Vintage Pulp Jan 9 2015
CLAWS FOR ALARM
Me? Why should I touch it? You’re the one always going on about how you can tell everything about a man from his handshake.

British author Sax Rohmer, aka Arthur Henry Ward, wrote many novels but made his reputation with the Fu Manchu series. Tales of Chinatown doesn’t feature that famous character, but instead deals in short story form with other characters and various unsavory goings-on in the Chinese underworld of London’s Limehouse district. There are problems with Rohmer’s depictions of the Chinese, but the writing is almost a century old, so no surprise there. On the plus side, there’s sinister atmosphere of a type here you don’t often get anymore. Tales of Chinatown first appeared in 1922, and this Popular Library edition with art by Rudolph Belarski is from 1949. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 20 2014
SAMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS
Police Gazette conveniently forgets who invented what and when.


Police Gazette editors hit the panic button with this November 1961 cover claiming the Soviets have a death ray bomb. For a mere twenty-five cents readers were able to acquire new nightmare material by reading about this superweapon, which in the story is called an n-bomb. They’re of course referring to a neutron bomb, which by releasing deadly unshielded neutrons would minimize destruction and contamination of property but maximize human death. Not quite rays, so much as a wave emitted by a massive air burst, but still, the new element it brought to the nuclear party was wantonly scattered neutrons, so, okay—rays it is. It must have been a real stunner for Gazette’s millions of readers to learn of this horrific weapon, but unless the Russian scientist who brainstormed it into existence was named Sam Cohen we have to call bullshit on this tall tale, for it was Samuel T. Cohen—an American physicist—who conceived and developed the neutron bomb.

Cohen was an ex-Manhattan Project scientist who spent his career in nukes. He promoted his bomb relentlessly, defending it as “the most sane and moral weapon ever devised,” because “when the war is over, the world is still intact.” See, this is what can happen when you live in a military bubble—Cohen defined morality not by the neutron bomb’s extra-lethal effects on actual living and feeling humans, but by the survival of (reusable) material assets. At its most compact it could blast an area scarcely a mile across, however only a blind man could fail tosee that tactical neutron weapons were simply the thin edge of a wedge opening a tightly sealed nuclear door.
 
Of course, once the Soviets caught wind of this abomination they developed their own neutron bomb, prompting the U.S. to accelerate its program (see: arms race), until Ronald Reagan ordered 700 finished warheads to be deployed in Europe. It was only mass protest by Europeans—those ungrateful victims of two previous devastating continental wars—that thwarted Reagan’s plans. They realized that neutron weapons made nuclear war more likely, not less likely. If this wasn’t clear enough at the time, it became crystalline when China announced in 1999 that it had built its own neutron bomb. As you have probably deduced by now, the entire point of the Gazette’s death ray story is to urge President John F. Kennedy to get off his ass and develop an American n-bomb to counter the Soviet one. You almost have to wonder if the text was fed to Gazette editors from Sam Cohen’s office.
 
Moving on, Gazette wouldn’t be Gazette without at least a little Hitler, so in addition to the death ray feature it offers up photos of Adolf relaxing with Eva Braun at a retreat in the Bavarian Alps. In contrast to the

many stories about Hitler living in bitter, defeated isolation in South America, here readers see happy Hitler, socializing during the 1930s with friends and compatriots. Next up, Gazette gives readers their fix of celebrity content with Rita Hayworth, who had been married five times and whose problem the editors are only too happy to diagnose—in their esteemed opinion she’s just too wild to be tamed. And lastly, Gazette presses panic button number two by tying the nascent civil rights movement to communist agitation from overseas. This is a tabloid tale that was told often in the 1960s because, well, we don’t know why exactly—presumably because who besides the puppets of foreign governments would ever deign to demand equal rights? Anyway, we have a few scans below, and an entire stack of early 1970s Gazettes we hope to get to soonish.


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Vintage Pulp Oct 29 2013
TIMES SQUARED
Eastern Times—now with the daily supplements you need.

These items are rare. They’re supplements to the Chinese language newspaper Eastern Times, featuring American movie stars Joan Blondell and Lois Lindsay. The pages date from 1936. We aren’t sure if Eastern Times was published in Hong Kong or mainland China. Hong Kong would be the safer bet, but we tend to think this is from the mainland. To see another Eastern Times page, look here. 

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Hollywoodland May 27 2013
CHARLIE'S ANGEL
There but for the grace of Goddard.

We scanned these photos from Sidney Skolsky’s This Was Hollywood, a magazine we began raiding for images a couple of months back and which was first published in 1955. The brief story here tells about Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard’s relationship. This Was Hollywood makes it sounds like a fairy tale love, and that may be true—how many Western couples marry spontaneously while traveling in China? Unfortunately, after six years they were divorced in Mexico. But the young starlet had lifted Chaplin out of a dark depression and helped refocus his creative energies at a time when he was so unsure of where his career stood that he was considering retiring and moving permanently to China. And of course their film collaborations are timeless. 

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Reader Pulp Mar 28 2013
MESSAGE FROM CHINA
Once upon a time in the east.

We got an email from our friend Dan last night. A man of few words, he wrote simply, “You’re the only person who might find these as amazing as I do,” and supplied a link to the above. What is it? A Chinese propaganda poster from the 1950s. There are four more below, including our favorite: "Happy Pigs Make Great Bacon" (our unofficial title). You can see other posters here along with some translations of the text, and you can see another large collection here. And as long as we’re pointing places, we shared a collection of American propaganda posters two years ago that you can see here, and an international collection you can see here.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 15 2013
SHANGHAI SURPRISE
Westerners undone yet again by the inscrutable Chinee.


The Shanghai Gesture is a movie we were excited to see. It’s a Josef von Sternberg directed vehicle adapted from a John Colton play (though neutered due to Hays Code worries), with Gene Tierney starring alongside Victor Mature, Walter Huston, Ona Munson, and Phyllis Brooks. Von Sternberg makes almost fetishistic use of his main asset—the luscious Tierney—by showing her in such extreme close-up you’d almost think it’s her breath fogging the lens, rather than one of the diffusion filters mid-century filmmakers utilized to shoot their female stars. A few minutes after she appears, as she observes the decadent tableau inside a Shanghai casino, she pulls out this line: “The place smells evil, like a place where anything can happen.” We’d suggest that if a place smells evil, something already happened. Blame the nearest person. Or the dog. Anyway, when Tierney makes her observation we understand pretty quickly that it’s going to be about her, a flower of Western purity, and her headlong descent into Oriental flooziedom.

All well and good, but the filmmakers fall prey to the type of easy characterizations that the best movies of the period were learning to avoid. When you observe, for example, the mostly respectful depiction of a character like Sam in 1942’s Casablanca, it becomes difficult not to cringe at such excesses here as Ona Munson's Chinese character MotherGin Sling entering rooms to the sound of a gong, or Walter Huston’s Sir Guy Charteris—a supposed old hand in Asia—querying Mike Mazurky with, “You speakee Chinee? Cantonee? You breakee window?” Did Westerners in China back then really say things like that? We’re dying to know. Mazurky gets the last line in the film, tossing off a smug echo of one of Huston’s earlier questions, and at that moment he’s a sort of stand-in for all Shanghai, which by now we know is a place where white people meet their ruin, but still—“You speakee Chinee?” The unintentional humor of such moments undermines the believability of the entire enterprise.

Another problem for us is that Victor Mature comes across as singularly unappealing. He’s not supposed to be a nice guy, but depriving him of any shred of charm makes it hard to believe Tierney would desire him. In any case, the script requires this and other indignities of poor Gene, and soon her fall from grace is so complete she even loses her mellifluous upper class accent and starts braying like a donkey. Yes, there’s some good here. Tierney is spellbindingly beautiful (one reason so many people thinkthis movie is better than it really is, we suspect). Some of the interiors are excellent, especially Mother Gin Sling’s baroque circular casino. A couple of the set pieces are striking, such as when young women are hoisted in baskets above a crowd of men clambering to buy them for their flower boats—i.e., floating brothels. And Huston is solid in his portrayal of Charteris. But all in all, The Shanghai Gesture is strictly so-so.

Incidentally, the movie is widely labeled a film noir, but it really isn’t. Yes, it can be difficult to say definitively whether a film fits into a certain category because “genre” is a nebulous concept to begin with, but we submit that this one is well off the mark, no more a noir than is The Lost Weekend, or for that matter Casablanca. If we’d known in advance it was a run-of-the-mill melodrama—yes, an exotic one, but also clunky and unengaging—we would not have expected the cutting cynicism and visual wit that characterize so many film noirs. If you go into it expecting something more along the lines of a B-picture, then The Shanghai Gesture might entertain. But whatever you expect, don’t think you're goingto see von Sternberg or Tierney doing their best work. At top you see the original American promo poster, and below that some production photos. The Shanghai Gesture premiered in New York City on Christmas 1941, and went into national release today in 1942.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 6 2012
EYE OF THE TIGRESS

The two exceptional posters below were made for the 1973 Taiwanese film Shuang mian nu sha xing, which was released internationally as A Girl Called Tigress. It starred Polly Shang-Kwan, aka Lingfeng Shangguan, et.al., who was a triple-black belt and had gotten fairly well known in films such as Girl Fighter and Rider of Revenge. This particular effort is her first in the sub-genre fans like to call “basher” movies, meaning that the action consists of simple punches, kicks, chops, and blocks. Maybe it’s better if you just see for yourself. Polly Shang-Kwan shows her stuff here. 

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Intl. Notebook Oct 31 2011
BE LIKE MIKE
Everybody wants to join the party.

These two shots show two wider angles of the Ivy Mike nuclear test detonated 31 October, 1952 (1 November in some time zones) at Eniwetok Atoll in the South Pacific. We’re reposting this test not because we’re running out of nuclear images (that’s not even remotely possible), but because it’s the only test we can find that occurred on the scariest day of the year, Halloween. But if it doesn’t frighten you, consider this—an independent, non-partisan report released today reveals that the U.S., Russia, France, Israel, China, Pakistan, India and North Korea are all expanding their nuclear arsenals. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 4 2011
WESTERN POINT OF VIEW
Britain may have colonized the island, but it was Hollywood that colonized the film culture.

Above are six issues of Hong Kong’s West Point magazine, named for a geographical feature of Hong Kong Island. The insides of these are not as visually interestings as the outsides, owing mainly to the poor quality printing and coarse paper stock, but if you’re curious you can see some interior pages here. You may also be wondering if West Point had coverage of Asian celebs. Yes, but unfortunately they weren’t allowed within light years of the magazine’s cover, as far as we can tell. These issues, top to bottom, date from the early-’50s to 1967 and feature Barbara Lang, Ann-Margret, Rock Hudson, Jeanne Crain, Michèle Girardon, and Julie Andrews. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 1 2011
WAKING THE DEAD
Your kung fu is indeed impressive, but I fear that to demonstrate it on this random dude’s gravestone is the worst possible karma.

Vintage Shaolin comic books are items we see often and the cover art always catches our eye. This one dates from the 1960s, we’re guessing, and it came from Hong Kong. Unless you read Chinese the specifics will be lost, but there are swords, and boats, and horses, and flames, which means it’s great. Thirteen interior scans below. We'd have posted more, but that's where the laziness thing comes in.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 28
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".

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