This one is paved with bad intentions every inch of the way.
When we saw these two Italian posters for 1966's I selvaggi our eyes deceived us and we thought—for a wonderful split second—that they were for a film starring Frank Sinatra and Jane Fonda. But then we realized it was Nancy Sinatra and Peter Fonda, who are pretty big downgrades, quality-wise. No offense intended toward them. Fonda is an icon of cool, but not because he can act. We aren't aware of Nancy Sinatra wowing people with her thespian chops either. But we watched the movie anyway.
It's better known as The Wild Angels, and it's Roger Corman directed schlock from American International Pictures about a group called the Hell's Angels ripping and bombing around Southern California, causing problems to law abiding folk and the police. While it's obviously a take on the infamous motorcycle gang, in real life the gang spells its name without an apostrophe. Why that makes a difference in terms of trademark infringement we have no idea, but we assume that's why it was put there. Or maybe it's just a correction of an assumed typo in the real gang's name. Or maybe nobody even noticed the difference.
Whatever the case, the Hells Angels couldn't really have claimed that the racist and violent Hell's Angels portrayed by Fonda, Sinatra, Bruce Dern, and company differed greatly from reality. The real Angels may not have clobbered preachers and taken over churches for all night bacchanals, but they did some terrible shit. Despite the incendiary verisimilitude of the movie, it's mostly a bore—but one that helped establish the outlaw biker genre and pave the way for 1969's Easy Rider. For that it deserves a little credit. Now we're going to try and find out if Jane Fonda and Frank Sinatra ever acted together, because that's a movie we'd like to see.
Hi there. Is this planet taken?
Above is an iconic poster for Roger Corman's sci-fi thriller Not of This Earth, about an alien in human form who is beamed to Earth through a matter transmitter and enacts a scheme to be transfused with human blood. If he derives the hoped for benefits from these transfusions, his entire dying race will come to Earth, in what you might call an interstellar migrant caravan, only rather than fleeing danger and finding good paying jobs their intent is to enslave humanity and steal its blood. This film is one of the all-time cheeseball classics, well worth a viewing, especially when accompanied by drinks and friends. And it's just about 70 minutes long, which is a nice bonus. The poster art, which is the entire point of this post, is by Albert Kallis, one of the great American movie artists. More from him later, or if you prefer, more of his unearthly talent now. Not of This Earth premiered in the U.S. today in 1957.
I'm getting some really high readings on this. We better try the rectal thermometer.
I don't have a rectum, baby. But I have a rection. That's the word in Earthtongue right?
Sure, he wanted to enslave humanity. But it felt good to be wanted.
They're barely legal but fully dangerous.
The promo poster for Teenage Doll is iconic, at least in our opinion. Has ever a lightbulb looked so sizzlingly ominous? The film, which has an amazing opening credit sequence, deals with a girl gang called the Black Widows who lose a member to a killer and vow to exact revenge on the perpetrator, a square named Barbara who had the misfortune to leave identifying evidence behind. The killing was actually an accident but the Widows don't know that and doubtless wouldn't care. They're going to hunt down Barbara—who's played by June Kenney—wherever she runs. She doesn't run far—just to her parents' house to steal a gun, even as the Widows lay their hands on a firearm of their own. There's gonna be a showdown.
IMDB.com calls Teenage Doll a film noir but it isn't. That website really needs to clean up its act—the internet was supposed to increase knowledge, not mangle it. This movie is a juvenile delinquent flick, directed by b-movie legend Roger Corman, and it's one of a truckload of girl gang pictures that came out during the late 1950s. All the action takes place at night, but to paraphrase what we wrote just a couple of weeks ago, night falls in all kinds of movies, including comedies and pornos, but that doesn't make them film noir. The best place online to find proper film categories is at the American Film Institute website, and there Teenage Doll is classified correctly—as a drama.
In fact, it even verges on melodrama, the way it drips with tragedy. But its primary characteristic is that it's amazingly earnest and in so being transforms via cinematic alchemy from cheap celluloid into pure comedy gold. This one has it all—longsuffering parents, hypergrim cops, obnoxious gang boys, psychopathic lackeys, and most importantly Fay Spain, who as the top gang girl Helen chews the scenery with thirty-six teeth and even claws it with ten fingernails. We know adults normally have thirty-two teeth, but Spain has extras to help her get through plywood and nails. Ultimately, we learn that the entire murder snafu is, at its root, a man's fault, which is the only part of the movie that's realistic. We recommend this one highly—or lowly. It premiered today in 1957.
Voltage schmoltage. I failed English. And science.
You know, Vandalettes has a sort of girl-group ring to it. Can anybody sing?
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.
Woman in critical condition after accidentally swallowing ice pick.
Eunice Sudak was a prolific author, but one whose bibliography is padded by numerous film novelizations, including X—The Man with the X-Ray Eyes and The Raven, after Roger Corman's tongue-in-cheek version of the Poe tale. One of her original pieces of fiction was 1966's The Ice Pick in Ollie Birk, a comedic romp about a widow forced to become a prostitute to survive. That concept is just ripe for humor, right? Almost writes itself. Anyway, the widow discovers the eponymous Ollie Birk dead on her living room sofa with her ice pick in his ear, and of course must extricate herself from this sticky situation. Who did it? Perhaps the rowdy Russians down the hall. The novel is notable for its beat slang, if not its technical merit, and the Lancer Books paperback is notable for its unusual cover art of the lead character Leona Trafalgar dancing with an ice pick in her mouth. We love this image, but it's uncredited, sadly.
Her touch turned a fish into a pile of money.
Above is a poster for a Japanese film called Caress with Poison. It starred Hisako Tsukuba, who made nearly fifty films beginning in 1957 and recorded some music before becoming Chako van Leeuwen and shifting into movie production in the U.S. She’s put together eight movies as a producer, but her prized property is the Piranha franchise. You know the ones—Piranha, Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD. Our kind of producer, especially since she apprenticed under none other than Roger Corman. Her first Piranha movie was made in 1978 for $800,000 and grossed $30 million worldwide. Hah hah—who’s smirking now? Piranha launched the careers of Joe Dante and John Sayles, and the sequel was James Cameron’s first turn behind the camera. Clearly, van Leeuwen knows how to make low budget films. True, she’s no Jeffrey Bloom, but she possesses a similar genius. Caress with Poison premiered in Japan this month in 1963.
Screen legend receives overdue honor.
Screen icon Lauren Bacall, circa 1952. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gave her an honorary Academy Award yesterday during a private ceremony at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles. Other deserving honorees included B-movie legend Roger Corman, and cinematographer Gordon Willis.
Women on the verge of a nervous breakout.
When Pam Grier goes bad, she goes all the way bad. In the Roger Corman produced Women in Cages, she’s the head matron of a hellhole prison somewhere in the Philippines and spends the movie permanently covered in a sheen of sweat as she sneeringly tortures her beautiful female convicts. The girls endure every manner of humiliation—the rack, rats, snakes, the hole, leeches, electric shocks, and some really harsh words. Oh, and the whole prison is basically a racket to sell the women into sexual slavery, so there’s that problem too.
After enough of this treatment the jailbirds finally decide it’s time to escape into the jungle, but unforeseen circumstances result in them taking Grier hostage, leading directly to her death via gang rape and strangulation. The audience is supposed to feel she’s gotten what she deserved, but all we felt was our lunch coming up. Such are the vicissitudes of '70s b-cinema.
Women in prison movies are misogynist by definition, but there is still a line somewhere and, though it’s difficult to know exactly where it is, it isn’t difficult to know when it’s been crossed. Anyway, once Grier has been disturbingly dispatched, the escape takes a few more turns which we won’t give away. We’ll just sum up by voting thumbs down on this one, and footnote by adding that we’re glad Pam went on kill so many men in her later movies. Women in Cages premiered in the U.S. today in 1971.
Never has a writer of such quality suffered so many bad adaptations of his work.
Thirty-eight years ago today in Hollywood, sexploitation producer Roger Corman premiered a film based on H.P. Lovecraft’s macabre story The Dunwich Horror, and it was almost good. Wait, did we really just say that?
Not to get all self-pitying here, but us Lovecraft fans have been so desperate for so long for a truly great HPL movie, we’ll see merit in virtually any lame attempt. But when we are honest with ourselves—really truly brutally honest—we have to admit this movie is a stinkbomb. Lovecraft is simply difficult to adapt. So difficult, in fact, that if you remove Stuart Gordon from the discussion, virtually all the movies based on his material have been awful.
But even if The Dunwich Horror disappoints, the poster is rather interesting, with its implied violation by a hydra-like monstrosity. Incidentally, of special note here is the presence of writer Curtis Hanson, who would go on to direct the great L.A. Confidential. Nice comeback, Curtis. As for us, we’ll just plan on seeing the low budget Dunwich remake slated for release later this year, and hope Guillermo del Toro’s big budget At The Mountains of Madness actually films sometime this century.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
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