She was more than just a movie star.
Smithsonian.com published an in-depth story yesterday about Austrian born Hollywood icon Hedy Lamarr, and how her technical genius helped bring the world Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and cell phones. Hah! Get with it Smithsonian. We talked about this under discussed aspect of her life years ago.
It's curious that no matter how many times people write about Lamarr's technological exploits it never seems to become a generally known aspect of her personality. Maybe people want to see her as a beautiful actress, and much of the interest stops there. The Smithsonian piece will probably help change that a bit, and it's well written also (though considering what digital technology has wrought we'd probably add the phrase "for better and worse").
Yesterday's piece comes in tandem with the Smithsonian's Washington D.C. based National Portrait Gallery acquiring a rare original Luigi Martinati poster painted to promote Lamarr's 1944 thriller The Conspirators. We have no idea what it cost, but certainly a pile of money, since Martinati was not just a great artist, but one who tended to focus more on portraiture in his promos. You can see what we mean just below, and by clicking here and scrolling. As for Lamarr, we'll doubtless get back to her—and all her interesting facets—later.
Annie Belle streaks across Hong Kong and stardom follows.
Above you seen an Aller, aka Carlo Alessandrini, poster for La fine dell'innocenza, which premiered in Italy today in 1976 and was titled in English Annie, after the lead character Annie Belle. The star of the film had acted under her real name Annie Brilland up to this point, but adopted Annie Belle as her stage name for this film and the rest of her career. Yes, technically she acted as Annie Belle in an earlier movie—Laure, which came out about a week before Annie, but we strongly suspect that made-in-Manila sex romp was shot later and simply went through post production more quickly. Another small movie from 1975 is credited to Belle, but we're sure that was done much later. Annie is the film that made her Belle.
It's a coming of age story in which Belle proves to be too independent for all those—male and female—who wish to possess her. She begins the film under the wing of her incest-minded father, travels with him to Hong Kong, where he's arrested for money laundering, forcing her to fend for herself. From there she makes the inevitable sexual splash in upper crust expat circles around the island. And who can fault them for their interest? In real life Belle is a tiny, tomboyish figure, certainly no more than 5' 2”, but onscreen she comes across as even lusher than the Hong Kong hills. There's no disputing it: the camera loves her. She's one of the most striking stars of any era of cinema.
La fine dell'innocenza is remembered for its extended sequence depicting Belle's escape from a brothel. She pulls it off—no body double—by sprinting starkers through the Hong Kong streets, leaping onto the back of a motorcycle driven by an associate, careening through traffic as she wantonly flouts local helmet laws, leaping off the bike and running again, now chased by cops, to a public fountain, where she's finally apprehended. The scene is worth rewinding just to see all the locals gawking from the backgrounds of the shots. They must have thought, watching this platinum blonde boy-woman with the jet back muff running through their city—what the hell do these foreigners smoke?
Come on in. Make yourself uncomfortable.
More bondage? Sure, why not? We don't pick the release dates. We just post according to them. Above are two Italian posters for the infamous nazisploitation flick Casa privata per le SS, which premiered today in 1977. They don't make them like this anymore, for good reason. The top poster isn't signed, but the second one was painted by Aller, aka Carlo Alessandrini, who also painted the very famous French promo for the film. That promo is similar to the unsigned piece above, but without a signature or official attribution we can't credit it to Aller, so into the mystery bin it goes for now. We did a small write-up on this film back in 2011, and if you're curious you can see that here.
The one on the grassy knoll got away, so let's tell everyone the only assassin was this guy.
Above is a poster for the spaghetti western Il prezzo del potere, aka The Price of Power, which opened in Italy today in 1969 and deals with real life events—the assassination of U.S. president James Garfield, who was shot in July 1881 and died eleven weeks later. In real life Garfield was shot in a train station, but in the movie the shooting is set up exactly like JFK's killing, with the exception that Garfield takes a single bullet in the side of the neck. Interesting flick, with Norma Jordan in a bit role, though not one we can call good, precisely. But as a curiosity, you may find it worth your time. The promo poster was painted by Aller, aka Carlo Alessandrini. As we mentioned last month, someone wrote a book that finally identified the guy and we're happy to funnel that info into the online universe. Now that we know more about Alessandrini we plan to post more of his work, and today is yet another great example.
Laura Gemser bites off more than she can chew in z-grade zombie epic.
Finally! We've learned that the Italian poster artist who signed his work Aller was a man named Carlo Alessandrini, and we owe that information to a new book by Roberto Curti called Italian Gothic Horror Films 1970-1979. Above you see Alessandrini's work for the Laura Gemser sexploitation flick Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi, aka Sexy Nights of the Living Dead. Gemser started in erotica in 1974, and as the years wore on she basically traded on her name and did less and less actual performing, appearing in several films in little more than cameo roles. In this one she secures top billing for not showing up until the thirty-three minute mark, and not uttering a line of dialogue until probably forty minutes in.
Plotwise, a sailor takes a greedy gringo developer and his prostie companion to a deserted island where the American wants to build the finest resort in the Caribbean. The place is called Cat Island and whenever anyone mentions it to the locals who live on nearby islands they run out of the room. To normal people this would be a strong non-endorsement concerning travel to Cat Island, but such blatant hints are lost on lunkheads in horror movies. So a-boating they go. When the developer announces his plan to pave over the old island cemetery to build a heliport you just know he's sticking his dick somewhere he's likely to lose it—Gemser's mouth (see below). Her army of zombies are equally opposed to gentrification, and lodge their protests by chasing the living all over the place. But all is not lost. As the hero explains at one point: “The advantage we have is that they move at a snail's pace.”
So does the movie. One plus is that it was made primarily on beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic, and several scenes were shot in Santo Domingo, which is interesting to see pre-tourist era. Another plus is that there's wall to wall sex featuring such beauties as Dirce Funari, who's the real star of the movie, and Lucia Ramirez. The unrated version goes all the way, and even treats viewers to a Tijuana donkey show-worthy routine involving a stripper and a Champagne bottle. None of the X action includes Gemser, who was strictly softcore her entire career, though her nudity is more explicit than usual here. Basically, it's all just as dumb as it sounds, but we'll admit it's accidentally funny in parts, which helps. Le notti erotiche dei morti viventi premiered in Italy today in 1980.
The medium is the message and the message is: she can do anything.
Vittoria Solinas, who was born in Genoa, Italy as Maria Vittoria Sole, was an actress in cinema mainly during the late 1960s, but she's better known as a singer, a career she undertook using her real name. She recorded with success during the disco era before moving on to another medium and becoming the author of a half dozen books. That makes her a rare triple threat in the three most influential artistic media of our age, but one who has been inactive since the mid-1990s. The photo above appeared on the cover of the Italian magazine Caballero in February 1969.
Xenophobia: Don't leave home without it.
The above poster was made to promote the Japanese run of a West German sexploitation film that originally had the unwieldy title Die jungen Ausreißerinnen - Sex-Abenteuer deutscher Mädchen in aller Welt, which is sometimes shortened to just Die jungen Ausreißerinnen, or “the young runaways.” For distribution in English it was called Innocent Girls Abroad. It has nothing to do with Mark Twain's similarly titled classic, but is of course a softcore romp done anthology style, with Doris Arden headlining as the main innocent. She doesn't appear on the poster, though, save for in the lower lefthand corner. We suspect the Japanese distributors decided she wasn't boobalicious enough, which just goes to show what they know, because Arden is spectacular by any measure.
Anyway, what we have here is a cautionary tale featuring beautiful young travelers and the pitfalls they encounter, slavery among them, with the various misadventures taking place in Hong Kong, London, Beirut, Paris and Rome. Arden gets the Beirut segment and it consists of her telling the local police her story: raped by her stepfather when she was fifteen, a runaway drifting from place to place, ending up in a harem where she becomes a sexual servant, enduring a year of bondage before her escape. Many sexploitation films are joyful or comical or contain messages of female empowerment—Die jungen Ausreißerinnen isn't one of those. You've been warned. After opening in West Germany earlier in the year it played in Japan for the first time today in 1972.
At least now she'll stop all her Russian about.
Above, two editions of Ellen Edisson’s Aller simple pour Moscou, aka One Way to Moscow. The first was published in 1956 by Thill in its Stop-Espionnage alter-ego as part of its Serie Le Loup, and the second appeared in 1959 from Champ de Mars, and was the first in its popular series Le Moulin Noir.
He’s one guy you don’t want to sell short.
Il Trionfo della casta Susanna, for which you see two posters above, isn’t pulp influenced—it’s a period comedy set during the Napoleonic era—but it does feature giallo superstar Edwige Fenech, and any Fenech is good Fenech. Also, the promo posters were painted by Aller, who we’ve shown you a couple of times before, and like Fenech anything he does is worth sharing. Just for fun, we actually watched this film, and basically, the hostess of a hotel saves Napoleon from an assassination attempt, gets romantically entangled with him, and learns some military secrets. By the way, did you know Napoleon wasn’t short? He was about 5’7”, which was above average for those days. Anyway, there’s a lot of bed hopping, tasteful nudity, and broad humor, but really we can’t recommend the movie. Il Trionfo della casta Susanna, aka Frau Wirtin hat auch eine Nichte, aka House of Pleasure opened in Italy today in 1969.
The hitch hiker’s guide to your back seat.
Last year we showed you a poster by Carlo Alessandrini, the Italian illustrator who signed his work Aller. Today seemed like a good day to bring him/her back, so above and below are five more posters by the same artist. We don't know anything about him but as always we'll dig. Regardless, we’ll have more from him down the line. Know anything about this artist? Drop us a line. You can see that other amazing piece from Alessandrini/Aller here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
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