Vintage Pulp Feb 14 2018
CHINATOWN SYNDROME
Post-noir classic's reputation keeps soaring even as its director's keeps falling.


Nearly ten years into this website we've mentioned Chinatown only once—when we wrote a few lines while sharing two Japanese promo posters. The above poster was made for the film's Australian run, which began today in 1975. The film has been discussed everywhere, which means we can't add much, so let's just call it an all-time masterpiece, and one of the most watchable and re-watchable movies ever made, filled with details you notice over time. For example, it didn't strike us until after a few viewings that Jack Nicholson does his own stunt in that culvert scene, the one where the water rushes down the sluiceway and pins him against a chain link fence. You wouldn't see many modern day stars get wet and cold for a moment that lasts five seconds onscreen. We also failed to notice the first few times that the police lieutenant, Escobar, is Mexican-American. It just didn't strike us. But he would have been an extreme rarity in the 1937 L.A. of the film, and the writing and/or casting choice there was certainly deliberate. Other details continue to emerge, and we've seen the movie five or six times.

As far as director Roman Polanski goes, we've talked about him before. But we'll add that art stands on its own, and people stand on their own too. Having created superior art should not absolve someone of crimes; having committed crimes should not serve to denigrate superior art. That's just our opinion. Plus, a director isn't the only one responsible for a film. The hundreds of others involved, including the select group pictured below, and especially the unpictured screenwriter Robert Towne—who is just as responsible for Chinatown as Polanski and won an Oscar for his screenplay—deserve credit. We will always criticize art for being inaccurate when it pretends to be truthful, or for promulgating false or harmful beliefs. Chinatown doesn't do that. Quite the opposite—it offers sharp insights into how and why Los Angeles became what it is. Meanwhile its subplot somewhat foreshadows Polanski's own crime, which makes the film ironic in the extreme. If you haven't seen it you simply must.

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Femmes Fatales Aug 2 2016
SHARON THE MOMENT
It isn't whether you win the game. It's who you play.


And speaking of summer, Sharon Tate is the picture of summertime in this shot of her playing ping pong on the beach. We've seen the photo around the internet, but of course with zero information, so for the record, she's attending the 21st Cannes Film Festival, held in 1968, not in the summer, but in spring—May to be exact. But summer comes early on the Côte d'Azur. Her husband Roman Polanski was on the festival jury that year, but since that isn't actual work, he made time to be at the other end of the table here. He may have lost the game for all we know, but when Tate is your partner you've already won.

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Femmes Fatales Feb 18 2016
GOING OVERBOARD
You know something? Umecka me crazy.


Polish actress Yolanta Umecka appeared in only five films, one of which was Roman Polanski's Academy Award nominated drama Nóz w wodzie, aka Knife in the Water, in which she plays a young wife whose husband (studpidly) invites a (virile young) hitchhiker along on (what was supposed to be) their romantic lake outing, and is shocked when she (enthusiatically) cheats on him. These husbands just never learn. The above image is a promo from the film, 1966.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 13 2011
SHARON AND SHARON ALIKE
Sharon Tate was the unknowing model for at least two more paperback covers.

A long while ago we showed you a paperback cover that featured a painting of Sharon Tate. That book specifically used Tate both as cover art and interior subject matter. In contrast, the two figures above aren’t explicitly supposed to be Tate, but it just so happens that both unknown artists modeled their work from an on set photograph from her 1966 Dracula spoof The Fearless Vampire Killers. The photo was shot by Roman Polanski, who also directed the film. As you can see, it was used on John Dexter’s sleaze pulp Chuck-a-Lust, painted by Darrel Millsap, and on Paul Collins’s, aka Renato Carocci's giallo Ordine di uccidere, painted by Bendetto Caroselli. The former was published in 1967, and the latter in 1968. One year later, Tate was gone. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 13 2010
MEAN PEOPLE SUCK
The rise and fall of the Roman vampire.

Japanese poster for the 1967 horror spoof The Fearless Vampire Killers, directed by Roman Polanski, and starring Jack McGowan, Polanski and Sharon Tate.  

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Vintage Pulp Aug 18 2010
A FINE MADNESS
It’s better to look good than to feel good.

Roman Polanski’s first English-language film was Repulsion, starring Catherine Deneuve as a disturbed woman whose neuroses slowly escalate into a full-scale psychotic break when the departure of her sister leaves her in isolation in an apartment they share. We won’t pretend to have any new insights into such a rapturously praised film save to say that it’s certainly one of Polanski’s most interesting, a visual masterwork in deeply shadowed black and white that manages to be beautiful even as it descends into paranoia and violence. Highly recommended. And as a side note, we wouldn’t mind terribly if Deneuve’s hairstyle came back into vogue. Batshit insane never looked so glamorous. Repulsion opened in Japan today in 1965. 

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Hollywoodland Sep 28 2009
WEEKEND WORRIERS
Celebs found trouble in greater numbers than usual over the last three days.

Is it the end times? No, just another weekend in the world of pulp. It was hard to keep track of all the events that occurred. Most took the form of arrests. Actress Tawny Kitaen, who has looked much better than she does above left, was arrested for drunk driving in Newport Beach, California. She had recently appeared on a reality show called Celeb Rehab, and we think it’s safe to say she’s earned her spot on season two.

Meanwhile, over in Switzerland, Roman Polanski was arrested on an international warrant stemming from a 32-year-old statutory rape charge. U.S. authorities filed the warrant recently, but it must have slipped Polanski’s mind, because he was on his way to Zurich to receive an award at a film festival when he was pinched. So much for Swiss neutrality.

And in a development we’re sure Polanski is well aware of, two days ago Charles Manson follower Susan Atkins died in prison. Atkins was not present during the massacre of Polanski’s then-wife Sharon Tate and four others, but aided and abetted the murders of Rosemary and Leno LaBianca the next night.

And lastly over in desolate West Texas, actor Randy Quaid managed to get himself arrested along with his wife for skipping out on a hotel bill. He claims it was all a publicity stunt, which seems possible when you see how cheerful he is in the mug shot above right.

But we bet he wasn’t smiling when the prison guards stripped him naked and crawled all up in his body cavities with pitons and spelunking helmets. That's the way they do it in Texas—er, so we hear. This is not by any means a complete rundown of what happened since Friday, but we’re only two people here and that’s far too few to keep up with all the real world pulp going on. We wish all the celebrity jailbirds good luck.     

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Vintage Pulp Apr 12 2009
THE BIG TOWN
Forget it, Jake—It's Chinatown.


Most critics think it’s one of the best films ever made. We think its promo art is also of rare quality. Below are two Japanese one-sheets for Roman Polanski’s all time masterpiece 
Chinatown, starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston. It premiered in Japan today in 1975.

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Modern Pulp Jan 7 2009
PERMANENT MIDNIGHT
Polanski probes his dark side.

Bitter Moon is typically dark Roman Polanski, starring Peter Coyote, Kristen Scott Thomas, Polanski’s wife Emmanuelle Seigner, and a young Hugh Grant. There are several posters for the film, but we like this noirish German version. The movie isn’t really noir, though—it’s a mix of erotic drama and suspense, with some fairly disturbing misogynist interludes. It’s a polarizing film, and critics disagree on its merits. It certainly isn’t as good as Polanski’s Chinatown, but what is? It isn’t as good as Rosemary’s Baby either, but again, what is? One thing is clear—Polanski has a lot on his mind, and some of it isn’t very pretty. Bitter Moon opened in Germany today in 1992.

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Hollywoodland Dec 3 2008
AMERICA'S MOST WANTED
Thirty years ago he avoided prison by jumping bail and hopping on a plane.

In Los Angeles yesterday, lawyers for film director Roman Polanski filed a request to dismiss a 30-year old charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Polanski was once a U.S. resident, but fled to France in 1978 and has been wanted by American authorities ever since for allegedly giving a 13-year old model Quaaludes and champagne, before having sex with her—or raping her, depending on the telling—in Jack Nicholson’s hot tub when Nicholson was not on the premises.

Polanski’s life story reads like the darkest pulp fiction. He survived the Nazis as a child by escaping to the U.S., but without his parents, who were imprisoned in a concentration camp, where his mother was later gassed. As an adult Polanski rose to fame after directing the supernatural thriller Rosemary’s Baby, but his life was again derailed in 1969 when
members of Charles Manson’s clan murdered his wife, Sharon Tate, and their unborn child. Polanski somehow recovered enough from this second horror to continue working, and went on to direct Chinatown, considered by many to be one of the ten best films in American history.

When he was arrested in 1978 he faced multiple charges, but a plea deal was offered. According to prosecutors, Polanski likely would have been handed a sentence of three years or fewer in prison. However, by the letter of the law, the charges could also have resulted in a sentence of fifty years. Polanski didn’t stick around for sentencing. Instead he jumped bail and fled to Europe, where he continued to direct films over the next three decades, including 2002’s The Pianist, for which he won a best director Academy Award in absentia.

Polanski’s lawyers filed yesterday’s dismissal request on the grounds of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct, after the HBO documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, revealed that former judge Laurence J. Rittenband held news conferences and extrajudicial meetings about the case. The documentary also revealed that former Deputy District Attorney David Wells gave judge Rittenband sentencing advice, even though he was not assigned to the case.

The girl with whom Polanski admitted having sex (i.e. statutory rape), but who asserts she was violated while basically unconscious, is now 43. HBO’s documentary portrays prosecutors seeking to railroad Polanski, but he admitted what he did, which means the case for unlawful sexual intercourse could have stood on its own without prosecutorial games. Now, thirty years later, it’s possible authorities feel that dropping the charge would be akin to encouraging more flights from justice. And more importantly, a dismissal could have negative consequences upon similar cases still working their way through courts.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 16
1941—DiMaggio Hit Streak Reaches 56
New York Yankees outfielder Joe DiMaggio gets a hit in his fifty-sixth consecutive game. The streak would end the next game, against the Cleveland Indians, but the mark DiMaggio set still stands, and in fact has never been seriously threatened. It is generally thought to be one of the few truly unbreakable baseball records.
July 15
1939—Adams Completes Around-the-World Air Journey
American Clara Adams becomes the first woman passenger to complete an around-the-world air journey. Her voyage began and ended in New York City, with stops in Lisbon, Marseilles, Leipzig, Athens, Basra, Jodhpur, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Wake Island, Honolulu, and San Francisco.
1955—Nobel Prize Winners Unite Against Nukes
Eighteen Nobel laureates sign the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons, which reads in part: We think it is a delusion if governments believe that they can avoid war for a long time through the fear of [nuclear] weapons. Fear and tension have often engendered wars. Similarly it seems to us a delusion to believe that small conflicts could in the future always be decided by traditional weapons. In extreme danger no nation will deny itself the use of any weapon that scientific technology can produce.
1997—Versace Murdered in Miami
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace is shot dead on the steps of his Miami mansion as he returns from breakfast at a cafe. His killer is Andrew Cunanan, a man who had already murdered four other people across the country and was the focus of an FBI manhunt. The FBI never caught Cunanan—instead he committed suicide on the houseboat where he was living.
July 14
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
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