The prince and the pauper are one and the same.
This striking promo for the Mexican comedy El rey del barrio was painted by Ernesto Garcia Cabral, who we discussed briefly in this post featuring a small collection of his creations. Garcia Cabral was born in Huatusco, Veracruz and would become one of the most published artists in Mexico, churning out cartoons, caricatures, and general illustrations. His early work, with its stylishly elongated flappers and sheiks, fits right into the art deco period, and his later work evolved to take on the form you see above. El rey del barrio premiered in Mexico today in 1950, and tells the story of a working class Joe who leads a double life. By day he's a kindly wage earner, but at night he dons zoot suit and cape—yes, cape—to become a thief and gangster. He's in love with a girl from his neighborhood, but keeping his second identity secret becomes increasingly harder as he bungles his way from caper to caper. You've see this story before, but probably not set in 1950s Mexico, and not with Germán Valdés, who was a rare comedic talent in the spastic mode of Jerry Lewis or Bob Hope. Silvia Pinal as his love interest is just the right mix of sweet and sassy. Add a bit of singing and some sexy nightclub dance numbers and you've got yourself a winner. The potential bad news is that there's no English language or subtitled version, as far as we know, but you've all learned Spanish by now, right? ¿No? Mas vale tarde que nunca, gabachos. Mexico
, El rey del barrio
, Ernesto Garcia Cabral
, Germán Valdés
, Tin Tan
, Silvia Pinal
, poster art
, movie review
Drug lord’s ego leads to capture, but bigger issues remain.
Last night Rolling Stone, one of the U.S.’s top investigative magazines, published a pulp-worthy article on its website about Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo. The magazine sent actor Sean Penn to the jungles of Mexico to interview Guzmán, a meeting that came about at the drug kingpin’s behest because he was interested in making a movie about his life. Long story short—Guzmán ended up being captured Friday in Sinaloa, Mexico after a gun battle with police, and his ongoing contact with Hollywood figures was the primary factor that led authorities to him.
Guzmán has been imprisoned before, so nothing new there. He escaped both times. He may well escape again. His most recent breakout is detailed in the Rolling Stone article—he disappeared through a hole in his shower (see below), dropped into a mile-long tunnel, and rode away on a specially designed motorcycle on rails that had been modified to runin a low-oxygen environment. All this took at least $1 million to achieve. According to Penn and Rolling Stone, Mexican engineers were flown to Germany for specialized training in tunnel building.
The article is worth a read. Penn describes being waved through police checkpoints to Guzmán’s jungle lair, and when that fact is measured against his capture, it suggests a factionalized Mexican state, with the president and certain other top authorities conducting an anti-drug crusade even as military figures, federal officers, and local cops often work for the drug lords. But Mexico is not uniquely corrupt, and that is something that must be emphasized. The wealthy north is also in the drug trade.
Consider—the British bank HSBC knowingly laundered hundreds of millions of dollars of Guzmán’s drug profits. Yes, they knew about it. The bank was caught, and its heads talked about a “failure of standards,” but all the bankers skated from justice for this terrible crime thanks to their connections in the political world. Is this any different from Joaquín Guzmán motorcycling to freedom through a tunnel? We don’t think so. This is something that global authorities desperately want to keep the general public from understanding—the drug trade is an integral part of capitalism, not some dark subset of it.
Not convinced? The U.S. bank Wachovia laundered drug cartel money and deliberately failed to apply anti-laundering measures to $378.4 billion that passed through the institution. That amount of money is equal to one-third of Mexico's gross national product. The result? Fines of about $160 million—less than 2% of the yearly profits—and no jail for anyone in the executive suite. The list goes on. Liberty Reserve, Bank of America, Western Union, and J.P. Morgan all have drug ties. There are doubtless more we don't yet know about.
Articles in The Wall Street Journal and other establishment papers try to paint the banks as victims. Yet in the end, there are always executives who know exactly what’s happening—just like the cops that waved Sean Penn through those Mexican checkpoints. Besides, since when do victims get to charge millions in fees for their crimes? In the same way U.S. slavery was enabled by banks in New York City and Boston, which even accepted slaves as collateral, the southern drug trade cannot exist without the money laundering operations of the northern banks. And the amounts of money involved don’t just influence markets—it shapes them. Roberto Saviano, possibly the world’s foremost expert on the global drug trade, and author of the blockbuster exposé Zero Zero Zero, says, “It’s not the world of cocaine that must orbit around the markets, but the markets that must rotate around cocaine.”
, Liberty Reserve
, Bank of America
, Western Union
, J.P. Morgan
, Rolling Stone
, Zero Zero Zero
, Sean Penn
, Roberto Saviano
, Joaquín Guzmán Loera
, El Chapo
Mexico may be vast, but it’s never big enough to avoid what you’re running from.
With a poster this amazing you’d expect a pretty good movie. It promotes the Japanese run of the thriller Second Chance, which opened there today in 1953 after premiering in the U.S. in July. The film is near impossible to find, but we already possessed a downloaded copy from years back because we long ago sought out all Robert Mitchum’s work due to his utter coolness. Second Chance has not only Mitchum, but the always excellent Linda Darnell, exteriors shot in the Mexican towns of Cuernavaca and Taxco, color film stock (which lost its vividness in the intervening decades), and a 3-D process (of course not replicated for the home viewer).
So, is it any good? Well, when technical innovations arrive in Hollywood, filmmakers often use them as gimmicks, with diminished regard for story flow and physical logic. You see the same phenomenon today with CGI. Because this was RKO Radio Pictures’ first 3-D movie, and it was in Technicolor, many scenes take advantage of those aspects, but fail to build characterization or advance the plot. So there you go. But the locations in hilly Taxco look great, the musical interludes are grandly staged, and it all climaxes with an extended cable car set piece where down-on-his-luck prizefighter Mitchum gets a chance at redemption by taking on hitman Jack Palance. We’ve seen better. But we’ve seen far worse.
, RKO Radio Pictures
, Second Chance
, Robert Mitchum
, Linda Darnell
, Jack Palance
, poster art
, movie review
There's no bottom in sight.
In High Dive Frank O'Rourke uses one of the time-honored tropes of pulp fiction by centering the plot around a Mexican resort town. Armored car robbers have holed up there and the insurance investigator on their trail encounters a menagerie of secretive expats, sultry women, and even a local cliff diver. The cover, which we like, feels seedy and south-of-the-border but without sinking into cliché. Nice work, unattributed, 1955.
Aren’t you a little old for this sort of thing?
Bernard Wolfe is known for several reasons, not least of them for being Leon Trotsky’s personal secretary in Mexico City, but he was also a novelist of wide-ranging interests. Come On Out, Daddy was his Hollywood book, about a New York author who moves out west to cash in on an easy screenwriting job. While making a couple thousand dollars a week for doing very little he runs into the usual assortment of jaded Tinseltown characters—from big stars to little wannabes—and trysts with an assortment of disposable beauties before of course meeting the woman of his dreams. It’s episodic due to it being partly cobbled together from short stories published in Playboy and Cavalier, but reasonably well regarded as a cultural satire. Life described it as “garrulously and surrealistically told by a huge cast of people in varying stages of corruption.” 1963 on the hardback, and 1964 on the above, with cool cover art by James Meese.
, Mexico City
, Macfadden-Bartell Corporation
, Life Magazine
, Come On Out Daddy
, Bernard Wolfe
, James Meese
, Leon Trotsky
, cover art
Representative democracy in action.
Nature-attacks-man covers are commonplace on men’s adventure magazines, and we’ve seen virtually every species in the animal kingdom get their revenge eventually. Today it’s the eagles’ turn thanks to this November 1957 issue of Man’s Adventure with art by Clarence Doore. What would be nice is if there was a piece of fiction to go along with this striking painting but there isn’t. So we’ll make one up:
It was a tough call for the eagles. Some pointed out that humans don’t generally hunt or eat eagles, and many agreed that this fact was in man’s favor. Plus they put us on their coins, some noted, which is a nice tribute. But others said it isn’t about only us raptors, but rather all the birds—our brethren the turkeys, the ducks, and especially the chickens, those most hapless of fowl. Though the few of us who’ve had a chance to eat chicken agree they’re incredibly tasty.
But we digress. Even if some of us have no love for the other birds, consider the big picture. Man is turning nature into a parking lot. And for what? Money—the very substance they use our images upon. Oh bitter irony. Plus, have you noticed how hot it’s been lately? They definitely have something to do with that, the destructive fuckers, and since we don't have sweat glands elevated heat is a real inconvenience. So, eagle-on-man violence—all those in favor? Nays? Right, let’s go. Aim for the eyes. They really hate that.
What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and you, bitch, are toast.
It’s Santo time again. When last we checked in, the masked avenger was battling werewolves and turning them into dog chow. This time out, in a foray entitled Santo vs. Las Mujeres Vampiro, aka Santo Versus the Vampire Women, he’s got a problem with vampires. Female vampires. Or more to the point—Thorina, the queen of the vampires, who issues forth from a cobwebby dungeon with a killer thirst and some harmful ideas. Her plan is to put the bite on a local beauty named Diana in order to make her the new queen, enabling Thorina to join her husband (Satan) in hell (probably Tijuana). She has plenty of help from assorted vampire maidens and unruly thugs, and once the threat is clear to Diana’s father he seeks protection from Santo el Enmascarado de Plata, who’d been busy demolishing opponents in the ring, but who always has time to take his act on the road.
Thorina isn’t queen for nothing. The woman is relentless, and Santo soon fails to protect Diana, leading to her being stolen away. But it’s no secret where she’s been taken—that mist shrouded castle on the hill. Santo heads up there to do damage but is promptly captured and bound in Thorina’s dungeon right next to Diana, who looks at him and sneers, “Nice work, idiot.” Well, not really. But don’t let Santo’s minimal stature and 17% body fat fool you—he took on Martians, mummies, and the Mexican mafia, so you know he’s got enough in his bag of tricks to deal with loosely cinched chains and a few karate chopping henchmen. And in fact he soon doles out some lethal lucha libre, after being freed thanks to the sun’s habit of sneaking up on vampires. Eternal creatures that they are, none feel the need to wear watches. One could criticize, but it’s really part of their charm, don’t you think? Santo vs. Las Mujeres Vampiro premiered in Mexico today in 1962.
Hookers, sports cars, yachts, serious consideration as a U.S. presidential candidate—I can buy anything now!
Here’s that unidentified Mexican artist from a few weeks ago again and he’s got a theme going with the money and the cruelty. This time the tables are turned. The person with the cash in this piece entitled Matenme por Piedad, is about meet a bad end via strangulation, whereas last time the money guy was winning. We like this one better.
What do I look like? A guy with a heart or something? Don’t let the door hit you in the culo on the way out.
This piece of Mexican pulp-style art depicting a woman being evicted by an evil landlord was made during the early 1980s, but it’s appropriate for today’s era of millions of evictions a year, which goes to show that the more shit changes the more it stays the same. The piece is entitled El pez grande... roba al chico, or “the big fish robs the small one,” a phrase that pretty much sums up the last few decades. The painting was made for a Mexican graphic novel series entitled Jungla de asfalto, or Asphalt Jungle, and it’s probably the most technically accomplished piece of Mexican cover art we’ve come across. It’s initialed, but, as you can see, in such baroque style that it’s impossible to discern the letters. What do you think? Is that “FE”? “TE”? We have no idea. Thus the piece is unidentified, at least for now. See more Mexican pulp-style art beginning here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1969—Allende Meteorite Falls in Mexico
The Allende Meteorite, the largest object of its type ever found, falls in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The original stone, traveling at more than ten miles per second and leaving a brilliant streak across the sky, is believed to have been approximately the size of an automobile. But by the time it hit the Earth it had broken into hundreds of fragments.
1985—Matt Munro Dies
English singer Matt Munro, who was one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene during the 1960s and sang numerous hits, including the James Bond theme "From Russia with Love," dies from liver cancer at Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London.
1958—Plane Crash Kills 8 Man U Players
British European Airways Flight 609 crashes attempting to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in Munich, West Germany. On board the plane is the Manchester United football team, along with a number of supporters and journalists. 20 of the 44 people on board die in the crash.
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