Nick and Nora Charles—never shaken, never stirred, and almost never sober.
1934's The Thin Man is what we like to think of of a palate cleanser. After reading a few less accomplished authors you grab a Hammett because you know he's great. It's pure fun following functional alcoholic Nick Charles and his equally hard drinking young wife Nora as they navigate deception and murder. How much do Nick and Nora Charles drink? At one point Nick wakes up feeling terrible and realizes it's because he'd gone to bed sober. Several cocktail sessions a day is about average. Maybe that's why danger doesn't faze them. Even being shot at is reason for a libation and a quip.
This edition of The Thin Man is a rare one. It's the Pocket Books paperback from 1945, with the type of art that was prevalent on paperbacks during the heyday of pulp. We can't tell you much about the book that hasn't already been written, including the fact that it's less a mystery than a comedy of manners, but there is one aspect that's rarely commented upon. Nick Charles is of Greek descent. His full last name is Charalambides. This was the ’30s, when there was open racism in the U.S. against Greeks. James M. Cain delves into this in The Postman Always Rings Twice, in which the Greek character Nick Papadakis is insulted behind his back and set apart as a non-white inferior.
So in The Thin Man Hammett was portraying Nick Charles not as the upper crust dilettante William Powell made famous in the film version, but as a tough guy outsider. People are a bit afraid of him. Filmgoers were definitely not afraid of pencil mustached William Powell. Hammett wanted the written Charles to possess street cred, to be a person who had been places and seen things others had not. Hammett was going for a different type of detective in more ways than merely his drinking habits. Charles' maverick role is just a little extra flavor in an already entertaining novel. The actual mystery is difficult to follow, but even so we highly recommend this if you haven't read it.
Any of you hardened felons seen my beautiful virginal daughter lately?
Mitchell Hooks handles the cover work on this Gold Medal edition of the 1957 Tarn Scott thriller Don't Let Her Die. The book concerns a well connected prison inmate who uses his outside-the-walls contacts to kidnap the warden's daughter and maneuver for a pardon in exchange for her life. We say maneuver rather than demand because the convict keeps deniability throughout, claiming to know nothing even as the warden daily receives anonymous ultimatums, with a little extra motivation provided by photos of his terrified daughter nude. The warden caves pretty quickly, appeals to the governor for the pardon, is refused, and that's where things get interesting. There's more grit than usual here, but certain lines will not be crossed, and the reader is well aware of that, despite all the menace injected into the prose. Even so, Scott—a pseudonym used by Walter Szot and Peter G. Tarnor—certainly showed promise. Sadly, the pairing only produced a few books.
Il dolce corpo di Deborah is pretty but inside it has issues.
Renato Casaro does solid work as always on this poster he painted to promote the Italian giallo flick Il dolce corpo di Deborah. We've featured him often, and you can see some of his best work here, here, and here. If you were translating the title Il dolce corpo di Deborah into English normally, it would be the linguistically economical “Deborah's Sweet Body,” but instead the distributors went literal with The Sweet Body of Deborah. Going with something clunkier than needed is a good metaphor for the film.
The story involves a newly married American woman played by Carroll Baker who honeymoons with her Italian husband in Geneva, where he runs into a former friend who accuses him of murder. The death in question was of the husband's ex-girlfriend. It was ruled suicide, but the acquaintance claims it was murder. He spends a lot of time and effort trying to convince Baker her husband is a killer, but is he telling the truth, or is there something even more sinister going on? That's a rhetorical question. This is giallo.
Normally we'd suggest watching the film to find out what happens, but we won't do that because this is a limp and disjointed thriller made watchable only thanks to good cinematography, interesting Geneva exteriors, and Baker pushing the envelope of allowable skin. Bad scripting and bad acting really hurt here, and the double twist ending feels perfunctory. We won't go so far as to say Body blows, but it could be plenty better. Il dolce corpo di Deborah premiered in Italy today in 1969.
That's a lovely compliment, but I haven't showered since yesterday. I did make some muffins earlier.
This is an interesting cover for the 1962 novel Sweet Smell of Lust by Arnold Marmor, with its mirror perspective and extra large Oscar standing on the bureau. Basically, it's the story of two women vying for the same plum film role. One woman is older, desperate, and ruthless enough to pull dirty tricks for the role, while the other is young and naive to the point that she'll do whatever she's asked, even if it means ending up on her back. There's something in the air indeed—pheromones. Agents, directors, criminals, hardcore partiers, and the obligatory oversexed lesbian round out the cast. There are numerous vintage books in this Hollwood sleaze category, so many that the genre cries out for a cover collection. Maybe we'll put one together.
The ratings on this one were sky high.
Above is a photo of the U.S. nuclear test Upshot–Knothole Annie, which was conducted as part of a series of explosions known as Operation Upshot–Knothole. Scientists studied the effect of a nuclear blast on wooden houses (wiping out any possible equity), a bunch of automobiles (totally ruining their resale value), and eight bomb shelters (which actually functioned properly, but with a blasted radioactive landscape crawling with ravenous zombies, what would be the point of surviving?). Interestingly, the test was broadcast on national television, which goes to show you can convince people to watch anything, even a vision of their own future destruction. The broadcast was also recorded on a kinescope, which makes it a rare recording of the actual sound of an atomic blast—the last sound you hear. That was today in 1953.
She was so good Horwitz had a second helping.
Senta Berger makes a second appearance on a Horwitz Publications paperback cover, this time for Carter Brown's Murder Is My Mistress. We showed you the Horwitz cover for Brown's Swan Song for a Siren a while back. That actually came second of the pair and was numbered 34 in the company's Reprint by Demand series. The above is number 19 and was published in 1960. We found it on the Nick Carter & Carter Brown blog, which is a stop you should make if you want to know everything about Brown. Anyway, we've been discussing these Horwitz paperbacks for a while because of their celebrity covers. In using Berger twice the publisher chose well.
She'll have you eating out of them in no time.
1960s nude photography in countries like England and the U.S. usually involved coming up with ways to hide pubic hair, which, if it appeared, merited a one-way ticket to jail for obscenity. Often the offending region was simply airbrushed away, making women resemble sexless aliens, but here British model and actress June Palmer keeps it simple—fingers steepled, hands placed just so, and only her palms know how thick the carpet is. This is a clever pose. Her hands make a triangle, and leave a triangle shaped space. Palmer, along with Pamela Green, was the most famous of the Harrison Marks models of the 1960s, and appeared often in his nudie magazines Kamera and Solo, as well as in nudie film loops. This great shot is from a Modern Man special edition called Modern Man Deluxe Quarterly, and was the centerfold shot for winter 1969.
If you get too close you'll definitely lose a body part.
This is fresh territory for us. No, not cheap b-movies. We talk about those all the time. What's new is featuring a film that's known mainly as a video release. But since we talked about the original 'Gator Bait and its star Claudia Jennings, pivoting to the sequel seems like a natural move. 'Gator Bait came out in 1974. Claudia Jennings' early death, plus the advent of VHS, made that film a home viewing classic and laid the groundwork for a follow-up. Writer-director-producers Beverly and Ferd Sebastian—yes, Ferd—entered the scene fifteen years after the first installment, which was also their work, and Gator Bait II: Cajun Justice was born.
Gator Bait II veers deeper into the swamp than 'Gator Bait, as well as deeper into pure sexploitation. Jan MacKenzie plays red-headed Angelique, who marries her bearish Cajun love only to watch in horror as other Cajuns that covet her freckled body try to permanently sink him in the swamp. These degenerates all pollute poor Angelique's wetlands, and from there it's the standard sexploitation progression from escape to bloody revenge. This movie sinks pretty low, but its makers weren't dumb. In casting its star they found a fully competent actress who, as a bonus, was also a rare combination of doe-eyed innocence and pure hotness.
We wonder whether that hotness was actually part of the family. MacKenzie's real name is Jan Sebastian, same as Beverly and ole Ferd—again, yes, it's Ferd. We can't confirm the connection, but having your daughter/niece/what-have-you headline your cheapie sexploitation sequel is pretty slick, because if she was related to them we seriously doubt she made industry scale for her efforts. Even so she's the only reason to watch the film. She has that in common with Claudia Jennings, who's the only reason to watch the original 'Gator Bait. Does that mean we're recommending Gator Bait II? Hell no.
There's an actual iron maiden down here. Looking at it, I admit it's an unduly harsh thing to call you when I'm angry.
As you know by now, we're often drawn to books by the covers, and John Dickson Carr's Hag's Nook attracted us because of the instantly recognizable art by Robert Stanley. Well, you can't win them all. This is a gothic mystery featuring Dr. Gideon Fell, who would appear in more than twenty other novels. Fell is unique in crime lit. He's obese and gets around on two canes—which is actually a pretty good description of the book's plot. Carr would go on to become a legendary writer of golden age mysteries, so we don't doubt for a moment that he penned numerous excellent tales, but this early effort—1933 originally, with this Dell edition appearing in 1951—didn't get it done for us. What did get it done for us, though, is the dungeon feel of Stanley's cover art. He's one of the good ones. We remember the blog Pop Sensation once described his work as "rich and creamy," which was descriptively on the nose, we think. Check for yourself here and here.
That moment when you realize your neighbors have known all along you've been watching them.
Above, a poster for Danchizuma: Kanki no yoru, aka Apartment Wife: Night of Pleasure, starring Junko Miyashita, Tatsuya Hamaguchi, and Masumi Jun. This is of course another Nikkatsu roman porno romp, with all that the label suggests. This entry was seventh in a franchise that eventually totaled twenty-one films. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
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