It probably should have been the Tail end of her career.
Another Italian movie that premiered today is Pasquale Festa Campanile’s prehistoric comedy Quando le donne avevano la coda, aka When Women Had Tails. The above promo shot shows Austrian star Senta Berger in full costume for her role as Filli, the cavewoman captured by a clan of seven men who have never seen a woman. They quickly learn that she doesn’t, in fact, have a tail, and shortly thereafter uncover other anatomical curiosities. The movie’s so bad it’s miraculous Berger ever worked again, but you have to love this ’70s glam rock look. And if not, she appears as a normal human below.
Vice and virtue in Vienna.
So, quite by coincidence there’s another movie we watched recently that also premiered today, though thirty years later than The Shanghai Gesture (see below). The movie is Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh, which would translate as “The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh,” but was released in the U.S. as Blade of the Ripper. This flick is considered one of the best gialli ever made, and it’s tough to argue the point. It’s intricate, absorbing, unpredictable, colorful, and shot in an array of amazing external locations and inside one of the greatest mid-century modern apartments ever conceived. It also has Edwige Fenech, whose gifts are well known. Taking place mainly in Vienna and climaxing in Sitges, Spain (which happens to be one of our favorite towns in Europe)Signora Wardh is a tale of obssession and infidelity wrapped in a murder mystery. Mrs. Wardh does indeed have a strange vice, but that’s just window dressing. It’s her that’s being hunted throughout the movie—either by a serial killer, a demented ex-lover, or both. Or neither. They say that the only way to keep a secret is if no more than two people know it and one of them is dead. But the only way to commit murder is if the killer has an iron clad alibi, and for that he often needs help. Rule one conflicts with rule two, and that’s the fun of Signora Wardh. Above you see a rare and wonderful Italian promo poster painted by Giuliano Nistri, the younger brother of equally talented Enzo Nistri. We'll get back to both Nistri brothers a little later. Lo strano vizio della Signora Wardh opened in Italy today in 1971.
The fact that she’s not even a real blonde is the least of her surprises.
Austrian writer Vicki Baum, née Hedwig Baum, is probably best known for her 1929 novel Menschen im Hotel, which became the smash Greta Garbo/John Barrymore/Joan Crawford movie Grand Hotel. Mortgage on Life, which was originally called Verpfändetes Leben, came in 1946, and tells of a show business love triangle set in Manhattan against the backdrop of Times Square and Broadway. We’ve never seen this particular cover for the book, which is why we’re sharing it, but it’s uncredited, sadly.
National Star Chronicle had a catchy slogan, but occasionally had a hard time living up to it.
This National Star Chronicle published today in 1965 forgoes its usual cheesecake cover in favor of screaming text about a torturer. The person in question is Alfred Poettinger, who indeed tied a nude woman to his bed and tortured her the last three days of December 1964 in the village of Studl-Paura, Austria. The torture took the form of whippings, followed by insertions of red hot needles. It’s at this juncture that the Chronicle’s account veers into pure fiction. In the real world, the woman, Monika Einoeder, managed to slip her bonds and flee naked to an adjacent house, where she called the police. Cops arrived at Poettinger’s only to find that he had hanged himself. But in Chronicle world, Poettinger didn’t die, but rather was trundled off to jail, where Chronicle house scribe Ernst Brookman allegedly scored an interview. The point of such a blatant lie, we presume, was to convince readers that the Chronicle had a network of intrepid reporters blanketing the world. It probably worked, too, but then this little thing called the internet came along and now we can look up articles from Jan 2 1965 and read for ourselves over and over that Poettinger was swinging from the rafters when police found him. So much for the Chronicle’s motto: True Stories About True People. Well, at least they got half of it right, and to their credit the editors didn’t forget the cheesecake entirely. Inside, it takes the form of Evi Marandi, Pilar Pellicer, Janis Paige, and Paola Penni, all of whom you see below. More from National Star Chronicle later.
Someday her prince will come.
Above, Austrian-born British actress Jocelyn Lane, who appeared in numerous films and television shows during the ’50s and ’60s, including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Operation Snatch, Dangerous Youth, and The Gamma People, before going on to marry Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (there’s a mouthful), relaxing here with her dog circa 1960.
The burning of Romy.
Above, a shot of Austrian-born German/French cinematic icon Romy Schneider, née Rosemarie Magdalena Albach, who appeared in dozens of films, many of them highly acclaimed, during a twenty-nine year career that elevated her to legendary status in Europe.
The Third Man is a stiff drink, with a twist of Lime.
The 1949 film noir The Third Man is a best-case-scenario of what can happen when great talents collaborate. Carol Reed directs, Orson Welles, Alida Valli and Joseph Cotten act from a screenplay penned by master storyteller Graham Greene, and the cinematographer is Robert Krasker. Krasker won an Academy Award for his work here, and when you see the velvety blacks and knifing shadows of his nighttime set-ups, as well as the famed scenes shot in the cavernous Vienna sewers and bombed out quadrants of the city center, you’ll understand why. The story involves a pulp writer named Holly Martins who arrives in a partitioned post-war Vienna only to find that his friend Harry Lime is dead, run down by a truck. When Martins learns that the police are disinterested in the circumstances of Lime’s demise, he decides to do what one of his pulp characters would do—take matters into his own hands. But nothing adds up. He learns that Lime died instantly, or survived long enough to utter a few last words. He finds that Lime was a racketeer, or possibly not. And he discovers that two men were present when Lime died—or possibly three. That third man seems to be the key to the mystery, but he proves to be damnably elusive. We can’t recommend this film highly enough. Above you see a pair of rare Japanese posters from The Third Man’s premiere in Tokyo today in 1952.
The woman with the silver gun.
Promo photo of Austrian actress Maria Perschy from the West German action flick Die Pagode zum fünften Schrecken, aka Five Golden Dragons, 1967.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Arrest Made in Lindbergh Baby Case
Bruno Hauptmann is arrested for the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous American aviator. The infant child had been abducted from the Lindbergh home in March 1932, and found decomposed two months later in the woods nearby. He had suffered a fatal skull fracture. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and finally executed by electric chair in April 1936. He proclaimed his innocence to the end
1919—Pollard Breaks the Color Barrier
Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Pros. Though Pollard is forgotten today, famed sportswriter Walter Camp ranked him as "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen." In another barrier-breaking historical achievement, Pollard later became the co-head coach of the Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back.
1932—Entwistle Leaps from Hollywood Sign
Actress Peg Entwistle
commits suicide by jumping from the letter "H" in the Hollywood sign. Her body lay in the ravine below for two days, until it was found by a detective and two radio car officers. She remained unidentified until her uncle connected the description and the initials "P.E." on the suicide note in the newspapers with his niece's two-day absence.
1908—First Airplane Fatality Occurs
The plane built by Wilbur and Orville Wright, The Wright Flyer, crashes with Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge aboard as a passenger. The accident kills Selfridge, and he becomes the first airplane fatality in history.
1983—First Black Miss America Crowned
Vanessa Williams becomes the first African American Miss America. She later loses her crown when lesbian-themed nude photographs of her are published by Penthouse magazine.
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