Altman and company get gangsta in the heartland.
Auteur and maverick Robert Altman directed several films centered around crime, but perhaps only his 1930s gangster flick Kansas City truly fits the bill as a pulp style effort. The plot tells the tale of Blondie O'Hara, whose petty crook husband Johnny is captured by gangster Seldom Seen and held at a nightclub, prompting Blondie to kidnap the wife of a local politician in an attempt to blackmail him into using his connections to free Johnny. Sounds straightforward, but Altman's approach to this is leisurely and episodic.
Kansas City is generally considered to be a lesser effort from the legendary director, but even if it's not in the class of Short Cuts or M*A*S*H*, it has some points of interest—a slithery jazz score, lots of smoky nightclub scenery, Steve Buscemi warming up for another gangster role in the brilliant Miller's Crossing, Harry Belafonte playing it cool, and Jennifer Jason Leigh giving her actorly all as the drawling, flapperesque Blondie.
Another plus is this killer promo poster. When we saw it we had to watch the movie. But what's the most important reason to watch it? Altman, of course. It's always fun to see what a director does with the 1930s. What's the main drawback? Aside from its narrative quirkiness, we suspect its racial content may be a bit much for those with millennial sensibilities. But don't fault art for holding a mirror to history. When we can't reflect the past in cinema we'll have fallen pretty far. Kansas City premiered in the U.S. today in 1996.
Ahoy there, miss! Do you mind if we pull abreast?
At top, a poster for the Hitomi Kozue roman porno flick Nikutai hanzai kaigan: Piranha no mure, aka Sex-Crime Coast: School of Piranha. In this one Kozue rises out of the sea like Aphrodite, which is how we always suspected she came to be. Well, okay, she isn't actually a deity. Instead she plays an all-too-mortal gangster girl who falls for a gangster boy in the seaside region of Shōnan, along Sagami Bay. But romance is never easy in these films, and a love triangle soon brings jealousy and violence to the idyllic sands of central Japan. It's Nikkatsu Studios, and it's roman porno, so you know exactly what you'll get here. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
Loneliness isn't always as bad as it sounds.
Soledad Miranda has one of the more interesting cinematic names you'll run across. Her first name is Spanish for “loneliness,” and her last is Latin for “worthy of admiration.” Because she was so worthy of admiration we doubt she was ever lonely for long. Her real name was Soledad Bueno, and that's rather nice too, if even more unlikely sounding. As Miranda, and sometimes as Susan Korda or Susan Korday, she appeared in more than thirty movies but became one of filmdom's tragic young figures when she was killed in an auto accident in 1970 at the age of twenty-seven. The above image is from that year.
Hah hah, I'm free! Drinks for everyone! My ex-husband's paying!
Why is this woman laughing? Because she's just been granted a divorce. She's actress Francesca de Scaffa and she was married to actor Bruce Cabot until today in 1951, when the photo memorialized her cheerful unfettering. Why is the man laughing? He's Hollywood super lawyer Jerry Giesler, and he's probably thinking about the fees he collected. Strangely, Wikipedia lists de Scaffa and Cabot as divorcing in 1957, but we found wire photos stating unambiguously that they split in 1951. However, we also found references to the 1957 divorce. We can only guess the two remarried at some point, a supposition that makes sense considering we also found a photo of the two dining in December 1951 captioned in part, “Last night, guess who took [de Scaffa] night-clubbing? Right! Bruce Cabot.” The point of the caption being that divorced couples are not often seen out having a night on the town together. It lends credence to the idea that they married twice, but don't quote us on it. We will find out, though, because we'll probably revisit de Scaffa a bit later—she's true pulp material. Among her many exploits were acting as an informant for Confidential magazine, a liaison with the Shah of Iran, marrying a Spanish bullfighter, running afoul of Mexican officials who tried to deport her, two suicide attempts, and more. As far as her marriage(s) with Cabot go(es), we'll put it(them) in the mystery file for now.
Getting what you want is all in how you ask.
It seems as if no genre of literature features more characters in complete submission to others than mid-century sleaze. And how do these hapless supplicants express their desperation? They break out the kneepads. Above and below are assorted paperback covers of characters making pleas, seeking sympathy, and professing undying devotion. Though some of these folks are likely making the desired impression on their betters, most are being ignored, denied, or generally dumptrucked. You know, psychologists and serial daters say a clean break is best for all involved, so next time you need to go Lili St. Cyr on someone try this line: “I've decided I hate your face now.” That should get the job done. Art is by Harry Barton, Barye Philips, Paul Rader, et al.
Virginity wasn’t against the law, but topless dancing was—until she came along.
Burlesque dancer Yvonne D’Angers graces the cover of this Midnight published today in 1967. She was born in Teheran, Iran and reached the height of her fame after a 1965 obscenity trial, a government threat to deport her, a publicity stunt where she chained herself to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and a 1966 appearance in Playboy. There’s surprisingly little about her online—not even a measly Wikipedia page. But she was important within her milieu—she was one of four defendants in the aforementioned obscenity trial, along with Carol Doda, Kay Star, and Euraine Heimberg, and the acquittal legalized topless dancing and waitressing in San Francisco. That decision made San Fran the first city in the U.S. where this was the case.
D’Angers’ main haunt was the Off Broadway on Kearney Street, but she also danced at Gigi’s, which was located on Broadway, and she worked in Las Vegas, in addition to touring the U.S. She was married to Off Broadway owner Voss Boreta, and he was her manager, making her part of a client list that included Doda and the topless girl-band The Ladybirds. She was also—though this is not often noted—a college graduate anda painter. She billed herself as being naturally endowed, but both she and Doda were said by people who knew them early in their careers to have been worked on by cosmetic surgeons. The above shots of D’Angers, pre-fame, pre-blonde, versus post-fame, 44D, hanging out with Trini Lopez, seem to confirm those stories. We'll have more on D’Angers (and Doda) later.
It’s exotic, erotic, and psychotic—but is it good?
When Radley Metzger’s softcore movie The Lickerish Quartet was released overseas, its Italian distributors rightly decided that was a stupidish title for a movie and changed it to Esotika Erotika Psicotika. Unfortunately, Esotika Erotika Psicotika sounds glossier and more sophisticated than what you ultimately receive here. What you get is a rich, jaded couple and their surly son who watch 16-millimeter porno loops in their castle for thrills. One night they go out and encounter a motorcycle stunt rider who resembles a woman in one of the loops. They invite her back for what they hope will be a night of debauchery, but which turns out to be less conventional fuck than extended mindfuck. It quickly becomes apparent why the movie opened with a Luigi Pirandello quote pondering the nature of reality, as time and space soon become malleable, leading toward an ending that questions the truth of everything that came before.
The movie received good reviews when released, but we suspect much of that owes to its novelty and Metzger’s previous successes with Camille 2000 and The Dirty Girls. In other words, it hasn’t aged well. It’s like that summer you wore an orange shirt and your friends lauded you for experimenting with your wardrobe, but later you saw a photo of that night and realized you looked like a traffic cone with shoes. Like that shirt, this movie was a bold experiment that made sense at the time but seems a bit silly now. On the plus side, it’s shot on location at Balsorano Castle in L’Aquila, Italy, so at least the audience was able to indulge its fantasies of running away to Abruzzo. Esotika Erotika Psicotika, with Silvana Venturelli, Erika Remberg, and others, premiered in Italy today in 1972.
They always say to aim high in life but I’ve found aiming low gets good results too.
Isa Miranda was born in Italy in 1909 as Ines Isabella Sampietro and by 1933 was acting in films. The next year she earned widespread acclaim in Max Ophüls’ La Signora di tutti, a role that paved the way for her to leap to Hollywood where she was billed as an Italian Marlene Dietrich. The above promo shows Miranda in character as Anna from 1939’s Hotel Imperial, a movie in which she shot nobody in the crotch, despite her low aim here.
Her touch turned a fish into a pile of money.
Above is a poster for a Japanese film called Caress with Poison. It starred Hisako Tsukuba, who made nearly fifty films beginning in 1957 and recorded some music before becoming Chako van Leeuwen and shifting into movie production in the U.S. She’s put together eight movies as a producer, but her prized property is the Piranha franchise. You know the ones—Piranha, Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD. Our kind of producer, especially since she apprenticed under none other than Roger Corman. Her first Piranha movie was made in 1978 for $800,000 and grossed $30 million worldwide. Hah hah—who’s smirking now? Piranha launched the careers of Joe Dante and John Sayles, and the sequel was James Cameron’s first turn behind the camera. Clearly, van Leeuwen knows how to make low budget films. True, she’s no Jeffrey Bloom, but she possesses a similar genius. Caress with Poison premiered in Japan this month in 1963.
Fifty years on and the American mainstream media have completely retreated into an alternate reality.
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.
To listen to the mainstream media, you’d almost think there weren’t actual criminal proceedings or lawsuits extant in every example we just mentioned. It takes a willful disconnection from reality to deny how prevalent conspiracies are in modern life when hundreds of perpetrators are at this moment sitting as defendants in court because they were caught conspiring. If we want to delve into a few historical examples of conspiracies, then note that the NSA conspired to mislead the U.S. public about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, that American asbestos companies conspired to cover up the truth about the danger of their product, and that in 1962 the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff conspired to kill American citizens. That conspiracy took the form of a proposal called Operation Northwoods. In short, American citizens would have been killed in a series of terrorist bomb attacks that would have been blamed on Cuba. Northwoods was approved for implementation by every one of the sitting Joint Chiefs. Really let that sink in. The only reason the American government did not kill American citizens is because John F. Kennedy said no—he wasn’t interested in committing high treason and murder so he could invade Cuba.
All of the examples we’ve cited above—a small percentage of the whole, by the way—are incontrovertible historical facts, easily referenced in reams of unearthed documents and on the internet. And all are conspiracies by definition. People who believe Kennedy was victim of a conspiracy are derided as semi-literate fringe crackpots, but that group includes President Lyndon Johnson, First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, French president Charles DeGaulle, and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, all of whom voiced disbelief that Oswald acted alone. So the question we should be asking today isn’t why so many people believe in conspiracies, but why the mainstream media are so far removed from the factual realities of human, corporate, and political existence, why they are so resistant to the simple truth that conspiracies are how powerful actors circumvent regulations, laws, and democratic rights. Or more to the point, exactly what planet do mainstream journalists live on? Not this one, seemingly.
Here at Pulp Intl., we do not style ourselves as truth tellers or serious investigators. We just like pulp art and good white wine, and if we can combine the latter with our naked girlfriends, all the better. We think the question of whether JFK was the victim of a conspiracy needs to be confronted with the proper respect toward the people who believe he was, and the fractional element who believe he wasn't should not automatically be given the high ground. Kennedy was dead before we were born, so in truth, we don’t feel any great passion about it. But to us he is symbolic of the steep decline of the modern American mainstream press. Consider this: in a world where conspiracies incontrovertibly occur, and occur so often that it's actually difficult to keep track of them all, the American press continues to use terms like "conspiracy theory" as an epithet and treats anyone who questions the official JFK assassination story like a fool or a nut case. At the very least, that’s a disservice. At worst it's deliberate social engineering.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
1906—First Airplane Flight in Europe
Romanian designer Traian Vuia flies twelve meters outside Paris in a self-propelled airplane, taking off without the aid of tractors or cables, and thus becomes the first person to fly a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Because his craft was not a glider, and did not need to be pulled, catapulted or otherwise assisted, it is considered by some historians to be the first true airplane.
1965—Leonov Walks in Space
Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov leaves his spacecraft the Voskhod 2 for twelve minutes. At the end of that time Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter Voskhod's airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off, was barely able to get back inside the capsule, and in so doing became the first person to complete a spacewalk.
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