Seven ways to die in Rome.
We mentioned a while back we were taking a closer look at vintage giallo flicks, and today you see a Renato Casaro poster for Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso, aka Seven Blood-Stained Orchids. During a train trip a serial killer who's been dispatching women in various diabolical ways tries to make a victim of Uschi Glas. Uschi's man Antonio Sabato is the police's number one suspect, and the only way he can disprove their suspicions is by finding the killer. Uschi plays sidekick for him, which is good, because he looks terribly confused most of the time. This falsely-accused-must-find-real-killer gimmick had already reached perennial status when Antonio arrived on the scene, so you'd hope for a fresh take on it—and be disappointed. This isn't a bad movie, but it's undistinguished, a giallo without the high style of the best entries in the genre. Umberto Lenzi, who had directed numerous films but was making his first giallo here, would do a bit better later. Sette orchidee macchiate di rosso premiered in Italy today in 1972.
It's a self portrait. I don't know why I painted myself bloody and mutilated. Just a weird inspiration.
These are my new strangling gloves. 100% lambskin. Nice, right?
My last victim didn't like gloves so this time I'm going bareback!
Not cutting him down.
Wait, what? That's not fair. I didn't even see him until just now.
This mystery is probably far less complicated than we think.
Singer elopes with girlfriend and everything falls apartheid.
We'd never heard of African Story, aka The Manipulator, before seeing this Italian promo poster painted by Renato Casaro. We were hoping for another semi-comical romp in the vein of Black Emmanuelle or The African Deal (i.e. lily white visitors are magically driven to get freaky in the bush with locals), but this film goes in a different direction. A famous singer named Rex Maynard runs away to South Africa with a powerful music producer's daughter, prompting the producer to set up a fake kidnapping to scare the crooner and simultaneously generate publicity for his career. Somehow or other a group of actual kidnappers decide to put the bag on Rexie, and mayhem soon follows. Rex may be a soft jazz kind of singer, but he's hard rock with his fists. He even uses judo to whip ass on several of his assailants. Luckily one of them packs a gun or they'd all have ended up in intensive care. Rex is also slippery as an eel, with his escapability aided by the kidnappers' generally lax security.
We'd file this movie in the terrible-but-fun category, with Stephen Boyd, who played the rugged Messala in Bur Hur, here putting on his evil capitalist pants, beautiful Sylva Koscina playing the femme fatale, and Michael Kirner expending far more physical energy in the role of the pursued singer than you'd think possible for a guy with his body fat. African Story has virtually no Africans of the black variety in it, but then again this is the apartheid era we're talking about. Blacks need not apply—particularly for speaking roles (except for those two fisherman guys who you'll miss if you blink). In fact, you see very few blacks even in the backgrounds of shots. With sequences set in offices, hotels, nightclubs, pools, and at a *ahem* race track, their conspicuous absence reveals the reality of how all good things in South Africa were reserved for whites. And some bad things too, if you count the movie. African Story premiered today in 1971.
If you think armed robbery is tough try surviving as a poster artist.
Rapina a mano armata is a title that would translate as “armored rampage,” but the movie being promoted by these spectacular Italian posters is actually none other than Stanley Kubrick's famed thriller The Killing. After debuting in the U.S. and Britain in early 1956, it opened in Italy today that same year. We discussed the film in detail a while ago. If you take a look at that post you'll immediately notice that once again the foreign promo art destroys the U.S. version. This is consistently true for most movies made after the mid-1960s because the studios began to jettison top notch promo artists in favor of simpler—and we assume cheaper—visual approaches. The foreign companies would follow suit, but not until later. European posters began to lose their pizzazz by the 1970s, and Japanese promos went the same direction by the early 1980s. Which leaves us where we are today—besieged by Photoshop jobs, all of which seem to feature a couple of large heads against some uninspiring background.
But we're here at least partly to celebrate the glories of vintage art, which means what you really want to know is who painted these particular masterpieces, right? It was Renato Casaro, whose work is consistently amazing. In fact he was so good that he survived as an illustrator well into the 1980s, painting iconic promos for the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicles Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, and somewhat less iconic but no less brilliant posters for Sylvester Stallone's Cliffhanger and Over the Top. The Rapina a mano armata poster you see below is unsigned but we can be reasonably sure it was also a product of Casaro's hand, as it was common practice in Italy's movie industry for the commissioned artist to produce more than one version. If the above pieces aren't the best we've seen from Casaro they're sure close. You can see several more of his efforts by clicking his keywords below.
Somebody up there liked him 67 times. And didn't like him 10 times.
These Italian promo posters were made for the drama Lassù qualcuno mi ama, better known as Somebody Up There Likes Me, the rags to riches biopic of boxer Rocky Graziano, who survived a violent father, street gangs and prison to become a world middleweight champion who finished his career with a 67-10 record. If somebody up there liked him, we'd love to hear why he got his ass whipped ten times, but whatever. Paul Newman played the lead in this after intended star James Dean was killed in an auto accident, and the film went on to earn acclaim and win a couple of Oscars for cinematography and art direction. The posters were painted by Renato Casaro, one of the most important mid-century film artists, a man who produced hundreds of masterpieces and was behind this gem and this racy little number. Casaro is still around at age eighty-one and maintains a website detailing his work and career. Lassù qualcuno mi ama was originally released in the U.S. in 1956 and had its premiere in Italy today in 1957
Tropical storm Anita blows into Port-au-Prince.
Set in Haiti, the Italian thriller Al tropico del cancro follows the story of a doctor who invents a powerful hallucinogenic drug that interests various parties who believe it to be priceless. In addition to being a giallo, some people consider this film a classic of—what would you call it?—not blaxploitation, but that unofficial sub-genre of movies (which we also wrote about yesterday in assessing Emmanuelle IV) in which white women go to the tropics and jettison their inhibitions. Though the promise of Renato Casaro's brilliant poster art undoubtedly draws many viewers to the film, star Anita Strindberg's interracial coupling is a highly stylized hallucination or dream, ancillary to the plot. She gives it her theatrical best, though, gangbangy subtext and all. The scene was bold in 1972's racial landscape—and still is today, which shows you how little progress we've made in half a century.
Strindberg is a favorite around Pulp Intl. She was one of our early femmes fatales—in fact the one that made us decide to feature the occasional frontal nude on the site. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to share this shot. Under a ridiculous crown of sculptural ’70s hair, she's all high cheekbones, icy eyes, and a recurved mouth. Everything below her neck looks good too, although she sports a pair of early breast implants, but hey—her body her choice. Her nordic looks juxtapose nicely against Haiti's tropical setting. She's a gleaming alien there, which is important for the sense of disconnection her character feels as the various male cast members busy themselves trying to outsmart each other to acquire the drug formula.
Al tropico del cancro features awesome location shooting in Port-au-Prince, not only in the streets and estates, but in unlikely locales like a functioning abattoir where island beef production is depicted in full gore. Cows aren't the only animals that fare poorly, so be forewarned. The movie eventually ends in foot chases and gunshots, as greed for the formula triggers a spate of violence. Reaching this climax isn't the most gripping ride, but we've been on worse. We recommend the movie for fans of Strindberg, as well as for people interested in historic Port-au-Prince, much of which—the prized Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince, the capital building, the parliament, et al—was destroyed in a 2010 earthquake. Al tropico del cancro premiered in Italy today in 1972.
In Cloak and Dagger Gary Cooper plays a physicist who causes a violent chain reaction of a different kind.
These posters promote the Italian run of the American War World II propaganda thriller Cloak and Dagger. The film even admits to being propaganda, with a dedication to the OSS in the ending credits. But since all states produce propaganda, and each generation’s is clumsy and laughable to those who come later, the silly flag waving here isn’t really the problem—rather it’s a tepid central romance, an unlikely plot, and an overcooked musical score that loudly punctuates every mood and movement of the characters. There are other flaws, especially with Gary Cooper’s fighting physicist, who begins the movie as a lab egghead but by the halfway point inexplicably unveils better fighting skills than the seasoned fascist killers on his trail. But whatever—willing suspension and all that. At least these action sequences are well staged—in fact, they’rethe highlight of the movie. And if you don't mind Coop's unsubtle moralizing about courage, country, sacrifice, and love, then Cloak and Dagger may hold some charms for you. For our part, we think seeing a cynic converted to the cause à la Casablanca is infinitely more interesting than a true blue patriot trying to convert others, but that’s the difference between drama and propaganda—in the latter the hero’s doubts are merely cursory if they exist at all. The promo posters above are by Renato Casero, the one directly below is by Luigi Martinati, who we’ll revisit soon, and the last is illegibly signed, which means it goes into the unknown category. We’ll try to figure out who painted that and get back to you. Cloak and Dagger premiered in the U.S. in 1946 and made it to Italy as Maschere e pugnali today in 1948.
This isn't child abuse. It's more like destruction of property.
We know this poster looks vicious, but you can relax—Un mondo maledetto fatto di bambole is about a future world where, in order to control the population, couples are given robot babies. Sounds kind of nice to us—or at least less screamy and less poopy, but it’s clearly not a popular policy with at least one woman. The movie was a British production starring Oliver Reed and Geraldine Chaplin, and was originally entitled Z.P.G., which stands for “Zero Population Growth.” Pretty lame title, but on the other hand, the Italian title translates as “a world made of cursed dolls,” which we think gives a little too much away. In any case, excellent art here from the Italian painter Renato Casaro, a legend who’s created scores of memorable movie promos. You can learn more about him here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1940—Trotsky Iced in Mexico
In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe
(not an ice pick) by Soviet agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky dies the next day.
1968—Prague Spring Ends
200,000 Warsaw Pact troops backed by 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring political liberalization movement.
1986—Sherrill Goes Postal
In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States postal employee Patrick Sherrill shoots and kills fourteen of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
1953—Mohammed Mossadegh Overthrown in Iran
At the instigation of the CIA, Prime Minster of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh is overthrown and the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is installed as leader of the country.
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
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