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.
, World War II
, Male Magazine
, Klaus van Tronk
, Richard Farrington
, James Bama
, John Kuller
, Joe Little
, Al Rossi
, Mort Kunstler
, Bruce Minney
, Carol Morris
, Tony Accardo
, magazine art
Parolee skips the halfway house and goes straight to the all-the-way house.
Yes, we're doubling up on the ’70s sexploitation today because we have this nice poster for a movie that premiered in Japan today in 1972—Blue Movie, aka Das Porno-Haus von Amsterdam, aka Blue Movie Session in Amsterdam. Dutch produced and initially released in Germany as Das nackte Gesicht der Pornographie during the summer of 1971, it starred Hugo Metsers in a tale that mirrors the above-mentioned Vanessa. Instead of a sex starved woman released from a nunnery, this one features a sex starved man released from prison. He moves into an apartment building and gets to know the resident women intimately, a process helped by the fact that they're all desperately horny. We're talking about Cary Tefsen, Ursula Blauth, and the lovely Ine Veen, so this is a pretty sweet deal for a new parolee. Eventually he goes from single sexual encounters to arranging orgiastic parties, complete with interpretive dance performances. When the film hit Holland in the fall of ’71 viewers were shocked by its subject matter and frankness, but it was a huge hit and it's still remembered as a groundbreaker today. It's also a bit of a bore. Director/co-writer Wim Verstappen had serious intentions, and those show in the social commentary and abundance of dialogue he's loaded into the movie. We'll say this, though—the Dutch don't do sexploitation one-way, which means there are plenty of swinging dicks here, literally, along with chest hair and pork chop sideburns. We're fine with all that, but we're not fine with the movie being such a yawner. Pass.
, Das Porno-Haus von Amsterdam
, Blue Movie Session in Amsterdam
, Hugo Metsers
, Carry Tefsen
, Ine Veen
, Ursula Blauth
, Wim Verstappen
, poster art
, movie review
Just point me to the palest of your women. She's the one I want.
This Dutch poster promotes De indische graftempel, which was originally a West German production called De indische grabmal, and later given the English titles The Indian Tomb and The Tomb of Love. Made by Fritz Lang, this was the fourth pass at a 1918 novel by Thea von Harbou, but this version strays far from the source material. The book is about an architect commissioned by a Maharaja to build a fantastic tomb, but who later discovers it's for the Maharaja's wife, who will be killed for being a generally unfit spouse and placed in the structure as soon as it's completed. This must have made for some fun jokes between Lang and von Harbou, since they had been married for a time but were divorced when they worked together here. The adaptation they came up with relegates the architect to secondary status, and instead focuses on the wife Seetha, played by Debra Paget, who is having an affair with a Western lover named Harald, played by Paul Hubschmid.
Just to get right to the heart of it, this isn't one of Lang's best efforts. Despite good location work and excellent sets, the romance is silly, the adventure elements are uninspiring, and there's no emotional realism at all. But the movie is instructive in one area—it could be a case study for this year's Academy Awards race controversy. Every Indian role of consequence is played by a white person in shoe polish. This was the norm back then and it happened in hundreds if not thousands of films. Now, after nearly a century of such silliness, some people are actually offended at demands that ethnic roles be played by ethnic actors, and lead roles be diversified. Those demands are beyond fair. For decades nobody made even a peep about white actors in brown makeup, let alone the industrywide denial of good roles to actors of color, but as soon as someone says maybe Joseph Fiennes shouldn't play Michael Jackson in a film or Star Wars should have a black lead it's suddenly racism against whites. You almost have to laugh. What's also funny is that Paget, though she's supposed to be Indian, is without dark coloration. This is another norm for the period—amidst the brown hordes the most beautiful woman is always the palest.
All that said, watching the spectacle of literally a dozen West German actors in brown make-up is actually quite funny in today's context. But the main attraction here is Paget, whose erotic dance routine before ranks of spray-tanned slaves and beneath a looming, twenty-foot-high, giant-boobed Hindu statue is one of cinema's great sequences. We don't mean great in terms of acting or dancing or directing. It's an immortal moment the same way Alicia Vikander looking at herself in a mirror in Ex Machina is, or Sharon Stone flashing her ragamuffin in Basic Instinct. It's one ofthose instances when mainstream filmmakers push everyone's comfort envelope and remind them that sex is actually the single most important aspect of all our lives. Save for a tiny subset of us, we all exist because of it, our existence can only be assured by having more of it, and pretending it isn't on all our minds much of the time is just a silly rule imposed by the people who conceived our civilizational costume party. In the envelope-pushing respect De indische graftempel is a roaring success. Otherwise, not so much. It premiered today in 1959. West Germany
, De indische graftempel
, De indische grabmal
, The Indian Tomb
, The Tomb of Love
, Fritz Lang
, Debra Paget
, Paul Hubschmid
, Thea von Harbou
, poster art
, movie review
Fast lane to the promised land.
We've done a bit of France and Germany this week, so we thought we'd keep Pulp Intl. international by heading over to Holland. Above you see eight pulp style covers from Rotterdam publisher De Vrije Pers for various works of erotica, including Marquis de Sade's Wilde Nachten, aka, The 120 Days of Sodom. These were part of De Vrije Pers's Sexpress collection, and indeed the rear covers inform readers Een nieuw serie ware sex verhalen sprankelen van realisme—a new series of true sex stories sparkle with realism. Which is good, because who doesn't love a little sparkle? We also love the covers. You may remember we shared one a while ago and promised to revisit the collection. So this is us doing that. Middle and late 1960s on these. Netherlands
, The 120 Days of Sodom
, De Vrije Pers
, Clare O'Neill
, John Ray
, Rocco D. Jack
, Marquis de Sade
, Jefferson Blake
, John Laurent
, Henriette Duval
, Harry White
, cover art
Working in Bardot’s shadow.
Thea Fleming, aka Thea Fammy, née Thea Catharina Wihelmina Gemma Pfennings, is a Dutch actress who was packaged as “The Brigitte Bardot of Holland.” We don’t know if that was because of her talent or looks, but in any case she actually spent most of her career not in Holland but in Italy, working under the stage name Isabella Biancini. She was never a big star, no Bardot by any measure, but she made some memorable movies, including Salome ’73, Asso di picche—Operazione controspionaggio, aka Operation Counterspy, and Il nostro agente a Casablanca, aka The Killer Lacks a Name. This great shot is from around 1970.
, Salome ’73
, Operation Counterspy
, Asso di picche—Operazione controspionaggio
, Il nostro agente a Casablanca
, The Killer Lacks a Name
, Isabella Biancini
, Thea Fleming
, Thea Fammy
Trend in swimsuits moves toward more coverage and suffocating fabrics.
If you run Spelen op het strand through the trusty ole translator you come up with “Playing on the Beach.” That doesn’t seem to match the front of this paperback at all, does it? Well, it doesn’t matter, because the art is great—it’s signed, but unreadable, so we can’t tell you who did it. But we can tell you Spelen op het strand is part of the Sexpress collection from Rotterdam, Netherlands based publisher De Vrije Pers, and it appeared in 1967. We’ll post more of these interesting Sexpress covers down the line.
Rare jewels look best unadorned.
We featured Indonesian actress Laura Gemser as a femme fatale not long ago, and shared some eye-opening stills from one of her softcore romps even more recently—but then we came across this frontal 1973 shot from the Dutch magazine Chick. So we brought her back. That is all.
Thou shalt not mispronounce her name.
When your name is Nina Foch you probably get used to introducing yourself only to have people say, “You need a what?” Not us, though. We’d never be that juvenile. Film buffs will remember this Dutch actress as Bithiah, the woman who in 1956’s oft-broadcast spectacle The Ten Commandments finds Moses and raises him as her son, but she also played in pulpier fare such as The Return of the Vampire and Escape in the Fog, and important noirs like Johnny O’Clock and My Name Is Julia Ross. This shot was made in 1944 as a promo for her role in Cry of the Werewolf.
La Muse de l’existentialisme et Miles.
This striking promo art for French singer Juliette Gréco and Disques Fontana (a subsidiary of the Dutch label Philips Records) was created by the famous illustrator O’Kley in 1956. The art was reused for record covers, as you see below. Gréco, an actress as well as singer, was a fixture in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris, and her acquaintanceships with such figures as Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty earned her the nickname La Muse de l’existentialisme—the existentialists’ muse. She was also, according to Miles Davis, one of the great loves of his life, and the feeling was reciprocated, so that wins major points right there because Miles was the bomb.
Moving on to the art, O’Kley was a pseudonym for Nantes-born Pierre Gilardeau, the man behind some of the most collectable Folies Bergère posters. He also illustrated many book covers and movie posters, and after a long career just died in 2007. We’ve tracked down some good examples of his art and we’ll get back to him a bit later. You can see another Fontana post here.
, Fontana Records
, Disques Fontana
, Philips Records
, Pierre Gilardeau
, Juliette Gréco
, Miles Davis
, Jean-Paul Sartre
, Maurice Merleau-Ponty
, Folies Bergère
, album art
Notice how the guy goes from an early, enthusiastic attempt to glumly watching from the sideline—that’s how it works for us too.
We’ve seen these paperback covers in different places around the internet and thought they’d make an interesting collective post showing the progression of their dance-themed covers. The first is from 1950 with art by Rudolph Belarski, the next is from an unknown who nonetheless painted a nice rear cover as well, and the last is from Harry Shaare. Macamba concerns a group of characters in Curaçao, and how one in particular struggles to deal with his biracial background as he grows to manhood. He first tries to become a witch doctor, then excels at conventional learning in university, and eventually ships off to World War II and becomes a hero. Returning home, he has many romances and seeks to find his place in the world. You may wonder if there’s any actual dancing in the book, and indeed there is—the main character watches a performance of the tamboe or tambú, a native dance and music that the Dutch colonizers of Curaçao had made illegal.
Lilla Van Saher captures certain aspects of indigenous culture in Curaçao, even sprinkling the dialogue with some Papiamento, but the book is not derived directly from her personal experiences. She was born Lilla Alexander in Budapest, lived an upper class life, modeled, acted in French fims, married a Dutch lawyer named August Edward Van Saher, and through him was introduced to Dutch culture and its island possessions. During her first trip to Curaçao she claims to have been imprisoned by natives in a church because they thought she was a local saint.
In private life, she was a close friend of Tennessee Williams, traveling with him aboard the S.S. Queen Federica in the early 1950s, entertaining him in New York City, and accompanying him during a press junket of Sweden, acting almost as an agent and introducing him to the upper crust of Stockholm, where she was well known. During this time she was Lilla van Saher-Riwkin, and often appears by that name in biographies of Williams as part of his retinue of admirers and associates, though not always in a flattering light. Later she did what many globetrotting dilletantes do—published a cookbook. Hers was called Exotic Cooking, which is as good a description of Macamba as we can imagine.
, Dutch West Indies
, World War II
, Lilla Van Saher
, Tennessee Williams
, Harry Schaare
, Rudolph Belarski
, cover art
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1954—Communist Party Outlawed
In the U.S., during the height of the Red Scare, President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Communist Control Act into law. The new legislation bans the American Communist Party, and prohibits people deemed to be communists from serving as officials in labor organizations.
1968—France Explodes Nuke
a two-stage nuclear weapon, codenamed Canopus, on Fangataufa, French Polynesia.
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
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