Vintage Pulp Sep 20 2016
TIKAL THE TIME YOU NEED
What are the odds of a Mayan comet showing up at exactly the worst moment? Pretty good in cheeseball sci-fi.


Caltiki—The Immortal Monster was an Italian production originally titled Caltiki il mostro immortale, but made in English starring Canadian actor John Merivale in a tale revolving around Guatemala's Tikal ruins. We used to live in Guatemala and visited the Mayan ruins at Tikal, so we simply had to watch this movie. But the actual ruins shown are an amalgam of pyramids and what look like buttes and rock spires from the southwest U.S. There's a volcano thrown in there too, though Tikal is flat rain forest and low lying swamps. Creative license, we suppose. It all looks kind of otherworldly, which we guess was the goal, so nice work by the efx department.

The basics of this story are that there's a legendary Mayan monster or goddess in a lake, and when a group of scientists is attacked, one of them returns to Mexico City with a piece attached to his arm. Doctors manage to carve off a sample and learn that radiation makes it grow. They of course keep the piece safely stowed away, but unfortunately a highly radioactive comet spoken of in Mayan lore choses that week to pass close to Earth. It only comes once every 1,352 years, so this is really unfortunate timing on the comet's part, but that's just Maya luck. Celestial bodies are nothing if not implacable and aloof. The lake specimen is irradiated, grows to monstrous size, and oozes terrifyingly across the city.

But the solution to this problem isn't so difficult. Fire kills Caltiki, so it's really just a matter of directing some flames onto the beast. Cue flamethrowers, army guys, and soundtrack tympani. Caltiki turns into a Caltiki torch then goes down like an undercooked soufflé. This is b-sci-fi at its goofiest, but we'll admit the blob effects are actually pretty cool, aided as they are by the fact that all of them take place at night. Mario Bava, who is uncredited but actually did most of directing here, does a decent job and the acting is passable. Recommended? We wouldn't go that far. Caltiki—The Immortal Monster premiered in Italy in 1959 and reached the U.S. today in 1960.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 22 2012
BLOOD MOON
They’ll try flattery, persuasion, bribery, and threats. After that, if you get murdered it’s your own damned fault.


You know what we really like about a lot of older cinema? Color. Have you noticed the blue/gray palette that has taken over modern thriller and action movies? Mario Bava’s body count giallo 5 filles dans une nuit chaude d’été (originally released as 5 bambole per la luna d’agosto, aka Island of Terror, aka 5 Dolls for an August Moon) is merely realistic in the color department, but it looks like a riot of Technicolor compared to modern cinema. That was one of the aspects of it we enjoyed most. The movie was set in and around an amazing mid-century modern beachfront pad right out of an early James Bond movie. So that was cool too. And we also enjoyed Edwige Fenech and Ely Galleani. So that covers the good—great color cinematography, great sets, Fenech and Galleani.

Now for the bad. Let’s just boil that all down to a limp script. Basically, a wealthy industrialist invites some guests to his private island and introduces them to a chemist who has a formula that could be worth millions. The chemist won’t reveal any details of this process, and prettysoon someone is murdered (the houseboy, who Fenech is sleeping with “to do something for the working classes”). Naturally, she’s a suspect, but then there’s another murder. And another. And soon, Fenech is murdered too, rather cruelly. Cut off from police, the guests store all these bodies in a meat locker and try to solve the crimes themselves. But they just keep getting bumped off. Are the killings due to infidelity? Greed? All around perversity?

Consensus is that 5 bambole per la luna d’agosto is not one of Bava’s best films. But all those shots of bodies hanging in the meatlocker confirm that he at least tried to have fun with it. The climax brings more twists, more deaths, and one main takeaway—no matter how filthy rich a man gets he’ll stab you in the back (or front) for a few more dollars. But wealready knew that, didn’t we? Also, women are shady as fuck too—at least, they are in giallo. We’re not going to recommend this film to Bava newcomers, simply because he made others that were so much better. But if you know his work and haven’t seen this one, by all means add it to your queue. Made in Italy and released in 1970, 5 filles dans une nuit chaude d’été/5 bambole per la luna d’agosto premiered in France today in 1972.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 25 2010
BLACK MASK
Diabolik loves money like an investment banker but is a million times cooler.

German poster for Mario Bava’s 1968 camp masterpiece Diabolik. We’re a little surprised how few people actually get this film, which pushed the swinging sixties thriller to its illogical extreme. The lead character—played by John Phillip Law—was a thief, and a rather Machiavellian one at that, who didn’t mind innocent people getting hurt if it meant more profit. Sounds a bit like a Goldman Sachs executive, right? But where investment bankers are typically balding math majors pretending to be swashbucklers of high finance, Diabolik was 100% stud, complete with a secret identity, a high tech underground lair, and a female sidekick always ready for some down and dirty. We recommend you check this one out next time you’re in the mood for a laugh. Diabolik premiered in West Germany today in 1968. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 16 2008
TWITCH & SHOUT
If you think naming a film is easy, you try it.


What we love most about this poster for Mario Bava’s summer of 1971 horrorfest Reazione al catena is when time came to release the film in the U.S. that December, some folks thought Twitch of the Death Nerve was a better title. They could have just translated the original Italian, ended up with Chain Reaction, and at that point exchanged high-fives and headed off to lunch at Spago. But they instead succumbed to the time-honored cinematic tradition of overthinking a solution. After all, what is a chain reaction? Are we talking about events or chemicals? Or could it actually have to do with chains? It’s way too ambiguous. So, using their rationale, we removed the ambiguity from the titles of five well-known films, to end up with titles that are in fact ten times more ambiguous. See if you can guess what movies we started with.

Armed Among the Amish
Fergus and the Unexpected Penis
Who Boiled Roger Rabbit?
The Priest Who Went Up a Staircase But Came Out a Window
They’re Here, We Fear, Get Oozed By Them

Answers:
Witness, The Crying Game, Fatal Attraction, The Exorcist, Poltergeist

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
June 23
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.
June 22
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.
June 21
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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