John Payne goes to hell and back for loot and love.
The film we talked about Sunday, 1944’s Bermuda Mystery, was an island thriller in name only, but Hell’s Island actually works hard to create a Caribbean mood—though it was shot in Southern California. John Payne is hired to fly to the mythical island of Santo Rosario and retrieve a priceless ruby in the possession of his former girlfriend. The girlfriend, Mary Murphy, ran away to the island after jilting the hero to marry a rich islander. Payne arrives and finds that moneybags is imprisoned for life for murder, and Murphy now lives alone in a big mansion, pining for her incarcerated husband. But did he actually commit the crime?
Murphy wants Payne to help her husband escape, and Payne agrees because supposedly only the husband knows where the ruby is. This is all a pretty fertile set-up for a thriller, and while the filmmakers don’t get every element right, they end up with a passably engrossing final product. Some websites call Hell’s Island a film noir, which it is in terms of story elements, mood, and characterizations—but it’s shot in Technicolor, which for some may put it in another category visually. In the end, think of it as a passable vintage crime flick with a few twists and turns, a conveniently placed alligator pit, plenty of swanky menswear, lots of corpses, and one very elusive ruby. Hell’s Island opened today in 1955.
French photographer earns raves for fresh look at the nude form... except for one little thing.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to be impressed by those who do. Especially when it comes to art. The very nice image above was shot by Parisian photographer Dani Olivier. He has published three photo books, exhibited his pieces all over France, as well as in galleries in such places as Kiev, Moscow, and Los Angeles, and describes his work as an effort to create nude portraits “that [haven't] been shot before.” Ah, but they have been shot before, Dani, they surely have, and by one of your countrymen, no less—Fernand Fonssagrives, as we discussed here.
The photo we posted back in 2012 was one from the Fonssagrives canon that had never been seen online before, which makes it worth a gander, but for those disinclined to click over there, an example of Fonssagrives' work from 1956 appears below. Very similar, no? We have a feeling Olivier would exclaim, “But Fonssagrives' light is dots, while mine is sperm, you idiot!” Well, dots, sperm—maybe Fonssagrives' is sperm too, but seen head-on.
There's no doubting Olivier's light patterns are more varied and detailed, however Fonssagrives might have gone in a similarly precise direction had he possessed similarly superior projection technology. In any case, we love Dani Olivier’s work. But the quote about its originality caught our eye, as well as the fact that none of the articles we checked on him mentioned Fonssagrives, so we were pretty much compelled to bring up the old master, who certainly deserves his just due.
Mid-century paperbacks and the many sides of erotic dance.
We've seen more paperback covers featuring dancers than we can count. No surprise—they are after all an essential element of crime fiction, and many of the covers depicting them are excellent. But as you might imagine, novels that feature strippers, showgirls, and burlesque dancers as characters also fall into the sleaze genre quite often, which in turn makes for a lot of low budget cover work. So we have the full range for you today in a collection depicting the kinetic art of stage dancing, with illustrations from Mitchell Hooks, Bernard Safran, Robert Maguire, Robert McGinnis, Gene Bilbrew and others, as well as numerous unknowns. Enjoy.
, Bernard Safran
, Robert Maguire
, Robert McGinnis
, Gene Bilbrew
, Robert Bonfils
, Bill Edwards
, cover art
, cover collection
It's a hard job but they make it look easy.
What better way to complement the collection of paperback covers above than with photos of actual dancers doing what they do best—making their strenuous and often unglamorous work look easy and fun? We present assorted burlesque dancers, showgirls, and strippers from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, both onstage and off, photographed in such hot spots as London, Paris, Tokyo, Rome, New Orleans, and of course New York City. Among the performers: La Savona, Lilly Christine, Lynne O'Neill, the gorgeous Misty Ayres, Patti Cross, Tina Marshall, Carol Doda, Nejla Ates, Lili St. Cyr, Wildcat Frenchie, and more. If you like these, check out our previous set of dancers here.
, New Orleans
, New York City
, La Savona
, Lilly Christine
, Lynne O'Neill
, Misty Ayres
, Patti Cross
, Tina Marshall
, Carol Doda
, Nejla Ates
, Blaze Starr
, Wildcat Frenchie
, Lili St. Cyr
, Candy Barr
, Tina Marshall
Any evil a man can do she can do worse.
This colorful poster was made for the Australian release of Deadlier Than the Male, known elsewhere in the world as Born To Kill. The movie stars Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney. We had seen Trevor in several roles over the years, including in Murder My Sweet, Johnny Angel, and 1948's Key Largo, but for some reason had never learned to appreciate her talent until seeing her here. Lawrence Tierney, who you may remember as Joe from Reservoir Dogs, is also excellent, if inordinately repellent (as required by his role). A cold-hearted woman meets her match in a brutal man, and the two become entwined in both a murder coverup and adultery. Money is the backdrop but it's jealousy that is the catalyst for every terrible event that occurs. Not a perfect movie, but very good, sprinkled with engaging secondary characters—including Walter Slezak as a sleazy detective—and Trevor knocks her bit out of the park. Deadlier Than the Male premiered as Born To Kill in the U.S. today in 1947.
They've been looking forward to this merger for a long time.
A while back we put together a collection of mid-century paperback covers set in offices and depicting hanky panky between bosses and workers. Most of the covers were by Paul Rader because he painted in that theme quite a bit for Midwood-Tower. Well, we've found another—the double novel Always Say Yes by Monty Brian and A Sure Thing by Vin Fields. It's a worthy addition to the collection, which you can see here.
The message is pretty clear—get on her bad side and you’ll regret it.
This beautiful and very rare promo poster was made to promote a Japanese film called Onna banchō nora-neko rokku. In the English speaking world its various distributors couldn't seem to settle for long on a title, and it was called variously Alleycat Rock: Female Boss, Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, Female Juvenile Delinquent Leader: Alleycat Rock, and Wildcat Rock. It’s the first of five Alleycat Rock or Stray Cat Rock films, and revolves around Meiko Kaji’s girl gang’s unwitting influence over a fixed boxing match. The boxer is supposed to take a dive for a yakuza cartel but instead wins the fight in order to save face with Kaji and her hotties (two of the gang members are played by Bunjaku Han and charismatic pop star Akiko Wada, so we can understand the boxer’s change of heart). But unbeknownst to Kaji, it was her boyfriend who had convinced the yakuza the bout could be fixed in the first place, and now he’s in deep trouble. Wonderfully lensed like so many of these pinku movies, with the requisite grey Tokyo cityscapes, neon splashed nightclub locales, and shots featuring eight or ten characters meticulously packed into the same frame, Onna banchō nora-neko rokku is a nice all around effort. It premiered in Japan today in 1970.
, Onna banchō nora-neko rokku
, Alleycat Rock: Female Boss
, Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss
, Female Juvenile Delinquent Leader: Alleycat Rock
, Wildcat Rock
, Meiko Kaji
, Akiko Wada
, Bunjaku Han
, Ken Sanders
, pinky violence
, poster art
, movie review
The mystery happens on an island, alright. But the island is Manhattan.
We thought Bermuda Mystery would be an island adventure, a copycat To Have and Have Not, but not a single exterior scene takes place in Bermuda. The film is actually set in New York City. The mystery of the title refers to an offshore investment fund based in Bermuda and shared by six war vets. If any of the six die before the account comes to maturity the others split the extra, which in a modern storyteller's hands would be a recipe for a Tarantinoesque six-sided gun battle, but which in this film leads to the investors being bumped off one by one. Ann Rutherford plays the classic mid-century ditz role as the niece of the first victim who drags a private dick into the mystery to help her unmask the killer. Of course, romance eventually develops between ditz and dick, though he's engaged to another woman. “I told you I'd get him before this was over,” Rutherford says directly to the audience, winking. But it was obvious from the get-go. Marginally enjoyable if low budget. Bermuda Mystery premiered in the U.S. today in 1944.
Early television design rejected as a little too hypnotic.
We're doing a double on artist Mitchell Hooks with this cover for Gene Stackelberg's thriller Double Agent. Hooks was working this time for Popular Library, also in 1959 (we neglected to put the copyright in yesterday's post). CIA agent is accused of treason and can only clear his name with the help of the sister of a known informer. Gene Stackelberg was a pseudonym for Ouida Adams, a female writer who doubtless chose her pen name because it sounds so dry and serious, and likely because readers would be prejudiced against a female espionage author. As far as we can tell this was her only foray into fiction.
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.
This image made by Susumu Murakami comes from an issue of the magazine Heibon Punch and is a large foldout we scanned in three pieces and put together in Photoshop. You're welcome. It shows Japanese actress Ryôko Ema, who appeared in such pinku epics as Onsen suppon geisha, Sukeban gerira, and 1973's all-time classic Furyô anego den: Inoshika Ochô, aka Sex and Fury. We've discussed all those movies, but Ema was a supporting character, which is why we never mentioned her before. Omission remedied.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—The Hindenburg Explodes
In the U.S, at Lakehurst, New Jersey, the German zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg catches fire and is incinerated within a minute while attempting to dock in windy conditions after a trans-Atlantic crossing. The disaster, which kills thirty-six people, becomes the subject of spectacular newsreel coverage, photographs
, and most famously, Herbert Morrison's recorded radio eyewitness report from the landing field. But for all the witnesses and speculation, the actual cause of the fire remains unknown.
1921—Chanel No. 5 Debuts
Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel, the pioneering French fashion designer whose modernist philosophy, menswear-inspired styles, and pursuit of expensive simplicity made her an important figure in 20th-century fashion, introduces the perfume Chanel No. 5, which to this day remains one of the world's most legendary and best selling fragrances.
1961—First American Reaches Space
Three weeks after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly into space, U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard completes a sub-orbit of fifteen minutes, returns to Earth, and is rescued from his Mercury 3 capsule in the Atlantic Ocean. Shepard made several more trips into space, even commanding a mission at age 47, and was eventually awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
1953—Hemingway Wins Pulitzer
American author Ernest Hemingway, who had already written such literary classics as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls, is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novella The Old Man and the Sea, the story of an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.
1970—Mass Shooting at Kent State
In the U.S., Ohio National Guard troops, who had been sent to Kent State University after disturbances in the city of Kent the weekend before, open fire on a group of unarmed students, killing four and wounding nine. Some of the students had been protesting the United States' invasion of Cambodia, but others had been walking nearby or observing from a distance. The incident triggered a mass protest of four million college students nationwide, and eight of the guardsmen were indicted by a grand jury, but charges against all of them were eventually dismissed.
It's easy. We have an uploader that makes it a snap. Use it to submit your art, text, header, and subhead. Your post can be funny, serious, or anything in between, as long as it's vintage pulp. You'll get a byline and experience the fleeting pride of free authorship. We'll edit your post for typos, but the rest is up to you. Click here
to give us your best shot.