Vintage Pulp May 26 2024
WHITE MISCHIEF
Directly off the boat and immediately into trouble.


We chose the header for this post because there's a movie called White Mischief, which we watched recently, about Brits in Africa, and it has an amusing line where a character surveys the morning and says, “Oh God, not another fucking beautiful day.” The two pieces of Italian promo art above for the set-in-Africa movie Mogambo might make you say, “Oh God, not another fucking beautiful Italian poster.”

These were painted by Ercole Brini, who we've never featured before but who is another of the many virtuosic artists from Italy that toiled for the movie studios. Whenever we think about the sad loss of painted cinematic poster art, the Italians are who come to our minds. We just don't think there's any doubt at this point—they were the best. Not that it's a competition. Amazing posters with interestingly local aesthetic attributes came from everywhere.

We'll try to feature more from Brini later, and if you're curious about
Mogambo it's—of course—another movie about Africa turning various white northerners into cynical, shambling husks of their supposedly better former selves. Those husks are Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, and Grace Kelly. It opened in the U.S. in 1953 and premiered in Italy this week in 1954. Have a look here if you want to know more, and maybe here.

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Vintage Pulp May 25 2024
SPURRED INTO ACTION
Gordon and others get bushwacked in no-budget horse opera.


L'éperon brûlant is a U.S. movie titled Hot Spur, but once again we found a foreign poster far more intriguing than the domestic version. The movie was originally released in 1968, but this poster is from France and was made for the movie's preimier there today in 1970. It's signed by the artist: Loris. We can't tell you anything about him or her except that they also painted posters for 1971's L’homme qui vient de la nuit and 1974's La virée superbe. This is an interesting effort.

We mainly wanted to watch this for raven brunette beauty Virginia Gordon, so imagine our suprise and dismay to see the filmmakers turn her into an unnatural blonde. In any case, the movie is nothing special—it's a Western revenge drama, poorly directed by Lee Frost of Policewomen fame, and poorly acted by Gordon and everyone else. Basically, a Mexican farmhand is driven by constant abuse to seek revenge, and does so by kidnapping his cruel employer's wife. Probably a bad idea.

The film takes advantage of the fraying censorship enforcement of the era to show more nudity and sexual violence than in previous years. There are themes embedded within the script about racism, patriarchal control, and what we'd call today male toxicity, but they're so obscured by sexploitative content that you'll be too busy feeling queasy to absorb any well-intentioned messaging. L'éperon brûlant/Hot Spur is basically a footnote suitable for true cineastes only. All others can give it a pass.

We decided to share this specific poster for a secondary reason. Users on both Alamy and Diomedia claim it as theirs, which is what happens when bloggers and Ebay sellers post high resolution images online to be hoovered up by opportunistic hustlers. Not that we don't sometimes get images from Ebay. But we don't try to claim false copyright on them. Once upon a time we considered uploading our thousands of original scans at huge sizes, but now the decision not to looks pretty smart. Many of those images would be on Alamy, Shutterstock, et al now.

In the last several years the problem of copyright squatters has grown, and with AI programs scouring the internet for instances of presumed infringement, threatening e-mails are increasingly going out to website operators. But once again, it needs to be pointed out that movie posters and promo shots were made for non-copyright holders to publicize the associated works, and such items fall into the category of fair use. The copyright on this poster belongs to the film studio or production company that originally made it (Les Films Leitienne), and isn't transferred just because someone uploaded it to Alamy or any other site. If you operate a blog and get a threatening e-mail, ask for documentation of copyright. They're obligated to provide that. But they won't be able to.

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Vintage Pulp May 17 2024
HIDE AND CREEP
She's got a very bad feline about this situation.


Are cats creepy? We don't think so. But some people have a problem with them, and filmmakers are always happy to serve up a dose of an audience member's fears. Movies we've discussed that use cats as sources of terror include 1934's The Black Cat, 1948's The Creeper, 1970's Kaidan nobori ryu, aka Black Cat’s Revenge, 1971's Il gatto a nove code, aka, Cat o’ Nine Tails (mainly just on the posters, but what beautiful art), and 1973's La morte negli occhi del gatto, aka Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye. Those are just the ones we've looked at here. The list goes on and on through dozens if not hundreds of movies. In literature we've had looks at Nancy Rutledge's Blood on the Cat and Dorothy Salisbury Davis's The Judas Cat. You get the point. The Cat Creeps, for which you see a pretty nice poster above, fits snugly into cinematic tradition.

In the movie a newspaperman named Fred Brady is assigned to dig up dirt on senate candidate Walter Elliot, who's just been implicated in the murder of a former political rival fifteen years ago. Brady happens to be dating Elliot's daughter, but says nothing about his conflict of interest and takes the assignment to keep it away from a vicious rival reporter. Immediately, Brady learns there are family secrets, which are mostly revealed during a trip made with Elliot, his lawyer, his daughter, an investigator, and two others to the isolated island home of the person who has made the accusations. That person ends up dead, and the more superstitious members of the party come to believe a black cat is possessed by her spirit. Weirdo mystic Iris Clive even promises the others that it will reveal the murderer.

The movie is billed as a mystery, which it is, but it's a glib one, filled with one-liners and goofy looks. We were surprised to see Noah Beery in a major role as Brady's sidekick. He's best remembered these days as Jim Rockford's father Rocky from The Rockford Files, which we've been watching the entirety of during the last year. Here he and Brady—between quips, piercing screams, and drop-dead faints from the entire female cast—manage to solve the puzzle tidily but uncompellingly. Even a couple of ending twists didn't impress, and weaving the cat into it all required torturous screenwriting. But the mystery is never the point. This is an exercise in atmosphere—there's a lot of shadowy creeping around, as promised by the title. It mostly works. For a period mystery you could do far worse. The Cat Creeps—which is unrelated to the identically titled film from 1930—premiered today in 1946.
“Creeps? What kind of weirdo names their cat Creeps?”

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Vintage Pulp May 17 2024
LUST AND DEATH
Do not centerfold, spindle, or mutilate.


The Centerfold Girls has a pretty anodyne poster for what is a decidedly provocative film. It hit cinemas today in 1974 and is about a religious fanatic played by Andrew Prine who wishes to save (read: murder) three women who've posed nude for a men's magazine called Bachelor. The film is divided into chapters, with the story around each stalking target—Jaime Lyn Bauer, Jennifer Ashley, and Tiffany Bolling—given about one third of the running time. Obviously that means—er, sorry, strongly suggests—that at least two of the trio die. Spoiler alert! There could also be collateral damage. Spoiler... allusion?

The movie lacks the tongue-in-cheek aspect of so much sexploitation cinema, falling more into the category of in-your-face grindhouse efforts like Thriller - en grym film and I Spit on Your Grave. In other words, it's a mean little movie. But one with serious intent. There's real effort made at character development, for example Ray Danton's feckless playboy in chapter two. There's also effort made to make the film look good. It's cheap but competent, with some Hitchcockian touches added by experienced television and b-movie director John Peyser meant to let cinephiles know he's no hack.

We came across comments in several places saying the movie is disrespectful toward women. That's true. Any film that casts any distinct category of human as victims (and in grindhouse it's usually women) can automatically be seen by some as targeted oppression—especially when that oppression is rampant in the real world. No film called The Centerfold Girls is interested in avoiding that criticism, so you go in knowing that. The result? It's pretty good. You know what would have been really fun? If they'd made a sequel called The Centerfold Boys about Playgirl models. Beautiful, superficial, basically helpless male models. We should have been 1970s movie producers.

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Vintage Pulp May 12 2024
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN
Who'd want to kill a child? On occasion, virtually any parent on the planet, but in this case it's a violent psychopath.


This poster was painted by the great Enzo Nistri (the brush behind classic promos such as this and this) for the giallo flick Chi l'ha vista morire?, known in English as Who Saw Her Die? It stars former James Bond lead George Lazenby (looking unhealthily thin here because for reasons inexplicable he lost thirty-five pounds for the role) as an American artist in Venice whose young daughter goes missing. He first appeals to the (pro forma ineffectual) police, but the girl turns up floating dead in the Grand Canal.

This brings Lazenby's estranged wife Anita Strindberg to town for the funeral, and soon they're asking questions about a child murder from the previous year, which we the viewers have seen in the opening reel being committed by a woman clad and veiled in black. Lazenby and Strindberg go full sleuth in order to identify and locate this suspected killer, who meanwhile graduates to knocking off adults who might have clues. You may assume co-star and former Bond villain Adolfo Celi has something to do with all this, and he might, but this is a giallo. There's no way to know who's the killer until the final reveal.

The movie's real star may be Venice, where residents once sauntered easily through lanes uncluttered by tour groups and AirBnB renters. You'll see many hidden nooks of the city, beautifully shot by director Aldo Lado and cinematographer Franco Di Giacomo. This type of scenery will come courtesy of AI image generators in the approaching years. After all, why close down St. Mark's Square when you can render it in a computer? Take heart, though—even a computer will never be able to generate Anita Strindberg. Chi l'ha vista morire? premiered in Italy today in 1972.
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Vintage Pulp May 11 2024
A STATE OF ESTASI
Reaching the highest pleasure.


Time flies. We've always reminded ourselves to get back to the Italian artist who signed his work as Mafé, but seven years passed. Well, we have him today, better late than not at all. Above you see his poster for the French made sex flick Pornoestasi, which starred Erika Cool, Marilyn Guillame, Élisabeth Buré, and Martine Grimaud, and was originally titled Tout est permis, or “everything is allowed.” Mafé created other nice pieces, several of which you can see by clicking his keyword below.

We had a glance at Pornoestasi, and what you get is a typically clumsy xxx production from the era, poorly scripted and shot, in which a couple who run a clothing boutique together are experiencing some doldrums. The man decides he needs time away from the woman, she agrees, and both take the opportunity to experience new partners. The funny part is that “away” means a hotel in the same town. We'd at least go to Antibes or Saint-Tropez. In any case, Pornoestasi is nothing to write home about. It premiered today in 1977. 

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Modern Pulp May 2 2024
MAD MAXIMUM
Harlem hath no fury like a righteous man scorned.

This Japanese poster for the 1990s period crime drama A Rage in Harlem happened to catch our eye, partly because the art by Joe Batchelor is great, but also because we knew the American promo featured not this painting but a rather banal group photo of the cast. We don't know why Japan got the better promo, but we can speculate. By this time global audiences were acclimated to photographic promo art, but in Japan the cast—Forest Whitaker, Robin Givens, and several established actors of the period—were unknown to local filmgoers, so the distributors marketed the movie as an art film, a sort of exotic trip to 1950s Harlem. The text on the poster's reverse seems to confirm that: 1956, Harlem. Jazz clubs, dancehall dresses, and people in suits, with a nightlife unfolding in a Harlem-style destination.

Chester Himes' novel For Love of Imabelle provided the source material, and it features everything the poster promises. The story deals with a naive and religious young Harlem undertaker played by Whitaker who's taken in by scam artists, tries to retrieve his money, but runs into an array of complications, some of them comical, most of them lethal. The movie follows the book pretty closely, which means it's bound to have good moments, but the direction by Bill Duke is a bit ponderous in the early stages, the script's many interjections of humor lack the zest of Himes' writing, the soundtrack is often a mismatch of mood, and the entire production suffers from budgetary constraints. It wasn't shot in New York City, but rather Cincinnati. While architecturally that made sense because Cincinnati has scores of brownstone houses in the style of old Harlem, there's really no substitute for the Big Apple.

On the plus side, the cast is interesting. Whitaker would later become a respected Hollywood figure, though here he's a little green, still feeling his way as an actor. Danny Glover, Bajda Djola, and Gregory Hines are entertaining in supporting roles. Givens fits the part of a femme fatale like a glove—which is to say, she's slinky as hell and startlingly beautiful. And turning back to the setting, while, as we said, Cincinnati is no Harlem, the many brownstone apartment houses did create a workable backdrop, and Duke uses the city in every advantageous manner he can manage. These are enough attractions, we think, to push the movie onto the plus side of the ledger. After its 1991 U.S. run A Rage in Harlem reached Japan in 1992. The rear of the poster gives a premiere date of May 2.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 28 2024
CRAWFORD IN THE PINK
Joan is in her sweet spot with a challenging film role.


How do you judge a great acting performance? One way is when beforehand you look at the performer and the part and say, “Impossible, doesn't fit, can't possibly work,” then it does. Flamingo Road, which premiered in the U.S today in 1949, features Joan Crawford as a carny performer and it doesn't fit. But probably nobody would seem to fit. The main character evolves over years from carny chippie into upper crust lady, so either way a filmmaker would have to make a difficult choice—cast an ingenue who evolves into a sophisticated middle-aged woman, or cast a mature actress and hope she can play young. They chose the later option with Crawford, and it can't possibly work. But this is Crawford we're talking about—she could make most any role work, and does so here with a typically assured performance.

Flamingo Road is set in the American south and is about the social mores and political machinations of a small but wealthy town. The title refers to the enclave where the rich and powerful live together in their mansions and manors. The carny version of Crawford falls for local deputy sherrif Zachary Scott, but he's been tabbed by local kingpin Sydney Greenstreet to be his puppet in the state senate. As part of that plan Scott is to marry into wealth. Cavorting with a carny isn't going to fly. Greenstreet decides to break them up, or hurt Crawford trying, and there's nothing so underhanded or injurious that he won't do it. Crawford, though, is tougher than anyone expects, and what she learns from her travails is, first: she's going to make it to Flamingo Road no matter what it takes; and second: she will have her revenge. That's all we'll tell you about the plot.

Flamingo Road is another of those movies that's often called a film noir, and while we don't try to be gatekeepers of what is and isn't noir—because we have no authority to do so—we also don't avoid stating the obvious. Flamingo Road isn't a film noir. Some entities, including respected ones, have a vested interest in casting the noir net as widely as possible. If you host noir festivals, for example, after a while you need to expand your defintion of noir to keep your slate fresh. If you write film noir books, you might want to demonstrate that you think outside the box by including Chinatown or Lat sau san taam or The Limey (all excellent movies, by the way).

At the opposite extreme, several prominent critics attest that film noir doesn't exist at all. That's like saying there's no such thing as superhero movies because costumed heroes are just further iterations of superpowered characters such as Rambo. Superhero movies exist. So does film noir, though it resides within the wider genres of crime and drama. However, it's too easy to call any movie with conflict and a few neon-splashed night sequences a noir. Film noir is as much thematic as it is iconographic. In every way that we can discern, Flamingo Road isn't one. The definitive American Film Institute calls it a melodrama. We agree. It's a melodrama in which a good actress, aged north of forty, overcomes difficult casting to knock her years-spanning role out of the park.
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Vintage Pulp Apr 26 2024
LAY DETECTOR
Every top notch private investigator knows the best clues are found in bed.


We wanted to show you another poster painted by John Solie, who was responsible for numerous blaxploitation, sexploitation, and action promos, all executed at the extremely high level you see here with his one sheet for Stacey. His other notable efforts include those for The Arena, Star Crash, Hit Man, and Hollywood Boulevard. You can click his keywords at bottom to see everything we've shared from him.

Naturally we watched Stacey and it's a cheesy detective tale starring erstwhile Playboy centerfold Anne Randall, who plays a model-turned-private dick hired to investigate a rich woman's extended family before any of them are allowed to be included in her will. Randall arrives just in time for intrigue and murder. Private investigators need to possess a Class C license in order to legally take on clients. The C on Randall's license probably stands for “casual sex.”

Even so, there's not much here. The detective elements are uninspiring despite a noir style voiceover, and the sexual elements, even with Randall and co-star Anitra Ford in occasional undress, are not going to blow your skirt up. To put the overall nothingness of the movie in perspective, consider the fact that we couldn't find a copy with sharp enough resolution to make screenshots worthwhile, nor enough official production photos to make them worth sharing. That's how much of a historical afterthought it is.

In lieu of imagery you could use your imagination, but we recommend not bothering. Stacey resides at the low end of grindhouse cinema characterized by numerous bold and outrageous entries. In our opinion it's notable only for being the first exploitation effort by director Andy Sidaris, who would go on to helm boobalicious ’80s throwaways such as Malibu Express, Hard Ticket to Hawaii, and Savage Beach. Stacey premiered in the U.S. this month in 1973.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 23 2024
DEATH RATTLES
We recommend that you keep your distance—from the movie.


Japanese posters for U.S. film productions are sometimes so good we forget that the movies might not be. Case in point: the above poster was painted by the famed Japanese artist Seito, who was behind promos for films like Star Wars and Flesh Gordon. He produced this for the horror movie Rattlers, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1976 and reached Japan on an indeterminate date sometime afterward. The Japanese title is to the point:恐怖!蛇地獄means “Horror! Snake Hell.” The movie is its own special hell. It's about a bunch of rattlesnakes that run wild, and it's sssssssssssssssso bad. University of California herpetologist Sam Chew figures out how to deal with the offending reptiles, with the help of intrepid reporter Elisabet Chauvet, but nobody figured out how to deal with a bad script, a weak director, and a zero-charisma lead. You can let this one slide.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
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