|Vintage Pulp||Oct 26 2017|
Charles Williams wrote more than twenty novels, and though the ones we've read have been good to serviceable, we were expecting eventually to come across an absolute winner. Hell Hath No Fury is that book. It was Williams' fourth novel, written in 1953, and features a tough drifter who becomes a used car salesman in a brokedick country town where he happens to notice bank security is lax. But robbing the bank is the mere entry point to all the problems he encounters. There's also a one-woman nightmare of a femme fatale, a shockingly adept sheriff, a filthy blackmailer, an irascible boss, and a sweet local beauty ripe for love. Williams uses the best line in the book on her:
I took her face in my hands and kissed her. And then they dynamited the dam.
There's no dam. That's just what the kiss does to him. And it's a brilliant pulp moment. A book like this screams for film adaptation, and it was eventually put onscreen in the form of 1990's The Hot Spot, with Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, and a radiant Jennifer Connelly. We haven't watched the film, but it's on the slate. The only flaw to the book, besides the usual stuff general to 1950s crime fiction, is the title. The main character Harry Madox thinks he's rid himself of the femme fatale Dorothy Harshaw, but hell hath no fury. Those four words tell us she'll be back plenty mad and will have a say in how matters conclude. It takes a little of the suspense away. Otherwise, top notch.
|Modern Pulp||Oct 26 2017|
We told you the film was on the slate. When we noticed its premier date was right around the corner we watched it immediately after finishing Hell Hath No Fury. First order of business—the poster and tagline are terrible. It shows how easy it can be for a studio to screw up both. The text tells you The Hot Spot is a film noir, but the triptych style art provides no compelling imagery. Worse, you don't see Don Johnson clearly, though as a huge television star thanks to Miami Vice he was the movie's greatest asset. And you don't see Jennifer Connelly at all, who even back then was one of Hollywood's most beautiful women. Posters are seen before they're read, and the visuals here give no reason to examine further. We grade it a major fail.
But what of the film? Well, it got generally good reviews, but the public never turned up to see it. Johnson is nicely cast as the drifter/grifter Harry Madox, so he isn't to blame. Jennifer Connelly and Virginia Madsen were less known, but as supporting characters they more than did their part. Other modern noirs had performed well in cinemas, so it's not the style of The Hot Spot that hurt it. The direction from Dennis Hopper sticks reasonably close to the novel, and he gets the overheated small town atmosphere right, so we'll give him a pass too. Most likely the studio simply didn't make an effective push behind the movie—a theory backed up by the bad poster.
But The Hot Spot holds up well these years later. Some might find Madsen's honeydripping femme fatale improbable, but she's channelling both the source material and classic noirs. Other viewers probably doubted a nineteen-year-old Connelly could develop feelings for a Johnson on the far side of forty, but it happens. People who doubt that just haven't spent enough time in the real world. In the film the age difference does not go unaddressed. Johnson's feelings for his inappropriate crush prompt him to act against his best interests. Whether he pays a price hangs less on his cunning than on chance. Or perhaps it hangs on someone else's cunning—that's where the best femmes fatales always come in. The Hot Spot premiered in the U.S. today in 1990.
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 14 2016|
This is a pretty unassuming poster considering A Boy and His Dog is one of the top cult films of the 1970s. Based on a novella by Harlan Ellison and starring a young Don Johnson and co-starring early Pulp Intl. femme fatale Susanne Benton (who you can see in all her glory here), the movie is a post-apocalyptic tale of desperate survivors wandering radioactive wastelands scratching out a hard fought existence. Mutations have done a number on living creatures, which is why Johnson's co-star is a shaggy telepathic dog named Blood. Man and dog have a symbiosis, with Johnson offering protection, the dog sniffing out food and women, and both profiting companionship. Sounds goofy, we know, but the telepathic dog bit really works. Blood is irascible, but funny, smart, and warm, while Johnson is a slave to his id and libido. Ultimately, circumstances offer a choice between a dangerous and unpredictable freedom on the wastelands, or a secure but tedious existence in an underground sanctuary. The final question becomes whether conventionality diminishes a man. Playing like a bizarro prequel to The Road Warrior, and ultimately revealing itself to be a barroom joke stretched out to feature length, this is a film we recommend, however be forewarned that Harlan Ellison's post-apocalypse is a tough place for women. A Boy and His Dog premiered in the U.S. today in 1975.
|Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique||Sep 27 2014|
This National Insider from today in 1964 claims that American politician Barry Goldwater had “nervous breakdowns” in 1937 and 1939, but in the midst of his run for president denied they happened. Well, who wouldn’t, right? There’s no new reporting here—Insider is merely echoing the claims of publisher Ralph Ginzburg, who had written of the breakdowns in his magazine Fact, and as evidence had referenced an interview Goldwater’s wife had given Good Housekeeping in May 1964. That’s the inspiration for the line: Barry Says “None” …Wife Says "Two.” Ginzburg was garnering attention for Fact by attacking people from all over the political spectrum, including Bobby Kennedy, and he eventually lost a libel suit regarding his Goldwater claims.
The Goldwater breakdowns are a matter of record today. Ginzburg’s libel suit hinged not on the fact of those incidents, but on embellishments such as his convoluted assessment that Goldwater was “...a man who obviously identifies with a masculine mother rather than an effeminate father.” Goldwater made Ginzburg pay for his ill-considered words, but in the end, both of their careers faltered. Goldwater was crushed in the 1964 presidential election by Lyndon Johnson, and Ginzburg went to jail—not for libel, but for obscenity related to his other magazine Eros. It’s all just another interesting story conjured by another random tabloid cover. And there are still more to come—we have about a hundred full tabloids remaining, everything from Police Gazette to Midnight. We’ll never be able to post them all, but you can bet we’ll try our damndest.
|Intl. Notebook | Politique Diabolique||Nov 22 2013|
Stories about John F. Kennedy’s assassination have been appearing in the media for several weeks leading up the 50th anniversary of the event, as various outlets try to get ahead of the wave of interest, but we’re purists here, so we’re sharing this poster today, on the actual anniversary of the murder. Let’s get the basics out of the way first. As we’ve mentioned before, a Gallup poll taken days after the killing showed that a majority of Americans believed Oswald was not the only participant. That percentage has gone up since, reaching more than 80%, according to some surveys. That means people who believe Oswald acted with others have always been the majority, and today are the vast majority. That’s something your trusted media outlet always leaves out, doesn’t it? The point is if you think there was a conspiracy, you are the norm, part of an overwhelming norm, rather than some crackpot minority.
It’s an important point because many of the articles published today ask questions like, “Why do people believe in conspiracies?” The problem with that question lies in its framing—it implies that we live in a world that has no or few conspiracies, that it’s silly to believe they exist. That’s very interesting, considering that in the Libor scandal up to 20 major banks conspired to rig interest rates in a $350 trillion derivatives market, that Britain’s spy agency GCHQ conspired to secretly tap into the fiber optic cables that carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic, that the bank HSBC conspired to launder billions of dollars in South American drug cartel money, that ING conspired to violate sanctions against certain types of business dealings with Cuba and Iran, that News of the World conspired to illegally hack the phones of private citizens, and that Merrill Lynch conspired to deliberately overcharge 95,000 customers $32 million in unwarranted fees. All of these happened in just the last few years.
|Hollywoodland||Nov 18 2010|
Above is a National Enquirer from the week November 12—18, 1961, with cover star Sal Mineo. Mineo had been a major Hollywood presence who had scored two Academy Award nominations, one of which was for his bravura performance as Plato in Rebel without a Cause. But by 1961 the roles had dried up. The problem was his boyish appearance: he had made his reputation playing volatile youths, but now he was older and studios didn’t believe he could play other types of roles. At the time of the Enquirer cover, Mineo hadn’t worked for eighteen months. The article was simply another variation on the troubled youth theme, riffing on how Mineo had the world at his feet but had no real friends and nobody he could trust.
Soon it became clear Mineo did not have the world at his feet. He languished on the fringes of Hollywood, managing only eight roles—some of them mere bit parts—in the next ten years. However, by 1971 he had begun to make a mark on stage, starring in the gay-themed Fortune and Men’s Eyes with a young Don Johnson, and in 1976’s P.S. Your Cat Is Dead. Both plays were well-reviewed, for the most part, and Mineo seemed to have reached a point where he might vault back into the Hollywood mainstream. But his comeback was cut short when he was murdered behind his L.A. home in February 1976, stabbed in the heart. We looked for a better version of the above shot of Mineo on a Vespa, to no avail. But we’ll keep our eyes open—it’s out there somewhere.