Modern Pulp Feb 4 2023
VIDEO GAMES
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. 

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Modern Pulp Jan 23 2023
SCENES FROM AN OFFICE
The lady is a tramp, and the director is a scamp.

Junko Mabuki is back on Pulp Intl., as you see on this poster for the roman porno movie Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei, known in English as Office Lady Rope Slave. It premiered in Japan today in 1981, and basically, Junko plays a straight-laced nine-to-fiver who gets involved with a pair of bondage fetishists. These types of films were, of course, her specialty, and she once again gives viewers everything they'd become accustomed to seeing. But we're less interested in the plot of the movie than the reaction at Japan's censorship board Eiga Rinri Kikō. Adherence to its restrictions was ostensibly voluntary on the part of film studios, but the body had real enforcement power. Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei must have shaken the place to its foundations.

Let's set the scene. One of the censors has shown up at the Eiga Rinri Kikō office for an emergency meeting with the board chief. He and the other members of the body are proud of themselves for their work, which basically just hews to Japanese obscenity standards by forbidding shots of sex organs and pubic hair. But they never really thought it out from the perspective of directors determined to skirt the edges, which suddenly is happening with increasing frequency. Now at least one censor is in a tizzy. He'd be even more agitated if he knew digital technology would make roman porno films globally available, and thus decades later raise uncomfortable questions about Japanese culture and misogyny, but at this point he has no clue about that.

Censor: I'm beginning to think our censorship regime has backfired. I just screened Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei and that fucker Katushiko shows dripping semen.

Chief: We didn't ban that?

Censor: No. We overlooked it.

Chief: Well, what's a little semen?

Censor: It's dripping from Mabuki Junko's mouth. He also shows vaginal juices, vaginal blood, and strongly implies that Mabuki-kun gets her clitoris clothes-pinned.

Chief: Hmm... that does sound provocative.

Censor: I watched it twice just to be sure of my eyes. It's depraved. Additionally, there's all the usual bondage, some bizarre insertions, an enema, oral sex both heterosexual and lesbian...

Chief: All this without violating a single one of our rules?

Censor: Nothing is actually shown. It seems quite revealing, though, because, well, Mabuki-kun is a very good actress. Great boobs too.

Chief: Agreed. Mabuki-kun has excellent boobs.

Censor: But in general, it feels like these roman porno directors are ridiculing our censorship standards. There's even a moment—I swear—when I felt like the actors looked directly at me and sneered.

Chief: Now you're being paranoid. Regarding the standards, we could change them, make them more restrictive, but it's hell keeping Nikkatsu and the other studios in line already. Any alteration now may cause serious problems.

Censor: *sigh* But the semen...

Chief: What's a little semen? So, that screener is VHS?

Censor: Betamax. It's a better format. Soon everything will be Betamax. I have it with me.

Chief: I better check it out—just to confirm your findings. Leave it by the Beta player over there, and close the door on your way out. Also, tell my secretary I'm not to be disturbed for ninety minutes.

Okay, a scornful look for the censorship board on one... two... and now!

At first I thought this was a citrus reamer, but now I'm not sure.

How the hell do you expect me to flush this way?

I'll help him. I've been hiding in the shower the whole time.

I have to take a short break. There's an office pool on my chair.

We'll all have what she's having!

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Modern Pulp Oct 15 2022
PHILIPPINE STORIES
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a mandatory look at grindhouse moviemaking during the untamed 1970s.


Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a film we've watched a few times, and whenever a movie racks up multiple viewings we think it needs to be highlighted. It's a fast paced documentary about the wave of low budget exploitation flicks made in the Philippines from the late ’60s through the ’70s. We weren't old enough to see any of them during the actual grindhouse era, but caught them in later years, and one reason we came up with this website was for the opportunity to riff on these types of flicks. Over the last decade-plus we've had the pleasure of writing about entertaining dreck like Savage Sisters, The Big Doll House, Night of the Cobra Woman, and Cleopatra Wong.

Built around interviews with stars such as Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Margaret Markov, Gloria Hendry, and directors/producers like Eddie Romero, Jack Hill, Joe Dante, and Roger Corman, Machete Maidens Unleashed! is an insider's look at a unique era in cinema history. It compellingly juxtaposes snippets of cinematic insanity against clips of the performers involved laughing over the craziness of it all. While the moviesdiscussed often fall into the category of sexploitation, at the time they were also considered an adjunct of the women's liberation movement—a point made by a couple of the actresses interviewed. Coming out of the sexually repressive decades of the fifties and early sixties, nudity was seen as a rebuke to patriarchal control.

Covering productions ranging from 1964's The Walls of Hell to 1979's big budget war flick Apocalypse Now, this is a wide ranging documentary, and by far the most entertaining one on the subject matter we've seen. What with our website's Philippine provenance, and with PSGP having spent a couple of years in Guatemala, another country where life was cheap but fun was unparalleled, this also hit us directly in the nostalgia gland (PSGP feels like the only reason these films weren't made in Guatemala is because everyone actually would have been murdered, instead of just thinking they would).
 
All the interviewees seem to understand that they're from an extinct breed of very brave film performers, making entertainment for audiences ready to see absolutely anything happen. It sometimes seems that modern audiences have forgotten that the filmmaker is not the material, and the actor is not his or her character. The message comes through strongly here that movies are simply make believe. The creators maywant to outrage, or teach, or push censorship envelopes, or illuminate themes that leave audiences enriched in some way, but it's still just a job they perform before going home to their real lives. We wouldn't be surprised if some of the interviewees now feel they'd been traumatized, but during this movie, at least, they shrug off the difficulties of filming—ranging from extreme weather to graphic nudity to military revolt—as obstacles true professionals must navigate.

The title cards of some of these films should be enough by themselves to intrigue you. We have a set below. We've also mixed in some screenshots. We'd love to have uploaded actual production photos, but the films are so low budget those are close to impossible to find. But why look at photos when you can watch the movies? Give it a shot. Quarts of booze are optional. Machete Maidens Unleashed! had its world premiere in Australia in the summer of 2010, and first hit U.S. shores today the same year at the Philadelphia International Film Festival. We've pointed you toward a few Philippine grindhouse flicks above, and you can read about more—there are so many, so please excuse the avalanche of links—here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Modern Pulp | Sex Files Oct 4 2022
HOLEY TRINITY
There's never a cop around to perform a cavity search when you need one.


You probably suspect at a glance that this is a Japanese poster for an x-rated movie, and you'd be right. It was made for Trinity Brown, starring Sharon Kelly, aka Colleen Brennan, who's backed by a supporting cast of stalwart porn studs and b-level starlets. This is the fourth movie of Kelly's we've looked at, after Love, Lust and Violence, Gosh!, Scream in the Streets, and Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks. Do we have a special affinity for her? Not really. But the Japanese did, apparently. We've found Japanese posters for many of her flicks. They've retitled this one 弾を握る, which means “woman holding a bullet.” Or possibly they've retitled it SEXリボルバー, which means “sex revolver.” The rest says, “Right now, a miraculous comeback, Sharon Kelly. A trap of terrifying passion, the scent of lavender drifting in the cloudy darkness. A man never forgets the smell of Sharon.” Indeed.

You can always expect a plotline with vintage porn, and in this case Kelly plays a tough L.A. cop partnered with John Leslie, who she also happens to be banging off-duty. The two are assigned a murder case in which a strip club owner is thought to have shot a local gangster. Brennan and Leslie delve into the world of exotic dancers and show business to unravel the mystery. It isn't much of a mystery—psst the gangster's girl set him up—but getting to the end is reasonably fun.

Generally vintage porn features realistic sexual performances, without a lot of asinine screaming and backbreaking positions. It was made before the medium became festishistic performance art, and takes itself seriously as erotica for normal people. This particular flick was made without any of the most inspiring porn beauties from the era (Ginger Lynn, Angel, Shauna Grant, Jody Swafford, Annette Haven, et al), so it's possible some viewers might be aesthetically nonplussed by Kelly and company, but everything is real, rather than silicone, and that's worth something. We'll discuss some of those top stars again, and Kelly will be back too, on yet another Japanese poster we have. Trinity Brown premiered in the U.S. in 1984 and reached Japan today in 1986.

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Modern Pulp Sep 25 2022
MAN ABOUT TOWN
Matt Dillon gets on an unstoppable roll.


Above is a poster for the U.S. movie The Big Town, which is a drama released today in 1987, set in 1957, based on the 1967 Clark Howard novel The Arm. We like 1950s movies. And we like new movies set during the 1950s. It's always interesting to see an interpretation of the era, versus productions actually made during those years. The Big Town is a fun rendition, as pretty boy Matt Dillon plays a skilled young dice shooter who leaves podunkville Indiana for Chicago and experiences all its pleasures and pains.

On the pleasure side is femme fatale fan dancer Diane Lane, and bringing the pain is Tommy Lee Jones as a gambler who runs a crooked nightspot called the Gem Club—and who happens to be married to Lane. It's always a bad idea to bed a bad man's wife, but it's an even worse idea to break his bank for $15,000. Dillon does both. Later he tries to engineer a high stakes double-cross that will allow him to win the Gem Club in a craps game. Along the road from rags to potential there are plenty of subplots, including revenge, good girl redemption, and the struggle to retain's one's soul.

The Big Town is often called a neo-noir, and though any film with a crime focus and numerous night scenes tends to get that label slapped on it, in this case we feel like the designation is accurate. The movie deals not only with crime and gambling, but also takes passes at burlesque, racism, and the culture clash between ’40s style tough guys and new generation hipsters, with their sculpted hair and rock and roll attitudes. On the acting front, Dillon does a good job, and Jones is excellent as always, doing that unique thing he does. If you're looking for a fast period drama you can certainly do worse.

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Modern Pulp Aug 25 2022
VULVIC SYMBOLS AND PHALLIC SYMBOLS
When is a flower not a flower and a snake not a snake? In Japanese cinema.


Above you see a poster for the Nikkatsu Studios roman porno movie Hana to hebi: Jigoku-hen, known in English as Flower and Snake: Sketch of Hell. In this genre, any mention or sight of a flower is liable to be symbolic. Some call them vulvic symbols, some yonic symbols, but in either case something phallic is usually about to rear its ugly head. The movie starred Kaori Asô and Mami Fujimura, and it was second in a Flower and Snake franchise that eventually numbered eight entries, with this one premiering in Japan today in 1985. That puts it outside our vintage purview, since for our purposes we define modern as anything from 1980 and after, but we had to show you the poster art. How could we not? This amazing promo was painted by famed bondage artist Kaname Ozuma, whose work you can see with an image search. Japanese film studios were very interested in bondage, and Japanese audiences must have been too, because many roman porno films with bdsm themes did well at the box office.

Much of the interest in the subject derived from literature, particularly the works of Oniroku Dan, who wrote the source novel for this film. His books were behind about three-dozen roman porno productions. While we don't get these explorations of humiliation and bondage, we understand that every culture has its particulars. For example, if you go on Japanese Wikipedia, celebrities' biographies often contain their blood types. On the other hand, if you go on U.S. Wikipedia, celebrities' biographies often contain their political allegiances. Objectively, both types of information are completely pointless, yet they suggest—interestingly—what obsesses each culture.

What we're saying is that since we're not Japanese, we can't offer much insight into the roman porno wave that swept Japan. We can do the when, where, who, and how of it—but not the why. But we like the posters, the films are usually incredibly well shot, and the actresses are generally stunning, so we watch the movies and tell you whether we liked them. You're probably wondering if we watched Jigoku-hen. We did, and it's what we expected—longform bondage and torture, softcore style, with little shown, but plenty implied. While it stars Asô and the amazing Fujimura, we don't recommend it unless you're okay with plenty of tears and pee. Neither of those are our bag, and if they're yours, maybe talk to someone. Below, Fujimura is happy after washing off the stain of having starred in such a mean and pointless film, while Asô calls home from vacation and tells her family she's recovering fine.
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Modern Pulp Jul 13 2022
GOLDMAN STANDARD
A beautiful old poster turns out to be a beautiful new poster.


Yes, we just showed you a nice Japanese poster for Laura, and here we are again with another promo, this one French made and very striking. There's more than one French promo for the movie, but this is a special one. It's signed by the artist—Goldman. At first we were unable to find his first name, though we did immediately find another poster he created. That piece was for Orson Welles' 1946 drama The Stranger, so at that point we were thinking Goldman was an overlooked talent from the golden age of cinema.

We used all our internet mining skills and learned, according to an auction website we visited, that Goldman's poster for The Stranger was for a cinematic re-release that occurred much more recently than the 1940s. That meant Laura was probably made for a re-release too. We soon determined that both The Stranger and Laura were screened in France in August 2012. The Cinémathèque Française, which isa venerable film society housed in a building designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry, each year offers a slate of vintage and restored films, often focusing on one or several filmmakers. In 2012 Otto Preminger, director of Laura, was one of filmmakers being honored, along with Welles, Manoel de Oliveira, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and others.

So, if we've gotten all this correct—which is no guarantee—the poster we thought was a rare piece of vintage promo art is actually a rare piece of modern promo art. And to think we always complain about modern promo art. So, okay, for the moment we're silenced, because this is excellent work. Still, though, we couldn't find out about Goldman. The internet is often heavy on noise and short on signal. With well known Goldmans out there ranging from Emma to Oscar to Sachs, we can't isolate our Goldman no matter what keyword/quotation mark/Boolean trick we try. But maybe the answer will turn up later. It often does.

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Modern Pulp Jun 12 2022
CLASH BY NIGHT
Caught between a rock and an ugly place.


A few days ago we wrote about the 1950 film noir Night and the City, and our poking around led to the discovery that the Blu-Ray edition comes with a box cover by one of our favorite modern artists Owen Smith. He first came to our attention because he painted covers for the Daniel Chavarría crime novels Adios Muchachos and Tango for a Torturer, and we see that he remains a unique stylist, perhaps even a modern pulp master. His depiction of star Richard Widmark trapped between tough guys Mike Mazurki and Stanislaus Zbyszko captures the essence of the movie without being an actual scene from it. We like the choice.

While Night and the City revolves around wrestling, it seems that Smith has been busy with another ring art—boxing. He's created quite a few works along those lines, and we've uploaded several below. We'd say he has the subject of men who've had the snot beaten out of them pretty well conquered. Finally, since we brought it up, we'd like to recommend—for adventurous readers—the aforementioned Chavarría novels. Due to our time living in Guatemala and traveling around the region we developed an interest in all things Cuba. He brings that island to life in a way few authors do. Read what we wrote about him here, and see more Smith here and here.

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Modern Pulp May 21 2022
PLAIDING HIS CASE
Something old, something new.


This is something a bit unusual. It's a life-sized promotional cardboard cut-out for 1982's film noir-sourced comedy Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, which starred Steve Martin and Rachel Ward. We thought of this film recently due to Martin's new Agatha Christie-influenced television mystery series Only Murders in the Building, which we watched and enjoyed. We first saw Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid years ago, long before Pulp Intl. and all the knowledge we've gained about film noir. We liked it much better during our recent viewing.

If you haven't seen it, Martin uses scores of film noir clips to weave a mystery in which he stars as private detective Rigby Reardon. Aside from Ward, and director Rob Reiner, his co-stars are Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart, Burt Lancaster, Barbara Stanwyck, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Cary Grant, and many others, all arranged into a narrative that turns out to be about cheese, a Peruvian island, and a plot to bomb the United States.

The film's flow only barely holds together, which you'd have to expect when relying upon clips from nineteen old noirs to cobble together a plot, but as a noir tribute—as well as a satirical swipe at a couple of sexist cinematic tropes from the mid-century period—it's a masterpiece. If you love film noir, you pretty much have to watch it. Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid had its premiere at the USA Film Festival in early May, but was released nationally today in 1982.

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Modern Pulp May 17 2022
HER MAJESTY'S DISSERVICE
Of all the different types of queens, I had to be the damn queen of S&M.

Maybe Junko Mabuki wasn't the queen of Nikkatsu Pictures' roman porno cycle, but she was certainly one of its major figures, and oh, the ordeals she went through in her fifteen films. This poster that has her looking like she somehow got stuck inside Batman's mask was made for Dan Oniroku hakui nawa jigoku, known in English as White Uniform in Rope Hell and—unfortunately—All Women Are Whores. We couldn't locate the movie, which caused us to breathe a sigh of relief. But if you want to know what Mabuki was all about, cinematically speaking, the films of hers we have watched include (English titles only) Female Teacher: Rope Hell, Female Beautician Rope Discipline, Secretary Rope Discipline, and Blazing Bondage Lady. Those titles should answer any questions. We also watched her in Hell of Roses, which, while its title seems to suggest a thematic and tonal change from Mabuki's usual fare, is also about ropes. Dan Oniroku hakui nawa jigoku premiered in Japan today in 1980.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 07
1985—Matt Munro Dies
English singer Matt Munro, who was one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene during the 1960s and sang numerous hits, including the James Bond theme "From Russia with Love," dies from liver cancer at Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London.
February 06
1958—Plane Crash Kills 8 Man U Players
British European Airways Flight 609 crashes attempting to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in Munich, West Germany. On board the plane is the Manchester United football team, along with a number of supporters and journalists. 20 of the 44 people on board die in the crash.
February 05
1919—United Artists Is Launched
Actors Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, along with director D.W. Griffith, launch United Artists. Each holds a twenty percent stake, with the remaining percentage held by lawyer William Gibbs McAdoo. The company struggles for years, with Griffith soon dropping out, but eventually more partners are brought in and UA becomes a Hollywood powerhouse.
1958—U.S. Loses H-Bomb
A 7,600 pound nuclear weapon that comes to be known as the Tybee Bomb is lost by the U.S. Air Force off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, near Tybee Island. The bomb was jettisoned to save the aircrew during a practice exercise after the B-47 bomber carrying it collided in midair with an F-86 fighter plane. Following several unsuccessful searches, the bomb was presumed lost, and remains so today.
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