West German cinema begins looking at the world in a different way.
Confession d'une pécheresse, aka The Sinner caused a bit of a scandal in West Germany, where it premiered as Die Sünderin in 1951. The movie's depictions of pre-marital sex, prostitution, nudity, and particularly double-suicide got the Catholic church bent out of shape. Despite protests against cinemas and death threats directed toward star Hildegard Knef, the movie was a smash, seen by two million West Germans within the first two weeks of its run. So based on that preamble you know pretty much what the film is about—amid a desperate post-war backdrop a prostitute falls in love with less-than-satisfactory results. But even if the story is familiar by now thanks to the many newer films that have touched upon similar subject matter, Die Sünderin is a cinematic landmark, produced in a war shattered country that had begun to put the pieces back together in a new way, including in its film industry. The above poster, a beautiful piece by the way, was made to promote Die Sünderin's French run, which began today in 1953.
Lifestyles of the French and famous.
Does this image of Karin Dor look familiar? Possibly because it’s the same one we used in a femme fatale post on her late last year. It was made to promote the film You Only Live Twice, and appeared in many places, here for example on the cover of the French magazine Cinémonde. Focusing pretty much exclusively on movies and movie stars, Cinémonde launched in 1928 and lasted until 1971, with seven years of dormancy from 1940 to 1946, and another two in 1969 and 1970. The examples you see here are all from the mid- to late-1960s, when director Maurice Bessy moved toward less conservative graphics than in the past. Generally Cinémonde cover stars were women, often French, but every once in a while a guy made the cut, such as the fronts with Marlon Brando and Gérard Philipe below. We’ll get to the interiors of Cinémonde a bit later.
, You Only Live Twice
, Karin Dor
, Marlon Brando
, Miiko Taka
, Gérard Philipe
, Maria Latour
, Sylvie Vartan
, Oya Palinka
, Mireille Darc
, Michèle Mercier
, Dany Carrel
, Candice Bergen
, Anita Ekberg
, Daniele Gaubert
, Maurice Bessy
, Anny Nielsen
Hitler makes a mad dash from the Arctic Circle to the bottom of the world.
Has it really been nearly a year since our last Hitler Police Gazette cover? A look back through the website confirms the lull, but we haven't run out of Adolfs yet. This is the twenty-eighth Gazette we've found with him as the star, a May 1961 issue proclaiming, of course, that he's alive. Inside, journo Harvey Wilson reiterates the Argentina claims that had been well flogged in previous issues, telling readers Hitler's “super secret” hideout is located in Rio Negro province at the edge of wild Patagonia. Wilson writes: “Hitler flew out of Berlin on the night of April 30, 1945. He fled the city in company with a woman and they made their departure in a Fieseler-Storch plane. They carried several suitcases and proceeded to a Nazi submarine base in Norway.” According to Wilson, the u-boat chugged across the ocean and docked at Mar de Plata, Argentina.
It's easy to understand Gazette's (and its readers') interest in Hitler. He was a titanic figure who died a tawdry little death—suicide by self-inflicted gunshot. It must have felt to the World War II generation like an anti-climax, or even a cheat. So Gazette instead assures those readers that Hitler escaped, and makes his flight sound like adventure fiction. This formula, which must have both titillated and terrified those who believed, not only furnished material for twenty-eight covers, but the story was also told numerous times in issues that didn't feature Hitler on the front, such as this one focusing on JFK, and this one that shines a spotlight on Eva Braun. But we may have finally reached the end. We know of only one other Hitler cover. We'll share that a little later. Argentina
, Rio Negro
, Mar de Plata
, World War II
, Police Gazette
, Adolf Hitler
, Harvey Wilson
Nobody gets out of here alive.
We wrote about Spanish director Jesus Franco not long ago. Sort of. When we noticed another premiere date approaching for one of his films we thought we'd check it out. El reformatorio de las perdidas, originally titled Frauengefängnis, and called Barbed Wire Dolls in the U.S., is a nearly plotless exercise in sadism featuring Lina Ronay, Monica Swinn, and other overheated female convicts dealing with predatory guards and an evil wardeness. There's an escape, as usual in these Franco films, and as usual it fails. That's giving nothing away because the escape isn't the point—the nudity and sex are. Last time we discussed Franco we made a joke of it without really talking about the quality of his films. So here's the deal—they range from the arty to the ridiculous to the outright terrible. This one falls unambiguously into the latter category. That is all. Hey, but you gotta love that Spanish poster. Frauengefängnis premiered in West Germany today in 1976, and hit Spain and other countries in 1977. Spain
, West Germany
, El reformatorio de las perdidas
, Barbed Wire Dolls
, Jesus Franco
, Jess Franco
, Lina Romay
, Monica Swinn
, poster art
, movie review
If you're hearing this it's already too late.
This curious photo shows a bit of pulp-era technology—the acoustic mirror or acoustic locator. It was used to detect the approach of aircraft. The examples above and below are from Japan, Finland, Russia, Sweden, and other countries, and date from the 1930s to the eve of World War II, when they were replaced by radar systems. Apparently, these worked quite well, picking up engine noise from miles away. But as aircraft became speedier the effective range of the devices decreased—enemy planes would reach the site where a mirror was located within a minute or two of being detected. At such speeds, a spotter with a good pair of binoculars and decent visibility would see the planes the same time a mirror heard them. But before airspeeds increased these were the surest way to detect an oncoming aerial attack or reconnaissance flight, particularly at night. In addition to portable mirrors, some countries used cast concrete to construct massive versions that had a twenty-mile range. Great Britain built the last set of these in 1943 when fears surfaced that the Germans had developed a means to jam radar. Built to endure weather and time, some survive and have become tourist attractions. We have ten more crazy acoustic mirror designs below for your enjoyment.
Some are on the left and others are on the right, but her position on guns is right in the middle.
This image of German born French actress Dorothée Blanck appeared on the cover of France's Cinémonde magazine today in 1965. Blanck died in January at the age of 81 after decades in cinema, including roles in Jean-Luc Godard's Une femme est une femme, Jean Renoir's Elena et les hommes, and Jacques Demy's Les parapluies de Cherbourg. She came from the humblest of beginnings—born in prison in Aichach, where her mother was serving time for political crimes like numerous leftists resistant to the rising Nazis; shuttled around to various orphanages and institutions; not even given an official name for the first two years of her life. Her film career began in 1953 and, with occasional lulls, she worked often throughout her life, appearing in some forty films. Her last project, entitled Jours de France, or Days of France, is in post-production and is slated to hit cinemas sometime this year.
, Jours de France
, Days of France
, Elena et les hommes
, Une femme est une femme
, Les parapluies de Cherbourg
, Dorothée Blanck
, Jean-Luc Godard
, Jacques Demy
, Jean Renoir
If at first you aren’t impressed try Trygon again.
You may have noticed we’re really digging into our collection of Japanese posters lately. Here’s another. It was made for Das Geheimnis der weißen Nonne, a West German-British movie based on Edgar Wallace’s novel Kate Plus Ten and released in English as The Trygon Factor. Basically, a Scotland Yard investigator investigates a series of robberies and finds that a respectable English family and group of nuns living in a country manor together are not what they seem. Stuart Granger and Susan Hampshire star, but the star of the poster is Sophie Hardy, which just goes to show the Japanese distributors knew exactly how best to promote the film. We saw the movie several years back and weren’t impressed, but we watched it again last night and this time found it pretty entertaining for the type of goofy crime thriller it is. We make no guarantee, though. Das Geheimnis der weißen Nonne-The Trygon Factor premiered in Japan as Dai gôtô-dan today in 1968.
, West Germany
, Das Geheimnis der weißen Nonne
, The Trygon Factor
, Dai gôtô-dan
, Kate Plus Ten
, Stuart Granger
, Susan Hampshire
, Sophie Hardy
, Edgar Wallace
, poster art
Andrea Rau bares her soul and little bit more.
German actress Andrea Rau had a knack for making eye-catching publicity photos, including a very
creepy creative shot of her standing in a hole in the woods while wearing a gas mask, but the image above is the prizewinner. It was made when she appeared in 1976 on the West German television show Disco, which ran on ZDF, one of those networks Americans would see while on vacation in Europe and go back home astonished that over-the-air television elsewhere in the world was so much more revealing. Even so, Rau bared a little bit more in the photo than the show. As you can see from looking below, she was well wreathed in foam for home audiences, so this must be one those fun bonus shots that tended to be made back then. Hope she didn't forget to wash behind her ears.
You ever wonder what nuns wear under their habits? Neither do we. But some people do.
What is it about nuns? We’ve never paid them any mind, but seventies filmmakers sure found them irresistible. We’ve shared a few examples of the phenomenon over the years, such as here, here, and especially here. Educande fuori… femmine dentro was originally made in West Germany, where it was called Die Klosterschülerinnen, and later it appeared in English speaking countries as Sex Life in a Convent. We watched it, and it’s nunsploitation without much in the way of successful humor or eroticism. You've been duly warned. But the Italian poster, which you see above, is pretty cool. Also German actress Astrid Boner—her name kills us every time!—is in a co-starring role. And probably most worth mentioning is the fact that the miraculous Doris Arden gets top billing, and deservedly so. To reiterate, deservedly so. From 1972, this one. West Germany
, Educande fuori… femmine dentro
, Sex Life in a Convent
, Die Klosterschülerinnen
, Doris Arden
, Philippe Dumont
, poster art
, sex symbol
, movie review
For some directors pushing the envelope comes naturally.
Picture the scene: It’s 1978 and sexploitation director Jesús Franco, who has redefined sleaze cinema for the masses with fifty movies, including several in the women-in-prison genre for the West German market, is chilling on his terrace in Malaga, Spain soaking up the sun. He’s chatting with his frequent collaborator, producer Erwin Dietrich, about the next project, which they’re calling Frauen für Zellenblock 9.
Jesús: "We can probably save money by using the old costumes from Frauen im Liebeslager. Same idea, right? Women all sweaty in some godforsaken prison."
Erwin: "We left those in Cyprus. Did I mention there’s a Frauen im Liebeslager theme restaurant where the old set used to be? I hear it’s real classy. Anyway, it would’ve cost too much to have that clothing shipped out here."
Jesús: "What about the things from Das Frauenhaus or Frauengefängnis? Where’s all that? And Frauen ohne Unschuld. That stuff too."
Erwin: "Warehouse fire. Suspicious circumstances. Insurance paid off, though. But shit, Jesús, why give the girls costumes at all? Just have them be naked the whole movie."
Jesús: "What? Are you nuts?"
Erwin: "I’m just saying—why bother? Audience wants skin, give them skin. Keep the girls chained up naked the whole time. And that escape scene of yours? Just have them do it naked."
Jesús: "They all get shot in the end. I can’t have them shot naked. That’s… I don’t know… eew."
Erwin: "They can be shot naked, trust me. We make it sexy. They get shot, lay them out like centerfolds."
Jesús: "Erwin, cut it out. I mean, I admit I’m intrigued by the idea artistically, but I don’t think the girls would go for it. It’s a little too crude."
Erwin: "Oh, and I suppose all the muff-diving scenes are Shakespeare? What are these girls—aspiring Catherine Denueves or something? Isn’t one of them a porn actress?"
Jesús: "Karine? Sure, but she’s hoping to go mainstream. Anyway, it’s the fucking jungle, Erwin. There are all kinds of thorns and sharp rocks out there. Spiders. Ticks. I can’t have them running around in all that with their great big bushes out. I mean…lice…you know? Although I am intrigued. Artistically, I mean."
Erwin: "Exactly. It’s art. Last Tango in Paris, right? Bertolucci has Brando shove butter up a girl’s poop chute and the critics go bananas."
Jesús: "That’s funny." *sigh* "But I’m no Bertolucci."
Erwin: "You’re right. You’re better. One day you’ll get a lifetime achievement award for all this filth, trust me. You’ll be remembered. The crazy risks you and the girls took will seem amazing to later generations."
Jesús: "You think so?"
Erwin: "I know so. In your own twisted way you’re a genius. So anyway—naked the whole movie, okay? Or at least the entire second half. Oh, and lots of sweat. And a shower orgy. And some torture. And some pee."
, Frauen für Zellenblock 9
, Tropical Inferno
, Das Frauenhaus
, Frauen ohne Unschuld
, Jesus Franco
, Jess Franco
, Karine Gambier
, Susan Hemingway
, Aida Gouveia
, Esther Studer
, Erwin Dietrich
, poster art
, movie review
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1949—Soviet Union Joins Nuclear Club
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon at a test site in Kazakhstan. American experts are shocked and dismayed because they had thought the Soviets were still years away from having a workable bomb. The resultant fear helps trigger an arms race that would see the Americans and Soviets stockpile approximately 32,000 and 45,000 nuclear devices.
1963—King Gives Famous Speech
In the U.S., Martin Luther King, Jr., at the culmination of his march on Washington for jobs and freedom, gives his famous "I Have a Dream Speech," advocating racial harmony and equality.
1981—Scientists Announce Existence of New Disease
The National Centers for Disease Control announce a high incidence of pneumocystis and Kaposi's sarcoma in gay men. These illnesses are later recognized as symptoms of a blood-borne immune disorder, which they name AIDS. The disease is initially thought to have developed in the late 1970s among gay populations, but scientists now know it developed in the late 1800s or early 1900s in Africa during the height of European conquest of the continent.
1975—Haile Selassie I Dies
Haile Selassie I, former Emperor of the Kingdom of Ethiopia, dies of respiratory failure. Selassie was most famous for his landmark speech before the League of Nations in 1936, in which he pleaded for help against an Italian invasion, but to no avail. He warned that fascist aggression would not end with Ethiopia. His words, "It is us today; it will be you tomorrow," turn out to be prophetic when Germany's fascists later spark World War II.
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