Southeast Asia escape epic features murder, sex and everything between.
This issue of Male magazine published this month in 1958 features James Bama cover art illustrating Richard Farrington's story “The Incredible 'Blood and Bamboo' Escape,” which is the true tale of Dutchman Klaus van Tronk's flight from a Japanese internment camp in Malaysia during World War II. The story is a book-length special, and one of the more harrowing and interesting details involves one of the prisoners being tied spread-eagled on a bamboo mat elevated six inches above the ground. Beneath the mat were living bamboo shoots. As Farrington tells it (via van Tronk's account), “The shoots are tough, the tips as sharp as honed steel, and they can push through a plank floor [two inches thick]. They grow rapidly in the Pacific sun, about six inches on a good hot day. It had been a hot day.” When van Tronk's work detail came back that evening from a long grind of slave labor in the jungle the bound man already had bamboo shoots growing through his chest, and was still alive, screaming.
We did a verification check on this arcane torture and found that no cases confirmed to scholarly standards exist, but that it is well known in Asia, and experiments on substances approximating the density of human flesh have shown that it would work. As little as forty-eight hours would be needed to penetrate an entire body. Fascinating stuff, but what you really want to know in terms of veracity is whether scantily clad women helped the escapees paddle to freedom like in Bama's cover art, right? Well, this depiction is actually a completely accurate representation of what van Tronk described, or at least what biographer Farrington claims van Tronk described. The women were the daughters of a sympathetic Malay farmer, and indeed they wore virtually nothing, and were considered quite beautiful by the prisoners, save for the minor detail of having red teeth from the local tradition of chewing betel nuts.
The risk taken by these women was extraordinary. Other women who had helped van Tronk and his companions during their months-long odyssey were tortured and raped, and at one point a village was machine-gunned. Why would these Malays take up the foreigners' cause if the risks were so high? Van Tronk attributes it to a cultural requirement to help strangers in need, but we'd note that people have taken these sorts of risks everywhere, cultural norms or no. Often the suffering of others simply brings out the best in people. A historical check on Klaus van Tronk turned up nothing, though, so maybe the entire true story is a piece of fiction. If so, it's a very good one. We have some scans below with art by John Kuller, Joe Little, Al Rossi, Mort Kunstler, and Bruce Minney, and more issues of Male magazine at the keywords.
Delivering thrills all year round.
Stan Borack painted the cover of this issue of Male from January 1958, and the interior art comes from Samson Pollen, Bob Schultz, John Leone, James Bama, Bob Stanley, John Kuller, and Tom Ryan. Not a slouch in the bunch. The magazine contains a preview of Shane author Jack Schaefer’s novel Company of Cowards, the Civil War tale of a group of Union officers who have all been busted down to the rank of private, but who are formed into a special unit and given a chance to earn back their honor. That chance takes them into Comanche country where they face an assortment of deadly challenges.
Also in this issue you get famed model Diane Webber/Marguerite Empey—who we’ve been seeing a lot of recently—doing a nice photo feature and complaining that since being elected Queen of the Nudists by a national sunbathing association all anyone wants to talk about is her naked lifestyle. But we think that’s just the editors trying to come up with an angle for the text. Webber was an official advocate of nudist lifestyle and even promoted her special brand of spiritual nudism in television interviews, so we doubt she was fed up with it at this point. The photos were shot by Russ Meyer, and we’re pretty sure they’ve never been on the internet before, which is always a fun moment for us. Please enjoy. Twenty scans below.
So, before I pull you up, remember in college I had a crush on that girl and you went and had sex with her?
How does that Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell song go? We think it’s, “Ain’t no mountain high enough to keep me from getting even with you.” Or at least it should be. The above cover of Male is from June 1954 and it has art by Mel Bolden, who got his start working with Norman Rockwell and was probably the most prominent black illustrator of his era. We’ll put together a collection of his excellent stuff a bit later.
The Male capacity for violence.
Above is a Mort Kunstler cover for Male painted for the January 1965 issue. Kunstler was famed for his war panoramas, as we’ve discussed before, and if you click his keywords below you’ll see several more martial covers from him that we’ve shared. Inside Male you also get art from Charles Copeland, Samson Pollen, and Gil Cohen. The model feature is Susan Radford, who is described as a starlet but who we’d never heard of. Turns out it wasn’t just us. We checked the usual databases and found no mention of Radford anywhere, so it seems Male editors were premature in dubbing her a major riser.
Male focused on all kinds of violent adventures, but especially those dealing with warfare. This issue has four war stories dealing with the Soviet Union, China, and the Nazis, but the most notable entry is South African author Anthony Trew’s gripping Two Hours to Darkness, published here as booklength fiction. The tale is described in the contents as “the nightmarish spine-tingler that will be the movie blockbuster of 1965,” but it looks like Male was wide of the mark again, because no film based on the book was ever released. So Trew had to settle for selling a measly 3.5 million copies of the novel in sixteen languages, the hack. We have a dozen scans below.
But ask now the beasts, and they shall eat thee.
It’s been a while since our last collection of animal attack magazine covers, so on this lovely Friday (at least where we are) we thought we’d give nature a chance to express its opinion about humanity. And its opinion is: “I hate all of you. Even the pretty ones.” We have eleven more examples of nature's unreasonable stance below, including a great piranha cover that features the one guy who in real life would know better than to be attacked being attacked. Anyway, just to give you an idea how many men’s magazines there were, and how pervasive this animal attack theme was, all the publications we've posted are different. There are actually even more, but we couldn’t locate good scans of those. Which reminds us to thank the original uploaders on these.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
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