A stranger in strange lands comes to know pure evil.
Because Eric Ambler's 1939 thriller The Mask of Dimitrios is the source of the classic 1944 film noir of the same name starring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, we should have read it long ago, but better late than never. The book tells the story of a writer in Istanbul who becomes interested in a killer, smuggler, slaver, and political agitator known as Dimitrios Makropoulos. In hopes of finding inspiration the writer begins to piece together the life of this mystery man.
The investigation carries him from Istanbul to Sofia to Geneva and beyond. That sounds exotic, but the story is almost entirely driven by external and internal dialogues, with little effort spent bringing alive its far flung locales. While we see that as a missed opportunity, and the book could be shorter considering so much of the aforementioned dialogue fails to further illuminate matters, it's fascinating how Dimitrios is slowly pieced together. Here's a line to remember, as the main character Latimer reflects upon the modern age and what the world is becoming:
“The logic of Michelangelo's David and Beethoven's quartets and Einstein's physics had been replaced by that of The Stock Exchange Yearbook and Hitler's Mein Kampf.”
That isn't one you'd soon forget. Ambler sees casino capitalism and Nazism as twin signposts on a road to perdition built by people like Dimitrios. We can't even imagine that being written by a popular author today without controversy, but Ambler, writing in England during the late 1930s, had zero trouble identifying exactly what he was looking at. This Great Pan edition of The Mask of Dimitrios appeared many years later in 1961, and it has unusual but effective cover art from S. R. Boldero.
This is your screenwriter's brain on drugs.
The poster you see above is the U.S. promo for the b-flick Free Grass, aka Scream Free!, aka Street Drugs, which starred Richard Beymer and Lana Wood in a drug drenched counterculture road adventure. We won't mince words—this movie is godawful. It's painful to admit, since we're pro-counterculture guys here at Pulp Intl., but in terms of writing, editing, directing, scoring, and especially acting, this movie is off-the-charts terrible. Basically a hippie runs afoul of the law when a cop is killed during a Mexican drug deal, and has to evade narcotics agents while trying to keep his flower child girlfriend safe. Besides Beymer and Wood there are other semi-famous performers here, such as Casey Kasem and Russ Tamblyn, and it's amazing any of them ever showed their faces in public again after this turkey hit cinemas.
Like most drug movies, Free Grass borrows Jefferson Airplane's concert lighting for drug trips and club sequences, but just when the hypnovisuals start to dazzle your brain terrible dialogue rudely ejects you back into reality. And to think, four guys were needed to write the movie. We can only assume they took the title literally and wrote the entire script while ripping bong hits of Mexican weed. There's one draw here—the uniquely beautiful Wood, who would reach her high water mark, cinematically speaking, as Plenty O'Toole in the 1971 James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever. Here, unfortunately, she reaches her low water mark wearing a cheap ash blonde wig and spending the last few reels of screen time tied to a bed.
At one point Beymer, besieged by psychedelic lights and seriously bummer vibes, puts his fists to his temples and reels as if his head might explode. That's how we felt: “Why? Why? Why is this happening to us?” We count ourselves lucky not to have flung ourselves off our balcony before the credits rolled. But like all bad trips this one finally ended, and we hope to make it through our remaining years without flashbacks. Free Grass premiered in the U.S. in Detroit, Michigan today in 1969—and the city still hasn't recovered. But at least Lana is here to remind us there's goodness and beauty in the world. Choose life.
Stop calling me that. It's Stan. My name is Stan.
Satan in Malibu came from Vega Books via the brain and typewriter of Frank Cannon, and it deals with a man who tries to solve his brother's murder. He learns of the death when a telegram arrives, but is the woman who sent it to him really trying to help, or is there more to her story? The hero's investigation takes him to Santa Cruz Island off the coast of Southern California, and when he gets there he runs across a band of satanists who may have done the killing.
We last ran across Frank Cannon when we shared a cover for his 1964 effort Hide in Hell. The hell in that book was figurative. The hell in Satan in Malibu is a slightly less so, since the villains actually believe in it, but the reason for the murder is rooted firmly in the mundane world. We don't know who painted the cover art, but for Vega Books it's not bad. The copyright on this is 1961.
See the blood? I just killed Raquel Welch.
Which is the best prehistoric lost world adventure ever filmed? Is it One Million Years B.C. with Raquel Welch or When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth with Victoria Vetri? Don't get us wrong. Both are complete bullshit. Both show humans and dinosaurs living together, which never happened unless you're a fundamentalist who believes what you see in biblical museums. But apart from the scientific silliness of both movies, which is best? It's a question like Beatles versus Stones, California white versus Spanish red, or Kanye West versus Anderson Paak. It shows who you are. What you're made of. We're going with Vetri and Ruled the Earth, because the filming of Dinosaurs was basically a longform orgy and Vetri admits it. Also she shot her terrible husband in the chest, and we guess the only reason she used a gun was because her spear was in the other room. Total badass. This photo is from 1970.
In the naked city there are a million reasons to kill and die.
In Dead End two crooked cops end up with a million dollars in dirty money and decide to ditch their jobs and flee the country. But their law enforcement colleagues are after them, so first they hole up in an old Prohibition hideout to let the heat dissipate. How long will they stay in this little room? As long as it takes. The older cop Doc suggests months. The younger cop Bucky is going crazy in days. You know for a certaintly that this partnership isn't going to end well. Lacy is up and down as a writer but this is him on the upswing. Originally published as Be Careful How You Live in 1959, this Pyramid paperback appeared in 1960 with cover art by Ernest Chiriaka.
Rene Bond and friends make a Blanket statement about Southern California beach life.
It still sort of amazes us how many American porn movies made it all the way to Japan. Since pubic hair was illegal to show there back then, as was, needless to say, penetrative sex, the films would have been censored to local standards, making them a bit like cable softcore, but highly disjointed and very short. Yet the public must have craved these hacked up movies anyway because we have scores of Japanese posters for them. We hope to get around to sharing the entire group one day, but today we're focused on just this one—a promo for 1975's Beach Blanket Bango. While the title borrows from the classic teenybopper flick Beach Blanket Bingo, the movie is actually a sequel of sorts to a 1974 smut film called High School Fantasies, with most of the same cast members, though in different roles.
Rene Bond is the star attraction in this Southern California 1960s style sex romp but she doesn't star on the poster. She's there, though. That's her in the right background in an Annette Funicello style wig. For some reason the position of honor on the poster is given to Cindy Taylor, who plays a bit role. But the poster is attractive anyway. It's yet another example of how seriously Japanese film distributors took their erotica. Posters for porn were fully as interesting and well designed as those for mainstream movies. But nice as it is, since Bond doesn't get a proper showing, we've given her one below. Beach Blanket Bango opened in Japan today in 1975.
I love fire escapes. I don't know if they've saved many lives, but they've helped me ruin quite a few.
Above is another cover for Ed Lacy's breakthrough detective thriller Room To Swing, with the hero lurking on a fire escape. They should change the names of those things, considering how often they're used for things other than escaping fires. The art here is by an unknown, and like the previous cover (though we didn't point it out at the time) shows a white detective. Or one that can be taken for white. But the main character Toussaint Marcus Moore is black. In fact he's so dark even his girlfriend gives him a hard time about it. Clearly both publishing companies knew the book would sell fewer copies with an identifiably black cover star. The whitewash is an ironic side note to a book that directly discusses racism, but mid-century book covers, even those having nothing to do with race, often deceived consumers, so this is not an anomaly. Both covers are high quality art pieces. See the other one here.
She's light years ahead of her time.
Pretty much every promo poster for Barbarella has been uploaded to the internet at this point, but this one is at least a bit rare. We aren't saying you haven't seen this shot of Jane Fonda in a fur coat before, but we sure hadn't. No need to write more about a movie that has been thoroughly covered by everyone and their nephew, so we'll just let the image speak for itself. And what the hell—we'll even add a few more below for good measure, with Fonda trying out a different ray gun in each. Barbarella, the best sex adventure ever set in the 41st century, opened in the U.S. today in 1968.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying
. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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