Intl. Notebook Jan 24 2014
NOIR OF THE WORLD
San Francisco’s famed film festival goes international.

Living overseas is sometimes bittersweet. While the people, the food, the bars, the beaches, the lifestyle, and a hundred other aspects are wonderful, there are no film noir festivals (and no decent pizza, but that's another story). Anyway, today we’re sad not to still be living in the San Francisco Bay area because it’s the first day of the Noir City Film Festival. Ironically, this year’s version, the twelfth in the series, looks toward other countries and includes movies set in France, Britain, Mexico, Singapore, Macao, and more. The films, which screen at San Fran’s Castro Theatre, include The Third Man, Akira Kurosawa’s Yoidore tenshi, aka Drunken Angel, Jules Dassin’s Du rififi chez les homes, aka Rififi, and two dozen other films. All in all, a great collection. The photoillustrated poster art above (the first is the official promo and the second is the teaser that came out last year) is also pretty nice, though not up to the standard of previous years. But you can decide that for yourself—we’ve shared the entire run of Noir City posters and you can see those here.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 30 2013
TOP GUN
When you get on his wrong side, it’s the other side of a marksman’s scope.

A few days ago we mentioned the Noir City Film Festival and waxed nostalgic about San Francisco. The festival schedule reminded us of noirs we haven’t seen in a while, and revealed others we’ve never seen. On the Noir City bill this evening is a film from the latter category, Edward Dmytryk’s 1952 thriller The Sniper. We watched it last night and it more than deserves a slot in a prestigious festival like Noir City. The film was shot in San Francisco, and stars Arthur Franz as a former mental patient named Eddie Miller who is gripped by murderous impulses. Perching in windows and on rooftops, he uses a carbine and scope to target unsuspecting victims. As yet the gun isn’t loaded, but his sexual feelings for a female acquaintance catalyze his urges. The expert marksman begins killing, ultimately slaying four women (that’s not a spoiler, given the four scoped targets on the poster art). Eddie Miller treads similar ground as hundreds of other cinematic lost souls, but film historians say he was first—American film’s first serial killer. This one is worth it both for the movie and for its usage of San Francisco exteriors, which are so expertly and extensively intergrated into the production, we have a feeling Bay Area audiences will marvel over that more than the actual plot. But they should pay close attention to both. Dmytryk is the same director who gave the world Murder, My Sweet and Crossfire. This is top tier filmmaking. 

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Intl. Notebook Jan 25 2013
NOIR AND REMEMBRANCE
Famed San Francisco film noir retrospective returns for its annual run.

The most popular film noir festival in the world launches its eleventh edition tonight in San Francisco when the Noir City Film Festival returns to the Castro Theatre. It runs until February 3, and screens 27 films, including three new 35mm restorations. Some of the movies on the slate this year include 1950’s Try and Get Me!, 1949’s Repeat Performance, 1948’s High Tide, 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, and 1962’s Experiment in Terror. Along with the films, the festival features guest of honor Peggy Cummins, who played the unforgettable character Annie Laurie Starr in 1950's Gun Crazy. There’s also a noir themed nightclub with live music, torch singers, burlesque and more. Although we love living overseas, events like this are a reminder of why the Bay area lifestyle is so wonderful. If we ever return to the U.S., it’ll be straight back to the Bay. The festival poster above is just the latest in a long series, and we’ve uploaded all the predecessors below. You can find out more about the Noir City Film Festival at the festival website.

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Vintage Pulp | Sex Files Apr 2 2012
CRACKING THE WHIP
America learns the pros and cons of giving versus receiving.

In December 1965 in Essex County, New Jersey, local police raided a large home on 850 Lake Street in suburban Newark where they suspected illegal sexual activity was taking place. A detective entered first and met the house’s owner, a Dutch-born former nurse named Monique Von Cleef. The two had reached the point where she had donned a leather jumpsuit and he had stripped to his boxer shorts. At that moment the cops that had been waiting outside stormed into the house. They found that the entire three-story building had been set-up to service practitioners of sado-masochism. Von Cleef had been running the place for years, and had made a nice business out of punishing submissives—among them doctors, local officials, and many New York businessmen. According to court documents, her file cabinet contained 2,000 names.

The story exploded across America—virtually nobody had ever imagined a bdsm lifestyle existed in the U.S. The house on Lake Street was given several nicknames by the media, but House of Pain” is the one that stuck. When the above April 1966 issue of Confidential appeared, Monique Von Cleef was facing trial and staring a prison sentence in the face. However to prosecutors’ chagrin, she couldn’t be brought up for prostitution, so they opted for a raft of charges related to lewd conduct, and one charge of possessing obscene materials. Von Cleef was convicted, but saw the decision overturned on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Many accounts of the legal proceedings suggest thatpowerful men on her client list of 2,000 (or 10,000, if you believe Confidential) exerted influence on her behalf. The truth is her conviction was overturned after justices noted that the police had neglected to obtain a search warrant. The fact that previous appeals had glossed over this fact is actually indicative of how much influence was arrayed against Von Cleef. In any case, the Supreme Court decision made every piece of evidence police had obtained inadmissible. Without those items there was no proof of lewd conduct on the premises, and Von Cleef had never touched the detective.

Von Cleef had been free during this process, using her notoriety to financial advantage. In San Francisco, billed as the Queen of Humliation, she had been giving onstage orations/performances about sado-masochism at a North Beach nightclub called Coke’s. As her case was reaching the Supreme Court, U.S. Immigration was working to deport her—a threat of which Von Cleef was well aware. Thus when she won her appeal and the order came through shortly thereafter to ship her back to her native Netherlands, she had already left the U.S. illegally. Some claim that influential former clients were involved in her deportation, wanting her out of the States where she could do them no harm. That’s possible, but telephones, teletypes, and televisions reached all the way to Holland back then, which meant that if she had wanted to expose her clients she could just as easily have done it from there. She was deported because that’s what U.S. authorities have always done to alien felons. In Von Cleef’s case, though she had won her appeal, she had overstayed her visa.

American tabloids soon moved on to other diversions, and American society followed suit, but Von Cleef maintained a high profile internationally. She opened another dungeon, became a Baroness, wrote a book, appeared in a documentary, and traveled the world promoting her lifestyle. She died in Antwerp, Belgium in 2005, a woman who had gone from nurse to dominatrix, underground to overexposed, and ridden the crazy carousel of American jurisprudence, yet in the end survived and even thrived. One might ask how it was possible, but it seems clear that within her community she was revered from almost the moment she entered it, and she probably enjoyed copious moral and financial support through all her travails. The website dominafiles.com explains best how loyal Von Cleef’s followers were: “What her antagonists didn’t realize was that once an affluent masochist heard about Monique, no matter how, he would travel almost anywhere to see her.” 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 16 2012
A RARE BIRD
Ever seen a $75,000 book? This is what it looks like.

You really can’t discuss pulp and San Francisco without mentioning The Maltese Falcon. Written by San Fran resident Dashiell Hammet and published by Knopf in 1930, the book’s protagonist San Spade became the archetypal private eye as he haunted the Bay area trying to solve his partner’s murder. The first edition has since become one of the Holy Grails of book collectors, which probably explains why the international auction house Sotheby’s sold a copy of the novel’s first pressing for $75,000. Before you say, “You’re shitting me,” we’ll add that 75K was actually lower than their upper end estimate of $90,000. The 1941 film version of The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart and directed by John Huston is considered by most cinema experts to be the first real film noir, and Bogart said it best when asked in the movie exactly what the falcon was. His answer: “The stuff that dreams are made of.”  

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Vintage Pulp Jul 7 2011
STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO
Dark Passage is the least thrilling of Bogie and Bacall’s three collaborations, but it’s still a worthy film noir.

Humphrey Bogart rose to unparalleled heights as a mid-century movie star, but even he has a few films that could be considered underappreciated. 1947’s Dark Passage probably fits the bill. It’s a polarizing movie, long admired by critics and noir aficionados, but off-putting to casual cinema fans. The first hour is shot from first person perspective, which means we don’t see Bogart at all except when he happens to pass by a mirror. What we glimpse when he does is a head wrapped in bandages, for he has gone under the plastic surgeon’s knife in an effort to change his identity and elude the law. Assisting him in his desperate plan is Lauren Bacall, who dazzled with Bogie in To Have and Have Not and Key Largo. Unfortunately, the romantic sparks don’t quite fly between the real life spouses here the way they did in those collaborations but, as constructed, perhaps that was never the intention. Just the same, we recommend Dark Passage for its taut atmosphere and clever camera work. Plus, for the historically oriented, a bonus is a detailed look at post-WWII San Francisco, beautifully shot by director Delmer Daves and cinematographer Sidney Hickox. Above you see the movie’s French promo art, created for its release as Les passagers de la nuit today in 1948. 

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Vintage Pulp | Sex Files Jan 26 2011
FIGHTING MAD
The year of living d’Angerously.

This January 1967 issue of Whisper digs up dirt on Gina Lollobrigida, Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens, and tells us why Uncle Sam wants to deport a topless dancer. The latter is actually an interesting story. The topless star in question is Iranian-born burlesque dancer Yvonne d’Angers, aka Yvonne Boreta, and the reason she was being deported was for obscenity. D’Angers, who was also known by the nickname the Persian Lamb, had already been involved in a 1965 obscenity trial over the employment of topless waitresses by various San Francisco nightclubs and had gotten herself on the radar of political bluenoses scandalized by her act at the Off Broadway Club. When the deportation order came, d’Angers waged a very public battle against it and finally, in 1967, chained herself to the Golden Gate Bridge in protest. The press turned out in droves for the bizarre spectacle, and all the publicity made her nationally famous. At that point she was able to make the leap into motion pictures, appearing in 1968’s Sappho Darling, 1970’s Move with Elliot Gould, and the 1971 Russ Meyer flick The Seven Minutes. And in the end d’Angers was never deported, so, in this case at least, protest paid. So there's a lesson for all of us.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 16 2010
TROUBLE WITH HARRY
One more crack about my afro and you’re history punk.

While we’re on the subject of screen legends, here’s one from a different era—Clint Eastwood, on a Japanese poster for Magnum Force, second installment in his five-part Dirty Harry franchise. Having watched Eastwood’s middle-aged disciplinarian Harry Callahan bust caps on various hapless San Francisco miscreants in installment one, seeing him begin to understand in chapter two that corruption starts at the top feels like witnessing major personal growth. It’s just the realization you’d expect him to have given the time period—America’s cherry had been popped by Watergate and Callahan now personified the country's fresh understanding of reality. The series would eventually loose steam, but Magnum Force strikes a balance between the old reactionary Callahan and the new mature one that makes the film the best in the franchise, in our opinion. It opened in the U.S. thirty-seven years ago this month. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 8 2010
PIONEER INSTINCT
Boys, the bad news is we’re totally lost. The good news is, I’ve got a great new recipe to try out on you.

Above, a November 1957 cover of the pulp adventure magazine Saga, with art depicting John Charles Frémont, whose disastrous expedition through the U.S. Rocky Mountains scouting a route for a St. Louis/San Francisco railroad led to deaths, desertion and cannibalism. However, Frémont survived and later became the first ever Republican candidate for president, running on a radical anti-slavery platform. 

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Musiquarium Jun 7 2010
THE SOUND & DER FUHRER
Spike Jones didn’t make serious music, but his most famous tune still made a point.

Above is a rare flyer from yesterday in 1949 advertising an appearance by Spike Jones and his band The City Slickers at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre. The art isn’t pulp so much as it is simply vintage, but we sure like it. We can’t quite say the same about Jones’s music, which is mostly intended to be comical. He performed wacky versions of current hits, which we guess makes him Weird Al Yankovich but several decades earlier. Even if Jones’s music doesn’t inspire us, we give him credit for dressing like a rodeo clown. Plus, he deserves props for recording possibly the most famous musical slapdown of all time, 1942’s “Der Fuhrer’s Face”, which mocks Adolf Hitler's propaganda about racial superiority and his claims that the Third Reich would last a thousand years. Jones's unserious little ditty turned out to be his most enduring hit. You can hear it here.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 01
1966—Whitman Massacre in Texas
Charles Joseph Whitman, a student at the University of Texas at Austin, kills 14 people and wounds 32 during a shooting rampage on and around the university's campus. Ten are killed from the 28th floor observation deck of the University's administrative building. Whitman had already murdered his wife and mother in their homes.
July 31
1964—Riot Stops Stones Concert
The Rolling Stones play in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but the show is stopped after twelve minutes because of violence in the audience. Some fans are carried away in straitjackets.
July 30
1935—Penguin Launched
Penguin Books is launched by Allen Lane and begins publishing cheap, no-frills paperbacks. Lane's idea of selling books not just in bookstores, but in train stations, pharmacies and corner stores, quickly revolutionizes the publishing market.

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