Human nature red in tooth and claw.
Whenever we have minimal expectations of a film and receive reasonable entertainment we're reminded why we like watching old movies so much. In The Leopard Man, for which you see a striking poster above, a New Mexico nightclub chanteuse loses her feline sidekick and it soon begins prowling the desert night and savaging women. Or is it? Pretty soon the singer and her manager begin to wonder if the leopard is being blamed for killings committed by someone—or something—else. The movie feels a bit like Cat People, which makes sense, because director Jacques Tourneur helmed both productions. But where Cat People was set in New York City, this one has a bordertown flavor, with flamenco music and various Mexican and Spanish characters in scattered roles, including Margo—just Margo—who was Spanish bandleader Xavier Cugat's niece. The solution to the mystery comes in a climax set against the town's creepy Spanish processions. It turns out the killer is a someone, not a something, but that was never truly in doubt. At just over an hour in length the movie is a pretty nice time killer, but the shorthand feel of it also shows why feature films tend to be longer. The Leopard Man premiered in the U.S. today in 1943.
Life on the edge of a razor.
Above is a Japanese poster for the 1972 blaxploitation film Come Back Charleston Blue, starring Godfrey Cambridge and Raymond St. Jacques as the Harlem detectives Gravedigger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson. It was the sequel to the highly successful Cotton Comes to Harlem. The plot deals with the return of a legendary vigilante named Charleston Blue, who killed with a blue steel straight razor and is believed by some to be responsible for a series of recent slayings aimed at the local drug trade. He's supposed to be dead, but his casket is empty and his collection of razors has gone missing. Is he really back from beyond? You'll have to watch the movie to find out. Reviews were mixed, but there are some thrills and laughs, there's good location filming around Harlem and environs pre-gentrification, and the soundtrack by Quincy Jones and Donny Hathaway is a nice bonus. All-in-all, a middling effort, but certainly not a waste of time. Come Back Charleston Blue first played in Japan today in 1973.
Bill Edwards paperback art gains new recognition.
Bill Edwards' profile as a paperback illustrator has risen considerably in recent years. Like others who painted for sleaze imprints, it is not so much his technical ability that has garnered the attention, but rather the subject matter and a strong style. Edwards is a guy whose work you can identify in a millisecond. His women almost always have sharp cheekbones, ski jump noses, and a prominent beauty mark. The cover above for Rick Rand's New Girl in Town shows you all three elements up close. Edwards was also prolific like few other painters, which makes finding his work easy. Below are many more illustrations, some for novels with subject matter well beyond the pale, and we have other Edwards pieces populating Pulp Intl., for example here, here, and here.
French artist Jacques Puiseux spins us round with his pulp influenced vinyl art.
Pulp Intl. friend Jacques Puiseux staged a gallery show earlier this autumn and e-mailed over a few of his pulp influenced pieces. The exhibition was in Aup, a small town in the French Provence region, and Jacques' trompe l’œil pin-ups mimicking vinyl records managed to draw the attention of local feminists, female and male, who staged a protest concerning objectification of the female body. Apparently, they compared his work to the famed Pirelli calendars and said Jacques was almost as bad as Donald Trump.
Pulp Intl. would doubtless likewise be labeled sexist by these particular protesters, but of course a pulp history website could hardly fail to be. We would simply suggest that appreciation for beauty, whether male or female, is not inherently exploitative. While many feminists are actually quite vocal in their appreciation of beauty and sex (personified by the new wave of woman centered porn websites), a subset seem to believe that any male expression of appreciation for female beauty is a form of violence.
As we've mentioned before, since 99.9% of humans came into being through an act of sex, and sex drives our existence, biologically speaking, it follows that it's unreasonable to expect it not to be on people's minds much of the time. We're all wired that way. And since it is on people's minds, those thoughts and desires will be expressed. We agree there's a best and worst way to do it, and that a refusal should be taken at face value, and that safety is paramount, but we disagree that any expression of sexual interest by an unknown male toward a unknown female is wrong.
The feminist cause is right and moral, but we don't imagine the coming world as one in which women are never looked at by unknown men as sexual beings, or approached by unknown men at bars or parties, or complimented on their beauty by unknown men. We imagine a world in which those things happen and it goes only as far as a woman's consent permits. That might be no farther than a few exchanged words, but conversely it might go all the way to someone's bed for a lovely night. Doesn't that sound like a fun world?
Jacques, we think, would agree. He's a guy who thinks women are beautiful and that interest comes out in his art, as it has for countless other artists and always will. He also likes pulp, et voilà—what you get is what he's done above and below. We really like these, and they fit nicely into our conception of modern pulp. You can see a few more Puiseux pulp stylings at this link, and feel free to check out more of his record-like creations at the tumblr page Vinyles Passion.
Glenn Ford meddles in the governance of a sovereign nation. Why? Because he can.
Do you think RKO Pictures actually went to Honduras to film Appointment in Honduras? Of course not. The movie, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1953, was mostly filmed at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Too bad. We were looking forward to seeing what Honduras looked like before it became the disaster we personally know so well, a place of perpetual instability that at times has owned the highest murder rate in the world. We used to go there often, and we were there during one of its periodic political upheavals. Airports closed, bus companies shut, smoke and chaos filled the streets. We were stuck there for a week, but it wasn't all bad. We left San Pedro Sula, drove to the coast, then hopped a ferry—still operating thankfully—to Roatán. If you have to be trapped in a paralyzed country, choose one of its islands. Ah... memories.
Was all of the above a digression? Well, let's come back to it. In Appointment in Honduras Glenn Ford plays a shady character trying to make his way upcountry for reasons unknown. He enlists the aid of a quartet of killers, and kidnaps a married couple to use as hostages. He shoots a few people, and shows no remorse when his henchmen do the same. Yet he's the good guy in this. Eventually we learn that he's bringing money into the country to give to counter-revolutionaries intent on restoring a deposed president to power. There's no discussion of whether he has the right to do this, nor does he have a plan to deal with the chaos that might result from causing widespread violence. He seems to think everything will work out fine, and he can go back to his ranch when all is done. Sound familiar?
Thus we come full circle to our intro, not a digression at all, but a description of the real world result of the type of mercenary entitlement depicted by the movie. Director Jacques Tourneur, who had done so much better with previous efforts like Out of the Past and Cat People, is way too good for this flat adventure tale. Ford is fine, as always, but Ann Sheridan—one of our favorite golden actresses—is just lost, stuck in a character whose motivations are never believable, or for that matter palatable. But even though Appointment in Honduras isn't a good movie, it's an excellent example of mild mid-century cultural propaganda, with its icy disregard for the lives and desires of dark foreigners. Emotions stripped bare, is what the poster proclaims. Motivations stripped bare might be more accurate.
Me and you Barbarella! High noon. Time to settle this once and for all!
As long as we're on movie posters today, above is a completely different type of femme fatale. The promo art, which we think is quite nice, is for the DVD release of CQ in Japan today in 2003. If you look closely at the right border of the art you can just make out the Japanese text. The movie was made by Roman Coppola, starred Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, and Élodie Bouchez, and dealt with a struggling young director making a cheeseball sci-fi movie to pay the bills while working in his spare time on his beloved art film. That's Lindvall above as secret agent Dragonfly, a Barbarella-type space heroine, armed with vaguely organ-shaped retro-futuristic space gun. CQ premiered in 2002 and quickly achieved cult status, but writer-director Coppola has not had much opportunity to direct films since then, though he did helm a 2012 Bill Murray project called A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. We haven't seen it, but we know it flopped pretty hard. We've talked about CQ before, so we won't reiterate except to say we loved it.
In The French Love we learn that what the French love is sex.
Random Japanese poster art today, a promo for The French Love, starring Jacques Fugie, Eva Saint (not to be confused with Eva Marie Saint), and others. Fugie, Saint and all the other actors listed as performers here were pseudonyms, but ones fabricated especially for the Japanese market. Thus you won't find any reference to an Eva Saint or Jaques Fugie anywhere else. The French Love actually starred Herman Ryan, Catherine Franck, Patricia Hermenier, and Rod Cameron in the story of an American journalist hooking up with two French flight attendants in Paris while covering the diplomatic meetings leading up to the treaty that ended the Vietnam War. Heady times, no? Leave it to the French to mix social commentary with smut. The movie was directed by José Bénazéraf, a softcore veteran who helmed something like a hundred erotic films between 1963 and 1999, as well as starring in some. Release dates on The French Love, aka merely French Love vary—many sources say 1972, but we think it was 1973.
It's really impossible to measure the Worth of this film.
What more do you need to know about a movie than the fact that cheeseball actor Ken Clark plays a main character named Dick Worth and he spends ninety minutes trying to get his dick's worth of action? The Fuller Report is a half baked espionage caper set in Sweden, involving Clark's smug race car driver who gets swept up in a frantic search for the eponymous report. What's in these papers? References to a Soviet defector, who it turns out is a kidnap and blackmail target. But the villains have more complex plans for her—they intend to turn her into an assassin. And of course the racing comes into play too, but not as much as you'd think based on the Japanese promo poster above.
Jointly made by the Italian company Fida Cinematografica and French based Les Productions Jacques Roitfeld, this is high budget schlock with Americans in three of the four main roles, and the fourth slot occupied by Serbian star Beba Lončar, who plays the defector. Lončar is a real beauty, but Ken Clark wins the production value award hands down—dude is seriously ripped. There's a steam bath scene involving Lončar, but we think it was actually put in the film so Clark could get his chest all oiled up.
Overall, we recommend you break out either a twelve-pack or the weed pipe for this flick—it's rife with awful acting, clunky staging, and loaded lines of dialogue any cleverhead could riff on all night. Our favorite? Clark and Lončar are in bed enjoying post-coital bliss and Lončar gushes, “I love you so much.” Clark's response: “Me too.” Invite your funny friends, sit back and enjoy Lončar's beautiful face, Clark's steely torso (without the fur he's wearing below), and the great soundtrack by Armando Trovajoli. The movie opened in Italy as Rapporto Fuller, base Stoccolma in early 1968, and sped into Japan today in 1970.
McQueen behind the scenes.
At first we thought this was a promo poster for Steve McQueen's 1971 racing thriller Le Mans, which in Japan was called The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the distributors Towa Co. having opted for an English title, perhaps to make the film sound more exotic. But there's a smaller Japanese title at bottom—栄光のル •マン—which means “Glory of Le Mans.” It was while staring at this bit that we saw John Sturges and Lee Katzin credited as directors. But Sturges had nothing to do with Le Mans—Lee Katzin directed it alone.
It finally dawned on us that this poster is for a documentary about the making of Le Mans, using footage from the movie and, we're guessing, the two Sturges films that starred McQueen—The Great Escape and The Magnificent Seven. So this poster represents a bit of a mystery. It promotes a documentary that was seemingly released only in Japan. Note that it isn't for the 2015 doc Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans. That worthy effort was directed by Gabriel Clark and John McKenna.
No this is a different film. And we're pretty sure it's from the period just after Le Mans played in cinemas, for no other reason than the poster has a retro aesthetic, both in layout and font, that you don't find in Japanese promos after about 1980. But we searched everywhere and found no reference anywhere to a Le Mans doc from that time. Or in fact any Le Mans documentary by Sturges and Katzin. So we throw it to the readership. Got any ideas? Let us know.
Alternate theory: Sturges ended up on this totally by accident. It's a typo, and the poster is in fact for the feature film Le Mans.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
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