Like Shakespeare wrote, what's past is prologue.
This unusual poster was made to promote the Spanish run of Retorno al pasado, a movie better known as Out of the Past. The title says it all. A man who thinks he's left his sordid past behind sees it rear its ugly head and threaten to ruin the good future he's planned for himself. Starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas, this is one of the top noir thrillers, in our opinion. Certainly it's one of the most beautifully shot, thanks to director Jacques Tourneur and cinematographer Nicholas Mesuraca. Like the poster art by Macario Gomez, the film is richly textured and lushly black, which makes for a nice sense of gathering danger, especially in the pivotal fight sequence about forty minutes in. Plus it has the always compelling Mexico connection used by many excellent noirs, as well as nice location shooting around Lake Tahoe and Reno. Highly recommended, this one. After opening in the U.S. in November 1947 it had its Spanish premiere in Madrid today in 1948.
, Lake Tahoe
, Retorno al pasado
, Out of the Past
, Robert Mitchum
, Jane Greer
, Kirk Douglas
, Rhonda Fleming
, Jacques Tourneur
, Nicholas Mesuraca
, Macario Gomez
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
For some men divorce is not a tragedy—it's an opportunity.
If you've never seen one, this is what an AP wire photo looked like back in 1966. The text at the bottom gives newspaper editors the identity of the subject and some basic facts. No identity needed here—this is Ursula Andress, and the photo is the one widely used when newspapers reported that her husband John Derek was filing for divorce in Tijuana, Mexico. This made us smile because the basic idea here was to show that Derek was out of his mind. Perhaps, however he had already established a pattern of moving on to younger, equally beautiful women. He was first married to Pati Behrs, but divorced her when he met nineteen-year-old Andress. She was thirty when they divorced and he moved on to twenty-three-year-old Linda Evans. And Evans was thirty-two when Derek tossed her over for sixteen-year-old Mary Collins, who you know better as Bo Derek. Andress, Evans, and Collins could have been sisters, and in fact they looked quite a bit like John Derek too (see below). But in Bo he had found not just another doppleganger, but an ingénue willing to star in the poorly made sexually oriented films he liked to direct. These included Fantasies (when Bo was sixteen), the almost competent Bolero, Ghosts Can't Do It, and Tarzan, the Ape Man. Bo and John John Derek stayed together until John died, a span of twenty-two years, so it seems wife number four cured him of his habit of trading for younger models. Just an interesting Hollywood factoid to enliven your Monday.
, Ghosts Can't Do It
, Tarzan the Ape Man
, Ursula Andress
, John Derek
, Linda Evans
, Bo Derek
, Pati Behrs
, sex symbol
Getting carried away south of the border.
Above, a very nice cover of Mundo Policiaco, which means “police world,” and was an obscure Mexican true crime magazine. All the examples we've seen look basically like this, though rendered by different artists, all unknown to us. In this case it's someone signing as “AZ.” This issue hit newsstands today in 1964.
Mexico serves as a fresh backdrop for a macabre classic.
From Estudios America, S.A. came this poster promoting their low budget adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Fall of the House of Usher," which the studio called Satanás de todos los horrores. You've read the Poe story, right? Cursed house, woman buried alive, house cracks in two, falls over, and sinks into swamp. Satanás premiered in Mexico today in 1974, and starred Enrique Lizalde, Enrique Rocha and Illya Shanell. Though it's been poorly reviewed over time, we've seen far worse. The promo poster, you may notice, is signed “E.M.” We don't know who that is yet. Anyone out there with insight feel free to drop us a line. In the meantime we will dig, as always. See more Mexican movie poster art here and here.
When the sun goes down in the city.
Hotels, museums, and restaurants are all important aspects of travel, but what you really need to know is where to score hookers and cocaine, right? Or is that just us? Above, assorted covers from MacFadden-Bartell’s famed sleaze series After Dark, published late 1960s and early 1970s, and which purports to tell readers where and how vice can be found in different cities, as well as the unique variations that exist in each place. Don’t leave home without one. And a pack of condoms.
, New York City
, Rio de Janeiro
, Hong Kong
, MacFadden-Bartell Corporation
, William Hopson
, Lois O'Conner
, Colin Ross
, William Fitzpatrick
, Andrew Harris
, Roberto Orsi
, Ogden Fox
, Norman Nash
, Phil Lewis
, Jean de Ballard
, Philip Marnais
, Allen V. Ross
, cover art
, cover collection
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
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—The Hindenburg Explodes
In the U.S, at Lakehurst, New Jersey, the German zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg catches fire and is incinerated within a minute while attempting to dock in windy conditions after a trans-Atlantic crossing. The disaster, which kills thirty-six people, becomes the subject of spectacular newsreel coverage, photographs
, and most famously, Herbert Morrison's recorded radio eyewitness report from the landing field. But for all the witnesses and speculation, the actual cause of the fire remains unknown.
1921—Chanel No. 5 Debuts
Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel, the pioneering French fashion designer whose modernist philosophy, menswear-inspired styles, and pursuit of expensive simplicity made her an important figure in 20th-century fashion, introduces the perfume Chanel No. 5, which to this day remains one of the world's most legendary and best selling fragrances.
1961—First American Reaches Space
Three weeks after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to fly into space, U.S. astronaut Alan Shepard completes a sub-orbit of fifteen minutes, returns to Earth, and is rescued from his Mercury 3 capsule in the Atlantic Ocean. Shepard made several more trips into space, even commanding a mission at age 47, and was eventually awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
1953—Hemingway Wins Pulitzer
American author Ernest Hemingway, who had already written such literary classics as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls, is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his novella The Old Man and the Sea, the story of an aging Cuban fisherman who struggles with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream.
1970—Mass Shooting at Kent State
In the U.S., Ohio National Guard troops, who had been sent to Kent State University after disturbances in the city of Kent the weekend before, open fire on a group of unarmed students, killing four and wounding nine. Some of the students had been protesting the United States' invasion of Cambodia, but others had been walking nearby or observing from a distance. The incident triggered a mass protest of four million college students nationwide, and eight of the guardsmen were indicted by a grand jury, but charges against all of them were eventually dismissed.
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