Land of the free—except for the slaves.
First daddy, and now uncle. But the family theme is purely coincidental. Addio Zio Tom, aka Goodbye Uncle Tom, premiered today, so we're discussing it today. The last time we shared a poster for this Italian epic the art gave absolutely zero idea what the movie is about. The above poster is a bit more faithful to the subject matter. You can probably look at it and guess you're dealing with a film about slavery. We discussed it in great detail back in 2013, and concluded that it's a daring but flawed piece of cinema. You can read what we wrote at our earlier write-up, but even if you aren't interested in the movie go to see that first poster anyway. It's one of the most amazing promos we've ever shared.
If you think armed robbery is tough try surviving as a poster artist.
Rapina a mano armata is a title that would translate as “armored rampage,” but the movie being promoted by these spectacular Italian posters is actually none other than Stanley Kubrick's famed thriller The Killing. After debuting in the U.S. and Britain in early 1956, it opened in Italy today that same year. We discussed the film in detail a while ago. If you take a look at that post you'll immediately notice that once again the foreign promo art destroys the U.S. version. This is consistently true for most movies made after the mid-1960s because the studios began to jettison top notch promo artists in favor of simpler—and we assume cheaper—visual approaches. The foreign companies would follow suit, but not until later. European posters began to lose their pizzazz by the 1970s, and Japanese promos went the same direction by the early 1980s. Which leaves us where we are today—besieged by Photoshop jobs, all of which seem to feature a couple of large heads against some uninspiring background.
But we're here at least partly to celebrate the glories of vintage art, which means what you really want to know is who painted these particular masterpieces, right? It was Renato Casaro, whose work is consistently amazing. In fact he was so good that he survived as an illustrator well into the 1980s, painting iconic promos for the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicles Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, and somewhat less iconic but no less brilliant posters for Sylvester Stallone's Cliffhanger and Over the Top. The Rapina a mano armata poster you see below is unsigned but we can be reasonably sure it was also a product of Casaro's hand, as it was common practice in Italy's movie industry for the commissioned artist to produce more than one version. If the above pieces aren't the best we've seen from Casaro they're sure close. You can see several more of his efforts by clicking his keywords below.
What do you get when you put a bunch of convicts on an island? A lot of dead convicts.
Before Escape from New York there was Terminal Island. And before Terminal Island there was, well, we aren't sure. Maybe The Big Bird Cage or She Devils in Chains. Released in June 1973, and eventually making it to Denmark today in 1977, you see the Danish promo poster for Kvindefængslet på Djævleøen, aka Terminal Island above. The movie stars Don Marshall, Marta Kristen, Barbara Leigh, and Ena Hartman, and features both Tom Selleck and Roger E. Mosley, a duo that would later be cast as besties Thomas Magnum and T.C. on the television show Magnum P.I. What's the plot? It follows the expected blueprint—tough convicts left to fend for themselves except for the occasional supply drop, women in mortal peril from every inhabitant with a functioning dick, and one good-hearted prisoner who doesn't belong there at all. The whole set-up degenerates into a savage confrontation between two opposing factions, predictably fighting over the possession of women, who can only hope to choose between abusers and protectors. While Terminal Island is an early entry in the fertile penal colony genre, what you really want to know is whether it's actually any good, right? Well, let's just say it's good enough to watch if you're a fan of seventies b-movies. We'd like to offer you a better endorsement, but we really can't.
Single fatherhood can be a real challenge.
Below is a collection of Japanese posters for the amazingly entertaining film series Kozure Ōkami, aka Lone Wolf and Cub, starring Tomisaburô Wakayama as a warrior who has to single-handedly care for his child as legions of assassins try to murder him. More info below.
Two posters for Kozure Ōkami: Kowokashi udekashi tsukamatsuru, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance.
Two posters for Kozure Ōkami: Sanzu no kawa no ubaguruma, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx.
Kozure Ōkami: Shinikazeni mukau ubaguruma, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades.
This is the only poster we don't have the panel length for: Kozure Ōkami: Oya no kokoro ko no kokoro, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril. To complete the collection we snagged this image off the internet.
Kozure Ōkami: Meifumado, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons.
Kozure Ōkami: Jigoku e ikuzo! Daigoro, aka Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell.
There's one more movie, 1980's Kozure Ōkami, aka Shogun Assassin, mainly put together using footage from the previous films, none of which had really been seen in the West to that point. Shogun Assassin, though not properly part of the series, is easy to find and as a one-off it's fine and entertaining, but we recommend you do yourself a favor and watch the canonical films.
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.
Clothes encounters of the Hollywood kind.
We've been gathering rare wardrobe and hairdresser test shots from the golden era of Hollywood, and today seems like a good day to share some of what we've found. It was standard procedure for all the main performers in a movie to pose for such photos, but the negatives that survive tend to belong to the most popular stars, such as Cary Grant, who you see at right. You'll see Marilyn Monroe more than amply represented below. What can we do? She's possibly the most photographed Hollywood figure ever, and she was beautiful in every exposure. But we've also found shots of a few lesser known stars, such as Giorgia Moll and France Nuyen.
Some of the shots are worth special note. You'll see Doris Day as a mermaid for The Glass Bottom Boat, Liz Taylor as a kid for National Velvet and an adult for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Farrah Fawcett in lingerie, Sheree North in both front and rear poses, and Yul Brynner looking like an actual man by sporting a body that had to that point seemingly known neither razor nor wax (he ditched the fur for his actual onscreen appearances). Usually the photos feature a chalkboard or card with pertinent information about the production and star, but not always, as in the case of Brynner's photo, and in Audrey Hepburn's and Joan Collins' cases as well. If the names of the subjects don't appear on the chalkboards you can refer to the keywords at bottom, which are listed in order. We may put together another group of these wardrobe shots later.
Andress gets picturesque in wine country.
This photo of Swiss actress Ursula Andress in an autumnal vineyard appeared on an issue Paris Match magazine published in September 1964. Fewer than two years removed from her role in Dr. No it's fair to say she was at this moment one the biggest stars in the world. For the most part, the roles she played didn't make splashes as big as that made by Dr. No, but there's little doubt she's one of the more fondly remembered stars of her era. We have an entire series of Dr. No images that are well worth a look, so if you're inclined just click here.
Always beware of charming strangers.
Above, an Italian poster for René Clement's classic drama Delitto in pieno sole, which was originally made in France as Plein Soleil and is known is English as Purple Noon. The movie, you may already know, is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel and tells the sinister story of the psychopath Tom Ripley. The poster art is by Averardo Ciriello, a prolific illustrator of not only movie promos, but also paperback covers and comic books. Click his keywords below to see more, and you can see another brilliant poster for Plein Soleil here.
Curiosity mutated the cat.
The Creeper, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1948, has a sinister, attention-getting poster, which you see above, but the film is long on atmosphere and short on frights. It concerns a doctor trying to develop bioluminescence in human organs so they're self lighting and will make surgery easier. You read that correctly. He wants to make organs glow just in case you need to be cut open one day. But instead he ends up, through his experiments on cats, creating a beast that slinks around mauling people to death. We never see an entire killer kitty—that wasn't in the budget it seems—but we do see
cheap stuffed animal paws fearsome razor sharp claws. Ultimately The Creeper is a mood movie—which is to say, if you're in the right mood it may work for you. A six-pack could help get you there. Something even more psychoactive could get you there faster. But even then we can't guarantee you'll enjoy it.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
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