We're both starving, and frankly, the way he's behaved he's given us absolutely no reason not to eat him.
During the mid-century period, high quality cover art was seen as the key to paperback sales, thus many types of books received makeovers. Aussie novelist Ronald McKie's The Survivors is an example. You'd assume it was fiction but it's actually the true story of the Battle of Sunda Strait, which occurred in Indonesia between the islands of Java and Sumatra during World War II and pitted two Aussie cruisers against a major Japanese naval force. During a battle in which the outgunned Aussie ships fared better than could have been reasonably expected, both were sunk. In the aftermath a group of stranded men battled innumerable hazards in an attempt to survive. The book sprang from the handwritten account of an Aussie sailor who spent four years in a Japanese POW camp. He was a friend of McKie's, and when the author read the dairy pages he immediately decided to write a full accounting of the battle. As far as we know nobody ate anyone, but raft rides get pretty rough. The Survivors came out in hardback in 1953, with this Popular Library paperback appearing in 1954.
Grier looks great fronting b-movie soundtrack.
Above, the front and rear sleeves for the original soundtrack to Sheba, Baby, with music by Monk Higgins, Alan Brown, and Barbara Mason. The tunes are nice, but we'll admit we're just posting this to be completist about Grier. We already shared the photo used for this cover but we wanted to include the nice shot on the back. Okay, all done. We'll take a Grier break for a bit.
Truth, justice, and the Nikkatsu way.
This is a pretty cheerful poster, isn't it? But it belies the true nature of Sûpâ gun redei Wani Bunsho, aka Super Gun Lady: Police Branch 82. Emi Yokoyama plays Mika, an unconventional cop who can't play by the rules and is always in trouble with her boss. After her latest screw-up she's assigned a partner in the person of Kaoru Janbo, and the two are soon up to their necks in an interconnected series of problems involving blackmail, heroin, and a degenerate band of bank robbers. As in many buddy movies, the partners dislike each other at first, but as women on the police force they soon find common ground. Which is good because when Mika is kidnapped only her partner can possibly save her.
So about that kidnapping. Up to that point Sûpâ gun plays like a standard cop drama, but this is a Nikkatsu Studios production, and as we've discussed before the company's plotlines were, during this time at least, mere wrappers for bondage and sadism. Thus the kidnapping doesn't go so well for Mika. Not that any kidnapping goes well for its victims, but this one goes worse. Nikkatsu actually had a pretty good police thriller on its hands here but we guess you can't expect the company to deny its own nature, nor the expectations of its audience. You've been duly warned. Sûpâ gun redei Wani Bunsho premiered in Japan today in 1979
To reach your full potential in life you need to stretch yourself.
Maria Grazia Buccella is a former glamour model, a Miss Italy contestant, and a screen actress with numerous movies to her credit. Some of her appearances include in Le gentleman de Cocody, aka Ivory Coast Adventure, and Vittorio De Sica's Il Boom. The photo above appeared in the Japanese magazine Road Show around 1968.
If anyone can get these people whipped into shape it's her.
Above is a cool cover for Jak Delay's 1953 thriller Mission “microbienne”, a title that would translate as “microbial mission.” He wrote it for Éditions Le Trotteur and the art is by Mik, aka Jacques Thibésart, someone we've talked about extensively. We particularly like his femme fatale here. She's carrying a whip, the indispensable accessory for any modern woman, perfect for keeping male subordinates in line, and good for getting the attention of bartenders and waiters. The microbienne aspect of the story has to do with chemical warfare. The heroine Isabel Didier is tasked with retrieving French bacteriological weapons stolen by East German spies. As usual in these types of tales, Isabel is a real hotty and that's basically her main advantage dealing with various hapless commies. Or put another way, the Cold War warms up quickly thanks to Isabel. Mission “microbienne” could be the first in a series. We aren't sure. But maybe we'll check into that and report back. In the meantime, more Mik covers here and here.
Altman and company get gangsta in the heartland.
Auteur and maverick Robert Altman directed several films centered around crime, but perhaps only his 1930s gangster flick Kansas City truly fits the bill as a pulp style effort. The plot tells the tale of Blondie O'Hara, whose petty crook husband Johnny is captured by gangster Seldom Seen and held at a nightclub, prompting Blondie to kidnap the wife of a local politician in an attempt to blackmail him into using his connections to free Johnny. Sounds straightforward, but Altman's approach to this is leisurely and episodic.
Kansas City is generally considered to be a lesser effort from the legendary director, but even if it's not in the class of Short Cuts or M*A*S*H*, it has some points of interest—a slithery jazz score, lots of smoky nightclub scenery, Steve Buscemi warming up for another gangster role in the brilliant Miller's Crossing, Harry Belafonte playing it cool, and Jennifer Jason Leigh giving her actorly all as the drawling, flapperesque Blondie.
Another plus is this killer promo poster. When we saw it we had to watch the movie. But what's the most important reason to watch it? Altman, of course. It's always fun to see what a director does with the 1930s. What's the main drawback? Aside from its narrative quirkiness, we suspect its racial content may be a bit much for those with millennial sensibilities. But don't fault art for holding a mirror to history. When we can't reflect the past in cinema we'll have fallen pretty far. Kansas City premiered in the U.S. today in 1996.
There's only one sure way to get rid of a headache. Murder him.
Hangover House was originally conceived as a stage play and was written by Sax Rohmer, aka Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, and his wife, Elizabeth Sax Rohmer, who obviously borrowed his pseudonym. We haven't read the play, but the novel is one of those fun British murder mysteries where everyone is stuck in a mansion as cops try to solve the crime. But the police are secondary. The main guy here is private investigator Storm Kennedy, also stranded in Hangover House after being hired to keep an eye on one of the guests, the young and beautiful Lady Hilary Bruton. In his efforts to protect Lady Hilary, Kennedy becomes the prime murder suspect. By 1949, when this was originally written, guys like Cain and Hammett had taken crime fiction to violent, depraved places, so Hangover House may seem to some readers both overly genteel and too romantic—“Oh, Storm, will you save me from myself!”—but we liked it anyway. The surprise ending actually did surprise us. This Graphic Books paperback appeared in 1954, and the cover artist is uncredited.
Ahoy there, miss! Do you mind if we pull abreast?
Above, a poster for the Hitomi Kozue roman porno flick Nikutai hanzai kaigan: Piranha no mure, aka Sex-Crime Coast: School of Piranha. In this one Kozue rises out of the sea like Aphrodite, which is how we always suspected she came to be. Well, okay, she isn't actually a deity. Instead she plays an all-too-mortal gangster girl who falls for a gangster boy in the seaside region of Shōnan, along Sagami Bay. But romance is never easy in these films, and a love triangle soon brings jealousy and violence to the idyllic sands of central Japan. It's Nikkatsu Studios, and it's roman porno, so you know exactly what you'll get here. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
My hands are registered as lethal weapons. Just imagine what the rest of me can do.
Burlesque queen Lili St. Cyr, looking lovely and shiny in this rare promo photo, practices an unusual brand of martial arts. Basically the way it works is she strips and everyone nearby falls stunned to the floor. It's a lot harder to master than it sounds. Mid-1950s on this image.
Shoot first, pray later.
You know how you read a book or watch a movie and the lead character has a total failure of imagination? He kills a guy then goes home to pack rather than just hopping the next freight westward. Or he steals a million dollars and hangs around spending big in New York City rather than beating it for Santorini. A crucial section of Elliot Chaze's 1953 thriller Black Wings Has My Angel hinges on just that sort of boneheadedness, but it in no way ruins the book because it's simply too well constructed and written to be ruined by anything. Here's a passage we liked:
“Pretty soon a matronly brunette in a brocaded man's dressing gown came skating out of a door and she and Virginia were hugging and kissing. It was good old Mamie. And Virginia I'll be damned. And isn't this a hell of a note. And Lord how I've wanted to see you. And when they were finished with the italics Mamie was shaking hands with me and shaking up some drinks we didn't need.”
That's a bit beat, isn't it? A bit Kerouac? Which is not to say Chaze is a literary giant in pulp clothing, but it's still a cool little passage, and we'd say he possesses better technical chops than most of his peers. The only thing that mars the book—besides what we mentioned at top—is an ending that, in the interests of irony and symbolism, pushes the bounds of likelihood. But still, this was an excellent tale well told about a man who meets a dark and dangerous woman who becomes central to his plans to execute a spectacular robbery, then becomes central to his heart.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
1940—Trotsky Iced in Mexico
In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe
(not an ice pick) by Soviet agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky dies the next day.
1968—Prague Spring Ends
200,000 Warsaw Pact troops backed by 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring political liberalization movement.
1986—Sherrill Goes Postal
In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States postal employee Patrick Sherrill shoots and kills fourteen of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
1953—Mohammed Mossadegh Overthrown in Iran
At the instigation of the CIA, Prime Minster of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh is overthrown and the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is installed as leader of the country.
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