It's incredible what the Southern California sun can do to your skin.
Myrna Loy goes for sultry and inscrutable in this promo photo from her pre-Code silent movie Across the Pacific, in which she plays a half-Filipina girl named Roma. Yeah, it's a stretch, but she does look quite sexy with frizzed out hair and dark skin. All prints of Across the Pacific (not to be confused with the later Humphrey Bogart movie) are considered lost, but Loy was at the beginning of a long career that would encompass scores of movies and span a remarkable seven decades, so there's no shortage of opportunities to see her work. This image is from 1926.
The only rehabilitation going on here is by the poster artist.
Above you see a striking color poster for the Roger Corman produced women-in-prison flick Women in Cages, one of the many sexploitation epics filmed in the Philippines during the 1970s. For an entertaining ninety minutes on that subject, by the way, you should watch the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed. It's the final word on the chaos of Philippine movie production and covers everything from Savage! to Apocalypse Now. Women in Cages is one of the earlier Philippine women-in-prison flicks, coming after The Big Doll House.
Despite the fact that the poster is signed R. Engel and dated '72, it's actually a piece of modern pulp made within the last several years. The person behind it is German artist Rainer Engel, who put it together borrowing the DVD box cover art from Subkultur-Entertainment's 2013 re-issue of the movie, which in Germany was called Frauen hinter Zuchthausmauern. We ran across the re-styled poster on the artist's website, decided his mock-up beats the hell out of the 1971 original art, and thought it was worth sharing.
When we wrote about the film a while ago we said we thought it was a bit much. Specifically, it's relentlessly grim. Of the trilogy that includes The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage this middle entry is the one that forgot the first rule of the 1970s women-in-prison genre—the movie should be absurd and fun. When it isn't—i.e. when it shades into depressing realism—you come away wondering if there's something wrong with you for having watched it in the first place. You can read our post on the film here, and you can visit the artist's website here.
Treat your toys with care or they might break out.
Above is an Italian poster for the American financed, Philippine shot sexploitation actioner The Big Doll House, which starred Roberta Collins, Brooke Mills, Pat Woodell, Pam Grier, and Judy Brown. This wasn't the first women in prison movie—those had been appearing for decades—but it was the one that got the ’70s prison sexploitation ball rolling in the U.S. It offers a full slate of whippings, waterboardings, overheated isolation, and bizarre snake tortures, orchestrated by the evil wardeness Christiane Schmidtmer. Collins leads the beautiful convicts' eventual escape from bondage and hers is the most memorable character in the ensemble, though all the personalities are interesting. Don't get us wrong—the acting is of course atrocious, and the production values aren't high, but that didn't bother us and it didn't bother American audiences either. They made the movie a hit and the women-in-prison conveyor belt quickly cranked out other Filipino bondage productions like Women in Cages, The Hot Box, The Woman Hunt, The Big Bird Cage, and many others. The Big Doll House wasn't the best of the lot, by any stretch, but hey—being a trailblazer matters. We think it's worth a viewing.
Hong Kong kidnappers have problems mastering possession, and so do the filmmakers.
If Tarantino likes it, it must be tops. At least that's the assumption some would make upon learning that 1976's Ebony, Ivory & Jade has Tarantino's stamp of approval. Well, despite the endorsement and status as a minor classic of the blaxploitation genre, the film isn't great. It has some highlights, including confidently staged action sequences and camerawork that does seem to have influenced Tarantino. But its failings are legion—bad script, wooden acting, and heavy duty crushed black levels that make the actors almost impossible to see in the night sequences. We'll give a pass on that last problem, because it could have happened during the video or DVD transfer.
We'll admit though, this flick is damned funny in parts—unintentionally so, foremost the character Stacy's beatdown of a bad guy who morphs into a dummy at the moment she hoists him overhead and helicopter spins him through a room divider. The basic idea of the film is also appealing—Hong Kong bad guys kidnap five female track stars for ransom, unaware that two of them happen to be martial arts experts that will cause no end of trouble once they untie themselves. Playboy playmate Rosanne Katon in the lead role is also a plus. But as blaxploitation, even a discernibly elevated budget doesn't lift the film above other entries in the genre.
As a side note, the above promo poster should help put to rest any idea that apostrophe illiteracy has something to do with modern education or the internet or whatever. It has always been a problem, and we see it all the time in vintage material. This particular failure to master the possessive form is pretty egregious, though. Yes, it's attached to a movie shot in the Philippines, but the error made it all the way through a phalanx of American writers, designers, pre-press workers, printers, and producers working in the U.S. of A. at—or at least for—Lawrence Woolner's Dimension Pictures. Pretty bad. Though as we've noted in the past, sometimes apostrophe placement can be legitimately tricky.
Machine gun Margaret strikes again.
In the tropical Republic of San Rosario four beautiful nurses—Margaret Markov, Rickey Richardson, Andrea Cagan, and Laurie Rose—are kidnapped and forced to teach the healing arts to a revolutionary army so it can bring medical care to villages it liberates. While one of the nurses begins to agree with the captors, the others just want to escape. But when they do, they are captured by an army leader and what they learn prompts them to escape back to the revolutionaries' jungle compound to warn them of an impending government attack.
Scripted by Jonathan Demme and produced in the sweaty Philippines by sexploitation specialists New World Pictures, The Hot Box features most of the elements you expect from jungle sleaze, with perhaps less skin than the standard. But there's plenty of leering, drooling, and general depravity, followed by punching, kicking, stabbing, and Margaret Markov going cyclical with a machine gun. By the way, we'd not note this ordinarily, but post-massacre we'll add that mowing down people with machine guns is fine for cinema, but all other applications are idiotic and tragic.
There's a debate online about whether this is a women-in-prison film. People often get obtuse online—of course it's a women-in-prison film. The nurses don't spend three reels inside a bamboo cage being hosed down with river water, but they are twice held against their will and escape both times. Textbook stuff. Do we recommend the film? Not quite. But Markov is always worth the time. Amongst a slate of atrocious performers, she can almost act. Almost. The Hot Box premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.
If you’re looking for mercy you’ve come to the wrong place.
The Big Bird Cage finds writer-director Jack Hill at the top of his form as he sticks star Anitra Ford in a Philippine jungle prison where an evil warden uses the female inmates as slave labor to process sugar. Pam Grier and Sid Haig are revolutionaries who want to recruit women for their cause, so Grier infiltrates the prison and primes the women for a big break out. This is one of the most remembered of 70s B-romps, a sleazefest filled with iconic scenes such as Ford being suspended by her hair, and seven-foot model Karen McKevic slathering her body with grease and dashing naked through camp. The classic poster is above, a brilliant production photo appears below, and if you’re looking for actual reviews, well, there are about a thousand online. Wild, weird, and oh so incorrect, The Big Bird Cage premiered in the U.S. this month in 1972.
It isn’t really a racing movie, but it is a bit of a drag.
Hot Rod Gang falls into that category of movies that are better known for their poster art than for the actual film. And the poster art is definitely brilliant—no dispute there—but the movie? Not so much. John Ashley plays a hepcat who gets in trouble for reckless driving and, due to the pursuit of the local strongarm cop, has to adopt a new identity. Thrown onstage by happenstance, this new identity—Jackson Dalrymple—becomes a rock and roll star. Where’s the hot rodding, you wonder? The movie is really a musical comedy with a bit of racing wrapped around, while uniformly atrocious acting bogs down the whole enterprise. The main attraction is watching early rocker Gene Vincent play himself and put on a couple of numbers. The film also features other, less adept, probably dubbed performances, including several by Ashley, who you may remember for his run of Mystery Science Theatre-worthy 1970s horror/action epics shot in the Philippines. In the end Hot Rod Gang all comes together in a rumble and a chase. We can't recommended it, but it’s amusing if you’re in the right frame of mind. Oh, and we almost forgot—our copy kicked off with the ad you see below. Hot rods indeed.
Largest crocodile ever captured in Philippines slated to be star of zoo.
We’ve seen hunters battling giant crocodiles on the covers of pulp magazines, but yesterday, it happened for real. On the southern island of Mindanao, in the Agusan del Sur township of Bunawan, hunters snared a giant crocodile measured at twenty-one feet and more than 2,300 pounds. That makes it the biggest specimen ever captured in the Philippines. Gleeful mayor Edwin Cox Elorde posed with the creature, and, after one hundred villagers managed to wrestle the trussed croc into a fenced enclosure, announced plans to use it as the central attraction in a planned ecotourism theme park. While the capture and exploitation of the animal bothers environmentalists (including us), and we can just picture this future theme park (not a pretty image), Bunawan crocodiles’ free days frankly were numbered from the moment one of them bit the head off a ten-year-old girl back in 2009. When more people narrowly escaped being croc chow, and two reptiles ate the head off a carabao (water buffalo), the push to capture the animals intensified. Yesterday, hired hunters succeeded. Up next: the croc's inevitable escape and vengeful rampage.
Update: Lolong, which was the name given to the croc, has died. After living an estimated century in the wild, he lasted less than a year in human hands. Figures. Locals plan to stuff him so they can still keep him on display.
Champion boxer Manny Pacquiao scores victory in the political ring.
We were going to post about this earlier in the week, but then changed our minds. But today we’re feeling wordy, so here you go. If you follow boxing, you know Manny Pacquiao. He’s a punching dynamo, one of the toughest guys in the world, and has been on the sports pages for months due to the drama surrounding his on-again off-again bout with undefeated Floyd Mayweather. If you follow politics, you know by now that Pacquiao won a seat earlier this week to the Philippine parliament. He’ll be representing Sarangani province, which is on the island of Mindinao. Pacquiao won his post by beating a wealthy and entrenched political clan, and in defiance of those who predicted his congressional bid would fail the same way his 2008 attempt did.
But this time Pacquiao was more organized, disseminating his anti-poverty message at a grassroots level, and outspending his opponent Roy Chiongbian. In fact, some observers have suggested that Pacquiao’s massive spending doesn’t square with his message about poverty, but we don’t particularly see that. Pacquiao spent what was needed to win and now claims that because he used mostly his own money he owes no favors to special interests. In our view, politics is about nothing but favors to special interests, and if you’ve spent millions of your own money your first thought might perhaps be to make some of it back. Just saying is all. But we admit to seeing events through an American prism. We don’t want to sell Pacquiao short—he’s passionate, seems sincere, and worked hard for his win. In politics, it’s sometimes possible for sincere outsiders to storm the palace. Maybe Pacquiao is one of those outsiders. And there’s always this: if he turns out to be just another corrupt corporate shill, Sarangani voters can always fly Floyd Mayweather into town to beat the shit out of him.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
1969—Woodstock Festival Begins
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which was billed as an Aquarian Exposition, takes place on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. It would run for three sometimes rainy days and feature thirty-two acts performing at all hours of the day and night. Today the festival is regarded as one of the greatest events in popular music history.
1977—Radio Signal Arrives from Deep Space
An unidentified radio signal, nicknamed the WOW Signal for the notation a scientist made on a computer readout, is briefly detected by the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project's Big Ear radio telescope. Despite a month of searching the same section of space, the signal is never found again.
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
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