Upon examination this movie is really bad.
We suspect 90% of women—if not more—would assume this poster is for an obscure Japanese horror movie. They'd be wrong, though, because it's actually for a lighthearted made-in-West Germany erotic film called Obszönitäten, aka Obscenities, aka Confessions of a Male Escort, which premiered today in 1971. The promo art, which is completely different from the European or U.S. art, is symptomatic of the Japanese penchant for violent imagery in erotica. We've talked about it before, and we're still trying to figure it out. The movie, though, isn't violent, at least not until the end, briefly. It's a slapstick comedy about a gynecologist who is rendered impotent, and offers a gigolo named Johnny the kingly sum of 100,000 DM for his penis, which the doctor has the ability to transplant to himself. 100,000 DM was about $27,000 back when this film was made. Would you take an offer like that? No, neither would we. Plus our girlfriends would kill us if we suddenly turned up with tiny, uncircumcised dicks. No offense to the uncut but the girls have made their preferences clear. Getting back to the movie, the only real obscenity is how bad it is. Please skip it.
West German cinema begins looking at the world in a different way.
Confession d'une pécheresse, aka The Sinner caused a bit of a scandal in West Germany, where it premiered as Die Sünderin in 1951. The movie's depictions of pre-marital sex, prostitution, nudity, and particularly double-suicide got the Catholic church bent out of shape. Despite protests against cinemas and death threats directed toward star Hildegard Knef, the movie was a smash, seen by two million West Germans within the first two weeks of its run. So based on that preamble you know pretty much what the film is about—amid a desperate post-war backdrop a prostitute falls in love with less-than-satisfactory results. But even if the story is familiar by now thanks to the many newer films that have touched upon similar subject matter, Die Sünderin is a cinematic landmark, produced in a war shattered country that had begun to put the pieces back together in a new way, including in its film industry. The above poster, a beautiful piece by the way, was made to promote Die Sünderin's French run, which began today in 1953.
Nobody gets out of here alive.
We wrote about Spanish director Jesus Franco not long ago. Sort of. When we noticed another premiere date approaching for one of his films we thought we'd check it out. El reformatorio de las perdidas, originally titled Frauengefängnis, and called Barbed Wire Dolls in the U.S., is a nearly plotless exercise in sadism featuring Lina Ronay, Monica Swinn, and other overheated female convicts dealing with predatory guards and an evil wardeness. There's an escape, as usual in these Franco films, and as usual it fails. That's giving nothing away because the escape isn't the point—the nudity and sex are. Last time we discussed Franco we made a joke of it without really talking about the quality of his films. So here's the deal—they range from the arty to the ridiculous to the outright terrible. This one falls unambiguously into the latter category. That is all. Hey, but you gotta love that Spanish poster. Frauengefängnis premiered in West Germany today in 1976, and hit Spain and other countries in 1977.
If at first you aren’t impressed try Trygon again.
You may have noticed we’re really digging into our collection of Japanese posters lately. Here’s another. It was made for Das Geheimnis der weißen Nonne, a West German-British movie based on Edgar Wallace’s novel Kate Plus Ten and released in English as The Trygon Factor. Basically, a Scotland Yard investigator investigates a series of robberies and finds that a respectable English family and group of nuns living in a country manor together are not what they seem. Stuart Granger and Susan Hampshire star, but the star of the poster is Sophie Hardy, which just goes to show the Japanese distributors knew exactly how best to promote the film. We saw the movie several years back and weren’t impressed, but we watched it again last night and this time found it pretty entertaining for the type of goofy crime thriller it is. We make no guarantee, though. Das Geheimnis der weißen Nonne-The Trygon Factor premiered in Japan as Dai gôtô-dan today in 1968.
Andrea Rau bares her soul and little bit more.
German actress Andrea Rau had a knack for making eye-catching publicity photos, including a very
creepy creative shot of her standing in a hole in the woods while wearing a gas mask, but the image above is the prizewinner. It was made when she appeared in 1976 on the West German television show Disco, which ran on ZDF, one of those networks Americans would see while on vacation in Europe and go back home astonished that over-the-air television elsewhere in the world was so much more revealing. Even so, Rau bared a little bit more in the photo than the show. As you can see from looking below, she was well wreathed in foam for home audiences, so this must be one those fun bonus shots that tended to be made back then. Hope she didn't forget to wash behind her ears.
You ever wonder what nuns wear under their habits? Neither do we. But some people do.
What is it about nuns? We’ve never paid them any mind, but seventies filmmakers sure found them irresistible. We’ve shared a few examples of the phenomenon over the years, such as here, here, and especially here. Educande fuori… femmine dentro was originally made in West Germany, where it was called Die Klosterschülerinnen, and later it appeared in English speaking countries as Sex Life in a Convent. We watched it, and it’s nunsploitation without much in the way of successful humor or eroticism. You've been duly warned. But the Italian poster, which you see above, is pretty cool. Also German actress Astrid Boner—her name kills us every time!—is in a co-starring role. And probably most worth mentioning is the fact that the miraculous Doris Arden gets top billing, and deservedly so. To reiterate, deservedly so. From 1972, this one.
For some directors pushing the envelope comes naturally.
Picture the scene: It’s 1978 and sexploitation director Jesús Franco, who has redefined sleaze cinema for the masses with fifty movies, including several in the women-in-prison genre for the West German market, is chilling on his terrace in Malaga, Spain soaking up the sun. He’s chatting with his frequent collaborator, producer Erwin Dietrich, about the next project, which they’re calling Frauen für Zellenblock 9.
Jesús: "We can probably save money by using the old costumes from Frauen im Liebeslager. Same idea, right? Women all sweaty in some godforsaken prison."
Erwin: "We left those in Cyprus. Did I mention there’s a Frauen im Liebeslager theme restaurant where the old set used to be? I hear it’s real classy. Anyway, it would’ve cost too much to have that clothing shipped out here."
Jesús: "What about the things from Das Frauenhaus or Frauengefängnis? Where’s all that? And Frauen ohne Unschuld. That stuff too."
Erwin: "Warehouse fire. Suspicious circumstances. Insurance paid off, though. But shit, Jesús, why give the girls costumes at all? Just have them be naked the whole movie."
Jesús: "What? Are you nuts?"
Erwin: "I’m just saying—why bother? Audience wants skin, give them skin. Keep the girls chained up naked the whole time. And that escape scene of yours? Just have them do it naked."
Jesús: "They all get shot in the end. I can’t have them shot naked. That’s… I don’t know… eew."
Erwin: "They can be shot naked, trust me. We make it sexy. They get shot, lay them out like centerfolds."
Jesús: "Erwin, cut it out. I mean, I admit I’m intrigued by the idea artistically, but I don’t think the girls would go for it. It’s a little too crude."
Erwin: "Oh, and I suppose all the muff-diving scenes are Shakespeare? What are these girls—aspiring Catherine Denueves or something? Isn’t one of them a porn actress?"
Jesús: "Karine? Sure, but she’s hoping to go mainstream. Anyway, it’s the fucking jungle, Erwin. There are all kinds of thorns and sharp rocks out there. Spiders. Ticks. I can’t have them running around in all that with their great big bushes out. I mean…lice…you know? Although I am intrigued. Artistically, I mean."
Erwin: "Exactly. It’s art. Last Tango in Paris, right? Bertolucci has Brando shove butter up a girl’s poop chute and the critics go bananas."
Jesús: "That’s funny." *sigh* "But I’m no Bertolucci."
Erwin: "You’re right. You’re better. One day you’ll get a lifetime achievement award for all this filth, trust me. You’ll be remembered. The crazy risks you and the girls took will seem amazing to later generations."
Jesús: "You think so?"
Erwin: "I know so. In your own twisted way you’re a genius. So anyway—naked the whole movie, okay? Or at least the entire second half. Oh, and lots of sweat. And a shower orgy. And some torture. And some pee."
Parolee skips the halfway house and goes straight to the all-the-way house.
Yes, we're doubling up on the ’70s sexploitation today because we have this nice poster for a movie that premiered in Japan today in 1972—Blue Movie, aka Das Porno-Haus von Amsterdam, aka Blue Movie Session in Amsterdam. Dutch produced and initially released in Germany as Das nackte Gesicht der Pornographie during the summer of 1971, it starred Hugo Metsers in a tale that mirrors the above-mentioned Vanessa.
Instead of a sex starved woman released from a nunnery, this one features a sex starved man released from prison. He moves into an apartment building and gets to know the resident women intimately, a process helped by the fact that they're all desperately horny. We're talking about Cary Tefsen, Ursula Blauth, and the lovely Ine Veen, so this is a pretty sweet deal for a new parolee. Eventually he goes from single sexual encounters to arranging orgiastic parties, complete with interpretive dance performances.
When the film hit Holland in the fall of ’71 viewers were shocked by its subject matter and frankness, but it was a huge hit and it's still remembered as a groundbreaker today. It's also a bit of a bore. Director/co-writer Wim Verstappen had serious intentions, and those show in the social commentary and abundance of dialogue he's loaded into the movie. We'll say this, though—the Dutch don't do sexploitation one-way, which means there are plenty of swinging dicks here, literally, along with chest hair and pork chop sideburns. We're fine with all that, but we're not fine with the movie being such a yawner. Pass.
Just point me to the palest of your women. She's the one I want.
This Dutch poster promotes De indische graftempel, which was originally a West German production called De indische grabmal, and later given the English titles The Indian Tomb and The Tomb of Love. Made by Fritz Lang, this was the fourth pass at a 1918 novel by Thea von Harbou, but this version strays far from the source material. The book is about an architect commissioned by a Maharaja to build a fantastic tomb, but who later discovers it's for the Maharaja's wife, who will be killed for being a generally unfit spouse and placed in the structure as soon as it's completed. This must have made for some fun jokes between Lang and von Harbou, since they had been married for a time but were divorced when they worked together here. The adaptation they came up with relegates the architect to secondary status, and instead focuses on the wife Seetha, played by Debra Paget, who is having an affair with a Western lover named Harald, played by Paul Hubschmid.
Just to get right to the heart of it, this isn't one of Lang's best efforts. Despite good location work and excellent sets, the romance is silly, the adventure elements are uninspiring, and there's no emotional realism at all. But the movie is instructive in one area—it could be a case study for this year's Academy Awards race controversy. Every Indian role of consequence is played by a white person in shoe polish. This was the norm back then and it happened in hundreds if not thousands of films. Now, after nearly a century of such silliness, some people are actually offended at demands that ethnic roles be played by ethnic actors, and lead roles be diversified. Those demands are beyond fair. For decades nobody made even a peep about white actors in brown makeup, let alone the industrywide denial of good roles to actors of color, but as soon as someone says maybe Joseph Fiennes shouldn't play Michael Jackson in a film or Star Wars should have a black lead it's suddenly racism against whites. You almost have to laugh. What's also funny is that Paget, though she's supposed to be Indian, is without dark coloration. This is another norm for the period—amidst the brown hordes the most beautiful woman is always the palest.
All that said, watching the spectacle of literally a dozen West German actors in brown make-up is actually quite funny in today's context. But the main attraction here is Paget, whose erotic dance routine before ranks of spray-tanned slaves and beneath a looming, twenty-foot-high, giant-boobed Hindu statue is one of cinema's great sequences. We don't mean great in terms of acting or dancing or directing. It's an immortal moment the same way Alicia Vikander looking at herself in a mirror in Ex Machina is, or Sharon Stone flashing her ragamuffin in Basic Instinct. It's one ofthose instances when mainstream filmmakers push everyone's comfort envelope and remind them that sex is actually the single most important aspect of all our lives. Save for a tiny subset of us, we all exist because of it, our existence can only be assured by having more of it, and pretending it isn't on all our minds much of the time is just a silly rule imposed by the people who conceived our civilizational costume party. In the envelope-pushing respect De indische graftempel is a roaring success. Otherwise, not so much. It premiered today in 1959.
Elke escapes the East and probably wished she could have escaped the movie.
Even after seeing hundreds of photos of German goddess Elke Sommer over the years, ocasionally you see come across some and have to hit pause. She appeared on the cover and inside the American magazine Escapade in January 1968, posing for a set of photos taken from her comedy The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz, which had premiered in New York City on January 3rd. Sommer plays an East German decathlete who wants to escape to the west, and does so by pole vaulting over the Berlin Wall, which is what the images below depict. Why is she in her underwear? We've seen the movie but we don't remember. We do know it featured Hogan's Heroes cast members Bob Crane, Werner Klemperer, John Banner, and Leon Askin, and that it uses the Hogan's formula, replacing improbably bumbling Nazis with improbably bumbling communists. But before you add this one to your queue, here's something else we recall—it was terrible.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—First Space Program Casualty Occurs
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when, during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after more than ten successful orbits, the capsule's main parachute fails to deploy properly, and the backup chute becomes entangled in the first. The capsule's descent is slowed, but it still hits the ground at about 90 mph, at which point it bursts into flames. Komarov is the first human to die during a space mission.
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder
, Carmen Jones
, The Man with the Golden Arm
, and Stalag 17
, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
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