Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2020
BEAST WITH THE LEAST
If the budget had been 10¢ for every eye they might have ended up with a good movie.


Above is a promo poster for the sci-fi b-flick The Beast with a Million Eyes, a $33,000 cheapie that premiered in the U.S. today in 1955. This film is nightmarishly bad. It has to do with an alien intelligence that can take over the minds of any creatures on Earth, and uses these animals as the vanguard of an invasion. But in one of the worst strategy blunders since Agincourt, the alien uses its power to control the animals on and around a podunk farm in Ojai, California. This alien is only briefly shown, by the way. There's a double exposure of a rubber eye and a cheap-ass foam rubber monster head from another film, and there's a pint sized spaceship three feet high that was built by efx supervisor Paul Blaisdell for $200. These were tacked onto the film after investors had conniptions upon seeing the monsterless rough cut. We suspect more money went into the poster, which is sort of interesting, in a cheap way. But the film? It's cheap, in an uninteresting way. We recommend a hard pass.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 6 2020
STAR CROSSED LOVERS
Sex with you is out of this world. Which makes total sense, considering you're from Alpha Centauri.


Lately we've been reading mid-century sci-fi novels, in this case George O. Smith's Troubled Star, from 1957, for which you see cover art by Edmund Emshwiller. It doesn't really fit the book, but this is what happens when the publisher wants good-girl-art at all costs—you get your basic horny detective novel couple, but with the guy in a silver jumpsuit and gadgety bracelets. It's nice art anyway, and there is actually a bit of human/alien sex in the book. The overall premise is interesting. An advanced interstellar civilization decides it needs to turn the Sun into a blinking variable star to mark a galactic space lane, and they decide to relocate the Earth—literally tow it across the galaxy in mere minutes and set it in orbit around a similar star. Since this new parent star is closer to the galactic center the Earth would get lethal doses of gamma radiation, which isn't discussed, but whatever. The book is big picture stuff. Details don't matter.

The aliens have used a special device to determine the most appropriate Earthling to approach about this, and this device measures human goodwill. Basically, it helps them discern who is the most respected person on the planet. In their way of thinking, this person would be a leader, but unfortunately the device picks a movie star. Interestingly, this actor, Dusty Britton, is famous for playing a space hero, and all the people on Earth thinking of Britton in this way makes the aliens think humans have an advanced space program when they really don't. In short, these denizens from the gulfs of the cosmos are smart enough to initiate and execute interstellar infrastructure projects, but they're actually not so bright. Britton is troubled by their plan, and so the title Troubled Star becomes a double entendre, because, you see, the Sun is in trouble, and Britton, a movie star, is...

Oh, screw it. Just don't bother reading this. It's for adolescents (If you're an adolescent, though, feel free, but what are you doing on this website? Get off! It's not good for you!). The last five sci-fi novels we read before this one were The Ant Men, (silly), Rogue Queen (decent), I Am Legend (good), The Body Snatchers (excellent), and Gladiator (excellent). They cover a wide range of subject matter, and are written in wide-ranging styles. Though the most recent two have been less successful than the others due to both being junior high school level in terms of their content, in general these have been entertaining forays into the far realms of imagination. As we mentioned yesterday about sci-fi movies, speculation is a major attraction. If you run into any obscure vintage sci-fi, it can serve as a nice break from hard-boiled fiction. If the stars align, you may luck into a real gem.
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Vintage Pulp Jun 5 2020
THE IT FACTOR
Desert town suffers invasion of body snatchers.


There's something about cheeseball ’50s sci-fi. The earnestness and analog efx are fun, but it's their speculative nature that makes them don't-miss cinema. How will we travel in the future? What would a trip to Mars be like? How will society have changed by the year 2000? What if aliens visited Earth? It Came from Outer Space falls into the latter category, and here's why aliens visit—by accident. The entire script can be summed up with: space ship crashes, space ship broken, space ship needs repair, aliens take over human bodies to do it. Talk about invading your personal space. Pretty soon two local menials are wandering around like zombies seeking spare parts to fix the grounded ship, while studly Richard Carlson tries to figure out what crashed in the desert.

It sounds silly, but this is a high budget flick, as such efforts go, with good direction, more than adequate acting, and lots of alien-cam shots. It's funny too, though unintentionally, for example when Kathleen Hughes, for reasons that are never clear, plays her bit part like a mink in heat, even though she's supposed to be worried to death about her kidnapped boyfriend. That boyfriend is Russell Johnson, the professor from Gilligan's Island. Can you believe this guy? First Hughes, then he's shipwrecked with Ginger and Mary Ann. Some guys have all the luck. But we're lucky too—we found numerous excellent promo images and uploaded them below. The movie's iconic poster was painted by Joseph Smith. It Came from Outer Space premiered in the U.S today in 1953.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 21 2020
TWILIGHT SAGA
The island of Doctor Morose.


There's cheese and there's Philippine cheese. Cheese is mildly fragrant. Philippine cheese is chase-you-from-the-room stinky. Twilight People, for which you see a promo poster above, was made in the Philippines and it reeks to high heaven. But all is not lost—it's also fantastically funny in parts. The story here is a scientist kidnaps John Ashley to an isolated tropical island with the aim of transplanting his personality into the members of a menagerie of feral semi-humans created as the next step in human evolution.
 
This scientist is not just mad—he's a total downer. Nuclear war, pollution, overpopulation, the ecological consequences of civilization—he's worried about it all. His ugly quasi-humans are the answer. In our opinion, anything that makes Pam Grier look less like Pam Grier is not an advancement of any kind, but whatever—she's hairy, others are hairy, and they're the next leap up the evolutionary ladder, so sayeth the script.
 
Ashley can only think of one way to escape this crazy island, which is by using his lips. He works his charms on the sad doc's assistant Pat Woodell, who's the only non-hirsute woman around, and pretty soon her hormones get to simmering and there's trouble in paradise. We really can't blame Ashley for going this route. Woodell is spectacular. Too bad the movie isn't. Think of it as a low budget Island of Doctor Moreau, then watch that film instead. Twilight People premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.

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Modern Pulp Jan 28 2020
THEY STILL LIVE
And at this rate it looks like they'll outlast us all.


Is it one of the greatest allegorical science fiction films ever made? Well, sci-fi is conducive to metaphor, so the list of contenders is long, but certainly John Carpenter's They Live is somewhere in the mix. You see its Japanese poster above. The film invaded Japan today in 1989, after premiering in the U.S. during November of the previous year. We suspect this one falls into the category of movies many have been told they should see, but few have bothered to make the time for. We're here to suggest that you make the time. The premise is ingenious—Earth's ruling class are actually aliens in human form. What do these offworld one-percenters want? Mainly for humans to obliviously embrace behavior that is beneficial to the maintenance of elite power. To that end the everyday world people see is a mere curtain over a deeper reality totally geared toward making humans obey, consume, conform, and reproduce.

Carpenter said about the film, which is based on the 1963 short story, “Eight O'Clock in the Morning,” by Ray Nelson, “The picture's premise is that [our current economic system] is run by aliens from another galaxy. Free enterprisers from outer space have taken over the world, and are exploiting Earth as if it's a third world planet. And as soon as they exhaust all our resources, they'll move on to another world.” The idea is certainly poignant in this age of inequality, low wage employment, population explosion, environmental ruin, and all-powerful international corporate overlords that somehow are regarded by U.S. courts as “people.”
 
The aliens of They Live, not unlike corporations, want to go unchallenged while they suck the planet dry. But Roddy Piper, playing a drifter passing through Los Angeles, happens upon a small resistance who have made special sunglasses that penetrate the disguise laid over the world. When he dons these glasses his mind is simply blown by what they reveal. Even the money people work so hard for is nothing more than plain white paper bearing the message: “This is your god.” Carpenter builds the drama of They Live slowly, and plays it for laughs on multiple occasions, but the sense of dread mounts as Piper and co-star Keith David realize the illusions that maintain order are broadcast from a massive fleet of hovering drones, and if they don't expose the truth perhaps nobody will.

We've seen They Live several times, and loved it more on each occasion. Generally, people who don't like it find it too slow, which is ironic considering it's a film that suggests people are deliberately being prevented from taking the crucial time needed to see what's real and what isn't. They Live makes us imagine what would happen if aliens really did arrive on Earth. Most likely they would be sifting through the ruins of what was once here, and they'd say, “This strange species had diverse art that often discussed hostile alien invasions, but it appears they didn't realize the thing that would destroy them was already here—it was their own economics.”

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Vintage Pulp Oct 2 2019
HEADLESS HYDRA
Sci-fi invasion film is a Missione impossible.


The hydra of myth had seven heads. The movie 2+5: Missione Hydra feels like there wasn't a single head involved. It originally premiered in Italy today in 1966, but was re-released in 1977 as Star Pilot, an opportunistic move inspired by the success of Star Wars. But where Star Wars made history, Star Pilot is historically awful. The plot involves aliens who crash land on Earth but need to go back to their home planet located somewhere in the constellation Hydra, and can only repair their ship with the help of a few human scientists. As a bonus they plan to abduct these accommodating people for intensive—possibly even invasive—study.

2+5: Missione Hydra is very nearly the worst science fiction film we've ever seen, perhaps second only to the infamous Star Crash. Its unique terribleness was brought about by a perfect storm of factors, including a budget completely inadequate for the film's ambitions, which resulted in cheap sets, shoestring special efx, ridiculous costumes, bad music and sound, and stunt work that looks as if it was performed by the guys who fight with wooden swords at medieval fairs.

Adding to these problems is a script that is not only inept, but filled with attempts at light-hearted humor that fall flatter than buckwheat crêpes. Leontine and Leonora Ruffo are dealt the worst characters, and must try to bring to life, respectively, a frisky sexpot and a cold alien space babe. But they're overmatched by the writing. The only positive with 2+5: Missione Hydra is the usual one when it comes to awful films—if you have a few quick-witted friends and some booze, this could turn into one of the most entertaining movie nights you've ever had.

Guys, was that our screenwriter back there on the side of the road? Maybe we should stop. We might need him.

We have come to Earth to fertilize your women. And your men. And possibly some trees. Our semen funnels can induce fertilization in anything.

Among our species, my funnel is considered enormous.

You had me at “fun,” space stud.

This is the fertilization chamber. To excite you we have installed mood lighting and will transmit the Chili Peppers', “Party on Your Pussy.”

We can't fertilize on this! It's barely big enough for a reverse cowgirl, let alone a standard missionary.

Heh. They have no idea we're recording the fertilizations. We should do quite well with these on the galactic candid porn market.

How did your fertilization go? Mine, all things considered, was better than expected.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 23 2019
INNER SPACE
Come along and ride on a Fantastic Voyage.


There's something about sci-fi movies from the late 1960s that makes them so pleasing to watch. The source material was innovative and ambitious thanks to a crop of fresh new sci-fi novelists, while cinematically, capabilities in special effects, a trend toward elaborate sets, and bold color thanks to improved film processing techniques resulted in more believable and engaging final products.
 
Fantastic Voyage, for which you see a beautiful Japanese poster above, benefits from all those elements. We queued it up and watched it straight through, impervious to distraction, marveling at the visionary look of it and its fun story of a team of doctors and scientists reduced to microscopic size and injected into a man's circulatory system to find and remove a blood clot deep in his brain.
 
Thanks to its provenance as a novel by Isaac Asimov it's just scientifically convincing enough—once you accept the idea of a shrink ray—to aid suspension of disbelief. A good popcorn muncher, this one, with a great cast that includes Raquel Welch, film noir legend Edmond O'Brien, and Donald Pleasence. Highly recommended. Fantastic Voyage opened in the U.S. in August 1966 and reached Japan today the same year.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 15 2019
ANT MISBEHAVIN'
I'm down to my last few bullets! Throw those egg salad sandwiches we brought for lunch! Maybe those will slow them down!


When we first saw Eric North's 1955 sci-fi thriller The Ant Men the first thought we had— Well, actually, the second thought. The first thought was: “Oh, this is a must read.” Our second thought was: “Highly centralized, conscienceless, conformist hordes seeking to overrun everything in sight? Hmm, wonder what that's a paranoid metaphor for?” But the book doesn't really have the anti-commie thing. It's sci-fi played straight about six unfortunate people who stumble upon a city of giant ants in the dead heart of Australia. To make matters worse, there are more than just ants out there. It's reasonably fun at first, but North slowly drives his own narrative south with an impossibly annoying Aussie bush guide character who exclaims, “Mamma mamma!” probably fifty times. Five would have gotten the idea across. Before long we were hoping the ants would rip him to pieces and drag his sections down a hole to their queen. The fact that they don't is the book's biggest flaw. Aside from that it's decent, but certainly not among the better sci-fi novels of the period. This MacFadden-Bartell edition has art by Jack Faragasso.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 12 2019
RED HOT PLANET
Ditch the spacesuit, big boy, and I'll give you a totally different kind of terrain to explore.


This cover for Cyril Judd's 1961 Mars based sci-fi novel Sin in Space makes the book look like ridiculous sleaze but there's serious ambition here. We discerned this in the first five pages thanks to the undefined jargon, numerous made-up place names, and copious technical language that's supposed to understood through context. The nomenclature of life on Mars, the minerals that are mined, Mars Machine Tool, greeners, marcaine, and much more, are all woven together by Judd (a pseudonym for Cyril Kornbluth and Judith Merril) in an attempt to create a believable alternate reality of a human colony on Mars.

Earth has numerous problems and independence is thought by Mars colonists to mean an escape from those issues. But the colony has a few problems of its own. Most importantly, a stash of drugs has gone missing and if it doesn't reappear the consequences, both political and existential, will be dire. Meanwhile, even though forty years of colonization has turned up no Martian life, sightings of so-called “brownies” are on the upswing, but are dismissed as fantasies. Do these brownies exist? Well, they're more likely to turn up than the rampant sin of the book's title. Check out this passage, which we've edited a bit for brevity:

You got born into a hate-thy-neighbor, envy-thy-neighbor, murder-thy-neighbor culture. Naked dictatorship and leader worship, oligarchy and dollar-worship. Middle classes with their relatively sane families were growing smaller and being ground out of existence as still more black dirt washed into the ocean and more hungry mouths were born and prices went higher and higher. How long before it blew up? The damned, poverty-ridden, swarming Earth, short of food, short of soil, short of metals, short of everything except vicious resentments and aggressions bred by other shortages.”

Does that sound like sleaze to you? Us either. Sin in Space is a serious book, but far less interesting than it should be, considering the fertile setting. Put it in the wildly misleading bin thanks to its title and the cover by artist Robert Stanley. We mentioned the drugs subplot. That's so far in the background it barely qualifies as a plot driver. The sin of the title actually refers to the fact that a reporter writes an article falsely telling everyone on Earth the Martian colony is a hotbed of vice, thus threatening its status. That's still not a good reason for the sensational title or titillating art, but we don't really mind. A piece of sleazy art—even misplaced—always brightens the day. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 8 2019
WEIRD SCIENCE
He's totally wacko but ambition is attractive so she'll give him a chance.


A few years ago we talked about the 1959 sci-fi movie Caltiki il mostro immortale, aka Caltiki—The Immortal Monster, and shared the U.S. promo poster. Above is the Italian promo, which has a nice GGA style to it thanks to the highly skilled brush of Rodolfo Valcarenghi. His art has nothing to do with the film, though. Plotwise think scientific curiosity overcoming better judgement to facilitate the release of a blob monster and you'll be in the ballpark. You can read our little summary at this link. Caltiki il mostro immortale premiered in Italy today in 1959.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 23
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
September 22
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
September 21
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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