Hallucinatory southwestern noir takes readers to a land of saints and sinners.
It's said that a good book teaches you how to read it. The author instructs while building the story. Dorothy B. Hughes' 1946 crime novel Ride the Pink Horse, which was the source material for the 1947 film noir starring Robert Montgomery, falls into that category. In the story a man wanders around the southwestern U.S. town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, searching for someone he calls the Sen, which is short for the Senator. We suspect the shortening of his title is designed to make it a heterograph with “sin,” because this Illinois senator-turned-crime boss rather sinfully hired out the murder of his wife then shorted the murderer part of his fee. That's why the main character, named Sailor, is adrift in this town. He's followed the Sen there from Chicago to get his money. He plans to find him, confront him, collect payment, then scurry away to Mexico.
But this comes out in trickles. Initially Sailor merely criss-crosses the town, unable to find a hotel room because it's fiesta weekend, with crowds everywhere and processions filling the streets. He sleeps under the canopy of a merry-go-round which features a pink horse. As he keeps going in circles around town more characters emerge—the cop who's trying to solve murder of the senator's wife, the carousel owner who appeals to Sailor's sense of honor, the girl who recalls an innocence he can barely remember, and the beautiful Iris Towers, the focus of his wishes for a better life.
Hughes loves symbolic names: there's the Sen, as we already mentioned; there's Iris Towers, dressed in ivory colors and pale of skin; and there's the girl Pila, whose name is the Spanish word for a laundry trough, a place of cleansing. The book is composed of encounters rather than events, hallucinatory meanderings punctuated by tense verbal standoffs. Each tête-à-tête clarifies matters a bit more for the reader. Did Sailor really kill the Sen's wife? Did he ever intend to? Was she ever to be the actual target? Were others involved?
When Sailor goes from seeing the town's Mexican and Native American inhabitants as something other than sub-human, maybe, we think, he isn't irredeemable. But even if he grows in some ways his hatred continues to drive him. He thinks the Sen is vermin. He wonders how such an abomination can even walk upon the Earth. When he follows the Sen into the cathedral this thought passes through his mind: He didn’t know why the dim perfumed cathedral didn’t belch the Sen out of its holy portals.
Hughes is a good writer, a unique stylist, and she gives Ride the Pink Horse the disorienting feeling of taking place in purgatory. It's a fever dream, an acid trip across a constantly shifting landscape, literary rather than pulp in approach, as much Faulkner as it is Chandler, with nothing quite solid or real apart from Sailor's hatred, which is so intense it seems as if it will consume him and leave nothing behind but a cinder. Sailor's racism is appalling, but he's not supposed to be a good man. This town filled with people that frighten and confuse him could be his salvation or his doom. He's the one who has to decide whether to step back from the precipice. Every wise character sees that he's headed for destruction. But the future isn't set. He has a chance for redemption—small, but real. Top marks for this one.
________ murdered me, that shithead. Apprehend and imprison. Hopefully for life. And I prefer cremation over burial.
Above is a blood splattered poster for Dario Argento's giallo thriller Profondo rosso, aka Deep Red, which is the story of a British musician in Italy who sees the murder of his neighbor, thus catching a glimpse of the killer. David Hemmings of Blow Up fame stars, and the maniac comes for him next when police for some reason announce to the world that they have a witness. In order to avoid becoming a crime statistic Hemmings needs to unmask the killer. Daria Nicolodi plays the cute-but-not-hot Girl Friday reporter who helps out between trying to get the disinterested Hemmings in bed.
Argento directs Profondo rosso with great style and deliberation, drawing viewers into various set-ups with a roving, nervous camera. This came two years before his tour de force Suspiria, but he's already in full mastery of the extensive giallo toolbox. As usual in the genre, realism is of minor importance, such as when a dying woman wants to write her killer's identity using her finger on bathroom tile and starts with the words, “It was...” Here's a lifehack for you. When mortally wounded write the crucial info like Yoda would: “________, it was.” Afterward, if you have time, you can add any other material you consider important.
Despite the movie's quirks Argento manages to make a winner, at one point even recreating Edward Hopper's famous Nighthawks painting just for the sheer visual fun of it. Hemmings is a big plus too, sleuthing and channeling his inner jazz hepcat. Often in giallo overly convoluted clues make the identity of the killer impossible to guess. In this case the villain is revealed almost immediately—but only for those with sharp eyes. Others will have to wait for the usual climactic unveiling. Then rewind and watch the first murder again. Argento is a sneaky devil. Profondo rosso premiered in Italy today in 1975. See a truly brilliant poster for the film here.
Bathing suit? Check. Sun tan oil? Check. Now all I need is a map to the beach.
Back in November we shared a photo of Italian star Elsa Martinelli on a Brazilian beach. Above you see her wearing the same swimsuit in a studio shot that was used on the cover of Parade magazine around 1970. Since she's wearing the same suit we know she made it to the beach eventually. Hopefully she conserved valuable oil by heading straight there after the final frame of this session.
When you gamble with her you're gambling with your life.
Hibotan bakuto: oryû sanjô, which in English was called Red Peony Gambler: Oryu's Return, is the sixth of eight films in the Red Peony Gambler series. Uploading its special round promo poster in one piece makes it kind of small, so we've also broken it into two pieces so you can pull them off the page and paste them together if you're inclined. It's an incredibly rare piece, so credit would be appreciated. The movie premiered today in 1970, and stars Junko Fuji, a prolific actress who made more than ninety films during a busy run between 1963 and 1972, and another dozen or so after that.
The plot here involves a greedy yakuza cartel and the downtrodden farmers who oppose the imposition of a new tax. The farmers are basically planning to strike in protest, which angers the yakuza because they stand to loose profits with the yearly village festival approaching. Drastic measures seem to be the only solution, but Junko stands in the way with guile, guts, gambling skill, and gunplay. And as a fallback position she's good with fists and sword. Hibotan bakuto: oryû sanjô isn't quite top tier pinky violence, but it's beautifully shot, the blood flies high and far, and ultimately the film is a winner.
The list is long, cowboy, and you're nowhere on it.
There aren't quite enough dude ranch sleaze novels to consider them a distinct subset of mid-century fiction, but we've noticed a few books similar to Lee Thomas's 1963 effort A Woman's Desire. Like E.L Scobie's Man Handled, for example, which we talked about a while ago. A Woman's Desire deals with a group of guests at the Slashed Lightning Ranch, and the revolving affections of Lauri (nice girl), April (man eater), Bob (real cowpoke), and Craig (city slicker). Round and round it goes, and just like in rodeo whoever stays mounted the longest wins. Style points for getting out of the saddle without landing on your face. Charles Copeland cover art.
Rosanna Schiaffino gets a kick out of Venice.
According to Italian actress Rosanna Schiaffino it's easy to tame a wolf. And it probably is—for her—because she looks part wolf herself, based on the expression she's wearing on the cover of this National Enquirer published today in 1962. The photo, which we'd say doesn't capture her true appearance, was made in Venice in 1960, right when her career got very busy. Venice was the site of her cinematic breakthrough in 1958 when La Sfida won two prizes at that year's Venice Film Festival and was nominated for The Golden Lion. During the next two years Schiaffino would make ten films. She continued to be busy until 1977, when she left show business to focus on marriage and children. We have another shot from the Venice session below, and a trio of nice images of her we uploaded of her from Triunfo magazine several years ago here.
First the airline loses her luggage. And now this.
Above you see an incredibly rare alternate poster for Poruno no joô: Nippon sex ryokô, aka The Pornstar Travels Around Japan, aka The Kyoto Connection. Notice how it promises SEX in big letters. That English word appeared on many Japanese promos of the era, as we've documented before. Basically, the movie is about a Swedish woman who visits Japan and is abducted by a wacko taxi driver. See the original poster and read what we wrote about the flick at this link.
Where have you been? I've waiting all day to crush what little spirit you have left.
The Brat is solid work from Gil Brewer. The novel has been extensively reviewed online, but we'll give you the set-up: a woman from the sticks marries the first man who can rescue her from nowheresville, but her desire for a better life soon reveals itself to be a mad lust for riches. She conceives a robbery that has no hope of success and tries to drag her husband into it against his will. The result is murder and a lot of evidence pointing his way, though he had nothing to do with it. The only way to keep his neck out of the noose is to find his missing wife, the missing money, and learn whether the robbery was all a fatal error or a set-up from the beginning. Excellent stuff from Brewer, with an awesome air boat chase in the Everglades as its pivotal action piece. The cover art on this 1958 edition is by the stalwart Barye Phillips, and we think it's one of his best.
Hello—I'll be your fashionably dressed assailant today.
U.S. actress Julie Haydon, née Donatella Donaldson, gives the camera a steely-eyed look in this promo for her film Come On, Danger, in which she played a suspected murderess. Her film credits are extensive, with most of them accrued during the 1930s, and she also starred in quite a few Broadway productions, with most of those coming during the ’40s. This stylish photo of her dates from 1932.
If it was easy to steal anyone could do it.
We have some nice pinku posters lined up for this month, and above you see the first of those—the tateken and standard promos for Suke Yakuza, aka Female Yakuza Convict, aka Female Prisoner Yakuza, which premiered in Japan today in 1974 starring Yoko Horikoshi and Reiko Ike. Though we can't be sure, we don't think this movie has been released on DVD, because we couldn't find it—the first time that's happened with one of Ike's films. No copy means no firsthand rundown, but we can tell you what the Japanese websites say. It's about bank robbers who steal 30 million yen and try to elude the cops and escape with the cash. Of the three, only one manages to avoid capture. Horikoshi, a female accomplice, is tossed in a women's prison where she meets Reiko, and the two of them manage to escape. Their plan is meet up with the robber who avoided capture, get ahold of the cash, and get for away from the big city, but mishaps and twists follow. Basically, it's sounds like classic Toei pinky violence, but sadly we may not get to see this one unless we go to Japan. But the posters sure are pretty. We have bonus material below—production photos, a Horikoshi promo poster, and a Reiko promo shot from wherever.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
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.
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