Yes, we'd like two medium pepperoni pizzas, please. And the delivery boy will need scuba gear.
What's the collective noun for a group of mermaids? A school? A shoal? A bevy? No idea. But above and below we have some beautiful Technicolor postcards featuring a— Well, since they seem to be having so much fun let's call them a party of mermaids, who were participants in a popular aquatic show in Weeki Wachee Springs, Florida. A 430 acre water park was built there in 1947 with numerous areas, and the mermaid show made its home in a large pool dubbed the Underwater Grand Canyon. By the 1950s Weeki Wachee Springs was one of the nation's most popular tourist stops.
The spot reached its zenith during the 1960s, when the swimmers staged ten performances a day, but its popularity waned from that point. Usually these stories of protracted decline end with something wonderful and weird disappearing forever, but just when it looked like the mermaids might go extinct, the Florida government stepped in and converted Weeki Wachee Springs into a state park. Thanks to that bit of legislative goodness the party of mermaids exists to this day, spreading fun and making memories. These cards are all from the 1950s and 1960s. Want to see more underwater beauty? Check out the Los Angeles Aqua Maidens here, and the famous Belita underwater here.
It's Ho Chi Minh City (not Saigon). Why they changed it we can't say. People just liked it better that way.
This is a beautiful Spanish poster for the 1947 adventure Saigon, which opened in Madrid today in 1948. The film is one of innumerable mid-century thrillers set in foreign cities. At a time when the rest of the world was so distant and hard to reach, Hollywood fetishized it, romanticized it, and set stories wholly or partly in Mexico, Argentina, Morocco, China, Hong Kong, Martinique, and an entire atlas of other places. But today, with the rest of the world so easy to reach, Hollywood mostly tells audiences they'll be kidnapped or dismembered if they leave home. Saigon is old school. It makes viewers wish they could fly to mystical East Asia. Of course, the film's Saigon doesn't exist anymore, but the fact that Hollywood set a movie there tells you it must have been quite a place. But they say that about all the former colonial cities, don't they? Rangoon, Bombay, and Constantinople, as brilliantly eulogized in the satirical song by The Four Lads, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).”
Saigon deals with two recently discharged military buddies played by Alan Ladd and Wally Cassell who decide to stay in Asia to show their terminally ill third pal a good time before he dies in a few months. The third man doesn't know he's ticketed for oblivion, which leads to problems when Veronica Lake takes a liking to him. No mater how romantic old Saigon was, only so many tropical nights and platters of French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine can distract you from the fact that the love-hate relationship between Ladd and Lake is unpalatable. To us, slapping, insults, and over-the-top meanness feels like hate-hate. But put on your retro filter and you'll find a lot of comedy in this film, thanks to motormouth quipster Cassell. Some of his lines are truly clever. It wouldn't be exaggerating to say he makes the first sixty minutes of running time watchable.
When Lake inevitably falls for Ladd even though he's been treating her like a disease for hundreds of nautical miles, you'll accept it because it's a motif in old movies—though usually managed with a lot more charm and finesse. Overall we consider Saigon recommendable, but just barely. You know what we really took away from this movie, though? What you needed to do back then was open a shop and sell white suits. You'd have made a fortune. There are more white suits here than you can count. Far more than in Casablanca or Our Man in Havana. This film will make you wonder whether you can pull off the white suit. But even if you looked okay in it where would you wear it these days? Like old Saigon, that city is gone.
The ratings on this one were sky high.
Above is a photo of the U.S. nuclear test Upshot–Knothole Annie, which was conducted as part of a series of explosions known as Operation Upshot–Knothole. Scientists studied the effect of a nuclear blast on wooden houses (wiping out any possible equity), a bunch of automobiles (totally ruining their resale value), and eight bomb shelters (which actually functioned properly, but with a blasted radioactive landscape crawling with ravenous zombies, what would be the point of surviving?). Interestingly, the test was broadcast on national television, which goes to show you can convince to people to watch anything, even a vision of their own future destruction. The broadcast was also recorded on a kinescope, which makes it a rare recording of the actual sound of an atomic blast—the last sound you hear. That was today in 1953.
She was so good Horwitz had a second helping.
Senta Berger makes a second appearance on a Horwitz Publications paperback cover, this time for Carter Brown's Murder Is My Mistress. We showed you the Horwitz cover for Brown's Swan Song for a Siren a while back. That actually came second of the pair and was numbered 34 in the company's Reprint by Demand series. The above is number 19 and was published in 1960. We found it on the Nick Carter & Carter Brown blog, which is a stop you should make if you want to know everything about Brown. Anyway, we've been discussing these Horwitz paperbacks for a while because of their celebrity covers. In using Berger twice the publisher chose well.
She'll have you eating out of them in no time.
1960s nude photography in countries like England and the U.S. usually involved coming up with ways to hide pubic hair, which, if it appeared, merited a one-way ticket to jail for obscenity. Often the offending region was simply airbrushed away, making women resemble sexless aliens, but here British model and actress June Palmer keeps it simple—fingers steepled, hands placed just so, and only her palms know how thick the carpet is. This is a clever pose. Her hands make a triangle, and leave a triangle shaped space. Palmer, along with Pamela Green, was the most famous of the Harrison Marks models of the 1960s, and appeared often in his nudie magazines Kamera and Solo, as well as in nudie film loops. This great shot is from a Modern Man special edition called Modern Man Deluxe Quarterly, and was the centerfold shot for winter 1969.
Pink and yellow are normally so cheery.
Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi, for which you see a poster above, is another Nikkatsu roman porno movie, with a serial killer/rapist on the loose dispatching women in baroque and horrible ways. The star of the movie, Erina Miyai, falls victim to a rapist early on but is not killed. When the murders start she wonders if it's the same man. That question is answered quickly, but mystery is not really the point here. The goal seems to be making a mash-up of Japanese pinku (pink film) and Italian giallo (yellow film).
For example, during one of the killings a woman is pursued past an apartment block, but in filmmaking terms she's running in place, which lends the scene the nightmarish quality characteristic of giallo. All the windows beyond her are illuminated, but as she screams for help the lights go out one by one. As far as mixing filmmaking palettes goes, it's nice work. As far as the message, was director Naosuke Kurosawa also trying to tell viewers Japan was becoming inured to violent crime? Perhaps.
Based on the existence of roman porno Japan was for sure becoming inured to violent movies. Zûmu in: Bôkô danchi is more violent than most, but with its deliberate attempt to transcend—however slightly—the requisites of roman porno, it's also better than most. Does that mean it's actually good? Not as such, but for serious film buffs it's worth a glance and a discussion. It premiered today in 1980.
If you get too close you'll definitely lose a body part.
This is fresh territory for us. No, not cheap b-movies. We talk about those all the time. What's new is featuring a film that's known mainly as a video release. But since we talked about the original 'Gator Bait and its star Claudia Jennings, pivoting to the sequel seems like a natural move. 'Gator Bait came out in 1974. Claudia Jennings' early death, plus the advent of VHS, made that film a home viewing classic and laid the groundwork for a follow-up. Writer-director-producers Beverly and Ferd Sebastian—yes, Ferd—entered the scene fifteen years after the first installment, which was also their work, and Gator Bait II: Cajun Justice was born.
Gator Bait II veers deeper into the swamp than 'Gator Bait, as well as deeper into pure sexploitation. Jan MacKenzie plays red-headed Angelique, who marries her bearish Cajun love only to watch in horror as other Cajuns that covet her freckled body try to permanently sink him in the swamp. These degenerates all pollute poor Angelique's wetlands, and from there it's the standard sexploitation progression from escape to bloody revenge. This movie sinks pretty low, but its makers weren't dumb. In casting its star they found a fully competent actress who, as a bonus, was also a rare combination of doe-eyed innocence and pure hotness.
We wonder whether that hotness was actually part of the family. MacKenzie's real name is Jan Sebastian, same as Beverly and ole Ferd—again, yes, it's Ferd. We can't confirm the connection, but having your daughter/niece/what-have-you headline your cheapie sexploitation sequel is pretty slick, because if she was related to them we seriously doubt she made industry scale for her efforts. Even so she's the only reason to watch the film. She has that in common with Claudia Jennings, who's the only reason to watch the original 'Gator Bait. Does that mean we're recommending Gator Bait II? Hell no.
There's an actual iron maiden down here. Looking at it, I admit it's an unduly harsh thing to call you when I'm angry.
As you know by now, we're often drawn to books by the covers, and John Dickson Carr's Hag's Nook attracted us because of the instantly recognizable art by Robert Stanley. Well, you can't win them all. This is a gothic mystery featuring Dr. Gideon Fell, who would appear in more than twenty other novels. Fell is unique in crime lit. He's obese and gets around on two canes—which is actually a pretty good description of the book's plot. Carr would go on to become a legendary writer of golden age mysteries, so we don't doubt for a moment that he penned numerous excellent tales, but this early effort—1933 originally, with this Dell edition appearing in 1951—didn't get it done for us. What did get it done for us, though, is the dungeon feel of Stanley's cover art. He's one of the good ones. We remember the blog Pop Sensation once described his work as "rich and creamy," which was descriptively on the nose, we think. Check for yourself here and here.
That moment when you realize your neighbors have known all along you've been watching them.
Above, a poster for Danchizuma: Kanki no yoru, aka Apartment Wife: Night of Pleasure, starring Junko Miyashita, Tatsuya Hamaguchi, and Masumi Jun. This is of course another Nikkatsu roman porno romp, with all that the label suggests. This entry was seventh in a franchise that eventually totaled twenty-one films. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
Gemser flick needs to be put someplace the sun doesn't shine.
Laura Gemser made many films, in which she mainly lost her clothes in exotic locales, and in 1980's Sexy Moon the Gemser world tour hits the island of Cyprus. First things first—the alternate titles. They include, but are not limited to, I mavri Emmanouella, which was the original Greek title, Secrets érotiques d'Emmanuelle, Emanuelle: Queen Bitch, Emanuelle: Queen of Sados, and Emanuelle's Daughter. Those last three were the titles for various English speaking countries, while Sexy Moon, interestingly, was what the film played as in Italy, where it opened today in 1980. So you're actually looking at the film's Italian poster above, and a nice one it is, painted by Enzo Sciotti, the brush behind more than 3,000 movie promos.
This was Gemser' s eleventh Emanuelle outing, depending on how you number them—she starred in two movies that had “Emanuelle” in the titles but no character in the films with that name. So some might say this was her ninth Emanuelle film. Whatever. The important aspect here is that the writers were running out of interesting things for her to do. By the time Sexy Moon came along Gemser couldn't merely be ravished by hairy Eurostuds, so after besting cannibals, becoming a nun, and smashing a prostitution ring, her handlers decided to have her play an unhappy wife who has her terrible husband murdered. At that point she becomes guardian to the departed's now rich daughter, who's played by Livia Russo.
Russo could, in some slow developing genetic universe, be eighteen, but she's more likely fifteen, which means we were ambushed by her nudity, which is both sexual and, later, violent in nature. We suspect the only reason this film isn't illegal everywhere is because nobody has a firm record of Russo's age—least of all her, since she dropped off the face of the planet right after Sexy Moon wrapped. It was a more daring time artistically. We mention that often. And it's just acting. We get that. But having a possible mid-teen even act a rape scene is sadistic. We recommend skipping this one. Sexy Moon, which turned out not to be sexy at all, premiered in Italy today in 1980.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1906—First Airplane Flight in Europe
Romanian designer Traian Vuia flies twelve meters outside Paris in a self-propelled airplane, taking off without the aid of tractors or cables, and thus becomes the first person to fly a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Because his craft was not a glider, and did not need to be pulled, catapulted or otherwise assisted, it is considered by some historians to be the first true airplane.
1965—Leonov Walks in Space
Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov leaves his spacecraft the Voskhod 2 for twelve minutes. At the end of that time Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter Voskhod's airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off, was barely able to get back inside the capsule, and in so doing became the first person to complete a spacewalk.
1966—Missing Nuke Found
Off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean, the deep submergence vehicle Alvin locates a missing American hydrogen bomb. The 1.45-megaton nuke had been lost by the U.S. Air Force during a midair accident over Palomares, Spain. It was found resting in nearly three-thousand feet of water and was raised intact on 7 April.
1968—My Lai Massacre Occurs
In Vietnam, American troops kill between 350 and 500 unarmed citizens, all of whom are civilians and a majority of whom are women, children, babies and elderly people. Many victims are sexually abused, beaten, tortured, and some of the bodies are mutilated. The incident doesn't become public knowledge until 1969, but when it does, the American war effort is dealt one of its worst blows.
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