The tune tells the whole tale.
We love when the opening song of a movie tells you everything you need to know about the main character. Wicked Woman stars legendary b-movie femme fatale Beverly Michaels, and here are some choice lines from the intro theme, sung by crooner Herb Jeffries:
Why is a wicked woman a fascinating game,
a thing a good man just can't leave alone?
You know before you start it you'll end up broken hearted,
but still you're like a moth to flame.
What does a wicked woman have burning in her eyes
that casts you in a spell you can't escape?
You know that what she's doin' is sure to cause your ruin
and still you listen to her lies...
Wicked Woman is pure cheeseball melodrama, but it's important because it established the icy cold Michaels blueprint that was copied in later movies—the lure, the scam, and the betrayal, all done unrepentantly. Michaels' fame derives not from acting ability, but from screen presence—i.e. she had that special it needed to play a femme fatale. In fact she's so bad you kind of root for her. Wicked Woman premiered in the U.S. today in 1953, and you can watch the whole thing at this link.
The film stars a Barker—and that's also a good description of this dog.
This poster, which you will see when you scroll down is two sided, folded into four panels, was made for Battles of Chief Pontiac, a film starring Lex Barker in a story of war between the French and British over what is now the vicinity of Detroit, Michigan. Within this larger fight, Ottawa tribes mount a resistance against the occupying British and their German, or Hessian, mercenaries. This resistance is seriously hampered after the Ottawa are suckered into a peace parlay, then deliberately given blankets infected with smallpox. Treachery much, paleface? Why, yes, all the time.
Throughout all the battles and betrayals hero Lex Barker—the only noble white character—speaks in a neutral American accent that didn't exist 200 years ago, while the supporting white players do their best evil nazi and pompous Brit dialects. This is a nice little trick, portraying all the bad guys as essentially foreign. Never mind that the U.S. is made up of descendents of those colonists, and Barker's character is a colonist too. In cinematic terms it's a deft, almost subliminal job of blame shifting. That the film also showed overseas, where accents would have been lost on audiences, thus making it play more like a broad indictment of colonial expansionism, is an irony.
Until we shared today's poster there was never any indication anywhere online that Battles of Chief Pontiac played in Japan, but the evidence is clear in this butterscotch promo—which is far more artistic than the film. Yes, this Barker vehicle is a total dog. Avoid it, except for its comedy potential—that is, if watching pasty white guys in brown polish is funny. Battles of Chief Pontiac premiered in the U.S. today in 1952, and according to the poster, hit Japan in 1956. You see the right half of the front side, and the entire rear just below.
Fifty shades of Tani.
It's roman porno's runaway mainstream success that keeps us watching the movies. We seek to understand them from the point of view of the millions of Japanese filmgoers that made them box office gold, and we try to do it without being squeamish about the content, which is softcore, yet far beyond the pale by American standards. Made half a decade earlier than the second wave bondage flicks we've been featuring lately, Niizuma Jigoku, aka Newlywed Hell, aka New Wife's Hell stars undisputed bdsm queen Naomi Tani in a hit roman porno made with considerably more artistry than second wave films. It's still the same basic idea though—woman has no idea she's into kinky bondage until forced into it. But a more restrained approach than would be prevalent later elevates the material a bit. It's still weird as hell, but you won't feel permanently filthy after watching it. As a bonus, the amazing Terumi Azuma co-stars. Niizuma Jigoku premiered today in 1975.
Junko Mabuki gets deflowered.
We just saw Junko Mabuki last week, and here she is again in the roman porno vehicle Dan Oniroku bara jigoku, which is known in English as Hell of Roses. Oniroku Dan was Japan's perv laureate of erotic bondage literature, and he became so famous that his name often appeared on the front of movies adapted from his material. And his material was pretty fringy stuff, at least by our standards. Last week's Oniroku Dan movie was centered around a slimy photographer's bondage obsession. This time there are two photographers, working in tandem to produce bdsm shots of young women who don't have any real idea what they've signed up for. Junko plays a famous singer who gets into their crosshairs. She'd never submit voluntarily, so the two predators subdue her with chloroform and spirit her away to an isolated house. Once she awakens she puts up a real fight and even manages to bloody one of her captors, but she still ends up caged, roped, dildoed, etc., and then there's that roman porno pee thing again. And a snake. And a kinky blood fixation. But you know what this movie doesn't have? Roses. Go figure. Dan Oniroku bara jigoku premiered today in 1980.
Hayworth shows how to look like a living fantasy.
You don't see that many shots of Rita Hayworth in real color, but we found this one of her rocking purple like she's Prince and thought it would be a good one to share. The date on it varies online, like they often do. We've seen it most often marked as a 1941 shot—which it isn't. Hayworth was twenty-three then, and she isn't that young here. So since there's such variance on the date, we'll guess. We see it as mid-career Hayworth, probably around 1952, when she was thirty-four. Possibly it's from a year later. Don't quote us on that, but if you actually know we'd love it if you dropped us a line.
End of the line—Brando's place.
Above, a striking West German poster for Endstation Sehnsucht, which you know better as A Streetcar Named Desire. Admit it. You've heard of it, you know who Tennessee Williams is, but you haven't seen it (or seen or read the much racier Pulitzer Prize winning play it's based on). A famous critic once explained that a good book teaches you how to read it. The same can apply to movies. You have to let yourself be immersed in A Streetcar Named Desire. The first twenty minutes you might be tempted to give up. But once the dubious southern accents and style of the production settle into your head, you'll find a movie well worth watching, with a nice performance by Marlon Brando, who was comfortable in his role of the beefcakey Stanley Kowalski after having played it on Broadway. A Streetcar Named Desire is over the top—and over the needed running time, in the opinions of many—but it's an involving experience. After its U.S. premiere in September 1951 it rolled into West Germany as Endstation Sehnsucht today the same year.
This ought to really blow your skirt up.
Above is an epic Italian poster for the film The Seven Year Itch, which in Italy was called Quando la moglie è in vacanza, or “when the wife is on vacation.” They probably changed the title because Italians don't understand the concept of a seven year itch. They have a seven week itch—it happens about seven weeks before the wedding. The art here is by P. Franco, aka Franco Picchioni, whose work you can find more of by clicking his keywords below. There's also a very interesting West German poster for the film here.
Swedish goddess Christina Lindberg explodes onto the international cinema scene.
The movie Rötmånad premiered in Sweden today in 1970, and since a good scan of its promotional poster is almost impossible to find, here you go—a nice clean version featuring star Christina Lindberg walking across a dock in all her glory. We can't imagine where this poster was displayed, unless it was in adult cinemas. Or maybe we're just prudes. Maybe it actually hung in the lobbies of every Swedish movie house and people from Sundsvall to Malmö got a nice look at Lindberg's little fur coat while going into showings of Darling Lili and The Aristocats.
Rötmånad's Swedish title would translate as “dog days,” but when it arrived in English speaking countries it was called What Are You Doing After the Orgy? And funny thing, the film features no orgies, although sex is central to the story. What happens is a man and his seventeen-year-old daughter Anna-Bella's tranquil lives in a lakeside house are turned upside down when mom comes back home after five years away. Surprised at how beautiful her daughter has become, she concocts a scheme to open a brothel in the family boathouse and make Anna-Bella the star attraction. She's for sure not going to win mother of the year for this move, but in her favor, at least she plans to do some of the hard (sex) work herself.
When Anna-Bella meets a nice boy his presence threatens to ruin mom's plan to turn her daughter into a tourist attraction. The situation looks like it will necessitate a drastic solution, but what exactly can you hope to get away with on an idyllic Swedish lakeshore? Rötmånad is billed as a comedy, but if so it's a dark one. No surprise there, since Nordic humor is generally thought of as challenging for other cultures. But whether comic, tragic-comic, or just plain tragic, in the end Rötmånad is still little more than a vehicle for Lindberg to introduce her ample gifts to the world. She does exactly that—explosively. Watch the film and you'll see what we mean. She was nineteen—not seventeen—when the movie was made, she was gorgeous, and after this debut her stardom was assured.
Junko Mabuki starts a chain reaction.
Junko Mabuki is an important actress of second generation Japanese S&M movies, and that's her above on a poster for Dan Oniroku onna biyoshi nawa shiku, aka Female Beautician Rope Discipline. What you see is what you get here. Junko meets a photographer who shoots bondage and discipline. At first she's repulsed, but, this being a roman porno flick, the thought of it grows in her mind. Meanwhile we meet Izumi Shima, one of the photog's bondage subjects. Junko soon crosses paths with Izumi and is attracted to her—and who wouldn't be?—but it's just the beginning of a descent into degradation, jealousy, and serious male-driven pee-version.
We're still trying wrap our heads around the various forms of Japanese cinema. Toei's pinky violence films usually had cool ’70s street action and ass kicking gang girls, whereas Nikkatsu's roman porno had submissive women and sexual subjugation. They're all generally considered to be pink films, along with output from OP Eiga and other studios, but to us they're night and day. Pinky violence and roman porno represent two big studios in competition with each other, but more and more the latter also feels like a rebuttal to the patriarchy smashing ethos of the former. At least in this one the sadistic photographer gets his—spoiler alert!—head deservedly bashed in, though not by Junko or Izumi. If only. Dan Oniroku onna biyoshi nawa shiku premiered in Japan today in 1981.
Brando and Niven break hearts and bank accounts on the French Riviera.
Les séducteurs had its French premiere today in 1964, with the above promo art by Russian born illustrator Boris Grinsson paving the way for a U.S. production featuring Marlon Brando, Shirley Jones, and David Niven. Séducteurs translates to “deceivers,” but the original title was Bedtime Story. What you have is a couple of con men who fleece women out of jewels, cash, and more. When they cross paths on the French Riviera their egos bring about a clash of wills and a high stakes wager to see which of them can scam ripe target Shirley Jones out of $25,000. Later the bet shifts to which of them can scam her out of her clothes. File the movie with set-in-France caper comedies like To Catch a Thief, Charade, and Beg, Borrow or Steal. For that matter file it with 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is actually a quasi-remake of this flick. For most watchers Bedtime Story won't be up to the standards of those other films—even the one based upon it—but we thought it was pretty damned good.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1911—Team Reaches South Pole
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, along with his team Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, and Oscar Wisting, becomes the first person to reach the South Pole. After a celebrated career, Amundsen eventually disappears in 1928 while returning from a search and rescue flight at the North Pole. His body is never found.
1944—Velez Commits Suicide
Mexican actress Lupe Velez, who was considered one of the great beauties
of her day, commits suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. In her note, Velez says she did it to avoid bringing shame on her unborn child by giving birth to him out of wedlock, but many Hollywood historians believe bipolar disorder was the actual cause. The event inspired a 1965 Andy Warhol film entitled Lupe
1958—Gordo the Monkey Lost After Space Flight
After a fifteen minute flight into space on a Jupiter AM-13 rocket, a monkey named Gordo splashes down in the South Pacific but is lost after his capsule sinks. The incident sparks angry protests from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but NASA says animals are needed for such tests.
1968—Tallulah Bankhead Dies
American actress, talk show host, and party girl
Tallulah Bankhead, who was fond of turning cartwheels in a dress without underwear and once made an entrance to a party without a stitch of clothing on, dies in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
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