Vintage Pulp Mar 30 2020
A SHADOW OF DOUBT
I knew you were really a guy all along, darling. There were clues—your walk, your love of violent sports, the bulge in your shorts...


We praise paperback art generally. We see merit in most efforts. But it raises the question: What is an unsuccessful piece of art? Well, we think this 1952 Pocket Books cover for Edgar Mittelholzer's 1951 novel Shadows Move Among Them is a major oops from illustrator Tom Dunn. He was better on other covers, but the guy Dunn wrong here. While it would be absolutely awesome if this book were about a love affair with a transvestite, it's actually a whites-in-the-tropics novel, with the overheated land this time being British Guiana.

Mittleholzer was born and raised there, so he was writing what he knew. Plotwise, you have an isolated colony of people, which in an eerie precursor to Jim Jones and Jonestown, is led by a charismatic minister. This person, Reverend Harmston, calls his enclave Berkelhoost, and its inhabitants are there to escape civilization for a more liberated way of living. Into this setting comes the main character Gregory Hawke, who's the reverend's nephew and is sorely in need of a life reset. He's described as a shadow of his former self, and others in the colony are suggested to be mere shadows also.

Mittelholzer is considered one of the most important novelists to originate from the Caribbean (for those inclined to lump a region so geographically and culturally diverse into its own genre). Mittleholzer was a serious, ambitious writer, and he was prolific too, cranking out twenty-six books. While his family was white, some genetic quirk left him “swarthy,” as he described himself, and it was a disappointment to his father. This burden of ethnic inadequacy informed his fiction, and gave his whites-in-the-tropics stories more than the usual emotional heft.

Mittelholzer never made a fortune writing, but he's had a small revival the last twenty years, and many of his books are available. Since he was born in 1905 he never got to experience this increased interest. In fact, he died earlier than he should have, via suicide at age sixty. Apparently, this act was partly caused by his inability to make more than a subsistence living at his chosen profession. It's a fate that's befallen everyone from Sylvia Plath to John Kennedy Toole, so he's in esteemed company. We haven't read Shadows Move Among Them but we may fit it into our reading list, because as foreigners living abroad we identify with these kinds of books. If we do we'll report back.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 28 2020
BAT CLEANUP
Acapulco's toughest crimefighter is throwing out the trash.


There's a new flying mammal in town, and her name is la Mujer Murciélago—the Bat Woman. Maybe that's more of a title than a name, but you get the idea. Who exactly is this caped crusader? Well, she's—and this is verbatim from the film—“a wonderful and very rich lady who lives in the capital city, and uses her vast fortune to fight against the forces of evil.” Generally rich people are the forces of evil, so we greatly respect her for going against type, but as a crimefighter she has a real headscratcher on her hands. Luchadores are being murdered and the juices of their pineal glands extracted. Clearly these are not crimes with an ordinary motive. Who'd want the brain juices of wrestlers? Gourmet cannibals? Cthulhu cultists?

Cut to the villain in his secret lair. He goes by the sinister name of Eric Williams, and he's stealing wrestler juice because athletes of that type are perfect physical specimens for his scheme to create a race of powerful fish men. We're not sure if we ever understood why he wants to create fish men, but whatever, Bat Woman pretty much immediately suspects this Eric guy, not least because he lives on Acapulco Bay in a big houseboat called Reptilicus—a name that's a strong indicator of villainy. He should have just gone all the way and called the boat My Evil Lair.
 
Does crazy doc Eric make a fish man? Hah. It'd hardly be worth watching the movie if he didn't. Cue guy in a lobster red costume with scuba fins for feet. Having fulfilled his ambition, doc Eric's plan is to now create another horrible hybrid—a fish woman. Guess who he wants captured for that project? But when you step up to Bat Woman you better bring your a-game, because she throws some killer curves.
 
We won't tell you more about the plot, but we will tell you this about the movie as a whole: it's a disaster. We could enumerate some of its merits, like its interesting shots of an Acapulco that's long gone, and we could add that it's also funny as hell at times, partly owing to its terrible English subtitles, but fish starts to stink pretty easily, and this movie gives off a horrific stench. If you find yourself enticed to watch it, definitely alter your brain chemistry with booze or stronger substances before immersing yourself in its epic incompetence. La Mujer Murciélago premiered in Mexico today in 1968.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 28 2020
SOCIAL DISTANCING
I'm pretty sure she doesn't even like me. I think the lockdown is making her do this out of sheer boredom.


Above, The Girl Takers by Don Holliday, for Greenleaf Classics' Midnight Reader line, published in 1961. Holliday is, as you probably know by now, a house pseudonym used by many. This time it's being inhabited by Arthur Plotnik, who wrote nine other Greenleaf novels. This one deals with a man who descends into increasing depths of so-called depravity in order to experience bigger and bigger thrills. The cover art is by Harold W. McCauley. We'll have more from Greenleaf soon.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 27 2020
EXECUTING STRATEGY
Gestapo goes to extraordinary lengths to cancel a Czech.


This striking poster for Hangmen Also Die might make you think you're dealing with a death row film noir, but it's actually a war drama about the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. When a Czech assassin played by Brian Donlevy shoots the country's cruel German administrator Reinhard Heydrich and escapes into Prague's urban maze, the Nazis start executing people to force the population to turn over the shooter. As people die Donlevy struggles over whether to turn himself in. This was made in 1943 and qualifies as war propaganda, complete with flourishes such as discordant brass when Hitler's portrait appears onscreen, and a cheeseball closing song with a chorus of, “No surrender!” And to just bang the war drum even more, the movie premiered in, of all places, Prague, Oklahoma today in 1943, and the showing featured hanged effigies of Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini, while regional politicians made a point of attending. That must have been some night.

But while Hangmen Also Die may qualify as propaganda, it certainly isn't untrue in any major sense. The film's two architects, German director Fritz Lang and German writer Bertolt Brecht, both left their homeland to avoid the Nazis, and we can only imagine that their personal experiences made this project deeply important to them. But even people working from personal experience need help, and they get a major boost from co-star Walter Brennan. You'll sometimes read about him being a great character actor and this movie proves it. Watch him in this, then as the drunkard Eddie in To Have and Have Not, and you'll find him physically unrecognizable. Only his distinctive voice identifies him as the same person. Meanwhile it's Donlevy who's asked to personify the classic moral dilemma of sacrifice for the greater good, and he's mostly successful at portraying it as a heavy burden. While we wouldn't call Hangmen Also Die a great movie, there's no doubt it occupies its niche comfortably.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 26 2020
LA DONNA DENBERG
Caroselli chooses wisely for Italian book cover.


Inspiration is everything. Always draw from the best. Italian artist Benedetto Caroselli used a photo of svelte Austrian model Susan Denberg, aka Dietlinde Zechner, for this cover of Sonnie Hale's La donna bianca. That would translate as “the white woman,” but we think of her as the right woman. So did Playboy magazine, which made her its August 1968 Playmate of the Month. We doubt Denberg ever knew she was on this paperback, but we imagine she'd have been pleased with the result. It appeared in 1967 from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali as part of their I Romanzi Diabolici series. See plenty more from Caroselli, including other pieces he painted for this particular book series, by clicking his keywords just below.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 25 2020
LEADING LIGHTS
Can you name the five stars in the constellation Ludlow the Genius?


Above you see five pin-up paintings that came from the brush of Mike Ludlow, an artist we featured the first time only recently. He rose from humble beginnings in Buffalo, New York, to become an acclaimed figure that at his zenith painted portraits of major actresses for Esquire magazine. That's where all these pieces were originally published, and if you haven't identified them all, they are, top to bottom, Anita Ekberg, Gina Lollobrigida, Virginia Mayo, Denise Darcel, and Betsy von Furstenberg. All these stars have been featured on Pulp Intl., and you can see interesting posts on them at the following links: Ekberg, Lollobrigida, Mayo, Darcel, von Furstenberg.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 24 2020
EVENING SHIFT
Citywide virus lockdown continues, with exceptions made for essential workers.


Who constitutes an essential worker is really a matter of opinion, isn't it? In pulp terms, a city without vice can't claim to be a functioning city at all. And since they say prostitution is the oldest profession, it follows it would be the last to shut down. Brothels in various cities are now requiring customers to wear masks when having sex, and the international gimp crowd is like: “Right? You see? It's hella fun. You should try it with leather.” We wonder what happens when the brothels run out of masks (The international gloryhole crowd is like, “You can't guess? Really?”). You won't find any such dickulous variations in Women of the Evening, written by Peggy Gaddis and published by Belmont Books in 1962. In fact, you won't find much sex at all, if our previous Gaddis experiences are an indication. We just finished a Gaddis a few days ago—Once a Sinner, which she wrote as Gail Jordan—and it was more like a romance novel. Well, we'll keep looking. She wrote not only as Gaddis and Jordan, but as Peggy Dern, Sylvia Erskine, Roberta Courtland, Perry Lindsay, et al. One of those alter egos has to be the dirty version of Peggy. We'll find her. She can't hide. Not from us. See more from her extensive bibliography here, here, here, and here.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 23 2020
DYING TO SEE HER
Wow, he sees me naked and drops dead. I guess all those guys were right—I do have a killer body.


Above you see a Victor Kalin cover for Girl Meets Body, written by Jack Iams for Dell Publications, and published in 1947. In the story a woman having a nude walkabout on a secluded New Jersey beach encounters a corpse. The discovery unleashes problems with police, mobsters, tabloids, and particularly her husband, who she married in England during World War II, before being kept away from him by the conflict for two years. The husband soon suspects this wife he barely knows and has spent only a few weeks with total has a secret connection to the murdered man.
 
It sounds sinister, but Iams is not trying to be too serious with this book. Major characters are named Whittlebait, Barrelforth, and Squareless, if that gives you an indication of the feel. The writing style is a bit Thin Man, with numerous quips and asides, and the spouses, named Sybil and Tim, cast as dueling lovebirds. Throughout the arguments there's never a doubt they'll work it out. They also work out the mystery, unconvincingly, but overall, we have to say the book was enjoyable. We were betting Sybil and Tim would be recurring characters, but it doesn't seem like that happened. Girl Meets Body is the first and last of them.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 22 2020
SINS OF OMISSION
Gee, I wonder what it would be like if I were in a novel with a good plot and interesting supporting characters?


About fifty percent of the time we choose books by the cover art, and about twenty-five percent of the time the author draws us. The other twenty-five percent? Those are books that are bundled in lots. We end up with them because we have no choice if want the other books in the group. Gail Jordan's, aka Peggy Gaddis's Once a Sinner is one of those. The cover art is blah, and we don't seek out Jordan especially. But we dutifully read it. It's a melodrama about a war veteran who gets married overseas in England, much to the chagrin of his longtime sweetheart waiting back home. When the vet shows up with his new bride Heather, the other woman, Drusilla, sets about trying to ruin the marriage by any means necessary. Dru is stubborn, spoiled, arrogant, and sneaky, yet we liked her more than any of the other characters. That's probably not what Jordan intended, and is definitely a symptom of a book not executed to the highest level. But for all that, it isn't bad. Maybe we'll try another effort from her down the line. Then again, maybe not.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 21 2020
A DAY TO RE-GRETA
She's got nothing to apologize for.


Above is an Italian promo poster for Le avventure sessuali di Greta in 3D, which was made in England, was originally known as Four Dimensions of Greta, and starred Leena Skoog, here credited as Lena Skoog. You see her smiling face at the bottom of this post, preceded by a collection of additional promos. We also shared a Japanese poster for this film a while back, and did a little write-up on it, and shared a lot of very interesting production photos. You can see all that stuff here.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 30
1986—Jimmy Cagney Dies
American movie actor James Francis Cagney, Jr., who played a variety of roles in everything from romances to musicals but was best known as a quintessential tough guy, dies of a heart attack at his farm in Stanfordville, New York at the age of eighty-six.
March 29
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.
March 28
1910—First Seaplane Takes Flight
Frenchman Henri Fabre, who had studied airplane and propeller designs and had also patented a system of flotation devices, accomplishes the first take-off from water at Martinque, France, in a plane he called Le Canard, or "the duck."
1953—Jim Thorpe Dies
American athlete Jim Thorpe, who was one of the most prolific sportsmen ever and won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football at the collegiate and professional levels, and also played professional baseball and basketball, dies of a heart attack.
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