Wake-up calls at the Hiltons' are murder.
We were drawn to Il sesso della strega, aka Sex of the Witch, because of its excellent posters painted by Lamberto Forni, an artist whose work you've seen here before. But as often happens, the movie didn't live up to the promo imagery. The strange tale begins with Sir Thomas Hilton, a wealthy wine grower, who dies of old age. His family gets a surprise when the will is read: all those closest to Hilton, including his secretary, benefit from the profits of his holdings, but nothing can be broken up or sold, his sister gets nothing, some heirs don't benefit immediately, and if anyone dies their share is distributed among the others. Basically, the will is a blueprint for the Hiltons to start murdering each other. When that happens, the spurned sister is suspected of being a witch. But is she?
None of it matters. The movie is an merely excuse for a lot of overlong softcore sex scenes of the worst kind. You know the ones we mean—interminable slow wriggling devoid of even a hint of erotic heat. You have to really drop the ball to make naked people boring—especially naked Italian women from the ’70s, with their enormous bushes*—but director Angelo Pannacciò, aka Elo Pannacciò, accomplishes that here, in his debut. It's impossible to care about the movie's central mystery, and despite Pannacciò somewhat giallo visual stylings there's just nothing to get enthusiastic about. Except those posters. Nice work, Forni. Il sesso della strega premiered in Italy today in 1974.
*We love enormous Italian bushes, both tactilely and visually. This one is large, but not stupendous. You know when a bush is really big? When the moment it's revealed you think there's suddenly been a citywide blackout.
Classic horror feature still shocks and thrills.
It was inevitable that we'd get around to this movie. It was only a question of which poster we'd choose. Above you see a bizarre Japanese promo for Stuart Gordon's cult horror epic Re-Animator. In Japan it was titled Zombio – 死霊のしたたり, and the Japanese means “dripping of the dead,” which is pretty weird. But then so is the movie. It's an at times darkly comic splatterfest about a medical student obsessed with life after death, and it starts gory and quickly goes places you can't possibly expect. The source material is H.P. Lovecraft's tale, “Herbert West—Re-Animator,” first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1922.
The plot is only loosely based on what Lovecraft wrote. The movie follows a medical student played by Jeffrey Combs as he tries to defeat death by using a phosphorescent green re-animating agent of his own creation, and in so doing manages to drag promising fellow student Bruce Abbott and his girlfriend Barbara Crampton into a downward spiral of lies, illicit research, corpse abuse, and worse. It's even more catastrophic than it sounds. Meanwhile, a pompous and established physician-instructor played by David Gale becomes simultaneously jealous of Combs and lustful for Crampton, with results that are—in a word—totally insane. Well, two words.
We suspect that Re-Animator is one of those movies many have heard of, but not many have seen. There's more than just gore and that infamous sequence where Crampton is molested by a decapitated head. There are also cross-currents of blind ambition, skewed medical ethics, middle-aged lust for the young, and parental love, as well as overarching questions about human consciousness. It's a movie about obsession, but on multiple levels. Of course, it's also a movie done on the cheap, which leads to a few amusing efx, but overall it transcends its limitations, and for horror fans it's an absolute must. Re-Animator premiered in the U.S. in 1985 and crept into Japan today in 1987.
The artist is actually the one who's out of this world.
Above is the Italian poster for the sci-fi/horror movie La cosa da un altro mondo, which opened in Italy today in 1952 but originally premiered in the U.S. in 1951 as The Thing from Another World. We talked about it several years ago while sharing its Belgian promo. Today's effort is the work of Italian illustrator Sandro Symeoni, a genius who painted in so many modes he can be unrecognizable from piece to piece. See some of his best work here, here, and here.
They're a sight to behold.
This is a cool little item that's been making the rounds on Twitter lately. It's the VHS box cover art for the horror flick Videodrome, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Debbie Harry and James Woods. As you know, we rarely post box art, but this one needed to be seen. The movie needs to be seen too—to be believed. It deals with a Toronto television producer who stumbles upon an illicit snuff channel, but finds that what's going on behind the broadcasts is even worse. It's Cronenberg at his weirdest. The movie premiered today in 1983.
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.
Hello? Is anybody there? Santa? Is that you?
Our sprint through movies this December continues today with the Italian Christmas favorite—Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea, for which you see a festive yule themed poster above. It was painted by Mario Piovano and just oozes holiday spirit. Right. Well, obviously not. This couldn't be a Christmas movie unless Christmas makes you want to kill everyone around you. But it qualifies as a gift from us to you, because we're going to save you the time you might have spent watching it.
The title translates as, “extract from the secret police archives of a European capital,” but was shortened to Tragic Ceremony for its English language release. The Italian title would seem to indicate that this is a giallo flick, but it's actually more in the realm of gothic horror. Basically, a quartet of carefree hippies stumble upon and must survive assorted evils, including a black mass, a phantom gas station, and spurts of megaviolence, all loosely related somehow to a string of possibly cursed pearls.
The movie stars Camille Keaton, who's not well known today, but headlined perhaps the most infamous grindhouse offering of the 1970s—Day of the Woman, better known in some quarters as I Spit on Your Grave. Keaton appears here six years earlier, and is stranded with her hippie-hedonist friends in a creepy old manse where she's seized upon by the loony, aristocratic occupants as a potential sacrifice. She escapes, but the aftereffects of her close call are numerous and gory.
Critics hindered by their own knowledge of niche cinema to the extent that they can't see the forest for the trees tend to describe this movie as underrated, but it really isn't, even if you accept it as a sly commentary on the generational clash between the counterculture and the gentry. At one point a distressed Máximo Valverde asks, “What's happening? What's going on?” Well, you've ended up in a below average horror movie, Max. It happens. Revisionist critics can't help you. Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea premiered in Italy today in 1972.
Some love lasts forever. Other times it doesn't survive the wedding night.
Another of the movies we watched recently was Bluebeard, a castle and dungeon-style, quasi gothic horror flick about a folk tale character who murders a series of wives. Its Spanish poster was the best of those we saw, and we chose today to share it because the film premiered in Spain today in 1974, after opening in the U.S. two years earlier. This piece was painted and collaged from photos by Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, also known as Jano, now a regular visitor to Pulp Intl. Just for the sake of it, we've also included the U.S. poster at right (or above if you're on a mobile device). You can see that it's built fully around a photo-illustration, and while it's interesting, we thought Jano's work had a little more merit.
Bluebeard stars Richard Burton, who's supposed to be a great actor, but we have to admit we'd seen exactly zero of his acclaimed movies up to this point. He was a Shakespearean stage guy who transitioned to Hollywood in similar type roles, and being decidedly non-pulp in style, we've highlighted none here. He later made a couple of war movies, though, as well as the overbudget epic Cleopatra, and we might get around to those. Going on the example presented by Bluebeard, however, you'd have to conclude that he's a hack. Those who know more than us say that by the 1970s heavy drinking had impaired both his judgment and skill.
You'd think that a famous folk tale would provide a trove of potential cinematic possibilities to sift through, but Bluebeard is uninspiringly written, and the direction—from film noir vet Edward Dmytryk—presents little evidence of engagement with or inspiration by the material. The women Bluebeard murders are played by Karin Schubert, Nathalie Delon, Virna Lisi, sexy nun Raquel Welch, Marilú Tolo, Agostina Belli, and Joey Heatherton—not neccsarily in that order—plus Sybil Danning makes an appearance. Heatherton has the key role as Anne, the wife who elicits a confession from a psychologically tortured Bluebeard as to why he kills.
And the reason? Dude can't get it up. Therefore, in the era before little blue pills, as a prominent member of Austria's post-World War I patriarchal society, Bluebeard murders to keep his limpness secret. You'd think dying wives would destroy his matrimonial suitability, but ata certain point we suppose money papers over all flaws. Rich or not, though, never marry a guy who sits around with a raptor on his shoulder. And speaking of hunting, we should warn the kind-hearted that there's an extended hunting sequence in Bluebeard, and the animals are killed for real, in detailed action. We're talking several rabbits, a number of birds in flight, a couple of foxes, a boar, and a deer.
Based on what we've written so far, you might think we're not recommending Bluebeard, but not so fast, friends. The female cast—to state the obvious—comprises some of the loveliest actresses of the era, and in diverse ways. Welch is sculpturally flawless, Lisi is ethereally beautiful, Toló is broodingly dark, and Heatherton, whose resting face is ingenuous and slightly open-mouthed as if she's always concentrating on a problem, can only be described as luscious. She also has one of cinema's all-time greatest hairdos. Is it pervy to say you should watch a movie solely for the beauty of its actresses? Probably—but it's the truth. The filmmakers must have agreed, because they published lots of nude production stills, when in fact the film has less skin. See below.
I've kissed a helluva lot of frogs looking for my prince, but today I feel especially lucky.
This weird photo showing U.S. actress Lynn Borden cuddling a frog was made as a promo for her 1972 horror movie titled—wait for it—Frogs, which was one of those nature-turns-on-humans flicks popular during the period, a genre later dubbed eco-horror. It had the amusing tagline: Today the pond, tomorrow the world. Borden had about the same luck with her film career as she had looking for her prince—i.e. she kissed a lot of frogs. But some of those frogs are guilty faves of ours, like 1973's White Mama, Black Mama, and 1974's Dirty Mary Crazy Larry. Below, even though her frog didn't turn into a prince she married it anyway. You can tell because she has it on a short leash.
Always make sure to brush after wolfing down your treats.
Above: Elisabeth Brooks in character as Marsha from the 1981 horror film The Howling, which remains one of the better werewolf movies ever made, thanks to its unique vision and practical effects. For werewolves, every day is sort of like Halloween, so we think they'd prefer maybe July 4th or Christmas as holidays or festivals go. Sort of makes sense, right? The same way Santa probably prefers spring break. Anyway, this shot is a slight variation on one we shared several years ago. You can see that, and read a bit about The Howling, at this link.
Worse than Alcatraz. Tougher than Rikers. It's the prison island of scantily clad women.
This tateken style poster was made to promote the Edo era drama Onna-ro hizu, generally known in English as Island of Horrors. The story centers around Nembutsu Island, a rocky outcropping in the Shiranui Sea used as a prison. It's inhabited by about fifteen coincidentally beautiful female captives and six samurai guards. Nobody calls the island by its real name. It's usually referred to as either the Isle of Women, which sounds kind of fun, or Decapitation Island, which does not. The new warden has been assigned there as punishment for not being tough enough in his other stops—a charge he's eager to disprove, with the help of the slap-happy guards and their baroque tortures. Additionally, the women are terrorized by Omasu the Ripper, your typical sadistic prisoner who subjugates the others in order to curry favor with her captors. And worse still, bubonic plague arrives. So, it's not overstating the situation to say that things are pretty bad on Nembutsu Island.
So how do you get the hell off that godforsaken rock? It isn't easy. The women are aware that sometimes there are pardons or paroles, and that knowledge gives them hope. But what if those lucky recipients sent from the island are not freed, but instead secretly sold into sexual slavery? Not saying that's what going on. But, you know, what if? Of course, there's no way the prisoners could ever find that out unless someone who was supposedly freed returned to the island. Omasu has her own departure plans. She tells the warden she knows where a cache of stolen ryō—gold currency—is hidden, trying to leverage it for freedom. She tries to leverage her body for that purpose too. But in the end, release from Nembutsu Island may come down to simple teamwork, and watching the inmates come to that conclusion makes for a well above average women-in-prison drama, worth a watch for the darkly beautiful cinematography and island visuals, as well as good performances from stars Maya Kitajima, Reiko Kasahara, and Yuki Aresa. Onna-ro hizu premiered in Japan today in 1970.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1957—Ginsberg Poem Seized by Customs
On the basis of alleged obscenity, United States Customs officials seize 520 copies of Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" that had been shipped from a London printer. The poem contained mention of illegal drugs and explicitly referred to sexual practices. A subsequent obscenity trial was brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who ran City Lights Bookstore, the poem's domestic publisher. Nine literary experts testified on the poem's behalf, and Ferlinghetti won the case when a judge decided that the poem was of redeeming social importance.
1975—King Faisal Is Assassinated
King Faisal of Saudi Arabia dies after his nephew Prince Faisal Ibu Musaed shoots him during a royal audience. As King Faisal bent forward to kiss his nephew the Prince pulled out a pistol and shot him under the chin and through the ear. King Faisal died in the hospital after surgery. The prince is later beheaded in the public square in Riyadh.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
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