Intl. Notebook Apr 18 2015
TOP GUNS
Japanese toy guns of yesteryear conjure the future while reflecting the past.


Yesterday’s Things To Come poster got us thinking about retro-futurism, so above and below you see a collection of 1950s through 1970s toy guns. Although some are tied into American or British television shows or serials, these particular guns are of Japanese manufacture and come from companies like Nomura, Yoshiya, and Daiya. The one above, for example, is a tin water gun from Crown Co. of Japan, and was designed as a tie-in with the British television series Space Patrol. You may notice the strong art deco influence—that’s common in these items and is a major reason they’re so attractive. The one just below, made of tin and plastic, ties in with the American television show Bronco, and features hero Bronco Layne’s face on the grip. Just below that is a machine gun promoting the Japanese anime hero Ōgon Bat, aka Golden Bat. And so forth.

While some of these are water guns, and others use battery power to produce lights and sounds, the ones we like best are friction guns, which means pulling the trigger causes flint-like mechanics in the chassis to produce sparks that make the gun flash and glow. The latter variety, as you might imagine, also produce a grinding/gearing noise to go along with the visual effects. We had one of these just a few years ago and couldn’t put it down. Back then though, we had no idea it was a collectible and so we lost track of it, sadly. It may still be in a relative’s garage Stateside, though, so all hope is not lost. Anyway, in addition to being fun, beautifully designed, and coveted on the collection circuit, these toys also make excellent props for provocative femme fatale photos, like here. That should put a little fuel in your rocket, and we have thirteen guns below that’ll bring out your inner space trooper.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 13 2015
PEEPING RUSS
Russ Meyer turns what he loves most into a career.

This rare Japanese poster promotes the American movie French Peep Show, which was boob aficionado Russ Meyer’s first sexploitation film in a long, infamous series of them. Shot at Oakland, California’s El Rey Burlesk Theater, it was ostensibly a documentary about dancer Tempest Storm’s quest to make it as a performer, but of course was really just an excuse to film a burlesque show and use the medium of cinema to export it to the masses. The film is presumed lost, which is too bad, because in addition to Storm, it featured Lily Lamont, Terry Lane, Shalimar, Marie Voe, and others. The poster is composed of three famous shots of Storm, one of which we shared a while back, the others of which you see below. You can read a bit more about French Peep Show here. It premiered in the U.S. in 1950, but reached Japan this month in 1954. 

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Modern Pulp Mar 29 2015
BEASTLY BEHAVIOR
Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Tatsumi Kumashiro’s roman porno flick Shoujo shofu: kemonomichi was called Path of the Beast for its Western release, but the literal translation of the Japanese title is something like “Girl Whore Beast Road.” That sounds ridiculous, but it does sum up the plot. Yoshimura Ayako stars as a sex-loving twenty-something who has two horny lovers and thinks of herself as a whore because she can’t say no to either of them. She believes she inherited the trait from her equally sexual mother, and vows not to go down the same road of carnality. You see? Girl Whore Beast Road. Ayako’s assessment of herself may seem a little harsh—after all, if she loves to bone, what’s the problem? Well, reputational issues, obviously, as well as possessiveness issues on the part of her men—and those don't often end happily. But at least Ayako has ample fun in the midst of her anguish. She has sex on the beach, sex on a boat, sex in a shack, sex under the ruined pier, and even sex in a bed. It’s all softcore, of course—if you’ve never seen a roman porno movie, the sex scenes usually look like two people trying hold a water balloon between their torsos, and Shoujo shofu: kemonomichi holds to that tradition with plenty of writhing and wiggling. At some point Ayako learns to accept herself, if not her circumstances, and that’s really what the movie is about. Shoujo shofu: kemonomichi premiered in Japan today in 1980. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 19 2015
FOR YOUR INFORMATION
Movie Pictorial was a Japanese magazine with an international flair.

Above is a collection of covers from Movie Pictorial, aka Movie Information, a Japanese cinema and celeb magazine that thrived from the 1950s until the 1980s. Typically one side was Japanese in nature, and the other was Western. These were filled with photos, but we haven’t managed to find one at a reasonable price yet. When we do we’ll show you what’s inside. You can see more covers here and here.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 16 2015
BASIC TRAINING
This trip sucks! Next time let’s just pay extra for first class!

The Mercenaries, aka Dark of the Sun isn’t a movie many remember, but we’re going to remember it, because this is a great pre-CGI action film—not perfect, but well above average. Based on Wilbur Smith’s novel Train from Katanga, and starring Rod Taylor, Jim Brown, Peter Carsten, and Yvette Mimieux, it tells the story of two mercenaries in the civil war-torn Congo hired to ride a military train upcountry, rescue a group of stranded people, and retrieve $50 million in uncut diamonds languishing in a time-locked safe. They have to do it within three days, which means making rushed preparations—notably, enlisting the aid of a dodgy ex-Nazi who commands the Congolese mercs needed to round out the mission. This Nazi is a really bad human, so it’s no surprise he gets into a chainsaw fight with the protagonist shortly after they meet. You’d think the hero would expect the unexpected from the guy after that—but no. The Japanese poster above, while not perfectly descriptive of the action, gets the mood of The Mercenaries across effectively, and it opened in Japan today in 1968.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 23 2015
APPOINTMENT WITH THE GUILLOTINE
When all around him are losing their heads—it’s because he’s the one cutting them off.

The above poster was made to promote the Taiwanese wuxia flick Du bi quan wang da po xue di zi, aka The One Armed Boxer vs. The Flying Guillotine, aka Master of the Flying Guillotine. Wuxia movies deal with honor, oaths, redressing wrongs, etc. In this one the Flying Guillotine is determined to avenge the deaths of his two disciples (which occurred in the prequel One Armed Boxer). His weapon isn’t so much a guillotine as it is a flying helmet with a circular saw attached. The workings of the device are obscure, but using it he can snatch peoples’ heads clean off. Quite a sight. His mission of revenge takes him over hill and dale, through town and hollow, but he has such trouble locating the One Armed Boxer he decides it's more efficient to simply kill every one-armed peasant he comes across. Though from his perspective he’s righting a wrong he isn’t actually the good guy here. How could he be? Snatching innocent folks’ heads off isn’t exactly honorable. Eventually he locates his quarry and we get a climactic showdown. Why, what's that inside the One Armed Boxer's shirt? It's his other arm, of course. We're not supposed to notice. In addition to the two stars you get a supporting cast with their own baroque brands of martial arts, including an Indian yoga master who can extend his arms double length like a pair of fire truck ladders. This is classic schlock, highly recommended.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 10 2015
TART EXHIBITION
When life gives you lemons make a roman porno movie.


We’ve been holding onto this poster for a few years. We were told when we got it that it’s for a movie called in English A Clockwork Lemon—an intriguing title. But we looked everywhere and the name didn’t appear in a single film database. The poster text doesn’t say anything about clocks or lemons, by the way, but it’s often true that Japanese titles are changed completely for films’ Western runs. When we finally located info on this one—looking for the Japanese rather than English name—it turned out it was made in 1968, which eliminates “A Clockwork Lemon” as the English title, since Kubrick’s dystopian citrus epic didn’t appear until ’71. Unless, of course, he stole his title from this film. We doubt that, so, let's assume we were led astray on the English title, but whatever, that happens sometimes. Wanna know what the movie is called in Japanese? The text reads something like “same hole again.” So, there you go. Not much we can add to that.

Um, except to mention as we always do, that these aren’t porn films, despite the titles. They’re about on the level of late night cable softcore. Softer, actually, because no naughty bits could legally appear onscreen in vintage Japanese cinema. “Same Hole Again” was directed by… actually, wait—that sounds so wrong. Maybe we’ll just go with Japanese here. 穴じかけ was directed by Hajime Sasaki, stars Kazuko Shirakawa, and appeared in 1968. Shirakawa is an important cinematic figure—she headlined the first roman porno (again, not porn) production Nikkatsu Studios ever made—Danchizuma: hirusagari no jôji, aka Apartment Wife: Affair in the Afternoon. She made a series of films in the genre, later moved into mainstream flicks, and was still acting as of 2011. Sorry we don’t have more info. But you gotta love the poster, right? To make up for our lack of data, below is a shot of Shirakawa looking lemony fresh.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 9 2015
THE FEMALE ANIMAL
She’ll be your beast of burden.

Akira Katô’s crime thriller Shinayakana kemonotachi, for which you see the promo poster above, had the interesting English title She-Beasts, Warm Bodies, and was also known as Sensuous Beasts. It stars Mari Tanaka and is noteworthy for being Naomi Tani’s first movie. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to track down a copy so the poster is all you get for now. We do know that it’s a bit of a black comedy, and the plot revolves around embezzlement, drug trafficking, and of course the yakuza. We’ll keep our eyes open for this one and maybe report back. Shinayakana kemonotachi premiered in Japan today in 1972.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 18 2015
NO HELP NEEDED
Mansfield gets top billing but the rockers steal the show.


Above is a vintage Japanese poster for Jayne Mansfield’s 1956 musical comedy The Girl Can’t Help It. They don’t make ’em like this anymore—a gangster hires a boozing agent to transform his girlfriend into a star, but the girlfriend has no talent, and the agent falls in love with her. This might be Mansfield’s most important movie due to the role it played in popularizing early rock music. For example: 

Little Richard
 
Eddie Fontaine
 
The Chuckles
 
Gene Vincent
 
Eddie Cochran
 
The Treniers
 
The Platters
 
And the unbeatable Fats Domino.
 
Though they aren't rock and rollers, the lovely Julie London and the amazingly beautiful Abbey Lincoln, who you see just below, also put in appearances. The Lincoln number is especially wonderful, and it's well-staged too, with the backdrop of deep violet curtains set against her crimson gown.
 
The only uncute thing about this exceedingly cute movie is poor Jayne Mansfield’s bazooka bra and strangling corset, the latter of which producers have cinched her into in order to give her a twenty-inch waist. It's cringe-inducing. Otherwise, awesome stuff.


 
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Vintage Pulp Jan 15 2015
VAMP STAMP
The girl with the draggin’ tattoo.

The three posters above promote the Japanese psychological horror movie Irezumi, aka Tattoo, directed by Yasuzô Masumura and starring Ayako Wakao as woman kidnapped into geishadom who is forcibly tattooed upon her back by a disturbed tattoo master. His creation is the monstrous, woman-faced spider you see on the posters. This act sets Wakao on a path toward vengeance, violence, and evil. Some reviews of Irezumi note that the tattoo is in some sense alive, like the portrait of Dorian Gray, however the actual art doesn’t change its aspect—we checked, using a handy invention called rewind, and the lady-spider is the same in the beginning and end of the movie. The tattoo does, though, unleash something, and Wakao changes, quite drastically, her journey from relative innocence into femme fatale depravity giving Irezumi its power and dread. While not splashy and filled with shocks in the style of modern horror, the movie is, all in all, a highly recommendable mind trip. There's another Irezumi from 1982 with a different plot, but this one, the first one, premiered in Japan today in 1966. 


 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 21
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
April 20
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
April 19
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.

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