He looks nice but he's murder on his friends.
What's plein to see here is that the promo poster for the acclaimed French crime thriller Plein soleil is top quality. It was painted by Jean Mascii, who was born in Italy, but worked in France and became one of that country's most prolific and collected poster artists. We'll get back to him later. The movie is excellent. It's based on author Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley and features her homicidal hustler character Tom Ripley, star of five novels, and one of literature's greatest psychopaths. Should you be inclined to give Plein soleil a screening you won't be disappointed. It premiered in France today in 1960.
Jack the Ripper, with an Italian twist.
Above, the original Italian poster for Dario Argento's horror thriller L’uccello dale piume de cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which premiered in Rome today in 1970 and has since become an iconic example of the giallo genre. We talked about the film, and shared the Spanish posters back in 2010. You can see those here.
You're wondering how I got this thing stuck in my panties? It defies reason.
The pulpification of ancient literature takes another strange turn as Edizioni Le Lucciole presents this 1970 paperback L'antiragione, or “the anti-reason,” which, incredibly, is a collection of writings by the Greek astronomer and mathematician Aristarchus of Samos, the guy who lived from 310 to 230 B.C. and presented the first model that placed the Sun at the center of the known universe with the Earth in orbit around it. Yeah. And when you can solve a mystery that vast, the question of how a femme fatale got a hoop stuck in her undies is really nothing. The art, which conversely is really something, is by the always great Benedetto Caroselli.
Three great artists try to get the feel of an identical pose.
Today we thought we'd illustrate the imitative nature of commercial art by sharing a nice Italian poster for the comedy Tre femmine in soffitta. Originally released in the U.S. in 1968 as Three in the Attic, and starring Yvette Mimieux and Judy Pace, the movie involves a wacky love triangle, and is notable for its breezy interracial theme, as Mimieux, who is white (and hot), and Pace, who is black (and hot), both get involved with the same inordinately lucky guy.
Turning to the art, the figure at the poster's far right, which represents Pace, is a direct copy of one of our favorite Robert McGinnis femmes fatales, the girl on Carter Brown's 1960 novel The Bombshell, who has an unusual fascination with her own butt. Clearly, some imitation is more blatant than others. The poster was painted by Ezio Tarantelli, who had a nice career as an illustrator, particularly in the spaghetti western genre, and whose work on the poster for L’Amore Scotta a Yokohama we lavishly praised several years back. We may have to downgrade the genius label we slapped on him, but obviously he still shows great skill, copied butt grabber or not.
As if Tarantelli's pass at a McGinnis ass wasn't enough, we found another copy of the same pose, executed by another Italian artist, this time the great Mario de Berardinis. His piece promotes the 1975 erotic comedy La nottata, or “The Night,” which starred Sara Sperati and Susanna Javicoli. Did de Berardinis imitate Tarantelli or McGinnis? We don't know, but he truly was a genius, so copying is officially forgiven. You can see our original write-up on The Bombshell here.
Treat your toys with care or they might break out.
Above is an Italian poster for the American financed, Philippine shot sexploitation actioner The Big Doll House, which starred Roberta Collins, Brooke Mills, Pat Woodell, Pam Grier, and Judy Brown. This wasn't the first women in prison movie—those had been appearing for decades—but it was the one that got the ’70s prison sexploitation ball rolling in the U.S. It offers a full slate of whippings, waterboardings, overheated isolation, and bizarre snake tortures, orchestrated by the evil wardeness Christiane Schmidtmer. Collins leads the beautiful convicts' eventual escape from bondage and hers is the most memorable character in the ensemble, though all the personalities are interesting. Don't get us wrong—the acting is of course atrocious, and the production values aren't high, but that didn't bother us and it didn't bother American audiences either. They made the movie a hit and the women-in-prison conveyor belt quickly cranked out other Filipino bondage productions like Women in Cages, The Hot Box, The Woman Hunt, The Big Bird Cage, and many others. The Big Doll House wasn't the best of the lot, by any stretch, but hey—being a trailblazer matters. We think it's worth a viewing.
Anselmo Ballester helped set the artistic standard in the competitive world of Italian movie illustrators.
Anselmo Ballester is yet another virtuoso poster artist from Italy, where cinema promos were taken perhaps more seriously as art pieces than anyplace in the world. We've documented many of these Italian geniuses, including Mafé, Luigi Martinati, Sandro Symeoni, Mario de Berardinis, and others. Ballester, born in 1897, predated nearly all of his colleagues (only Martinati was born earlier) and enjoyed a fifty year career working for studios such as Cosmopolis, Titanus, Twentieth Century Fox, and RKO Radio Pictures. He also worked in commercial and political advertising. For the titles of the above works just check the keywords below. They're in top-to-bottom order in Italian and English.
The only way to learn it is to do it.
This is a really nice poster for the Italian sex comedy La matriarca. We watched it on Daily Motion, and Catherine Spaak plays a young widow who discovers her dearly departed kept a secret apartment reserved for his serial philandering. Wondering if her lack of sexual experience contributed to her husband's wanderings, and spurred to curiosity about various carnal practices, she proceeds to seduce pretty much everyone she knows, absorbing lessons along the way. She becomes particularly fixated on the wisdom of Aristotle, which leads to her comically using men as horses (see below). We're mainly interested in the poster, though, which is unsigned, but was painted by Giuliano Nistri, a conclusion we came to because he painted the alternate Italian promo which you see below, and because it's very similar to another Nistri poster you can see here. La matriarca premiered in Italy today in 1968. If you get the urge to watch it, try this link.
Where there's a will-o'-the-wisp there's a way.
We probably should have shared this cover from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's series KKK Classics around Halloween, because it's a bit scary. Then again, maybe now is better, because Christmas is possibly even a little scarier. The art here, from Benedetto Caroselli, has a red-eyed cover figure sitting atop what is supposed to be a giant skull, which, again, is a bit scary. However, if you look at it the right way she could be sitting on a giant nose. Again, possibly even scarier.
Inside the book you get two tales—the introductory “Welcome to Blackstone, Mister Clift,” by Silvano Alessandrini, followed by the full length title story. Fuochi fatui, by the way, translates as “fatuous fires.” What the hell does that mean? Fuochi fatui are basically analogous to will-o'-the-wisps, alluring lights in the wilderness that prove eternally elusive and lead to frustration and possibly danger. You can fill in your own Christmas shopping metaphor here.
Author Sean Alexander was aka Silvano Alessandrini. The pseudonym thing with French and Italian authors back in the day is a bit strange. Since they were selling to their home markets you'd think indigenous names would be an advantage, but it's clear that the type of mayhem and terror they were going for were thought to be more credible if written by Americans. Which when you think about it is possibly the scariest thing of all. Anyway, the copyright on this is 1969, and it's beautiful.
Perversion never goes out of style.
Years ago we briefly discussed the Marisa Mell thriller Una sull’atra and shared an Angelo Cesselon poster made for its Italian run. Well, we're back to the movie today with a poster made for its Spanish run under the title Una historia perversa. The illustration was painted by Francisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, who signed his work as Jano, and was one of Spain's more prolific cinematic illustrators. We put together a small collection of his work a while back and you can check that out here. Una historia perversa made its Spanish premiere in Barcelona today in 1969.
“The Thing” that wasn't there.
We've shared several covers from Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's horror collection I Capolavori della Serie KKK but this one is kind of special. Translated into Italian by Fernanda Adami, this is a collection of horror master Robert Bloch's early short stories. In case he isn't familiar to you, he wrote Psycho. This book is called La Cosa, or The Thing because Bloch's first story, a piece called “The Thing” appeared in his school magazine in 1932 when Bloch was only fourteen. But guess what? “The Thing” isn't one of the stories in The Thing. Instead the book consists of four tales—“Colui che apre la via,” “Ritorno a Sabbath,” “Il segreto di Sebek,” and “Enoch.” In English these are “The Opener of the Way,” “Return of the Sabbath,” “The Secret of Sebek,” and “Otis.” Just kidding—it's “Enoch.” Lovecraft fans probably already know of the first three stories because they appeared in Bloch's Lovecraft inspired collection The Opener of the Way in 1945 and remain widely read pieces of Lovecraftian lore. So that makes this paperback a bit of a collector's item. As if the great art by Benedetto Caroselli didn't already do that. Yes, he painted a misleading illustration for a horror anthology but Caroselli and Grandi Edizioni Internazionali specialized in that. Want to see a particularly brazen example? Check here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
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