Vintage Pulp Dec 23 2014
KNOW THE SCORE
Who’s the man? If you don’t know you better ask somebody.


After scoring a huge hit with the 1971 detective drama Shaft, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer doubled down by rushing out a bigger budgeted sequel the next year. It was called Shaft’s Big Score, and you see the Japanese promo above, made for its Tokyo premiere today in 1972. Some of the acting in Score isn’t great, which was also true of the first film, but as a whole it makes a nice companion piece with Shaft. John Shaft gets in the middle of the Italian and black mobs in New York City, and along the way there are brawls, bullets, and lots of badassedness. The movie also features blaxploitation heavyweights Moses Gunn, Wally Taylor, Drew Bundini Brown, and female foils Kathy Imrie, Rosalind Miles, and the amazing Kitty Jones. 

A long while back when discussing the 1968 movie 100 Rifles, we talked about the honesty of cinema from that period. It's a quality that extends into blaxploitation as well. When we say honesty, we don’t mean correctness. Casual racism abounds in blaxploitation, and of course sexism and homophobia make appearances too. But at least the genre acknowledges racial discord as an everyday element of American life. Unfortunately, Hollywood has devoted more and more time over the last thirty years to making soulless action epics and laughless comedies, constantly reassuring ticket buyers that everything is hunky dory. Yes, Hollywood would occasionally take on racial issues in big, Oscar grubbing dramas, but nearly all of those movies, no matter how downbeat, had an implicit message that America was getting better. Well, guess what? It isn’t.

Nearly half of America’s prisoners are inside for drugs, and 40% of that subset is black, even though whites are more likely to sell drugs, and they consume the same amount as blacks—not only per capita, but by percentage. Multiple studies show the same result. Despite this, black drug offenders land inside the increasingly for-profit prison industry at 10.1 times the rate of whites. Uncomfortable facts, but facts they are. Blaxploitation movies acknowledge a wide range of social problems while weaving them into the fabric of popular cinema. Nobody walked away from Shaft’s Big Score thinking that America was becoming a post-racial Eden, yet nobody walked away denying that the movie was immense fun. Entertainment that reflects the real world. Is that really so hard to do?


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Vintage Pulp Dec 23 2014
MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE PERV
What would you do if you had the power of invisibility?

Tômei-ningen: okase! was known in English by two titles—Lusty Transparent Man, which sounds pretty innocuous, and Invisible Man: Rape!, which sounds horrible. We’re really more interested in sharing the poster, but with regard to the film what you get here is a Nikkatsu roman porno production about a college student who invents an invisibility elixir. At that point he clumsily pervs his way like a dirty Jerry Lewis from one voyeuristic entanglement to the next, bumbling his way inside the lady parts of the female leads. How do you shoot love scenes with an invisible man? You have the women writhe around by themselves. They’re all taken by surprise, but all end up enjoying themselves. There’s some doubt whether they even realize their partner is a man, rather than a horny ghost or a figment of their own imaginations, but in any case these encounters aim for laughs, not eroticism. The question is whether you think they’re funny. We didn’t. Tômei-ningen: okase! premiered in Japan today in 1978. 

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Femmes Fatales Dec 22 2014
LEAPING LUPITA
From Guanajay to Hollywood in a single bound.

Estelita Rodriguez was born in Guanajay, Cuba in 1928, signed with MGM at the tender age of fourteen, signed with Republic at seventeen, and appeared in such films as Tropical Heat Wave, Rio Bravo, and the unforgettable Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. This promo shot dates from 1945 and was made when she was playing the character of Lupita in the musical Mexicana with Tito Guízar and Constance Moore. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 21 2014
RITE HERE, RITE NOW
Satan claws is coming to town.

Nothing says Christmas like a cheesy horror movie, and they don’t get much cheesier than Hammer Film Productions’ b-flick Satanic Rites of Dracula. This was the seventh and last movie to feature Christopher Lee playing Dracula, a role he inhabited with great gusto, and the third with Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. In other words, Hammer really knew how to beat a dead horse. Plenty of summaries of this online, so we won’t bother. We just wanted to show you the nice art. Satanic Rites of Dracula first played in Japan today in 1974. 

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Sportswire Dec 21 2014
SUGAR & SPICE
Getting on the same page.

These two December 1960 promotional photos show American welterweight/middleweight boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and Italian middleweight actress Rita Giannuzzi hamming it up after Robinson’s draw with rival Gene Fullmer at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Robinson and Giannuzzi were slated to appear together in a boxing-related movie—title to be determined—backed by lightweight producer Felice Zappulla and filmed in Europe. Apparently the idea never quite caught on, because the movie never happened. 

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Femmes Fatales Dec 19 2014
HARD MILES
Trouble in the distance.

This great promo of American actress Rosalind Miles was made for her role in the low budget Georgina Spelvin actioner Girls for Rent, aka I Spit on Your Corpse. Don’t ask. Anyway, Miles is probably more familiar to movie buffs for Shaft’s Big Score, and she also appreared in Friday Foster, The Black 6, and on several television shows. This image dates from 1974. 

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Intl. Notebook Dec 18 2014
LAST LOOK
Virna Lisi dies in Rome.

Italian actress and revered beauty Virna Lisi has died aged seventy-eight of cancer. Her film career began in 1953 and she has acted on televison in 2014 and in a film to be released next year. We’ve featured her quite a bit here. You can see a couple of entries here and here. 


 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 18 2014
JELLYFISH'S STING
The bright lights look pretty but they can blind you to the danger.


These two panel length posters promote the pinku flicks Neon kurage and its sequel Neon kurage: Shinjuku hanadensha. We also have a normal promo for Neon kurage below. The movies, though well known, never had any Western releases as far as we know, but would be called Neon Jellyfish and something like Neon Jellyfish: Shinjuku Float. Shinjuku is a place, so that’s easy enough to grasp, but we were unsure on the “float” aspect until we looked it up. It seems to derive from a type of Japanese tram decorated with flowers in the manner of a parade float, but its secondary meaning has something to do with sexual performance, specifically vaginal insertions of, well… anything from blowguns to ping pong balls.

We're happy to say you’ll see none of that in these movies. They’re about as explicit as your average Cinemax feature, though as we’ve mentioned before, not being able to show anything actually makes the directors—in these instances Naito Makoto and Kazuhiko Yamaguchi—go the extra mile with visual tricks and clever juxtapositions. The story in both movies revolves around star Emiko Yamauchi’s employment in seedy Tokyo sex bars. In the first movie she’s pursued by a photographer who uses devious means to turn her into a nude model, and in the second she escapes her village in the sticks and meets a professional cyclist who’s tangled up with some thugs in a race-fixing racket. Problems ensue in both instances.

Yamauchi only appeared in a handful of productions, but the term masterpiece was thrown around by some critics when writing about Neon Jellyfish. Yamaucho was also in School of the Holy Beast, which we discussed here. As a side note, there are dozens of websites now offering to stream or sell or preview this genre of movies, but of course they have nothing but malware and viruses. We are immune, thanks to Apple. If you aren’t, don’t dare go looking. You’ll get stung right in the hard drive. Neon kurage premiered June 20, 1973, and Neon kurage: Shinjuku hanadensha premiered today the same year.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 18 2014
ACCORDING TO SCHEDULE
They say art is good therapy. But maybe not in this case.


Chûsei Sone’s Irogoyomi onna ukiyoe-shi, which was known in the West as Eros Schedule Book: Female Artist, is the story of an unsuccessful painter in Edo period Japan who, after his wife is raped while picking herbs by a river, swears revenge upon the man who disrupted their lives. Meanwhile the trauma unlocks something inside the wife that she deals with by beginning to paint her own canvasses. Her violent works all include images of her rapist, and as the paintings become more acclaimed, the rapist becomes a sort of local celebrity and the husband becomes more sexually alienated and professionally jealous. This is all disturbing enough, but it’s of course merely setting the stage for the rapist’s reappearance.

The movie was well reviewed, especially for a pinku, but like many from the genre it’s almost impossible to find outside of Japan. That may be a good thing—we appreciate that the male antagonists in these movies generally suffer gruesome fates, and while that is quite satisfying, these plots just don’t play well today. Sone, who was just beginning his directorial career, would go on to helm many other movies over the course of two decades. Conversely, the star of Irogoyomi onna ukiyoe-shi, Setsuko Ogawa, like a whirlwind appeared in twenty-five films in a mere three years before pretty much vanishing from the scene. Irogoyomi onna ukiyoe-shi, which by the way is not part of the nine-film Eros Schedule Book series made around the same time, premiered in Japan today in 1971.


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Femmes Fatales Dec 12 2014
WORRY DOLL
Photo sessions make me nervous and then I look uneasy or stressed, so please wait until I’m smiling before you—

Actually, American actress Gladys George did tend to look worried in many of her photos. Not her fault—it’s just the way her face was built. But she coincidentally suffered from numerous worrisome ailments during her life, including throat cancer, heart disease, and cirrhosis. You may remember her as Iva Archer in the classic noir The Maltese Falcon, but she also appeared in Madame X, They Gave Him a Gun, and The House that Jazz Built, among more than forty other films. She eventually died early from a cerebral hemorrhage. 
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 25
1946—W.C. Fields Dies
American vaudevillian and film star W. C. Fields, whose renowned hard-drinking, misanthropic persona was only partly an act, dies from a stomach hemorrhage in a Pasadena, California hospital.
1977—Charlie Chaplin Dies
British comedian, actor, and director Charlie Chaplin, who at the height of his fame had been targeted by reactionary commie-hunter Joseph McCarthy and FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, with the result of forcing him out of Hollywood, dies in his sleep in Vevey, Switzerland.
December 24
1968—Apollo 8 Orbits Moon
The crew of Apollo 8 enters into orbit around the Moon, becoming the first humans to do so. They perform 10 lunar orbits and broadcast live TV pictures that become known as the Christmas Eve Broadcast, one of the most watched programs in history.
December 23
1913—Federal Reserve Created
The Federal Reserve Act is signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, creating the Federal Reserve Bank. The Fed was created mainly in response to a series of bank panics, in 1873, 1893, and 1907, but over time its role has evolved and expanded, and the bank has been the subject of criticism from those who see it as a tool used to control the lives of workers.
1982—Jack Webb Dies
American actor Jack Webb, who was most famous his ongoing role in the television cop show Dragnet, dies of a heart attack at age 62. Webb had been sickly since the age of 6 after developing asthma, and had been ill many times during his life.

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