Vintage Pulp Jan 19 2019
A RUDE AWAKENING
Ah hah! There you are, Stabsgefreiter Schultz, out of uniform and with Unterfeldwebel Dietrich's wife, no less.


Nazis ruin everything—even romantic seaside trysts. As it happens though, the scene depicted on this cover of J. Bigelow Clark's The Dreamers never occurs, and in fact these characters must have come from the imagination of artist Stanley Borack, because in terms of their physical characteristics, they don't exist in the narrative at all. The book was originally published in 1945, with this Perma paperback edition appearing in 1955. The story involves four idealistic expatriates living on the small fictional Italian island of Campagna during World War II. Their only intention is escapism in a place of beauty and peace. Then the Nazis show up. And ruin everything.

This book is brilliant, but it will be problematic for some readers because the villain Captain Muller—and he's a very, very bad guy—is gay. His sexuality is a metaphor. As a German officer his incredibly high opinion of himself has primarily to do with his control over and manipulation of men. While some artists use paint or words, he feels he's a Picasso or Titian using humans—the most difficult medium of all—to produce more concrete effects upon civilization than mere visual art does. And his ultimate expression of oneness with his medium is sexual congress with them. Clark's final postulation is that for many men of war, and particularly fascists, violence is a form of eroticism.

Other elements here are also metaphorical, even the island itself. Though the expats, among them an elderly British professor and a German baron, are of different ages and cultures, they become fast friends. Their island is not perfect. There is want and conflict. But without being indoctrinated into the ways of hate people generally help, or at least tolerate, each other. The island represents the possibility of smooth human coexistence. But Captain Muller's purpose is to exert control through violence and fear. He's immediately interested in and drawn to the four expats, and shrewdly understands that the group's relationship with two locals—a legless veteran of the North Africa front and a beautiful young mother—may be the key to achieving his goals.

While all this is going on an American spy arrives on the island and sets into motion a plot to steal diagrams of the submarine bases the Germans are building. The narrative focuses on the professor's and baron's efforts to remain uninvolved, but also follows how a promise
they've made to get the young mother and her child off the island draws them all, bit by terrible bit, into the war against their will. Transitioning from apathy to activism is a standard theme in literature and film, but Clark manages to navigate this course with rare skill. As it develops, The Dreamers generates squirm inducing intensity, almost akin to psychological horror.

But the book's value is in more than just its bold narrative. As time goes by people's knowledge of history comes not from those who lived through it, but from interpreters of it. When conducted under rigorous standards, re-examinations of history are useful and even necessary, but many of this group are not rigorous, and have shady political motives. In the U.S. this manifests as fanciful spins on slavery, the Civil War, and other periods. Many American schoolchildren are now being taught that fascism is the exact opposite of what it was in reality. The Dreamers, written during the fascist era, is clear about what fascism is, how it works, what it seeks to accomplish, and what end of the political spectrum it comes from. Every novel we've read from this period is consistent on these points.

Thus in addition to being a very good book, The Dreamers is yet another reminder that: Mussolini was well liked for years in the U.S. because he was perceived to have saved Italy from communists. Regardless of whether Adolf Hitler had any religious beliefs in private life, the German people knew him as a Catholic, he constantly invoked God in his speeches, and the Holocaust was abetted by people who were overwhelmingly religious. Fascism was vehemently sexist, racist, patriotic, and anti-liberal. Fascism distrusted diplomacy, independent knowledge, and a questioning press, replacing them with aggression, indoctrination, and propaganda. And like all governing systems, fascism was ultimately opportunistic, borrowing any political idea that helped consolidate power.


One benefit of maintaining Pulp Intl. is constantly reading books written contemporaneously with historical events and learning how they were perceived by people who lived through them. The Dreamers has extra value because of this. It's homophobic, though Clark's use of a gay villain is intended to coalesce into metaphor. His scathing attitude toward Germans, on the other hand, never does. It seems as if he hates them en masse. His protagonists often muse about German moral shortcomings. These condemnations of an entire people are an obvious case of turnabout is fair play, and one can hardly be surprised considering what the world was learning about Hitler's atrocities. The Dreamers remains an illuminating reading experience. 


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Vintage Pulp Dec 23 2018
PERMANENT SLEEP
Bogart and Bacall arrive in Italy in Grande style.


Above, a beautiful poster for Il grande sonno, better known as The Big Sleep, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Was Bacall a redhead? Well, she was in Italy. At the top of the poster you see that this played at the Politeama cinema. Rome? Naples? Palermo? Genoa? Cinemas with that name abounded, so we have no way of knowing exactly where the poster was displayed. You'll see the art attributed to Luigi Martinati on various websites, but we don't think so. It doesn't look like his work, and it's actually signed “Nico” near Bacall's right thigh. Martinati did paint a couple of posters for this movie, though, which we may upload later. We've talked about The Big Sleep—as has every other film noir related site on the internet. We don't have any special insights, but if you're curious what we said anyway, check here. After opening in the U.S. in 1946, The Big Sleep arrived in Italy today in 1947, which the poster tells us was martedì—a Tuesday.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 27 2018
A NUMBER OF PROBLEMS
There are 777 ways to make a bad 007 movie.


Above you see a Mario de Berardinis poster painted for the Italian spy thriller Agente segreto 777 - Operazione Mistero, known in English merely as Secret Agent 777. The plot of this revolves around a doctor's cell regeneration process—i.e. he can bring people back to life, a miracle somehow made possible through nuclear physics. No, it didn't make sense to us either. But all you need to know is that basically Agent 777 is a low rent James Bond rip-off with a touch of updated Frankenstein mixed in.

It's as silly as it sounds, and has too many problems to enumerate, but we did enjoy the Beirut setting, and it rather amused us when a character spoke of going to the “Portuguese colonies to find his fortune.” Back then that meant going to Angola or Mozambique and extracting something of value that rightfully belonged to the local people—oil, antiquities, jewels, anything. The sequence struck us because at the time Agent 777 was extracting something of value from us—our patience. It premiered in Italy today in 1965.

Help! I'm trapped in this terrible film and I can't get out!

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Vintage Pulp Nov 27 2018
FOTO MANIPULATION
A dirty picture is worth a thousand words.


As long as we're on Italy today we might as well highlight this Renato Casaro poster for the giallo flick Le foto proibite di una signora per bene, aka The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. We've dubbed the pose you see here the alpha, for both its theme of dominance and the A shape made by the legs of the foreground figure. Typically the figure is male, but not always. We put together a collection of paperbacks using this pose while ago.

In the film a bored housewife played by Dagmar Lassander is convinced by a sadistic stranger that her husband is a killer. In her desperation to protect her spouse she's manipulated into the stranger's bed, which results in him having explicit photographs with which to blackmail her. When Dagmar finally tells her husband and the police what's happening the evidence disappears, which makes Dagmar look mentally unstable. This seems to have been the plan all along, but who's behind it? Is the stranger working alone? Is Dagmar's husband or best friend involved?

With its leisurely pace and unconvoluted plot, the film lacks some giallo characteristics, but it's officially considered part of the genre. Because of its relative simplicity it avoids serious logical missteps, which is a worthy achievement considering how wacky these movies get. But while it's sure handed and reasonably entertaining, you can expend ninety minutes of life in better ways, which is why we don't recommend this except for giallo completists. Le foto proibite di una signora per bene premiered in Italy today in 1970.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 19 2018
MARITAL TROUBLES
Their issues have gone way past the point of counseling.


Dial M for Murder, which starred Grace Kelly and Ray Milland as spouses whose problems make other bad marriages look like a Sunday picnic, is a very entertaining movie. For its Italian release today in 1954 it was called Delitto perfetto. This violent but brilliant promo poster was painted by the genius illustrator Angelo Cesselon, who we've featured before. And Hitchcock, nothing less than an international phenomenon in his day, gets his profile into the mix. See Cesselon at his best here.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 11 2018
THE LADY IN RED
That's no lady—that's Brigitte Bardot.


Above, an iconic poster painted by Giorgio Olivetti for the 1957 Brigitte Bardot comedy Una parigina, originally released as La Parisienne. The Bardot figure here was the first femme fatale graphic ever used as the symbol of Pulp Intl., which some of you may remember. Olivetti painted two promos for the film. The second one, just below, is less famous, but still beautiful. We talked about this movie over the summer, and in short it's Bardot running around Paris creating Monroesque chaos among the male population, though with a winkingly more adult subtext than in your average Monroe romp. In other words, there's a hint here and there that Bardot actually gets laid. We don't think that ever happened in Marilyn's comedies. If you're curious about the movie, or interested in seeing the nice U.S. poster—which also features Bardot in her famous red dress—have a look here.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 4 2018
THE ITALIAN JOB
Like all thefts in pulp fiction it was less than perfect.


We were just talking recently about U.S. paperback art being copied by overseas companies, and here we have a good example from the Italian publishing company Gialli Tre Cerchi. This cover for Wallace MacKentzy's, aka Mario Raffi's Allan Beebe spacca tutto meno Gina features art copied from Robert McGinnis. The artist is uncredited, which is probably good because his work, though pleasing, is not close to the standard of McGinnis. But don't take our word for it. Have a look at the McGinnis that was copied—Carter Brown's Who Killed Doctor Sex?, which we shared way back in 2012. You'll also notice it was copied more than once. Well, if you're going to steal from someone, steal from the best. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 19 2018
SOUTH SEA DRIFTER
I may be a bum but that's Sergeant Bum to you.


Above, an Italian promo poster painted by Luigi Martinati for the U.S. adventure flick South Sea Woman, with Burt Lancaster and Virginia Mayo. In Italy it was called Il sergente Bum! There's no Italian release date known. We did a little write-up of the film you can see at this link, and you can check out more of Martinati's brilliant brushwork here.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 18 2018
FRIGHT READING
Definitely not made for kids.


More Halloween themed goodness today, with twenty covers from creepy short story magazines and graphic novels, some in English and some Italian. These are all supposed to be for adults, but it's easy to suspect that the real audience was kids. We imagine putting ratings on the covers simply served the same purpose as warning labels on rap albums today—as a guarantee that your parents will freak out if they find out you own one. Well, whether for adults or kids, we love these.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 13 2018
EZIO DOES IT
Tarantelli makes masterful look effortless.


Above, some examples of the artistic prowess of Italian illustrator Ezio Tarantelli, who was very active during the 1960s. Looking at the poster directly above, you notice, no doubt, the woman holding her own ass. That's an unusual pose but one Tarantelli used more than once. We discuss its origin in this write-up from last year.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 22
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
February 21
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
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.
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