When your number is up it's up.
Dial 1119 is a simple film noir with a similar set-up as 1948's Key Largo—i.e. a criminal holds a barful of people hostage. This particular bar, called the Oasis, is in the fictional metropolis Terminal City. While the movie is simple it isn't one-note. We meet each of the characters earlier in the day, before they've gone to the Oasis to be terrorized, and they're an interesting mix—a newspaperman, a barfly, a cheating wife, an expectant father, and more. The man who holds them is a full-blown psychopath, a conscienceless killer, and the main plot question is whether he'll make Terminal City literal for the entire group by simply exterminating them all. Sure looks like it most of the time. This is a tidy flick, satisfying like a snack rather than a meal, well worth consuming. As a side note, you may find it interesting that the Oasis has the world's first wall mounted flatscreen television. It isn't real—the filmmakers bring it to life with projection fx. But we love that they even thought of it. Dial 1119 premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
I am happy. You wanna see mad? Keep telling me to cheer up.
Charles Williams wrote more than twenty novels, and though the ones we've read have been good to serviceable, we were expecting eventually to come across an absolute winner. Hell Hath No Fury is that book. It was Williams' fourth novel, written in 1953, and features a tough drifter who becomes a used car salesman in a brokedick country town where he happens to notice bank security is lax. But robbing the bank is the mere entry point to all the problems he encounters. There's also a one-woman nightmare of a femme fatale, a shockingly adept sheriff, a filthy blackmailer, an irascible boss, and a sweet local beauty ripe for love. Williams uses the best line in the book on her:
I took her face in my hands and kissed her. And then they dynamited the dam.
There's no dam. That's just what the kiss does to him. And it's a brilliant pulp moment. A book like this screams for film adaptation, and it was eventually put onscreen in the form of 1990's The Hot Spot, with Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen, and a radiant Jennifer Connelly. We haven't watched the film, but it's on the slate. The only flaw to the book, besides the usual stuff general to 1950s crime fiction, is the title. The main character Harry Madox thinks he's rid himself of the femme fatale Dorothy Harshaw, but hell hath no fury. Those four words tell us she'll be back plenty mad and will have a say in how matters conclude. It takes a little of the suspense away. Otherwise, top notch.
Worse comes to worst in a dusty western town.
We told you the film was on the slate. When we noticed its premier date was right around the corner we watched it immediately after finishing Hell Hath No Fury. First order of business—the poster and tagline are terrible. It shows how easy it can be for a studio to screw up both. The text tells you The Hot Spot is a film noir, but the triptych style art provides no compelling imagery. Worse, you don't see Don Johnson clearly, though as a huge television star thanks to Miami Vice he was the movie's greatest asset. And you don't see Jennifer Connelly at all, who even back then was one of Hollywood's most beautiful women. Posters are seen before they're read, and the visuals here give no reason to examine further. We grade it a major fail.
But what of the film? Well, it got generally good reviews, but the public never turned up to see it. Johnson is nicely cast as the drifter/grifter Harry Madox, so he isn't to blame. Jennifer Connelly and Virginia Madsen were less known, but as supporting characters they more than did their part. Other modern noirs had performed well in cinemas, so it's not the style of The Hot Spot that hurt it. The direction from Dennis Hopper sticks reasonably close to the novel, and he gets the overheated small town atmosphere right, so we'll give him a pass too. Most likely the studio simply didn't make an effective push behind the movie—a theory backed up by the bad poster.
But The Hot Spot holds up well these years later. Some might find Madsen's honeydripping femme fatale improbable, but she's channelling both the source material and classic noirs. Other viewers probably doubted a nineteen-year-old Connelly could develop feelings for a Johnson on the far side of forty, but it happens. People who doubt that just haven't spent enough time in the real world. In the film the age difference does not go unaddressed. Johnson's feelings for his inappropriate crush prompt him to act against his best interests. Whether he pays a price hangs less on his cunning than on chance. Or perhaps it hangs on someone else's cunning—that's where the best femmes fatales always come in. The Hot Spot premiered in the U.S. today in 1990.
Sex Stars System uncovers erotic cinema around the world.
Here's a little treat for Monday, because Mondays are universally acknowledged to suck. Above is the cover and below are a ton of scans from the cutting edge cinema magazine Sex Stars System, which billed itself as “Le Magazine du Cinema Erotique.” It was published out of 55 Passage Jouffroy, in Paris, France, and for a while it was the top magazine with reviews and features on the new, sexually liberated mainstream cinema of the early 1970s, and the new pornography of the same era. Because porn was taken seriously as an art form back then (hard to imagine, we know) certain magazines discussed and critiqued the films and regarded the performers as equal with those in mainstream cinema. We talked about this phenomenon with Cine-Revue a few years ago. Sex Stars System was similar, but much edgier, as you'll see.
On the cover and in the centerfold you see Croatian born star Sylva Koscina (a mainstream actress), and elsewhere you get Emmanuelle Parèze (porn), Dany Carrel (mainstream), Valérie Bosigel (mainstream), Karin Schubert (both), Catherine Spaak (mainstream), Ornella Muti (mainstream), Chesty Morgan (porn, obviously), Marilyn Monroe (mainstream, though some scam artists claim she was the other too), et al. They don't make magazines like this anymore, because they don't make cinema like this anymore. Sex in U.S. movies is strictly taboo, unless, generally speaking, the actors keep their clothes on. You do see it on cable television, however, though such shows generate reams of online criticism about how terribly wrong it is (we agree, however, that more sex and nude scenes need to be filmed from the vantage point of the female gaze). In Europe, as always, things are a bit more liberated.
We aren't sure how long Sex Stars System published. It debuted in 1975. Also in 1975, or possibly 1976, a magazine called simply Stars System appeared. Stars System had a softer editorial approach and featured solidly mainstream cover celebs such as Jane Fonda and Romy Schneider. At some point it changed its name slightly to Star System and, thus rebranded, published at least as late as 1982, which seems to be longer than Sex Stars System was on the scene. The information online about these magazines is, as you can probably guess, a jumble, but we'll keep looking into it and maybe have something more concrete to report later. There's also a Star System celeb magazine around today, but it's Canadian and presumably unrelated. Many scans below, and we have a few more issues we'll post later.
Funny, when I ordered these I actually thought they'd give me a bit more privacy.
We haven't had Virginia Gordon around these parts since we posted a spectacular record sleeve starring her in 2014, so here she is today on a nice Technicolor lithograph entitled “Baubles and Beads” that dates from 1958. See the earlier image here.
I suggest closing the lid if you don't want me to spoil.
Virginia Mayo lounges in a crate in this promo shot made in 1953 during the filming of South Sea Woman, in which she starred with Burt Lancaster. What's she doing in a crate? We'll find out when we watch the movie.
It's best not to get a head of yourself.
American actress Virginia Leith had a perfectly respectable show business career, appearing in the thriller Violent Saturday and on hit television shows such as Baretta and Barnaby Jones, but what she'll always be remembered for is her turn as a decapitated head in the 1962 schlock sci-fi flick The Brain that Wouldn't Die. Have you seen that one? You really should check it out. It's a hoot. In the film Leith is beheaded in a car accident and her scientist fiancée just can't let go. Well, looking at the rest of Leith at top, now we see why. We don't have a date on the photo, but we're guessing it's from around 1955.
Always wear clean undies in case you end up in the hospital.
Often, early true crime magazines aren't very useful for sharing online due to their tendency to short-shrift the art, but Police Detective is a very visual exception, well worth uploading. Above is the cover of an issue from 1956, and below are assorted scans of the interior photo-illustrations, all eye-catching. Of the stories, probably the most interesting deals with hitchhiking women who are in reality brutal thieves. The magazine makes this sound like an epidemic but we seriously doubt it was ever a problem. According to the editors, men who picked up these highway hooligans were hit over the head with wrenches or tire irons, robbed, stripped down to their size 38 tightie whities and left unconscious or dead in a ditch while the thieves found the nearest pawn shop to sell off whatever they'd acquired. The description of the hapless men's heads being “crushed like eggshells,” according to the magazine, creates a disconcerting visual image, especially after that whole Sunday night Walking Dead baseball bat incident the entire internet is buzzing over. Not a good way to go. We have about thirty images below and many more true crime magazines inside the site.
Look at the state of this guy's underwear. How disgusting.
I don't think he was driving with them that way. I think he crapped himself when you crushed his skull.
You think so? Oh. Still though.
The kiss that never ends.
The woman from the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt of a U.S. Navy sailor kissing a stranger in New York City's Times Square on August 14, 1945 has died at age ninety-two in Richmond, Virginia. The photo was made on Victory over Japan Day—better known as VJ Day—when New Yorkers were celebrating the end of World War II. Greta Friedman, who for many decades went identified, said of the moment, “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed. [He] was very strong. I did not see him approaching, and before I know it I was in this tight grip.” While today such an act would be unambiguously categorized as sexual assault—which makes perfect sense, because what woman wants to be grabbed and kissed against their will?—Friedman's relatives have said that in “that circumstance, that situation, that time,” the still unidentified sailor did nothing wrong. The result was one of the most renowned photographs ever made.
Tabloid obsesses over Kim Novak on her psychiatrist’s couch.
In a story entitled “What Kim Novak Won’t Tell Her Psychiatrist,” this issue of Uncensored from April 1962 promises “the most intimate, revealing self-portrait of a guilt-tormented soul that you have ever read.” What does the magazine reveal? Apparently Novak’s father was disappointed to have had a daughter instead of a son. Novak’s father is portrayed as domineering and distant, and this relationship is cited as the cause of all her “neuroses,” from her preference for slacks and shirts over dresses and skirts, to her supposed shame over sex. Even her short hair is blamed on her father—she allegedly cut it off as an expression of self-loathing. But here’s the bit we love: “He is a father who raised no objection when nightclub entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. showed up at Kim’s home in Chicago with a engagement ring one Christmas.” Yes, this father of hers was truly the lowest of the low.
The story goes on to describe all the various hells Novak put her employers and paramours through, reveals a lifetime of analysis beginning in childhood, and outs her for an alleged late 1950s stint in a psychiatric facility, where she received “mechanical tests”—i.e. an EEG. It finally ends on a melodramatic note: “Kim fled the hospital, fled the analyst, fled the dark memories. She went back to making movies, to throwing temper tantrums. And, on occasion, to more solid things. She went back to the loneliness she dreads. To the big house that is haunted by shapes, people, memories she dare not dredge up and face lest the strain be too much, added to other strains.” You’d almost think journalist Marian Simms was writing a Harlequin novel—a bad one.
Uncensored offers readers much more than Kim Novak. Journo Ken Travis takes down King Edward VIII and his wife Wallis Simpson in a story rather amusingly titled “Those Royal Money Grubbing Windsors,” raking them over the coals for being filthy rich but too stingy to even pick up a dinner check. Elsewhere in the issue Hitler’s Heirs author Paul Meskil offers a story claiming with 100% certainty that Nazi criminal Martin Bormann was hiding in Argentina. But embarrassingly, Bormann was nowhere near South America—he died in Berlin at the end of World War II, but his body wasn’t found and identified until 1972. You also get letters from readers, photos of Vikki Dougan doing the twist, trans pioneer Coccinelle showing off her cleavage, a really cool 8mm movie advert that bizarrely misidentifies a California blonde type as Romanian-Tatar dancer Nejla Ates, and more.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—Australian Prime Minister Disappears
The Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who was best known for expanding Australia's role in the Vietnam War, disappears while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria and is presumed drowned.
1969—Project Blue Book Ends
The United States Air Force completes its study of UFOs, stating that sightings are generated as a result of a mild form of mass hysteria, and that individuals who fabricate such reports do so to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, or are psychopathological persons, or simply misidentify various conventional objects.
1985—Gotti Ascends to Mafia Throne
In New York City, mafiosi Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti are shot dead on the orders of John Gotti, paving the way for Gotti to assume leadership of the powerful Gambino crime family. Gotti is eventually arrested by federal authorities in 1990, and dies of throat cancer in 2002 in a federal prison hospital.
1944—Bandleader Glenn Miller Disappears
World famous big band leader Glenn Miller, who was flying from England to Paris in a small plane, disappears over the English Channel. One theory holds that his plane was knocked down by bombs jettisoned from bombers passing high above after an aborted raid on Germany, but no cause of his disappearance is officially listed, and no trace of Miller, the crew, or the plane is ever found.
1973—Getty Heir Found Alive
John Paul Getty III, grandson of American billionaire J. Paul Getty, is found alive near Naples, Italy, after being kidnapped by an Italian gang on July 10, 1973. The gang members had cut off his ear and mailed it to Getty III, but he otherwise is in good health.
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