when frontal nudity is illegal, here you get a tale about an aspiring ballerina (played by pouty Ayako Ôta in her cinematic debut) and her teacher (Erina Miyai looking her very best) who descend into a bizarre bondage odyssey notable for the fact that most taboos you can imagine are shattered, starting with rape and kinbaku-bi, and ending with handicapped sex and incest. In between you get bottle penetrations, a snowballing, an orgy on swings, and other sexual variations. There's a plot, but not one we'll bother to outline, because it's just a framework for one hundred and seven minutes of determined attempts to shock. Even the magical Miyai can't save this one. Sekkusu hantâ: Sei kariudo premiered in Japan today in 1980.
Everything that matters happens while the city sleeps.
This poster for The Sleeping City says it's the exciting successor to The Naked City. That's a mighty bold claim, considering The Naked City was directed by the legendary Jules Dassin and was selected for permanent preservation by the U.S. Library of Congress's National Film Registry, while The Sleeping City was directed by the not-quite-legendary George Sherman, who mostly helmed westerns and received a Golden Boot Award for his contributions to the Western film genre. Both were skilled at their craft, no doubt. But there's a big difference between the National Film Registry and the Golden Boot.
The Sleeping City is a New York City based crime thriller, and it starts with a cheeseball introduction in which lead Richard Conte pays tribute to Bellevue Hospital and its doctors and nurses. It was tacked onto the finished picture after city officials learned that the public already viewed the hospital negatively, and a crime thriller set there might make those perceptions worse. But it was still a silly thing to do—Bellevue was a public hospital. It wasn't like it was going to lose ad revenue from bad publicity. In any case, we're glad these sorts of “the story you're about to see” preambles didn't last long in Hollywood.
Once the movie gets started, Conte plays a cop sent undercover to solve a murder at the hospital. He's posing as a doctor and has some medical experience, but is by all means to avoid being roped into a situation where he actually has to do any doctoring. If he gets in a jam of that sort he's supposed to sacrifice his cover, and as reliably as the turn of a script page, he gets trapped into treating a case of diabetic shock. He decides to forge ahead rather than step aside. One could ponder his ethics, but luckily he gets through by the skin of his teeth. Whew.
Conte sticks his long nose in various nooks and crannies around Bellevue, makes goo-goo eyes with ward nurse Coleen Gray, and finds himself roomed with a hothead doctor named Steve. The murder mystery eventually lands right in his lap when his roommate turns up dead—lucky break that—and an important clue is provided by a nurse played by Peggy “Wow*” Dow. We won't tell you how the plot unspools from that point. We'll just say The Sleeping City is a functional thriller worth a watch. With Conte and Gray on board, it's pretty hard to fail. The film premiered this week in 1950.
*Not her official nickname. That's just how we think of her.
She wasn't really all that nice even before the demon showed up.
The tateken style poster you see above was made for the Japanese actioner Yôen dokufu-den: Han'nya no Ohyaku, aka Ohyaku: The Female Demon, set in Edo era Japan, and starring Junko Miyazono, Tomisaburô Wakayama, and Kunio Murai. Miyazono plays woman who as little girl survived when her prostitute mother jumped with her off a bridge, and as an adult carries a scar on her back from this traumatic suicide. She's grown up to be an acrobat, but is treated shabbily by men just as her mother was.
She flees her circus life and hooks up with a handsome young samurai, only to learn that he plans to steal gold being transported via caravan from a government mint. She begs to help her young lover, as he also takes on a partner who tried to rob the same mint twenty years earlier, losing an arm in the process. His knowledge will hopefully be key, but like any heist, there are hidden dangers. It's a given some will come from the protectors of the coveted goods, but sometimes they come from partners in positions of trust. That's all we'll say about the plot, except that Miyazono is never actually possessed by a demon. What happens is she gets a demon tattoo on her back, which we guess symbolizes her transition from somewhat shady to fully vengeful.
The movie was made by Toei Company and was the first in a trilogy of films that are often cited as precursors to the studio's famed pinky violence cycle. We can certainly see the similarity, though this film is black and white rather than the vivid color you get with pinky violence. But all that really matters is that it's entertaining, starting fast, incorporating nice sword action, and covering a lot of thematic ground. Very enjoyable stuff. It premiered in Japan today in 1968.
Qipao! Qipao! The cheongsam killer strikes.
Two companies, same release date, but we've confirmed it with our Japanese sources, so don't blame us if it's wrong. Onna mekura hana to kiba, aka Blind Woman: Flower and Fangs also premiered today in 1968, starring Koreharu Hisatomi, Isao Yamagata, Ken Sanders, and Chizuko Arai, who you see fronting the poster in a killer silk cheongsam. For the boys out there, that's a traditional dress of Chinese origin also known as a qipao. Hope that enriched your day. Arai plays a blind woman on a vengeance spree. We couldn't find a copy to watch, but the poster sure makes us curious.
For your own good trust nobody.
Above: a poster for the thriller The Unsuspected, a movie you apparently can't foresee or forget, starring Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Audrey Totter, and Constance Bennett, directed by Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame. We shared two nice Italian posters for this, and talked about it in detail. Check here, if interested. The Unsuspected premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
When commies get their hooks into you it's forever.
The Woman on Pier 13, for which you see a very nice promo poster above, had a pre-release title that tells you everything you need to know about it. That title was I Married a Communist. What you get here is a melodrama about Laraine Day, whirlwind married to successful San Francisco industrialist Robert Ryan, an exemplar of American free enterprise, but who was once a member of the communist party back in New Jersey. Uh oh.
Long before meeting and marrying Day, he exited the party without even thanking his hosts for the snacks, moved to Frisco, and changed his name. Married life is going wonderfully until the commies track him down and threaten to expose him if he doesn't give over two fifths of his salary each month and sabotage labor negotiations between San Fran shipping magnates and striking dockworkers. They kill a guy in front of him, just so he knows they mean business. The sneaky, thieving, blackmailing, murdering rats. They're cruel squared. All they needed to be worse were monocles and riding crops. And maybe a handy tray of stainless steel dental hooks. And speaking of hooks, wait until you see what what Ryan can do with one. The Woman on Pier 13 is well made and pretty fun, but it's less useful as cinema than as a time capsule of anti-commie propaganda. It premiered today in 1949.
One small film for sci-fi, one giant Lepus for bad cinema.
This rare poster was made to promote Night of the Lepus, and those creepy eyes in the dark belong to rabbits. Giant rabbits. Lepus. Makes sense, right? Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun, Janet Leigh, and DeForest Kelly, post-Star Trek, star in what is supposed to be an epically bad film, but to us it was more like standard low level sci-fi or horror (take your pick). The special effects drag down the entire enterprise, but that's almost par for the course when it comes to this genre during the time period. We can imagine the actors signing on and being told the special effects would carry the movie. “Yeah, we've got top people on this giant rabbit thing. They'll look totally convincing!” Well, they don't, but neither do the monsters in 90% of vintage sci-fi.
If we had to guess, we'd say one reason people think this film is so bad is that there are numerous inadvertently funny lines of dialogue, for example when Kelly says, “We've got three holes to blow,” and when Chuck Hayward says, “I'm ready to release the gas as soon as they come out.” But the script is coherent, and the acting is more than adequate, so those two positives alone keep this out of the Plan 9 and Starcrash sub-basement category, as it brings to life the story of scientists and ranchers trying to reduce the number of feral rabbits in Arizona. Researchers Whitman and Leigh turn to hormones to shut off the bunnies' breeding capabilities, but this accidentally causes them to grow to enormous size—and makes them hopping mad too. In short order they overrun the nearby town and all the humans are fleeing for their lives.
Yes, the movie is silly. It's a clinic in the limited utility of forced perspective for trying to make believable monsters, an endeavor additionally undermined by the inconvenient fact that giant bunnies are still cute. But can you really pass up the chance to see Bones from Star Trek ambling around the high desert? And Janet Leigh is always sight to behold, here settling deep into an elegant milfhood, forty five with a cotton candy afroperm that she makes look as regal as a platinum crown. Epically bad? It's bad alright, mainly because it lacks distinction. But maybe you should just watch it and decide for yourself where it ranks. Night of the Lepus premiered today in 1972.
The final element of our airtight alibi is the naked part, so let's get started on that now.
There's nothing quite like settling in for a b-movie, but being pleasantly surprised because it's a-quality. And then there's Naked Alibi, a not wholly successful crime procedural starring Sterling Hayden as a two-fisted cop who sometimes bends the rules, Gene Barry as the man he wants to put behind bars, and Gloria Grahame as a woman caught between the two. The movie features the oft-used film noir gimmick of a trip to Mexico—or at least close by, to a fictional town with the imaginative name Border City. In crime cinema, these trips into or adjacent to Mexico are supposed to represent descents into lawlessness, because everybody knows life is cheap on the border. Co-star Don Haggerty to Hayden: “Watch yourself, Joe. He spots you down there he can rub you and make it look real good.”
Hayden doesn't get rubbed down there or anywhere, sadly. But the trip is worth it anyway because he runs into local chanteuse Marianna, played by Gloria Grahame. Her musical repertoire consists of an unenthusiastically lip synched number with overly precious lyrics, but of course the feminine song and dance routine is even more of a film noir staple than a trip to Mexico. Sometimes these musical bits are good, but in this case Grahame obviously can't sing, and her dance moves are flat hilarious. Plus, her acting will never be mistaken for virtuosic. What she has, though, is a palpable vulnerability that makes her an excellent hard luck femme fatale, in this case one who's grown tired of her abusive boyfriend and is casting a wandering eye toward Hayden as a possible replacement.
Despite mostly passable performances, Naked Alibi is pure b-noir that shows a lack of top tier talent in all other areas. It was directed by television veteran Jerry Hopper and written by Lawrence Roman, successful enough guys who nonetheless were never household names. The entire film hinges on a conceit that was threadbare even during the 1950s—that a criminal won't simply ditch a gun he used to murder someone, but will instead hide it somewhere he can eventually lead the police to. That's a spoiler, but what the hell. We suspect there's a reason this film lapsed into the public domain. Even its trailer is cheesy. What it does have, though, is unusually nice promo material, so we've uploaded a bunch of production photos below, plus a few publicity shots, and three more posters. They're all great, even if the movie isn't. Naked Alibi premiered in the U.S. today in 1954. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
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