Intl. Notebook Jun 13 2017
RACE TO THE BOTTOM
Last one there is a rotten ama.
 
If you visit Pulp Intl. regularly you know that ama movies, which focus on the tradition of female free divers who scour bay bottoms for valuable items such as abalone, clams, and pearls, are very popular in Japan. The divers, who in the past traditionally worked topless, occupy a place in Japanese culture similar to that of rollerskating female carhops in U.S. culture. Both are unusual and physical forms of work with mildly sexual components (at least in the male mind), both are steeped in nostalgia for a simpler past, and both are widely appreciated by men even though most have never seen one outside a movie. 
 
The ama tradition is ancient. The first written mention of them dates from the year 927, but ama artifacts have been found on the sea floor and carbon dated to suggest the practice is something like 3,000 years old. It's difficult to know when the tradition peaked, but according to most accounts that would have happened during the early- to mid-20th century. Movies on the subject began appearing frequently from the mid-1960s through the 1980s, with the high water mark—ahem—of western interest occurring with the appearance of an ama (played by Mie Hama) in the 1967 James Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
 
We've talked about eight different Japanese ama movies on Pulp Intl. over the years, including two earlier this month, so we thought you might be interested in seeing a few historical photos. We have a collection of fifteen above and below, shot between the 1940s and 1980s. Sadly, like so many interesting cultural practices, ama diving is in danger of fading away. Most pratictioners are in their forties and older, with very little likelihood of being succeeded by younger women, who have moved on to less traditional occupations. And people say civilization is making progress.
 
 
Follow the links below to read about the ama movies we've discussed, and to see their beautiful promotional posters.
 
Zoku kindan no suna 
Ama bune yori: Kindan no suna
Manatsu no joji

 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 20 2015
TOP 100
Ironfinger is exactly what it sounds like—a low budget Bond. But a particularly entertaining one.


The poster above was made for the Japanese spy movie Hyappatsu hyakuchu, a title which translates to “100 shots in 100”—i.e. to be infallible—but which was called Ironfinger for its English language run. A French-Japanese Interpol agent is assigned to break up a gun smuggling ring led by a mystery man known as Le Bois. The James Bond-inspired action starts in France, ends in the Philippines, and is preposterous the entire distance between, which we suppose we might have expected from the studio that made Godzilla. Our favorite moment: Mie Hama is flying a small airplane and sees minor villain Huang Chang Ling making an escape by parachute. She decides the best solution to the problem is to run into him with the plane—cue buzzsaw sound effect and bucketful of red paint. That isn't even the most gruesome demise on display here, but the movie isn't particularly violent—it just reserves a few clever deaths for those who deserve them. It also has a pretty rocking burlesque number right in the middle, performed by Hatsui Tanooka, who you may remember we mentioned a few years ago. Hyappatsu hyakuchu premiered in Japan today in 1965, and a sequel—which for a movie this weird was needed beyond doubt—came a few years later.

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Femmes Fatales Sep 20 2010
HAMA HEAD
The object of Mie affection.

Above, Japanese actress Mie Hama, who was known to Western filmgoers as Kissy Suzuki from the 1968 James Bond film You Only Live Twice. This shot comes from the cover of the Yugoslav magazine Ilustrovana Politika. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 14 2009
BEAUTIFUL CRAZY
Overnight to many distant cities.

Above are two lovely Japanese posters for the French film Les plus belles escroqueries du monde, aka The World’s Most Beautiful Swindlers. It’s an anthology divided into four segments shot by four directors—Claude Chabrol, Francis Ford Coppola, Hiromichi Horikawa, and Jean-Luc Godard. Not a slouch in the bunch, and the film, which is about crimes committed by four larcenous women in various cities across the globe, is said to be quite entertaining. We haven’t seen it yet, but when we do we’ll give you our opinion. In the meantime dig the art. Les plus belles escroqueries du monde opened in France today in 1964, and Japan in 1965.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 2 2008
GILDED LILY
Woody Allen grabs a tiger by the tail.

Long before Quentin Tarantino mined Asian cinema, Woody Allen had the crazy idea to re-dub and re-edit a Japanese crime thriller called Kokusai himitsu keisatsu: Kagi no kagi—aka International Secret Police: Key of Keys—and change the plot so that it revolved around an egg salad recipe. Though silent films had been dubbed with dialogue before, Allen spliced and diced a J-pulp cop flick starring Mie Hama, Akiko Wakabayashi, and others into something new and crazy, and in the process invented Mystery Science Theater 3000 twenty-two years before Joel Hodgson. This was Allen’s first film, and could well have been his last if the idea flopped. But instead he struck gold, today in 1966. The rest is film history.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 26
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
February 25
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
February 24
1920—The Nazi Party Is Founded
The small German Workers' Party, or DAP, which was under the direction of Adolf Hitler, changes its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Though Hitler adopted the socialist label to attract working class Germans, his party in fact embraced mainly anti-socialist ideas. The group became known in English as the Nazi Party, and within the next fifteen years expanded to become the most powerful force in German politics.
1942—Battle of Los Angeles Takes Place
A object flying over wartime Los Angeles triggers a massive anti-aircraft barrage, ultimately killing 3 civilians. Initially the target of the aerial barrage is thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but it is later suggested to be imaginary and a case of "war nerves", a lost weather balloon, a blimp, a Japanese fire balloon, or even an extraterrestrial craft. The true nature of the object or objects remains unknown to this day, but the event is known as the Battle of Los Angeles.
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