This trip sucks! Next time let’s just pay extra for first class!
The Mercenaries, aka Dark of the Sun isn’t a movie many remember, but we’re going to remember it, because this is a great pre-CGI action film—not perfect, but well above average. Based on Wilbur Smith’s novel Train from Katanga, and starring Rod Taylor, Jim Brown, Peter Carsten, and Yvette Mimieux, it tells the story of two mercenaries in the civil war-torn Congo hired to ride a military train upcountry, rescue a group of stranded people, and retrieve $50 million in uncut diamonds languishing in a time-locked safe. They have to do it within three days, which means making rushed preparations—notably, enlisting the aid of a dodgy ex-Nazi who commands the Congolese mercs needed to round out the mission. This Nazi is a really bad human, so it’s no surprise he gets into a chainsaw fight with the protagonist shortly after they meet. You’d think the hero would expect the unexpected from the guy after that—but no. The Japanese poster above, while not perfectly descriptive of the action, gets the mood of The Mercenaries across effectively, and it opened in Japan today in 1968.
London drug raid uncovers no drugs but raises serious questions.
Over the weekend, a squad of drug cops raided the London flat of a woman named Natalie Rowe based on what they described as a “tip from a member of the public.” The drug cops found no drugs, no drug paraphernalia, no sign that drugs had ever been consumed in the apartment. Why is this such an interesting story? Because Rowe, formerly a prominent madam who procured women for paying male customers, is mere days from publishing an autobiography in which she details early 1990s sex and drug parties attended by various Tory politicians. She claims one of the politicians was current Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. He appears in the photo above with Rowe, along with what she says is a line of cocaine (in full, fat view between the yellow vase and the wine glass).
After the raid Rowe made an official complaint to police, saying she suspected she was targeted because of her forthcoming book. She was quoted in the tabloid The Sunday People: “I’m not into conspiracy theories. I’d like to think the fact I’ve been unfairly targeted by the police has nothing to do with the fact my book is about to be published, which happens to be very embarrassing for the Chancellor. But it’s certainly made me wonder.” Well, we’re into conspiracy theories and we’ll just come out and say that, especially in light of all the other dubious police activity in Great Britain these days, you’d have to be willfully blind to think the raid occurred for any other reason than at the behest of an influential government official.
Think about it. Would a mere “tip from a member of the public” trigger an expensive full-scale drug raid, with no corroborating intelligence whatsoever, such as surveillance, reports from undercover police, or multiple complaints from neighbors? If so, any Brit with a personal enemynow knows how to ruin that person's day. A single tip will bring a phalanx of police crashing through their door. Does your neighbor's dog bark late at night? Call the drug cops. Did some total ass get a promotion you wanted? Call the drug cops. So, let’s dismiss with this “tip from a member of the public” nonsense. Clearly, a full-scale drug raid that takes place with no corroborating intelligence doesn’t occur because of some random tip. It occurs because someone with great influence wants it to happen.
Were we to speculate, we’d suggest that the cops were searching for anything that would justify serious charges against Rowe and cast doubt on whatever she has written. But it seems they failed to find any leverage. Do we actually care if George Osborne hoovered rails of coke in his youth? Not in the least. It puts him in the same company as many politicians, including Barack Obama, who wrote in his autobiography of how in his youth he did "a little blow.” But the raid, which looks to us like pure abuse of power, is certainly a troubling event in a country that many residents already believe is morphing into a police state. Is some plebe threatening your status and/or power? Call the drug cops. In any case, we’ve got our Kindle charged and ready for Rowe’s book.
You know the saying there’s a thin line between love and hate? Duel in the Sun shows just how thin.
Duel in the Sun was a huge movie. We mean important stars, vibrant Technicolor, David O. Selznick in the producer’s chair, King Vidor directing the action, and a gigantic promotional budget. It’s a movie made by people absolutely sure they’re dealing with the hit of the year. Not because the movie is good. But because with so many important people involved it simply had to succeed. And like so many other movies of that stripe, its failures are manifold. We could talk about the overcooked score, the bombastic acting, the improbable script, and more, but there’s no point. Let’s just say a story about two people who love each other so much they end up shooting each other in the final scene is going to be hard to pull off under the best of circumstances. Spoiler alert, by the way. Or were we supposed to write that first?
Well, in any case, the best of circumstances are not those provided by Duel in the Sun’s old West backdrop. Still, though, if a movie is big enough it can bludgeon people into acceptance, and Duel in the Sun today rates well on various review sites. But all of those reviewers are wrong. And the funny thing is they know it, too. They all say things like, “Preposterous but worth the ticket price because it’s beautifully shot.” One critic calls it “fragmented and ultimately destroyed by its obsessive producer,” yet goes on to give it a positive recommendation. You see what we mean? Even professional critics sometimes suffer from cognitivedissonance. A movie that is destroyed by its producer is not good—period—and movie going shouldn’t be a mercy fuck.
On the plus side, Gregory Peck is always fun to watch and Jennifer Jones as the dusky Pearl Chavez cannot fail to stir something inside you, but the whole proposition is just silly. Really. If you want to see a big studio flick implode spectacularly, this may be the one. And if you want to know how studios began to understand that they didn’t need to make good movies to make money, this is a prime example, because in adjusted currency it remains one of the most successful productions of all time. But at least the promo poster is a total winner. It was made for the movie’s Japanese premiere, which was today in 1951.
And… finished! This is the masterpiece that will finally earn me recognition outside the bondage/S&M circuit.
Author Dorine Clark was a sleaze vet who penned many racy titles during the ’50s and ’60s, including Bachelor Boy, Continental Affair, Passion in the Sun, Gutter Star, and this—1964’s Sex Swindler. Was Clark a pseudonym used by a better known author? No idea. We can only say it was often the case with sleaze lit. Looking at this cover, we can’t help but think the woman here is saying to herself, “Perfect! Next I think I’ll restore that old Jesus fresco in Zaragoza.” If you’re one of perhaps a dozen people on the planet who has not heard that story, just look up “Ecce Mono.” It’s well worth your time. Regarding the art, the illustrator here had a difficult assignment, we think. He had to paint a cover-worthy piece, inside of which would be another painting that justified the blurb: “She had two talents—art and love!” Was he successful? Well, within the constraints of his modest talent, we’d have to say yes. For instance, he painted his black clad dominatrix and her creation in different styles, which is kind of cool. Somebody like McGinnis could have knocked this concept completely out of the park, but is it really fair to compare anyone to that guy? We’d tell you this artist’s name, but Gaslight Books couldn’t be bothered to credit him. Since he got no recognition, here’s hoping he at least got paid.
American actress Jennifer Jones, seen here in a promo shot from her movie Duel in the Sun, 1946.
Pulp Intl. at the Festival of San Fermin.
The Pamplonistas thought of it, but Hemingway made it famous. It’s the Festival of San Fermin, with its central event, the encierro, or running of the bulls. The shot at top shows it the way Hemingway probably saw it; the subsequent photo shows how many people visit the Festival today. As we mentioned in a previous post, Ernest Hemingway inspired multitudes to imitate his lifestyle. His descriptions of the encierro, which he folded into the narrative of his exquisitely romantic and desolate debut novel The Sun Also Rises, exposed the English-speaking world to Pamplona's signature event. And like the bulls, the people came running.
The encierro happens fast. We were camped out near the beginning of the route, where the bulls are released, and they simply blazed by. There is no running “with” the bulls at that point—they rattle past like a freight train. We’ve been told, though, that after this uphill stretch, two tight turns, and some mid-course congestion, they tend to slow down a bit, which invites closer interaction with the runners, aka mozos. We saw none of that. In the few seconds we had we shot three photos, which you see just below. In the first two, the runners are looking back at the approaching horde of men and beasts, and in the third the bulls are a blur.
You’ve probably heard that the encierro is dangerous, but the truth of that depends on your idea of danger. Deaths average two per decade, including one last year. That isn't going to get most people quaking in their espadrilles, but injuries are common—this morning there were four minor horn wounds, one broken ankle and, we’d guess, several dozen bruises and scrapes. So the question is, how do you like those odds? The odds for the bulls are not so good—six will be killed in the plaza de toros this evening. We won’t bother with any polemics about the tradition of bullfighting, or animal murder, depending on your view. We’re not from Spain, thus we don’t feel we have the right to comment. How’s that for a refreshing attitude?
Below, we’ve expropriated photos of some of San Fermin’s finest cornadas, which we’ll have to take down in a day or two to avoid any copyright issues. In panel 13 you see last year’s fatal goring (a horn through the top of the left shoulder, severing the brachial artery and shredding a lung), and in panel 14 you see a horn piercing the underside of an unfortunate mozo’s chin, though non-fatally. These are both atypical injuries—a bull rakes upward with its horns and usually hooks a human in the groin region (or the ass if you happen to be running away like a sensible person). In the final shot, panel 15, you see how the men of Pamplona separate themselves from the boys—in the plaza de toros they crouch en masse in the bull’s path and force it to leap over them. You want to show you’ve got true cojones? Try that.
Committee finds that News of the World hacked on an industrial scale.
In Britain, a growing scandal has ensnared Rupert Murdoch, head of News International, and Andy Coulson, who was editor of the News International paper News of the World before becoming communications director for Conservative Party leader David Cameron. In short, News of the World hacked into voicemail accounts and computerized police records, and also extracted confidential information from banking computers. Murdoch claims to have known nothing about it, but yesterday a committee of MPs concluded an investigation into the matter by accusing News International execs of engaging in “obfuscation” and suffering from “collective amnesia.”
While Murdoch has taken some heat for the mess, the investigation into the hacking has increasingly turned toward Andy Coulson, who, while editor of News of the World, employed four private investigators to dig up dirt on public figures. Nineteen victims of the hacking have been identified, but records show that ninety-one were targeted. To make matters worse, Scotland Yard resisted investigating the matter, has refused to comply with Freedom of Information requests concerning the investigation, and failed to notify those whose cellphone pin codes were found in possession of one of News of the World’s PIs. This means that public figures who suspect being targeted by News of the World have been forced to launch their own investigations to discover whether they were victims.
If all this seems to point toward a culture of criminality within News of the World, also consider that the paper recently paid a £792,000 settlement to a reporter who experienced harassment at the hands of Coulson, and last year paid out another large settlement to Professional Footballers Association head Gordon Taylor for illegally intercepting his phone records. Back then News International and Rupert Murdoch issued statements assuring the public that the reporter responsible for the phone tampering, Clive Goodman, was an “aberration” within the company. Now, half a year later, a bipartisan committee of MPs has described the hacking as having taken place “on an industrial scale.”
Perhaps most interesting is the fact that, while Murdoch claims to have no knowledge of these matters, his newspapers, which he touts as exemplars of balanced reporting, hid the story in their Thursday editions. While The Guardian and other papers devoted multiple pages to what is one of the biggest scandals of the year and quoted directly from the official report, Murdoch’s Sun buried 135 words on the matter between an ad and a weather map of Ireland, his Times printed a mere 230 words, and his Daily Telegraph was able to manage only 325.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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