Mondo Bizarro Nov 24 2020
2020: A SHEEP ODYSSEY
Mysterious monolith found in desert. Local wildlife now walking upright and demanding better mobile coverage.


Someone cue Also sprach Zarathustra. In Utah a helicopter pilot from the Department of Public Safety's Aero Bureau was counting bighorn sheep in a remote part of the state when he overflew a strange object, and upon turning back for a second look was astounded to sight a metal monolith planted in the desert. Estimated at ten to twelve feet (about three meters) high, the object is shiny, silvery, rectangular, and appears to be man-made. Appears to be. Advanced metalwork is assumed to be a solely human ability, but that's just an assumption. We also thought we were the only species that masturbated until we saw dolphins do it.
 
The slab story has taken on a mostly humorous life of its own, as observers reference 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie which appears to have inspired the creator of the rectangle. The film's monolith triggers a quantum leap in human evolution, which in 2020 we could really use, but since modern culture is little more than a seven-billion-person rugby scrum in which nobody has noticed the ball got lost decades ago, we don't think a comparable evolutionary leap is coming. Anyway, there's nothing out there in the desert but sheep, so maybe it wasn't made for humans at all. Everyone should keep close watch on those bighorns. Maybe they'll make an evolutionary leap and, like in the film, start using old femurs to break heads. Sheepherders beware.
 
For our part, there's little doubt the slab is actually just a piece of guerrilla art, planted in the wilderness years ago, where it has patiently waited for discovery. As a publicity stunt it's ingenious. Once authorities inevitably remove and examine the piece, they'll most likely find some identifying mark, and at that point the artist will come forward or be identified. People are already speculating it was made by deceased monolith master John McCracken. However it turns out, we think it's appropriate that this discovery, one of the most confounding in recent memory, was inspired by 2001, one of the most baffling films ever. The desert slab will eventually be explained to most people's satisfaction. The movie? Never.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 15 2020
STRAIGHT OUTTA THE JUNGLE
She's tougher than Tarzan, meaner than Sheena, and lustier than Gungala.


You can look at this cover and correctly assume that we've shared it because it was painted by Frank Frazetta, considered by many to be the master of sword and sorcery art. It's a beautiful piece, rightly famous. Alan Dean Foster is a master too. He isn't what you'd call a significant author in the sense that he's produced lauded original material, but he may be the king of movie novelizations. Among his output: The Black Hole, Clash of the Titans, Outland, Starman, Pale Rider, and The Chronicles of Riddick, as well as novelized series based on Star Wars, Star Trek, and Alien. We love Foster for his Star Wars sequel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which came out before The Empire Strikes Back (notice we don't bother with that Episode nonsense) and followed Luke and Leia—not siblings in Foster's universe—as they adventured on strange worlds and discovered their love for each other. We still think the film series should have followed Foster's lead, but whatever.

His Luana is a novelization of the 1968 movie of the same name starring Mei Chen Chalais, which we talked about a while back. Sometimes novelizations are published before the film, sometimes after. Foster published Luana six years after the film in 1974 for reasons that are obscure. It was among his first published books. While template for a novelization is provided by the filmmakers, the author is who gives it color and life. Foster fulfills that duty with obvious relish, mining literary and cinematic antecedents like Tarzan, Tarzana, Gungala, SheenaShuna, and Ka-Zar for familiar tropes. A kilometer long pit filled with army ants? A lion and panther, both larger than any ever seen before, working in tandem with a huge chimp? A pitched battle between blowgun wielding Tanzanian tribesmen and an expedition of white explorers? A secret city of solid gold buildings? As lost world tales go, by standing on the shoulders of his predecessors, Foster crafts something better than average. And far better than the movie too. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 1 2020
MUSHROOM CROWD
The fallout from this situation will be lethal.


Above, an Italian poster painted by Renato Casaro for the Japanese macabre sci-fi flick Matango, which in Italy was called Matango il mostro and in the U.S. Attack of the Mushroom People. We shared the excellent Japanese posters back during the summer and you can see those here. The film opened in Italy at the Festival della Fantascienza di Trieste today in 1964.

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Intl. Notebook Oct 30 2020
HALLOWEEN 20
When is a monster not scary? When it's a guy in a latex suit.


Maybe yesterday's Halloween themed post was a bit too grim. After all, it's a kid's holiday. So, continuing along the same lines but with less macabre realism, above and below we have a collection of monsters (full disclosure: some are actually monster-fighting good guys) culled from 1970s Japanese television and shlock cinema. There are hundreds of these from the period, but we restricted ourselves to twenty. You may recognize a few. For example, we tossed Hedorah, aka the Smog Monster, into the mix just for fun. You can definitely impress friends and the general public if you dress up as one of these ferocious entities. That'll have to wait until next year, though. Which is actually good, because it would probably take that long just to put one of these get-ups together. Most of these are a bit ridiculous, so theoretically they shouldn't give anyone nightmares. Then again, that's what they say about clowns.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 1 2020
BRAIN DAMAGE
Disembodied alien has a mind to destroy the Earth.


Incredibly, the sci-fi flick The Brain from Planet Arous, which premiered today in 1957, was never featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. We scanned the episode list three times just to make sure, and we still can't fathom the omission, because the film is rife with set-up lines, humorous plot holes, and improbable leaps of logic that make it a natural for a send-up. Storywise, a hyper-intelligent floating brain comes to Earth, takes over the body of affable scientist John Agar, and transforms him into an egomaniacal sociopath right out of Ayn Rand. This alien's plan? Subjugation of the Earth or destruction. It/he also seems strangely interested in money, fame, and sex with Agar's girlfriend Joyce Meadows.

Subsequently a second floating brain arrives and reveals to Meadows that it's/he's a cosmic cop come to take brain uno back home to be punished for being such an asshole. Brain two decides it needs a perfect cover, a body to hide inside until it's time to pounce, and promptly selects the family dog. We're not kidding. We could tell you more but why bother? This is a real stinker by today's standards, but objectively speaking it's a viable sci-fi effort for the 1950s, a time when adequate budget, excellent actors, and behind-the-camera technical prowess were not generally reserved for genre pix such as these. The best thing we can say about The Brain from Planet Arous is that there's a certain comfort in its retro simplicity. Find evil, expose evil, bury axe in evil. If only real life worked that way.
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Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2020
BEAST WITH THE LEAST
If the budget had been 10ยข 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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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 28
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
November 27
1934—Baby Face Nelson Killed
In the U.S., killer and bank robber Baby Face Nelson, aka Lester Joseph Gillis, dies in a shoot-out with the FBI in Barrington, Illinois. Nelson is shot nine times, but by walking directly into a barrage of gunfire manages to kill both of his FBI pursuers before dying himself.
November 26
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
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