Vintage Pulp Oct 31 2014
Amid medieval Japan’s manners and restraint, how can a person tell the difference between love, honor, and duty?

Above is a poster for Teinosuke Kinugasa’s masterwork samurai drama Jigokumon, which was known in English as Gate of Hell. It was the first Japanese film shot in color, via the process Eastmancolor, which was a leap beyond three-strip Technicolor, and one that makes Jigokumon blaze like a supernova. The story, from a play by Kan Kikuchi, concerns a Heian-era samurai named Moritoh whose bravery during a battle is rewarded by his lord granting him anything he desires. What he desires is the Lady Kesa. Problem is she’s married to another samurai. The lord mistakenly grants Moritoh’s wish, which is soon revealed to be impossible, but Moritoh resolves to have Kesa anyway, by any means necessary—trickery, bribery, even all-out murder. What develops is not just a thriller about entitlement and lust, but a meditation on honor, love and, especially, social strictures.

Jigokumon was a sensation. A hit in Japan, it was a revelation to foreign audiences. It took home the Palme d’Or from the 1954 Cannes Film Festival, a 1955 special Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, an Oscar for Best Costume Design in a color film, and more prestigious nods. Along with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Kimisaburo Yoshimura’s Genji Monogatari, Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari, and other films from the early 1950s, it marked the emergence of Japanese cinema onto the international scene. We’ve posted a large group of screen grabs below—perhaps overkill, considering how many—but the film just looks so damn good and the shots are so spectacular that we couldn’t help ourselves. Jigokumon premiered in Japan today in 1953.


Vintage Pulp Apr 3 2014
Japanese cinema invades Eastern Europe.

You know we love Japanese movie posters. We’ve shared at least a hundred. Today, for something different, we have a set of posters made during the 1950s and 1960s to advertise Japanese movies that played in the now defunct country of Yugoslavia. It was a place that had one of the most distinct design aesthetics in vintage promo art, as you can see in these examples, as well in other pieces we’ve shared here, here, and here. Ex-Yu memorabilia goes for a pretty penny, and some of these posters would cost upwards of $400.00 to buy. The movie above is Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and the ones below are Yasuzô Masumura’s A Wife Confesses, Umetsugu Inoue’s Man Who Causes a Storm, Haku Komori’s Soldiers’ Girls, and Oichi Beware of Samurai.


Intl. Notebook Jan 24 2014
San Francisco’s famed film festival goes international.

Living overseas is sometimes bittersweet. While the people, the food, the bars, the beaches, the lifestyle, and a hundred other aspects are wonderful, there are no film noir festivals (and no decent pizza, but that's another story). Anyway, today we’re sad not to still be living in the San Francisco Bay area because it’s the first day of the Noir City Film Festival. Ironically, this year’s version, the twelfth in the series, looks toward other countries and includes movies set in France, Britain, Mexico, Singapore, Macao, and more. The films, which screen at San Fran’s Castro Theatre, include The Third Man, Akira Kurosawa’s Yoidore tenshi, aka Drunken Angel, Jules Dassin’s Du rififi chez les hommes, aka Rififi, and two dozen other films. All in all, a great collection. The photoillustrated poster art above (the first is the official promo and the second is the teaser that came out last year) is also pretty nice, though not up to the standard of previous years. But you can decide that for yourself—we’ve shared the entire run of Noir City posters and you can see those here. 


Vintage Pulp Aug 25 2012
Sixty-two years old and spry as a youth.

Above, a poster for Akira Kurosawa’s seminal samurai movie Rashomon, with Toshirô Mifune, Machiko Kyô, and Masayuki Mori. We could tell you this flick is great, but there’s no point. Information abounds, written by people far more expert than us, and it all says the same thing—this is one of the top films ever made. It was admired in its time, winning the Leone d’Oro at the 1951 Venice Film Festival and 1952 Academy Award for best Foreign Language Film, and it has weathered the last sixty-two years proudly. Watch it. Rashomon premiered in Japan today in 1950.


Vintage Pulp Jul 5 2011
The way of the samurai.

Above are four posters for one of our favorite Japanese movie series, Kozure ôkami, aka Lone Wolf and Cub. Starring Tomisaburo Wakayama, these are the films that introduced us to the samurai sub-genre. At the time we loved them, and over the years we learned that they are considered cinematic triumphs, second only Akira Kurosawa’s visually ingenious samurai epics. What are they about? Well, there are plenty of reviews online of both the films and the manga they were based upon, so we don’t need to bother, but here’s a compilation of clips to give you the gist. The first Kozure ôkami film opened in Japan in the spring of 1972. 


History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 22
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals of the Cold War.
March 21
1963—Alcatraz Closes
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
March 20
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.
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