Intl. Notebook Dec 31 2013
MARTI'S WORLD
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.

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The Naked City Feb 20 2013
JACK OF DIAMONDS
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.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 9 2012
DETAILS INDEED
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. 

 
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Vintage Pulp Aug 13 2012
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS
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.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 22 2012
CIRCUS ARTISTRY
Nothing says fun like murderous clowns.

Ever notice how often pulps and noirs are centered on circuses and carnivals? We noticed it too, which is why we put together a collection of circus posters from the U.S.A., Belgium, Holland, Britain, the Soviet Union, et.al., circa 1930s to 1960s. Which circus would we see? The dynamite tossing clowns just below are enticing, but Big Otto the blood-sweating hippopotamus is by far the star attraction of this group. Otto and more below, and check out a collection of magic posters here

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Vintage Pulp Sep 13 2011
MOLE WIDE WORLD
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. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 30 2011
SCREEN GEMS
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.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 17 2010
ORIGINAL CINE
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. 

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Femmes Fatales Nov 8 2010
BOUCHET A TOUT
I’d rather go naked and wear fur.

German-Czech actress Barbara Bouchet, from a July 1976 issue of the Belgian film mag Ciné-Revue

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Vintage Pulp May 24 2010
DOLOROUS HAZE
That girl from Paris.

Ciné-Revue with Brigitte Bardot on the cover, published today in 1957, with a shot from her film Une parisienne. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
October 20
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.

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