Focus on both the writing and the art.
Focus was Arthur Miller's first novel, written in 1945, with this Ace Books edition appearing in 1960. If you haven't read it, basically it tells the story of a man who buys a new pair of glasses that alter his appearance to the extent that he is constantly mistaken for being Jewish. From harboring the same prejudices as others, he is suddenly cast as an enemy, as the hatreds around him are revealed. It's a very good, very earnest book. We've actually shared this, though, because the cover was painted by the Italian artist Sandro Symeoni, and it's the first time we've found his work on a paperback. The art reflects nothing of the book's content, but it's amazing just the same.
Hitchcock's epic thriller shows his directorial gifts but misses the mark.
This Italian poster for Io ti salverò, aka Spellbound is wonderful. The movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, isn't. The central plot device involves a man who may have blacked out committing a murder. That's a good place for a thriller to start, but the actual psychiatric science is approached clumsily, the love story is overwrought, and the orchestral musical score is omnipresent and overbearing. You have to wonder if composer Miklós Rozsa actually watched the film, because while Spellbound is big, his music is positively galactic. A re-edit with 60% of his output removed would make this one a much smoother ride. It's always a danger to criticize a classic film, we know, but not all classics are created equal. This one lives on Hitchcock's reputation, the overall technical execution, and a groundbreaking dream sequence designed by renowned artist Salvador Dalí. At the end of the dream a faceless man drops a wheel. Maybe it was a steering wheel, because despite all the money and star power poured into Spellbound, somehow it went down a middling road. It premiered in 1945 and reached Italy as Io ti salverò today in 1947. Italy
, Io ti salverò
, Ingrid Bergamn
, Gregory Peck
, Alfred Hitchcock
, Miklós Rozsa
, Salvador Dalí
, poster art
, movie review
That's fine, mister—I want the other one anyway. Before the school got bombed she was my sex ed teacher.
This cover depicting a grown man and a pre-teen boy browsing a pair of working girls is kind of creepy, we know, but it's also well executed. Originally titled A Convoy Through the Dream and published in 1948, Torment appeared in this Popular Library edition in 1953. Author Scott Graham Williamson tries for Hemingway with a story set in various sites around the Mediterranean during World War II, including Gibraltar, Algeria, and particularly Palermo, Sicily. Basically, a radio officer on a warship and his wife try to maintain their love and fidelity in a time of chaos and separation. This comes complete with that familiar war novel plot device—one last incredibly dangerous mission before the hero can go back home. The cover art is uncredited.
Raquel Welch's global hit One Million Years B.C. spawns another bad imitation.
There's little to say about When Women Had Tails. It's terrible Italian slapstick, complete with pratfalls and camel flatulence, punctuating a story dealing with a group of isolated cavemen who discover their first woman—Senta Berger. They want to roast and eat her, but she convinces one of them there are other satisfactions she can provide. We imagine this involves a little eating too, and the movie would be better if it showed something along those lines, but no such luck. Blame Raquel Welch for this fiasco, because once again this is an attempt to replicate the formula of her smash hit One Million Years B.C.—a bad attempt, far worse than When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, which we talked about recently. If you truly desire you can watch When Women Had Tails on YouTube here. It takes a full twenty-one minutes of idiotic slapstickery for the cavemen to finally come across Berger, but after that the movie is watchable, we think. It premiered in Italy as Quando le donne avevano la coda in October 1970, and had its U.S. unveiling today in 1973. Bad as it is, we can't resist these prehistoric fantasies, and we'll forge ahead bravely to the next.
Even the Prince of Darkness needs love.
Italian illustrator Bendetto Caroselli painted this cover for Cuori per Satana, which means “hearts for Satan,” and it was written by Silver Ales for I Capolavori della Serie KKK's series Classici dell'Orrore, and published by Edizioni Periodici Italiani in 1968. Silver Ales was a pseudonym used by Silvano Alessandrini, a prolific poet, playwright, author of twenty-six detective novels, and longtime school teacher. His weird pen name sounds like a category of fancy microbrews, but we approve—it definitely sticks in the head. And of course Benedetto Caroselli was an artistic genius, which you can confirm yourself by looking here and here.
The law of this jungle is steal or be poor.
We don't need to tell you anything about The Asphalt Jungle because you've seen this film classic, right? So today we're all about the poster. Look at this beauty. It was painted by Italian artist Angelo Cesselon, complete with his distinct signature and its supersized “O”. Cesselon worked for many studios and mastered a distinct style featuring large character portraits such as the one you see here. His work is among the most immediately identifiable of the mid-century period. As for the film, when you get John Huston directing a heist story you can't go wrong. Don't let the poster fool you, though—Marilyn Monroe is a bit player. Why is she starring on the art? Because Cesselon painted it a few years after the film's initial release—by which time Monroe was world famous. The Asphalt Jungle premiered today in 1950.
Scenes from a Roman marriage.
1960s and 1970s Italian poster art is consistently great. Even obscure pieces are beautiful. The above locandina style promo is for the drama Seduzione coniugale, which means “marital seduction,” and starred Gabrielle Tinti and Rosemarie Lindt in the story of spouses who hit a rough patch, resulting in the wife enjoying sexual extra- curriculars with a hairy young judo instructor, while the husband scores with the less hairy but more beautiful Gaia Germani. He pays dearly for his straying, though. In fact, you could say he hits another rough patch—at high speed and with irreversible consequences. Directed by Daniel Franco with an excess of style, and assisted by a dreamy title track that's a minor classic of the Italian sexploitation genre, the film is a curiosity but we can't really recommend much about it beyond Germani and the promo poster. It premiered in Italy today in 1974.
She makes lame parties better.
Above, a very nice Italian poster for Raquel Welch's 1975 dramedy Party selvaggio, aka The Wild Party, an alternate promo to one we shared a few years back. The film wasn't good, but hey—it has Welch, and that's never a total waste of time. You can read about it and see the other poster here.
Hi! I'm in the bathroom freshening up. I'll be out in about an hour.
Above, a shot of Italian beauty Maria Fiore taking the world's most incremental bath in her 1952 cinema debut Due soldi di speranza, aka Two Cents Worth of Hope. We have experience bathing without a shower or bathtub, and the easiest way to do it is to use a bucket, pour some of the water over your head and body, thoroughly soap up, apply handfuls of water as needed (pits, crack), then pour the rest over your head to rinse. Even in warm countries the water tends to be uncomfortably cold, so a full drenching reduces the amount of time you spend shivering. Or you can bathe right after you've been outdoors in the heat. Of course, you need drainage for the bucket method, which Fiore seemingly doesn't have. So like she said, she'll be out in an hour.
You're going to like my movies or else. Now sit down and shut up.
Ann Smyrner was born in Denmark as Hanne Smyrner and came to wide attention for roles in cheeseball films such as Reptilicus and Journey to the Seventh Planet. The above photo was made when she filmed yet another cheeseball film—the 1967 Italian flop ...4 ..3 ..2 ..1 ...morte, aka Mission Stardust. These movies call out to us based on their titles alone, so we'll attempt to locate one or two and report back. They sound epically bad. Smyrner, on the other hand, looks epically good.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1914—Rasputin Survives Assassination Attempt
Former prostitute Jina Guseva attempts to assassinate Grigori Rasputin in his home town of Pokrovskoye, Siberia by stabbing him in the abdomen. According to reports, Guseva screamed "I have killed the Antichrist!" But Rasputin survived until being famously poisoned, shot, bludgeoned, and drowned in an icy river two years later.
1967—Jayne Mansfield Dies in Car Accident
American actress and sex symbol Jayne Mansfield dies in an automobile accident in Biloxi, Mississippi, when the car in which she is riding slams underneath the rear of a semi. Rumors that Mansfield were decapitated are technically untrue. In reality, her death certificate states that she suffered an avulsion of the cranium and brain, meaning she lost
only the top of her head.
1958—Workers Assemble First Corvette
Workers at a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, assemble the first Corvette, a two-seater sports car that would become an American icon. The first completed production car rolls off the assembly line two days later, one of just 300 Corvettes made that year.
1950—U.S. Decides To Fight in Korea
After years of border tensions on the partitioned Korean peninsula, U.S. President Harry Truman orders U.S. air and sea forces to help the South Korean regime repel an invasion by the North. Soon the U.S. is embroiled in a war that lasts until 1953 and results in a million combat dead and at least two million civilian deaths, with no measurable gains for either side.
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