Ready for some stimulating reading?
Above, a beautiful pin-up style cover painted by Jef de Wulf for Tania et le démon by Yvan Nikitine, published by Brussels based Éditions Aphrodite. This is a collection of romantic verse from the Russian poet Yvan Nikitine, not to be confused with the famous 19th century Russian poet Ivan Nikitine, nor the 17th century Russian painter and author Ivan Nikitin. We had trouble figuring all this out, because apparently Nikitine/Nikitin is like Johnson or Jones in Russia, but we think our Nikitine wrote eighteen volumes of poetry over the years, was made a knight of L'Ordre des Palmes Académiques, and is alive and retired in Agen, France. Maybe we should just just focus on the art. Nice, yeah? 1959 copyright.
Don't go losing your head.
Above, a dual language Belgian promo poster in French and Dutch for Les coupeurs de têtes, also known as De koppensnellers, originally released in the U.S. as Jungle Headhunters. This one caught our eye because it's a documentary about an expedition through Central and South America made by the explorer Lewis Cotlow, who turned his journey into the book Amazon Head-Hunters, which we looked at back in October in our own ridiculous way. We can only imagine what sort of nastiness a documentary about headhunters reveals, and we're going to leave it like that by not watching it. 1952 on this, with the art unattributed.
The thrill of the Chasse.
This promo poster from Colombia Pictures was made to promote the Belgian run of the film noir Chasse à l'homme, better known as The Glass Wall. This is an interesting one. Starring Vittorio Gassman and Gloria Grahame, the movie is set at the end of World War II and tells the story of a Hungarian refugee who arrives in New York harbor as a stowaway on a ship. Onboard immigration cops catch him, but he eludes them and jumps ship to search for a war buddy who can prove he has the right to legal residency under a special exemption for those who aided Allied soldiers. He must find this friend who can prove his bona fides, and do it within twenty four hours or be permanently barred from the U.S. A photo in the morning paper alerts the public and Chasse à l'homme becomes a double manhunt—the hero's search for his buddy, and the cops' search for the hero. The film is obviously a piece of light propaganda concerning the desirability of life in the U.S., but as a noir it also shows a darker side to American society, such as when Gloria Grahame is under threat of eviction, and when the landlady's son tries to force himself on her. Gassman was an experienced actor by this point, and Grahame, as noted on the poster, had already won an Academy Award for The Bad and the Beautiful. Both do solid work here. The movie opened in the U.S. in March of 1953 and reached Brussels, Belgium today in 1954.
James Stewart sees the sights without ever leaving his apartment.
Belgian movie posters are often quite beautiful. We've already shared frameworthy examples for Vanessa and A Thousand and One Nights, as well as a few others, and above you see a promo for Alfred Hitchcock's classic Rear Window. The movie premiered in 1954 and first played in Belgium today in 1955, where it was titled Fenêtre sur cour, which means “window on the courtyard.” The poster was printed by S.P.R.L. Belgique and the artist is Wik, someone who is simultaneously well represented in vintage poster circles while being a total mystery. We plan to dig around, see if we can find more info on this person.
Everyone has a favorite Hitchcock movie. Rear Window is ours. The story, the stars, and the look of the film are all great, and the idea of everyone's lives under a microscope foreshadows the world in which we live in today. Raised shades aren't needed, though—metadata tells corporations and governments more than a glance in a window ever could. In Rear Window, once Jimmy Stewart realizes he is able to spy, he does it even though he knows it's wrong, and once he suspects a crime has been committed, any sense of guilt disappears—instead he feels entitled to intrude. Maybe that's why today's digital spies always claim to be ferreting out crime—because they know most people will accept that as an excuse.
But you don't need us to analyze Rear Window. More qualified writers than us have gone over every frame of the film. Instead we've decided to show you below what Stewart was looking at, thanks to series of promo images we managed to locate. Thus you see, from top to bottom, the rear courtyard which encompasses the story, the newlyweds Rand Harper and Havis Davenport, the murder suspect Raymond Burr, Miss Torso played by Georgine Darcy, Miss Lonely Hearts played by Judith Evelyn, and Grace Kelly with sidekick Thelma Ritter digging for body parts in the garden. If you haven't seen the film, definitely watch it. You'll have fun.
Don't worry, dude. I got your back.
The BBC has an interesting report today about a man who has an elaborate full-back tattoo that, though it's attached to his body, he's sold to an art collector. Yeah, that's one's hard to wrap your head around. Let's put in another way. The man, Tim Steiner, earned $161,000 from German art collector Rik Reinking for rights to the piece. As part of the deal Steiner is required to sit shirtless in a gallery three times a year as a piece of living art, which isn't a bad way to make extra cash, we suppose. Especially when some of the exhibitions have occurred at the Louvre in Paris, Civita di Bagnoregio in Rome, the Art Farm in Beijing, and the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, Tasmania.
And as befits all good art, the exhibitions will continue even posthumously. After Steiner shuffles off this mortal coil, Reinking takes full ownership of his skin, which will be removed so the tattoo can be framed and displayed. Some people, not surprisingly, have called the unusual arrangement ghoulish, but those people perhaps have no idea how strange modern art can get. Steiner, who sees himself as merely a temporary mounting for the tattoo, is happy, if not exactly eager, to be immortalized on museum walls. He considers tattooing the ultimate art form. “Painting on canvas is one thing,” he says, “painting on skin with needles is a whole other story.”
The creator of the piece, Belgian artist Wim Delvoye, would doubtless agree. He's known in inking circles, not only for tattooing humans, but also pigs, whose skins he peddles. So Steiner's sell-off of his ownhide isn't really new. The pigs may be getting the better deal, though. They get to root around in mud and slop to their heart's content until they die of old age. Steiner still presumably has to earn a living a somehow. He probably should have had the pigs' lawyer negotiate his agreement.
We like tattoo art, but this skinning business is obviously a practice that's legitimized by social status. Put someone's framed epidermis on your wall at home and you're anything from seriously weird to a psychopath/subject of a murder inquiry; hang it in a gallery and wine swilling upper crusty types call you a collector. But that's sort of an encapsulation of how the entire world works, isn't it? Rob an old lady at a cash machine and you're a thief; take away her pension and you're a politician. Heavy drug usage in the ghetto is a crime wave; heavy drug usage in suburbia is a public health problem. We can do this all day, but we'll move on.
Getting there was a long and difficult journey, but now he's finally going to explore the bush.
You can figure out the story here, right? The title and cover combine to sort of give it away. Bored rich girl Teresa Porter, who's married to linguist Julian Porter, is dragged along on a two-year research trip to the Belgian Congo along with her hot young lover Allan, who is her husband's assistant. Literarily speaking, Africa has been the end of tougher people than these three, so you know they're going to have myriad troubles. The interracial aspect suggested by the cover blurb does not apply to lover Allan, but Edmund Schiddel adds subplots along those lines, as you'd expect from any author working in the African milieu. The copyright on this is 1956, and the art is uncredited.
Mid-century tabloid hits all the familiar tabloid notes.
Lowdown makes the rounds in this issue published in May 1965. Inside, Ann-Margret claims she doesn't want to be a tease (fail), editors ask if women are more immoral than men (which they really are, once you take war, genocide, faithlessness, and generally violent tendencies off the table), and June Wilkinson's photo is among those used in a story about women supposedly receiving insurance covered breast implants from Britain's National Health Service.
Probably the most interesting story concerns Swedish actress Inger Stevens disappearing for a week. Lowdown hints at an alcohol binge, which is nothing special (hell, we do those) but while there are plenty of sources citing a 1960 suicide attempt, we found no other mention anywhere of Lowdown's missing week. The story is notable because Stevens would die at age thirty-five of a drug overdose.
Elsewhere you get nude skiing in Austria, Richard Chamberlain and his hit television show Dr. Kildare, the sex powers of mandrake root, and Belgian born actress and dancer Monique Van Vooren endorsing regular exercise. Scans below—oh, and sorry about the quality. Lowdown's printing process caused scanner problems. It's never happened before, so hopefully we won't encounter the issue again.
Olivia Pascal heads to Hong Kong and cockfighting breaks out all around her.
This nice hand-painted and hand-lettered Belgian poster was made for the movie Vanessa, which starred German actress Olivia Pascal in the time-honored tale of a smokin' hot woman raised in a convent and suddenly loosed upon the world. Pascal is informed that her last relative has died and willed her a fantastic fortune. This relative lived in Hong Kong, so she heads there to check it out and discovers not only that the island is awash in sex, sin, and dark magic, but that her inheritance takes the form of ownership of several wildly successful bordellos. The twist here, if it qualifies, is that even though this is your basic softcore sexual awakening film, the main character never actually gets laid. She gets whipped, though, if you're into that sort of thing. Best dialogue in the movie: “Will you excuse me for a moment? Those are real fighting cocks.” As you might guess, cocks of an entirely different kind fight over Pascal, who was a big bonus in the film Griechische Feigen, aka The Fruit Is Ripe, and here spends substantial portions of the film naked, joined by luminaries like Eva Eden, Uschi Zech, and—wait for it—Astrid Boner. We're not making that last one up. We're also not recommending the movie, but Pascal gets highest marks.
The moment you doubt is the moment it stops being real.
Corridor of Mirrors is fascinating movie, though not one everyone will appreciate. There’s an actual corridor of mirrors, and it’s a place of infinite reflections and madness, located in the sprawling mansion of man, played by Eric Portman, who believes he’s the reincarnation of someone who lived four-hundred years ago. As they say, when you’re rich you’re not crazy—you’re merely eccentric. The problem, though, is that Portman believes he was in love with a woman way back then, and that she has been reincarnated too, in the person of Edana Romney. This is very interesting work from a director—Terrence Young—who would go on to helm three James Bond movies (trivia: Lois Maxwell, the original Miss Moneypenny, makes an appearance here, as does future Hammer horror icon and Tolkien baddie Christopher Lee).
Perhaps the most successful element of Corridor of Mirrors is how the audience is dragged into the lead’s carefully constructed fantasy world. The film takes place in modern (1948) times, but by midway through, it has become a Renaissance period piece, as the camera rambles through Portman’s foreboding mansion where nary a lamp or electrical convenience of any sort is found. The use of candles is particularly effective when Portman unveils a painting of his centuries-old love—gasp!—she looks exactly like Romney. Well, maybe not so shocking, but the appearance of a flashlight late in the proceedings is actually shocking, as it’s a reminder that the previous hour has been spent inside the Neverland of a madman.
Is Corridor of Mirrors a film noir? Not even. It’s been placed on a double bill at Noir City with the stylistically similar The Picture of Dorian Gray, but noir fans might be disappointed to have bought tickets for this particular night. In fact, this year's festival features a high proportion of non-noir cinema—ten of the offerings aren't film noir, and arguably even a couple more fall outside the category. Still, Corridor of Mirrors is a nice melodrama, dripping with irony by the end, and worth seeing on its own merits. A British production, it seems as though no English language posters survive, so at top you see the nice promo from its run in Belgium, where it was called L’etrange rendezvous.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
1995—Mickey Mantle Dies
New York Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle dies of complications from cancer, after receiving a liver transplant. He was one of the greatest baseball players ever, but he was also an alcoholic and played drunk, hungover, and unprepared. He once said about himself, "Sometimes I think if I had the same body and the same natural ability and someone else's brain, who knows how good a player I might have been."
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
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