Three dimensions would have been plenty. Two probably would have been fine also.
The psychedelic sexploitation flick Four Dimensions of Greta, for which you see a Japanese promo poster above, was originally released in the UK in 1972, and opened in Japan today in 1973. Can you believe this low budget comedy was the first British film to be shown in 3-D? It starred future General Hospital hunk Tristan Rogers, Karen Boyes, Minah Bird, Felicity Devonshire, and Swedish dish Leena Skoog in the story of a journalist who plans to do an article on au pairs, but somehow ends up trying to locate a missing person—the titular Greta Gruber, played by Skoog.
So, why are there four dimensions in the title of this 3-D movie? Well, Greta is remembered by four acquaintances, each of whom reveals a different aspect of her personality. Rogers wanders from trippy disco to trippy strip club to trippy coffeehouse and finally learns that she's been kidnapped and imprisoned on a houseboat. It's silly, but if you're old enough to remember Rogers as Robert Scorpio on GH, it may be fun to see him go softcore. But be forewarned—Einstein proved the fourth dimension is time, and you'll never get back what you lose watching this one.
In the Aztec version of the show being sacrificed on a cross is actually first prize.
This poster for The Living Idol gives a bit of a false impression. The movie isn't the lost world epic implied by the art. Most of it is set in and around the University of Mexico, and deals with an archaeologist who believes he can unlock the secrets of ancient Aztec rituals by using a colleague's daughter as a sort of medium. James Robertson Justice is the obsessed archaeologist, and French actress Liliane Montevecchi stars as Juanita, who may have some mystical connection to the ancient world.
The movie is better than you'd expect. It's serious and intelligent, with a bit of cuteness mixed in, and what's particularly striking is the respect it shows—for a U.S. made movie—toward Mexico and Mexican culture. The default attitude for Mexico in north-of-the-border movies from the period is one of mild patronization, but not here. Give some credit to screenwriter Albert Lewin, but more credit to director René Cardona, who's Cuban, not Mexican, but was certainly versed in the culture and history of the country.
Though no Mexicans appear in major roles, Cardona manages to leave viewers with a sense of wonder about Mexico, and not just its mythic past, but its contemporary aspects too. He treats viewers to a nice tour of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, built in Mexico City in 1910, and one of the most majestic and beautiful centers of learning in the Americas today. Its central campus, built from 1949 to 1952, is even UNESCO protected, which thousands of older universities can't say.
This comes in addition to amazing panoramas of the Aztec ruins at Uxmal, probably the best represented they've ever been in a motion picture. Is the movie good? Not quite. It has many rough patches, and Montevecchi has only two expressions in her acting arsenal—innocent eyed, and bug-eyed. But it all works a bit better than it should, somehow. We cautiously recommend it for Mexicophiles, but keep your expectations in check. The Living Idol opened in the U.S. today in 1957.
When they say they're getting together to enjoy some girl time it may not be as innocent as it sounds.
Above, a poster for Tsumatachi no Gogo Wa Yori: Kano no Ori, which is quite a mouthful that in English was simplified to Cage of Lust: Wives’ Afternoon. The movie was adapted from a novel by Hiroko Nakayama and starred Junko Miyashita in a tale of infidelity, deception, lesbianism, etc. It's a typical Nikkatsu Studios effort, quick and easy at 72 minutes from end to end. It premiered in Japan today in 1976.
One Wong makes everything right.
This fun poster was made for the 1978 action flick Cleopatra Wong, aka They Call Her...Cleopatra Wong, and it's signed by someone named Eddie Damer. We can find zero information about Mr. Damer, which we like to think is because he moved into another career after being paid for his artistry in handshakes, backslaps, and a rubber check.
Obviously Cleopatra Wong was a low(er) budget riff on the blaxploitation classic Cleopatra Jones, backed by Filipino producer Bobby A. Suarez and made in English with Singaporean actress Marrie Lee in the lead role as an Interpol agent tasked with busting an international counterfeiting ring. These counterfeiters are bad people. They're centered in a Hong Kong nunnery, where they're forcing the nuns to host the operation, and plan to kill them when they've outlived their usefulness. Only Wong and her intrepid team can stop these fiends.
There are some positives here, including effective location shooting and Lee's kung fu, but there's also clunky direction, atrocious acting, and a script that must have been written on a typewriter with seven missing keys. The movie sank with barely a ripple upon release, but was revived on the Asian festival circuit in the early 2000s and now is considered a schlock classic. It certainly has all the hallmarks, and overall we think it's worth watching, but you may want to soak your frontal cortex in alcohol beforehand. Cleopatra Wong premiered in Singapore this month in 1978.
Cleo Moore tries to picture a better life.
The drama Over-Exposed came with the mighty cool promotional poster you see above, and we think it perfectly captures the amoral, tabloid-style themes of the film. Cleo Moore plays a woman at loose ends who meets a kindly photographer and decides to learn his trade. She quickly shows a talent for camera work, moves to New York City, and schemes her way into increasingly better jobs in pursuit of money and fame. She gets plenty of both, and also scores a gig as the house photographer at Club Coco, a mobster backed watering hole where she eventually lands in a big kettle of red hot trouble.
There are aspects of Over-Exposed that play differently now than they would have even a dozen years ago. Richard Crenna as her love interest is bummed to be taking more and more of a back seat as Moore climbs the ladder. This friction is portrayed sympathetically toward Crenna, with Moore shown to be losing her soul, but modern viewers might find this sexist, and point out that ambitious women are nearly always treated shabbily—both in vintage cinema and modern life. So in that sense there's unintended feminist tension to the movie that makes it more complex than you'd expect going in.
You'll see Over-Exposed labeled a film noir in many places, but it's one of those movies that mostly doesn't fit the brief. It isn't until the climax that it has the look and feel of noir. This wasn't uncommon—numerous old movies spent eighty minutes as pure drama before turning to noir stylings to spice up their finales. The Time To Kill, which we talked about a while ago, is a prime example. So is Over-Exposed a film noir? Ultimately, we think not, but when borrowing from the genre it does so better than most. An improbable but enjoyable flick, it premiered this month in 1956.
Danger rears its pretty heads.
Above, a cool West German tri-fold promo for the classic camp crime flick Gefahr: Diabolik, aka Danger: Diabolik, with pretty boy John Phillip Law as the titular spy Diabolik and pretty girl Marisa Mell as his muse and sidekick Eva Kant. If you haven't seen the film it's utterly cheesy and great fun. It premiered in West Germany today in 1968.
How many wrongs finally make a right?
This poster was made to promote a Nikkatsu Studios roman porno flick titled Osoe!, which in Japanese means “attack.” In typical roman porno fashion, the plot is pretty twisted. In brief, Erina Miyai plays a woman who wants revenge on a corporation for its role in the death of her parents. She goes to a disco and deliberately allows herself to be taken home and gangbanged, all for the purpose of later informing the guys who did it she'll accuse them of rape if they don't kidnap the corporation's CEO for her.
We'll say this much for Nikkatsu—their ideas were certainly creative. In this case, there's a subtext of turning male power against itself, which is all to the good, but of course things never come off quite how the protagonists intend in roman porno. Which is to say, Miyai's plot goes pear shaped. Osoe! is super obscure in the West but was a successful release and even played a few years ago at the famed Laputa Asagaya revival cinema in Tokyo. Its original premiere was today in 1978.
Dobson welcomes a guest to her poster but there's still only one queen.
Above are two gorgeous Italian posters for the blaxploitation classics Cleopatra Jones: licenza di uccidere and Operazione casinò d'oro, better known as Cleopatra Jones and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. The first poster is obviously a photo-illustration, but the second was painted by Robert Tanenbaum. It's an iteration of his original U.S. poster, which you see here as well, just below.
On the U.S. version star Tamara Dobson stands alone, but for the Italian promo a second figure appears to her right, representing we know not whom. You'll notice the Italy Dobson figure has lighter skin than on the U.S. poster, and lighter skin than her new sidekick. Was this a deliberate switcheroo? Were Italian moviegoers supposed to think the figure on the left, who was Dobson in the U.S., now represented co-star Stella Stevens? They probably did, even though Stella's face is present on both posters at about thigh level to the main figures. But we don't think Tannenbaum had any of that in mind. We think the second figure represents nobody and came out of his fertile imagination.
Something else interesting about these—Tannenbaum had no trouble reproducing Stella's face, but you'll notice none of the figures look like Tamara Dobson. Not unless you squint. Hmm. Well, even if he had trouble with Dobson's likeness, he did an amazing job on these pieces, which is no surprise considering he's a major contributor to cinematic art who painted promos for The Sting, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and other big budget releases. There are no known Italian release dates on these Cleopatra movies, but ballpark, figure summer 1974 and winter 1975. Read about them here and here.
You might as well spawn with me. I'm going to tell all my friends we did anyway.
We just learned about French artist Constantin Belinsky, and here he's painted a promo for L'étrange créature du lac noir, better known as Creature from the Black Lagoon. This film is an all-time classic so you don't need us to tell you anything about it. It premiered in the U.S. in 1954 and swam into France today in 1955. See another poster for the film in the collection of aquatic monster promos we put together ten years ago. Yes, ten. Hard to believe. Look here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
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