Lana Turner and Co. stumble badly in counterculture drug thriller.
This Italian promo poster was made for the 1969 thriller Geometria di un delitto, better known by its original title The Big Cube. Plotwise a woman played by Lana Turner marries a rich man and comes into conflict with his twenty-something daughter, played by Karin Mossberg. Their problems worsen when the rich man dies and bequeaths his money to his wife, leaving only a monthly stipend for his daughter. However, according to the will—see if you can follow this—if the daughter marries she inherits everything, but only provided stepmom gives her consent.
No, it doesn't make a bit of sense. The filmmakers wanted to generate conflict and tension, but a nonsensical stipulation in the will isn't needed to do that. Families fly apart over money all the time, even when there's plenty for everybody. But okay, you have to go with it. As the movie wears on the problems between stepmom and stepdaughter are exploited by Mossberg's drug dealer boyfriend, who comes up with the bright idea of driving Turner insane by repeatedly dosing her with LSD. Instead of the perfect murder, he's come up with the “perfect freak-out,” as he describes it. If Turner is certified insane she loses control of the fortune.
This is a movie you watch strictly for laughs, because it's ridiculous. The script and acting are terrible, and the plot must have been conceived under the influence of whatever leftover acid Turner didn't ingest. Basically The Big Cube is a drug scare movie, and like most examples from that sub-genre it's fatally dumb. But you could do worse. Mossberg is radiant, and screen legend Turner is always worth a gander even when her non-elite acting skills are exposed. There's no known Italian release date, but The Big Cube premiered in the U.S. today in 1969.
Scientist takes 7,000 pound elephant on a one way trip.
We don't just read fiction around here. We're deep into Tom O'Neill's Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. We may talk about the book later. It's full of anecdotes from the ’60s, and last night we came across the story of Tusko and his acid trip, which occurred in August 1962. Tusko was an eleven year-old Indian elephant that had the misfortune of finding himself at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City at the same time a crackpot scientist named Louis Jolyon West was at the University of Oklahoma studying the effects of LSD. Why West wanted to dose an elephant is too complicated to go into here, but let's just say he anticipated the resultant data having human applications.
In order to perform the experiment West had to calculate how much acid to give Tusko, and he decisively fucked up. He administered via syringe more than 1,400 times the human dosage (other accounts vary in this regard, but O'Neill relayed the story directly from West's notes). After the injection West stood back to observe the result. Said result, according to West's notes, was “Tusko trumpeted, collapsed, fell heavily onto his right side, defecated,” seized, and died.
Other versions of the story contain more detail. Apparently Tusko ran around his pen trumpeting (presumably the elephant equivalent of “I am tripping balls, dude!), before falling over. West, his keen scientific senses detecting trouble, decided to calm Tusko by injecting him with either Thorazine or promazine-hydrochloride (accounts vary) and phenobarbital. These doses were also massive, because once you've wildly overestimated the amount of LSD to give to an elephant, it's best to also wildly overestimate the amount of tranqs he might need. These second injections, running into the thousands of milligrams, may have been the actual cause of Tusko's death. We have profound sympathy for all the animals stuck on Earth with us casually murderous, ravenously omnivorous humans, but even in the endless annals of animal cruelty there are episodes so bizarre you can only marvel. Committing elephanticide using LSD is one of them.
After the Tusko fiasco West eventually made his way to a research position in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, and was there at the same time as Charles Manson, which is why his story appears in O'Neill's book. You'd think he'd been run out out of Oklahoma City on a rail, but you'd be wrong. He had CIA connections, and cruelty is an asset in those quarters. He had already dosed humans without their permission during his days at the CIA's MKUltra program, so it actually represented an improvement in his ethics to do the same to an elephant. They say LSD can bring you into contact with the divine. That must be true, because the story of Louis West and Tusko is a work of divine comedy. And just to give it a tinge of pathos, below is a photo of Tusko on his first birthday, when he had no inkling his life would be cut short in the service of pseudo-science.
Basically, the way this job works is my customers phone for drugs and I have people like you deliver them. I call it Instagram.
David Dodge is one of our favorite authors. He's as solid as they get. In 1946 he jumped on the drug hysteria wagon with It Ain't Hay, and which the British imprint Corgi Books re-issued in 1953 as A Drug on the Market. The book features Dodge's tax accountant hero Walt Whitney, star of three previous books, who learns that a prospective client has made his money by sailing marijuana from Mexico to Half Moon Bay, California. This tale is notable for Dodge in that he moves away from his semi-comic comfort zone and into darker territory in which Whitney breaks all kinds of personal codes while trying to bring the kingpin to justice. Dodge comes from the generation that hated drugs but loved to get loaded on booze, so it all reads a bit ironically today, but we don't judge—maybe one day people will say what reactionaries our generation was about uncut black tar heroin. Dodge's storytelling skill is unscathed, and that's all that matters. With Dodge, you can't miss.
Are you seeing these weird lights too, or is it just me that's tripping balls?
Swedish actress Karin Mossberg made this psychedelic promo shot when she was filming the anti-drug thriller The Big Cube. The movie was one of only three she made. She played Lana Turner's stepdaughter, and the psychedelic feel of the photo reflects the film's plot, which deals with her trying to drive Turner insane with LSD. As you probably suspect, it's one of the cheesiest and worst drug scare movies of the ’60s. It's the Reefer Madness of LSD. We actually have it somewhere in our library, so maybe we'll rewatch it and report back. Meanwhile, we've added a second promo shot below, made during the same session but before the drugs kicked in. Both images are from 1969.
This is your screenwriter's brain on drugs.
The poster you see above is the U.S. promo for the b-flick Free Grass, aka Scream Free!, aka Street Drugs, which starred Richard Beymer and Lana Wood in a drug drenched counterculture road adventure. We won't mince words—this movie is godawful. It's painful to admit, since we're pro-counterculture guys here at Pulp Intl., but in terms of writing, editing, directing, scoring, and especially acting, this movie is off-the-charts terrible. Basically a hippie runs afoul of the law when a cop is killed during a Mexican drug deal, and has to evade narcotics agents while trying to keep his flower child girlfriend safe. Besides Beymer and Wood there are other semi-famous performers here, such as Casey Kasem and Russ Tamblyn, and it's amazing any of them ever showed their faces in public again after this turkey hit cinemas.
Like most drug movies, Free Grass borrows Jefferson Airplane's concert lighting for drug trips and club sequences, but just when the hypnovisuals start to dazzle your brain terrible dialogue rudely ejects you back into reality. And to think, four guys were needed to write the movie. We can only assume they took the title literally and wrote the entire script while ripping bong hits of Mexican weed. There's one draw here—the uniquely beautiful Wood, who would reach her high water mark, cinematically speaking, as Plenty O'Toole in the 1971 James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever. Here, unfortunately, she reaches her low water mark wearing a cheap ash blonde wig and spending the last few reels of screen time tied to a bed.
At one point Beymer, besieged by psychedelic lights and seriously bummer vibes, puts his fists to his temples and reels as if his head might explode. That's how we felt: “Why? Why? Why is this happening to us?” We count ourselves lucky not to have flung ourselves off our balcony before the credits rolled. But like all bad trips this one finally ended, and we hope to make it through our remaining years without flashbacks. Free Grass premiered in the U.S. in Detroit, Michigan today in 1969—and the city still hasn't recovered. But at least Lana is here to remind us there's goodness and beauty in the world. Choose life.
Rumors of her demise were greatly exaggerated.
We've featured the Canadian tabloid Midnight numerous times. This one appeared on newsstands today in 1968. On the cover readers get a headline referring to Robert F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated the previous month. His name is accompanied by a prediction that his killer, Jordanian nationalist Sirhan Sirhan, would in turn be assassinated. It wasn't an outrageous prediction—during the late 1960s newsworthy figures were being dropped like three foot putts. Sirhan was never murdered, though, and he's still around today, languishing at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County, California.
Sirhan is an interesting character, but it's the story on Susan Denberg we're interested in today. Denberg, née Dietlinde Zechner, is a German born beauty who became a Playboy Playmate of the Year and screen actress, was a desired Hollywood party girl who, acording to sources, had relationships with Hugh Hefner and Jim Brown. She was generally regarded as one of the major sex symbols of her time, but she also became a drug addict. After making the 1968 film Frankenstein Created Woman Denberg returned to Europe and shunned the movie business. In fact, she kept such a low profile that for years sources incorrectly reported that she had died.
Midnight journo John Wilson claims to have visited Denberg in a Vienna mental hospital near the beginning of her self-imposed exile, and his article is basically a recounting of his chat with her. He describes her depressing surroundings and portrays her as a sort of broken bird, quoting her as saying, “I was a real party girl, going out every night, dating one man after another, running around doing wild things like getting drunk and dancing nude at parties. And then someone got me started on LSD and it made everything seem so clear. It was wonderful. Only I couldn't keep away from it, and after a while that was all I was doing, staying in my room and dropping LSD.”
In 1971 Denberg had a child, and by 1972 was making her living on the nudie bar circuit, working as a topless server at the adult cinema Rondell in Vienna, and later dancing fully nude at another Vienna nightspot called Renz. She also worked elsewhere in Europe, including Geneva, where in 1974 she tried to commit suicide by swallowing a reported 200 sleeping pills, an amount that surely would have been fatal had she not been quickly found and sped to a hospital. In 1976 she became a mother again and retired from nude dancing. Today she lives quietly in Vienna.
Denberg's story is filled with twists and turns, and yet it isn't unique in a place like Hollywood. As she makes clear, once enough power brokers, modeling agents, and studio types tell a woman she's special she's probably going to believe them, but once she believes them it's hard for her to keep her head on straight. She sums up her journey to Midnight, “They told me I was beautiful enough to go all the way to the top. They told me about all the fun up there, the kicks. They never told me about the booze and the drugs, the long slide down.”
It was an event none of them will ever forget.
Talk about a bad end to a promising evening. These photos from the Los Angeles Examiner were shot in the wee hours of today in 1951. They show a group of people arrested after cops raided a residence in the Montrose area of Los Angeles where a “drug and sex party” was taking place. The illegal substances of choice were marijuana and benzedrine, which strike us an unusual combo, and the sex in question was distributed between what seems to be seventeen men and one woman, also an unusual combo. But we suspect the sex aspect of the story is an exaggeration. If even a couple of people were getting freaky in some rear bedroom the press would have called it a sex party because that's how you sell papers. Examiner readers probably imagined a carnal pile-up with bare asses heaving up and down and thirty-six limbs going in all directions. Which when you think about doesn't sound so bad. Well, we hope they had fun while it lasted.
Man, I've really got the munchies. Kinda wanna murder a bunch of people too.
Measured by pennies per word William Irish's, aka Cornell Woolrich's 1941 drug scare classic Marihuana is one of the most expensive paperbacks you'll ever come across. The Dell edition you see here with iconic cover art by Bill Fleming could cost you over $100 for its sixty-four pages. It's the story of King Turner, who goes slumming in Hell's Kitchen and smokes a joint that sets him off on a murderous rampage. Best passage:
“You don't reason with a hooded cobra or a hydrophobic dog or a time bomb. You can't.”
That is frickin' hilarious. In case you're wondering, hydrophobia is rabies. Well, one thing is correct—you can't reason with people who are stoned. But instead of trying to stop them from hurting someone, you try to tell them strawberry jelly on Saltines is a bad solution for the munchies. Marihuana makes its point of view abundantly clear: weed bad, and don't be shocked when your life goes down the commode. You've been warned.
*sob* I thought it stood for horse. Oh, it does? Well, that was the worst ride ever.
This is another one we ran past the Pulp Intl. girlfriends, and guess what? They had no idea horse is a word for heroin. One of them said, “I thought it was called smack.” Well, yeah, that too, but smack doesn't start with “h,” and wouldn't have helped us come up with a header for this cover. Anyway H is for Heroin involves a girl in mythical Coast City, California who starts with the dreaded gateway drug—i.e. marijuana—and slides down the slippery slope until she's riding the white horse, is married to an addict, and crosses the line into dealing. H is for Heroin is both drug-scare and juvenile delinquent fiction, narrated by Amy herself, who digs deep and manages to achieve redemption—lest readers get too bummed out by the story and need to get high to wash away the sadness. The real high with this comes from Rafael DeSoto's iconic cover art, painted for Popular Library, 1954.
Once an addict always an addict.
The title of Jonathan's Craig's, aka Frank E. Smith's novel Junkie! is a bit misleading. The junkie in question has little part in the action save as the damsel in distress, mostly kept offpage. But the art by Ketor Seach captures the book's mood nicely, even if it highlights someone other than the actual protagonist, a jazz musician named Steve Harper who prowls the mean streets and smoky clubs of Washington, D.C. trying to solve a murder, then another, then another. A trio of beautiful women keep him thoroughly baffled, and a specially made couch plays a crucial role. Harper's characterization as an actual musician is thin, but the book is a good read, with short chapters and spare prose. Though the fertile milieu could have led to a higher quality result, we recommend the final product.
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