Sex and cinema in an open age.
When we went to Paris a couple of months ago we mentioned that we found a stack of Ciné-Revue magazines in Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. Their dimensions make for extra work because we have to scan every page in two pieces and put them together in Photoshop, and even more daunting, any two-page spreads have to be scanned in four pieces and assembled (this is actually true for all the tabloids we post). That’s why we get a bit lazy about it sometimes. Yeah, yeah, we know—get a bigger scanner. Easier said than done, unless someone wants to mail us one. Anyway, we managed to get some pages together from the above issue of Ciné-Revue published today in 1973.
Ciné-Revue originated out of Belgium in 1944 and was the premiere French-language cinema magazine there and in France for many years. Today it remains popular, making it one of the longest-lived cinema magazines as well. On the cover of this one you get German softcore and hardcore actress Karin Schubert, and inside you get John Wayne, Pia Giancaro, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Gabin, and an artful nude shot of impossibly handsome Austrian actor Helmut Berger. You’re welcome, girls, but please don’t start doing internet searches trying to find out what he looks like now—you won’t be happy. Berger also appears on the back of the mag.
Regarding the Schubert cover, the line between mainstream cinema and porn was never blurrier than back then, and Ciné-Revue reflected that with its features of hardcore and softcore performers. Could you imagine porn actresses routinely appearing in, say, Rolling Stone, and being given equal standing with mainstreamers? Nevertheless, popular American media is heavily porn-influenced, even if the seed, so to speak, goes unacknowledged. What is a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue about, for example, with its models wearing not swimsuits, but rather paint on their fully waxed bodies?
When cinema first developed into an industry many filmmakers thought of movies as simply a motile version of photography, or painting, or sculpture. Nudity was a regular occurrence onscreen during the pre-code 1920s, but a funny thing happens when you add motion and character development to the static nude—Michelangelo turns into Brazzers. Today, all nudity in American cinema is on some level political. No? Then why is it that only in American cinema there is such a proclivity for the clothed sex scene? It raises a question. Is it possible for both men and women, gay and straight, to celebrate their sexuality without conflict? Maybe, but only with more economic equality for women, less stigmitization of homosexuality, less racism, and more understanding that we are—male and female, gay and straight, green and purple—biologically driven by sexual desire.
Looking at the Schubert image above, we’re reminded of a time (in which we were basically zygotes, but go with us here) during which mainstream movies asked questions about freedom for versus exploitation of women, and how commerce in an age of mass media impacts women’s security versus the ideal of sexual freedom. For instance, how do we have sex and sexual aspiration but also have a safe pressure release for the millions who aren’t having sex in any given week or year? Can sex and porn safely co-exist? No idea. Option two is to beat the need for sex out of every man and woman on the planet. Not our preferred solution, but we can talk about it. Why did we write all this? Probably because there’s nudity/exploitation in the next two posts, so these questions just came into our minds.
On another note, we had to go back to France on short notice, but to Bordeaux this time, and we’re there at this moment. So maybe hanging out with the always philosophical French made us write this missive. Possibly some fine red wine has contributed. Anyway, we will scour Bordeaux for more wine—er, pulp—but especially Ciné-Revue, as we’re very interested in 1970s international movie stars, and this magazine gave them as much exposure as any publication we’ve seen. We have eighteen scans below, and more from Ciné-Revue to come.
, Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
, Roland Fougeres
, Romy Schneider
, Helmut Berger
, Karin Schubert
, Pia Giancaro
, Brigitte Bardot
, Jean Gabin
, John Wayne
, Jacques Charrier
, Christine Delaroche
, Steve McQueen
A young Bardot perfects her precocious style in Manina, la fille san voiles.
Brigitte Bardot took a while, like Marilyn Monroe, to morph into a bleached blonde, internationally famous sex symbol. The Girl in the Bikini, aka Manina, la fille sans voiles, presents a chance to see her just as she had begun to embark on that road. It was her second film and it opened when she was eighteen, but was shot while she was seventeen. The U.S. poster above doesn’t offer much in the way of style, but the film is another matter entirely.
Bardot plays a lighthouse keeper’s daughter who meets two men determined to find a treasure myth says was lost at sea after the Peloponnesian War. She appears about halfway through the film, sun spangled and filled with energy, frolicking on a rocky shore while almost—but never quite—losing her bikini. One of the treasure hunters
makes time for romance, while the other schemes to steal the loot. Bardot seems oblivious to the effect she has on men, and this innocent sexiness would be a style she’d hone to razor sharpness in later movies. It’s high on style and light on substance (and acting ability), ultimately quite watchable (and in true egalitarian French fashion, the guys also spend much of the movie barely clothed).
Just above you see two production stills, one of which was the basis for the American poster, followed by a very famous promo photo from the film showing a nude Bardot at the seaside. And below we have a few more posters—first, the original French promo by Guy Ferard Noël, followed by an alternate version by Clément Hurel. Below those are two more, including a French-language Belgian poster. Manina, la fille sans voiles premiered in France in December 1952, and in the U.S. today in 1958.
, Manina la fille sans voiles
, The Girl in the Bikini
, Brigitte Bardot
, Jean-François Calvé
, Howard Vernon
, Willy Rozier
, Clément Hurel
, Guy Ferard Noël
, poster art
, movie review
We don’t know what she’s hiding behind her back but we hope it's a good thing.
Here is a really nice shot of American actress Marti Stevens we found several years ago inside a copy of the Dutch language Belgian magazine Piccolo. It’s curiously posed—she could be holding anything behind her back from a cream pie to a Glock 17. Hopefully not the latter, though. Stevens was mainly a television actress, appearing on shows such as Mannix, Kojak, Hart to Hart, and many others. But here she embodies New Year’s Eve and the merriment involved. Following her example, we’re also headed out into the fireworks and craziness tonight, and if we return within the next two days, we’ve failed.
Diamond thieves get away with millions in gems after Brussels airport heist.
Some real world pulp for you today. The news is just coming out in the last day, but apparently on Monday night in Belgium, there was a diamond heist at Brussels National Airport. A group of men driving two black vans with flashing police lights entered the airport through a hole cut in a perimeter security fence, drove up to a Switzerland-bound commercial jet idling on the tarmac, held at gunpoint workers who had loaded a cache of diamonds onto the plane, and snatched the gems right out of the cargo hold. Passengers on the plane were unable to see any of the action. A few minutes later the vans sped away and slipped through the previous gap in the security fence. The vehicles were later found burnt to a crisp outside Brussels. The diamonds are said by industry spokespeople to be worth about $50 million, which must be very interesting news to the men who dig them up somewhere in Botswana or Yakutia. In any case, the theft investigation is ongoing and as yet there are no leads.
When we said the Devil is in the details, we had no idea how prophetic that would turn out to be.
So, we got an email a few days ago from a reader named Paul about our Mort au diable post "The Devil Is in the Details" from last month, and we were asked if we were 100% sure the art for that poster was painted by Jacques Thibésart. Well, we thought we were. Then we realized we weren’t. Turns out the poster was from the Belgium’s S.P.R.L. Belgique, and they have a mark that, if you aren’t paying close attention, looks like Thibésart’s signature. Thibésart signed his work Nik, Tib, or with his own name sometimes, but the Mort au diable signature, which reads Wik, is obviously different (see above). S.P.R.L. is a famous press, and their signature is well known—to everyone but us, as of a couple of days ago. Below is the last portion of our reply to Paul:
It's actually rather interesting, because for us the site is just simple fun, and we often joke in our posts about how we don't take it seriously. However our analytics tell us that people are continually cross referencing here and using it for research, and the traffic is far larger than we ever expected [snip]. With that in mind, we pledged a while back to try and get all our information correct, and we are quite diligent nowadays, but something still slips through occasionally. Without readers checking our facts, we'd never get everything right, so you've done us a big favor.
So there you have it. Epic fail on Mort au diable, but every mistake makes us a little better. We’ve corrected the earlier post, but didn’t want the change to go unacknowledged. As it happens, yesterday we were in France, in a town called Bayonne, and at a vintage bookshop we saw another piece from S.P.R.L. Belgique. We didn’t have any Thibésart handy to use for a detailed comparison of the signatures, but there was no need—we already knew we’d gotten it wrong. Now the good news. First, we picked up a stack of great French pulp. And second, we’re going to get this Thibésart thing right today. All the great book covers below are his. They’re from the imprint Presses Mondiales for their series Amour et Police, and were published during the 1950s. 100% on this. Seriously. France
, S.P.R.L. Belgique
, Presses Mondiales
, Les Romans en images
, Mort au diable
, Beat the Devil
, Jacques Thibésart
, cover art
Beat the Devil flopped in 1954 but today is appreciated as pioneering camp cinema.
We’ll tell you right now that we are not neutral when it comes to John Huston’s Beat the Devil. We love it. It has Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Gina Lollobrigida, and the exquisite Jennifer Jones, so we loved it immediately. If only audiences had felt the same. The movie was such a flop that not only did it lose money, but its copyright went unrenewed, causing it lapse into public domain. But keen observers, after they got over being misled by the promotional campaign into thinking the movie was a standard Hollywood adventure, soon realized that what they had on their hands was something new—a camp satire bringing together some of the most distinct voices of 1950s cinema. And we mean voices literally. You have Humphrey Bogart with his famous lisp, Gina Lollobrigida with her vampy Italian drawl, Jennifer Jones trying on an English lilt, Peter Lorre with his trademark Germanic-accented sniveling, and more. The accents are your first clue that the movie is going to be all over the place.
The plot concerns a group of raggedy adventurers who hope to buy uranium-rich land in East Africa. Problem is, they need to get there. Seems straightforward enough, but the cosmos itself is aligned against them—cars fail, boats sink, betrayals ensue, information gets garbled, and just about any other obstacle you can imagine appears. But Beat the Devil isn’t slapstick. It’s satire, which means it isn’t funny in a conventional way. In fact, maybe there isn’t a real laugh in the entire movie. Yet you have to smile when Marco Tulli introduces Peter Lorre’s character O’Hara as O’Horror, you have to marvel at Jennifer Jones’ crazy accent that sounds like an English version of Bogart’s lisp, and you have to watch with heightened interest during her famous calesthenics sequence, in which she has an entire conversation with Gina Lollobrigida while doing... well, we don't know what she's doing, but it looks like this.
Despite these and other charms, Beat the Devil is polarizing. Bogart declared that only phonies liked it. Huston, on the other hand, was well aware of its uniqueness and even told Jennifer Jones—who had already been nominated for four Academy Awards and had won once—that Beat the Devil would be one of her most remembered roles. True enough. The French and Dutch language poster you see above is for the Belgian release, and was put together by S.P.R.L. Belgique. Beat the Devil opened in France today, and Belgium this month in 1954.
, Beat the Devil
, Mort au diable
, Academy Award
, S.P.R.L. Belgique
, John Huston
, Humphrey Bogart
, Jennifer Jones
, Gina Lollobrigida
, Peter Lorre
, Marco Tulli
, Jacques Thibésart
, poster art
, movie review
Subterranean homesick blues.
Above, a French-language poster for the Belgian release of the subterranean sci-fi adventure Menaces sous la terre, aka The Mole People. The movie isn’t as good as the killer promo art, but it does rank as one of Mystery Science Theater’s most hilarious send-ups. Menaces sous la terre premiered in Belgium this month in 1957.
The eye of de Wulf.
These covers for 1952’s Une âme perdue and 1953’s La passé de Khatmandou and La défaite des radars by prolific French author Jack Screen, aka Charles-Antoine Gonnet, were all illustrated by Jef de Wulf. De Wulf, who was born Joseph de Wulf, painted more than 500 covers during a career in Belgium and France that lasted forty years. You can see more of his art at a French blog dedicated to him here, and we'll have more from Gonnet/Screen later.
Sommer time and the living is easy.
Above is German actress Elke Sommer, looking her stunning best in two scans from Belgium’s Ciné-Revue that we stumbled across in an online forum. The issue was published forty years ago today, during a period when the magazine was upping its skin quotient. In this case, they wisely chose photos by Angelo Frontoni, who was one of the foremost glamour photographers of the day. Ciné-Revue still exists, more or less, as Ciné-Télé-Revue. We’ve been meaning to do an entire feature on the publication, because it has a tangled history we haven’t quite puzzled out yet. It definitely began in Belgium during the mid-1940s, but also published in France for a time. Also, there was another Ciné-Revue published in France back in the 1920s, but we aren’t sure if it has the same provenance as the one above. We’ll figure all that out later, now that these great images have reminded us to do so.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Hitler Becomes Chancellor
Adolf Hitler is sworn in as Chancellor of Germany in President Paul Von Hindenburg's office, in what observers describe as a brief and simple ceremony. Hitler's first speech as Chancellor takes place on 10 February. The Nazis' seizure of power subsequently becomes known as the Machtergreifung.
1916—Paris Is Bombed by German Zeppelins
During World War I, German zeppelins conduct a bombing raid on Paris. Such raids were rare, because the ships had to fly hundreds of miles over French territory to reach their target, making them vulnerable to attack. Reaching London, conversely, was much easier, because the approach was over German territory and water. The results of these raids were generally not good, but the use of zeppelins as bombers would continue until the end of the war.
1964—Soviets Shoot Down U.S. Plane
A U.S. Air Force training jet is shot down by Soviet fighters after straying into East German airspace. All 3 crew men are killed. U.S forces then clandestinely enter East Germany in an attempt to reach the crash but are thwarted by Soviet forces. In the end, the U.S. approaches the Soviets through diplomatic channels and on January 31 the wreckage of the aircraft is loaded onto trucks with the assistance of Soviet troops, and returned to West Germany.
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