Vintage Pulp Feb 7 2019
HANGING BY A THREAD
This bikini is about as plein as they come.


The word “plein” means “full” in French, and indeed when looking at this cover the female figure's bikini is not only nicely full, but looks like it's strained to the point of breaking. Plein son bikini was written by Jean Normand, aka Raoul Lematte, Fernand Petit, Jacques Lienart, et al, and it appeared in 1954 from Éditions Roger Seban for its Pigall collection. Really, we're just interested in the art here, which is by the always adept Jef de Wulf. We have numerous entries on him, including this winner. Click his keywords below if you want to see more.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 5 2019
THE PRICE OF CIGARETTES
I promised my husband I wouldn't smoke anymore, but since I already broke one promise I might as well break them all.


Above, a cover for Two Sided Triangle by Gus Stevens for Brandon House Books, 1965. The company's most beautiful covers were painted by Fred Fixler. Is this a Fixler cover? We don't think so. Brandon House, through its art direction, seemed to make all its illustrators paint like Fixler, but while similar, this doesn't look like him to us. We could be wrong. We could always be wrong. It's happened. More than once. But we like this cover quite a bit, and it amuses us that the male figure seems to be staring directly where the sun don't shine on his female companion, which is probably what we'd be doing under the circumstances too. If you have an idea who painted this, Fixler or otherwise, feel free to drop us a line. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 4 2019
FRONTIER INJUSTICE
Those dirty bushwhackers done hung him. And nobody else in the entire territory's got feet delicate enough to walk on my back when it acts up.


When we saw this paperback at the blog canadianflybynight we immediately had to share it because it serves as an addendum to our cover collection of unfortunates who've been hanged. We gather the story here deals with a corrupt syndicate ganging up to steal the land of a stubborn rancher. Somewhere in there the cowpoke with the daintiest feet in the west is cruelly strung up. The novel is originally 1939, and this Harlequin paperback with curious cover art by D. Rickard appeared in 1950. See our hanging collection here.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 3 2019
BLAST CHANCE
It should have launched a memorable career but didn't quite work out that way.

Do people who like film noir also like NFL football? We ask because the Noir City Film Festival wraps up tonight in head-to-head competition with the Super Bowl. For football haters, the fest is a chance to get out of Super Bowl households for the duration of the game, but for others it's a tough choice. Film noir and football are similar. Both feature hardheaded men pitted in mortal struggle against forces arrayed against them. Both feature unexpected plot twists. Both put physical safety at risk. In both cheating is rampant (at least when the Patriots are involved). In neither is victory assured. We wonder what the festival organizers would have done if the 49ers had made it to the title game. Hah hah‚ that's a joke. They knew—everybody knew—the 49ers would suck this year.
 
Anyway, tonight the festival features two films, one of which is 1961's Blast of Silence. Written, directed by, and starring Allen Baron, the film is a fascinating counterpoint to Stanley Kubrick's Killer's Kiss, which showed at Noir City a few days ago. Both are low budget crime thrillers shot in New York City about men desperate for better lives whose needs center on women. Where Kubrick's protagonist is a pug boxer whose interest in a beautiful neighbor makes him want out of the ring, Baron plays a killer-for-hire whose random encounter with a woman from his youth triggers second thoughts about his chosen career.
 
Many reviews of Blast of Silence are of the glowing variety, but while it's seamlessly put together and the noir flourishes are well executed, it suffers from Baron's acting, as well as that of other performers. But everyone loves an auteur in the rough. It's easy to look past the acting and see Baron's behind-the-camera talent. Given a chance he might have had a very different career. Watching Blast of Silence you can imagine it. Like gruff voiced narrator Lionel Stander says at one point, “You get a feeling this is how it was meant to be.”
 
Instead Baron put together one more low budget movie before migrating into television, where he intermittently directed shows like The Brady Bunch and Charlie's Angels. Hmm... Brady like Tom Brady and Angels like Los Angeles? Um... where were we? Oh yes. It's amazing how Baron's career diverged from Kubrick's despite both making low budget NYC thrillers of similar quality. Was Baron as talented as Kubrick? We aren't saying that. Just that it would have been interesting to see what his cinematic career might have looked like. But if film noir teaches anything it's that in life, as in football, things don't always work out the way they should. Go Rams.
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Vintage Pulp Feb 2 2019
THE ROAD NOT TAKEN
Yes, you should have, but you didn't exit at Albuquerque, did you?


Like a comfortable sweater the Jan Hudson pseudonym was used by many, but in this case she was George H. Smith. That name, in turn, belonged to two other actual authors published during the 1960s, including one who wrote swamp sleaze novels. The Smith of Hell's Highway also wrote as M. J. Deer, Jerry Jason, Dusty North, and so forth. It all gets pretty confusing. What we know for sure, though, is that this effort is copyright 1962, with an unknown cover artist, and cool graphics on the rear. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 1 2019
POWERBALLING
Baby, this has been like winning 100 million bucks.


Above, a nice cover from Brandon House Books for Sin Lottery, a sleaze effort credited to Bob Howard, who was in reality a pseudonym used by William Stroup. 1962 on this, with proficient but uncredited art.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 31 2019
GOODIS AND EVIL
There's no amount of loot that can fill an empty soul.


Yes, we read the novel The Burglar right after watching the movie. We could have done it the other way around, but this seemed to make more sense. We went into the book wondering if the movie's merits were due to director Paul Wendkos or author David Goodis. Turns out it was both. Goodis wrote the screenplay, and his adaptation reshapes several crucial elements. Primarily, the movie has police procedural elements the book doesn't, and a take on the problem of sexual harassment that feels very 2019. On the other hand, an aspect of the novel we're surprised survived is the relationship between Gladden (Jayne Mansfield in the film) and Harbin (Dan Duryea). In both book and film Harbin takes over parenting Gladden when her father is killed, making them father figure and quasi daughter. In the film Mansfield even calls Duryea her foster father. That's pretty provocative, considering she wants to make the eight-limbed mattress monster™ with him.

Overall, it's no surprise the novel became a movie—it's great. The emotional desperation of Harbin, Gladden, and the other woman Della (played by Martha Vickers in the film) verges on painful to endure as a reader. They latch onto each other with a ferocity that's only matched by a fourth character's deadly lust for the stolen jewels. All this intensity comes in addition to a brilliant plot set-up for the entire exercise. We don't know if we'll ever again pair movie watching with immediately reading the source material, but it was interesting this time. Did it take the fun out of the book, knowing what would happen? Not at all. Goodis's novel is different enough that we weren't sure what would happen, actually. We owe this enjoyable read entirely to the Noirfest. We might have stumbled across the book randomly at some point, but without the movie to take us there, probably not.

Edit: Okay, we'll quit with the eight-limbed mattress monster™ bit. It was funny at first. You had to be there.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 30 2019
KISS OF DEATH
The courtship is dangerous, but the engagement is murder.


A Kiss Before Dying should perhaps be titled “A Xanax Before Dying,” because Robert Wagner and co-star Joanne Woodward both perform as if they've gotten into the medicine cabinet. They play a young couple that accidentally conceive. Wagner envisions his life's ambitions going up in a haze of diapering and 6 a.m. feedings, so he decides to get rid of the baby. Abortion is out of the question, of course, so he tries gently nudging Woodward down a set of bleachers at the local university. When her tumble fails to produce the desired miscarriage, Wagner decides to up his game with a pharmacological solution—and murder.

Best exchange of dialogue, as Wagner parts one evening with an unsuspecting Woodward:

Woodward: “Goodnight.”

Wagner: “Good-bye, baby.”

The attraction in this film is Wagner, who's so smarmy and eely he might make you laugh out loud—at least until you realize how brutal he's prepared to be. Only in a vintage movie can a guy be so obviously evil yet have nobody take notice. A sign around his neck reading, “I think about nothing but homicide 24/7,” would have been ignored. But of course Woodward, while remaining studiously oblivious to her mortal peril, is harder to kill than expected.

Each year the Noir City organizers try to get audiences to take a fresh look at a few non-noir films, but their choices have occasionally been dubious. A Kiss Before Dying is a solidly but unspectacularly directed Deluxe Color production that lacks pretty much any noir iconography, but in terms of script and characterization it's a good fit for the festival. Plus Mary Astor plays Wagner's mom, and she's noir enough to satisfy us any day of the week. Put this in the flawed-but-interesting bin.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 29 2019
A KISS HELLO
Kubrick makes filmgoers and critics eager for more.


Even legends have to start somewhere. Killer's Kiss isn't Stanley Kubrick's first movie, but it's an early effort made with novice actors, not much gear, and a simple script. The story follows a declining boxer played by Jamie Smith whose existence is given new purpose when he becomes the protector of his neighbor, Irene Kane, a taxi dancer who's being tormented by her sleazy boss. The two live on the same floor of a tenement on opposite sides of a lightwell, and can see into each other's apartments. But they don't interact until Smith tries to save Kane from an attack. The emergency breaks the wall of studious anonymity they had maintained, and they quickly decide they want to leave town together and start new lives on a farm. But in film noir planning and execution are always light years apart.

Because Killer's Kiss was made on a shoestring budget it has an indie feel to it, which extends into the areas of acting and sound. Reviews were mixed, and we agree, but nearly all cheapie indies get mixed reviews. Kubrick probably did better than he had any right to, and he ingeniously manages to juxtapose two sides of New York City—the dark, deserted, cobblestone warehouse districts, and the blindingly dazzling Times Square. Killer's Kiss is worth it for those scenes alone. It's also worthwhile to be reminded that the best way to make a movie, in the end, is to gather up some cash from wherever you can get it and simply shoot. If there's talent involved, it will shine through, and people may notice. With this feature, flaws and all, Kubrick made people want more.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2019
LADY AND THE CHUMP
It actually hurts me when you call me a tramp. Know what I bet hurts you more? That you can't afford me.


Monte Steele's Million Dollar Tramp should not be confused with William Campbell Gault's Million Dollar Tramp. Gault was a serious author of some acclaim, while Steele was serious about claiming a paycheck. We last saw him authoring a 1964 literary epic called Campus Chippies. This earlier effort is from 1963 for Playtime Reading with art by Robert Bonfils.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 20
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
February 19
1976—Gerald Ford Rescinds Executive Order 9066
U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signs Proclamation 4417, which belatedly rescinds Executive Order 9066. That Order, signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established "War Relocation Camps" for Japanese-American citizens living in the U.S. Eventually, 120,000 are locked up without evidence, due process, or the possibility of appeal, for the duration of World War II.
February 18
1954—First Church of Scientology Established
The first Scientology church, based on the writings of science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, is established in Los Angeles, California. Since then, the city has become home to the largest concentration of Scientologists in the world, and its ranks include high-profile adherents such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
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