Vintage Pulp Oct 3 2017
A DOUBLE KILLING
Theft becomes death in the blink of an eye.


Last week we shared a brilliant Italian poster for Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, and today you see the French and Belgian posters. The title is a double entendre that refers not only to murder but also to killing in the sense of a big score, which is why in France the movie was called L'ultime razzia, or “the last raid,” and in Belgium it was Coup manqué, which translates as “mis-hit,” as in badly striking a ball—i.e. missing a target. The Belgian poster also has a banner at the bottom with the title in Dutch—Mislukte opzet, or “failed set up.” Those titles, taken together, reveal exactly what happens in the film—a robbery goes terribly wrong. Both of these are very nice posters, fitting ror Kubrick's early masterpiece. The Killing opened in France today in 1956, and in Belgium shortly thereafter. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 28 2017
KILL OR BE KILLED
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.

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Femmes Fatales Sep 26 2017
TEETER TOTTER
Whoa... is the floor swaying or is that me?


Audrey Totter isn't as well known today as she should be, considering she appeared in The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Lady in the Lake, F.B.I Girl, The Unsuspected, The Set-Up, Main Street After Dark, and Tension, but she was well appreciated in her day as a bad girl and film noir stalwart. Her career spanned radio, cinema, and television, and her life spanned ninety-five years, a good run on both counts. This promo photo of her in the typical bad girl's natural habitat—the local gin mill—was made in 1946 and appeared in Life magazine.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 31 2017
WHAT A DOPPIO
Why did Lancaster cross the mob? To get to DeCarlo's side.

This is a beautiful poster for Doppio Gioco, better known as the U.S. film noir Criss Cross, with Burt Lancaster and Yvonne DeCarlo. We were unable to determine who painted the piece, but it's a bang-up job. As for the movie, Burt Lancaster comes up with one of the classic terrible ideas in film noir history, and that's really saying something, because the genre practically hinges on cockamamie schemes. We talk about it in our brief write-up of the film here. Doppio Gioco opened In Italy today in 1949.

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Hollywoodland Aug 25 2017
SPARRING PARTNERS
Ryan and Totter punch out of their weight class.


Robert Ryan and Audrey Totter playfight in this series of promo shots made for the 1949 film noir The Set-Up. Totter plays an up and coming boxer while Ryan plays her much older trainer. No wait—that was Million Dollar Baby. Actually, Ryan plays the boxer, an aging one, while Totter plays his wife. She wants him to retire but he thinks he can still win. He doesn't even seem to be winning in these photos, so you probably have doubts how well he does in the film. We may talk about it in more detail later.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 29 2017
PRIMATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
Must be the tropical weather that brings out the beast in them.

Affair in Trinidad, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1952, brought Gilda co-stars Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford together for another go round as star crossed lovers in a foreign land. Hayworth is a nightclub singer, and Ford is the brother of her dead husband, who's first thought to be a suicide, then suspected to have been murdered. There's no mystery who's responsible—it's the oily one percenter who wants Hayworth for himself. Ford wants this fella to hang from Trinidad's highest coconut palm, but Hayworth stands in his way for reasons you'll have to watch the movie to discover.

Overall, as an attempt to rekindle that ole Gilda magic, Affair in Trinidad fails, mainly because Ford is not as appealing as in the former movie. But the problem could lie with us—we don't buy anger, jealousy, and brutal face slaps as aphrodisiacs. We know, we know—things were different in 1952. But puhleeeze—that different? Just because she was kind of nice to him, it means he owns her? We just can't get behind slappy Glenn and his primitive behavior. Affair in Trinidad isn't bad—it just isn't good, exactly. But at least Hayworth works some singing and dancing magic. It isn't as fun as watching her deliver a swift kick to the nutsack would have been, but at least she makes the best of her situation.

Wow, that's one slappable babe. Appearing nightly? I better come back and see if I can slap her.

SLAP!

Slow motion replay. Slaaaaaaaap!

Christ, does my face hurt. You must really love me.

I can slap you too. Lemme slap you too. Look, my hand is ready to slap. I'll slap so good you won't believe how good I slap. I do the best slaps.

I just can't get that slap out of my head. Focus, girl! Spying to do.

I usually slap, but you I'll choke. Because I dig you too, in a different way.

A one, a two, a one, two, three, four: Though my face is swollen I'm so thrilled my man's controllin' in the moooooor-nin!

Every time he hurts me I just have to swirl my skirts because he waaaaarned me!

It ain't a man's fault he hits me! I shouldn't... re-sist!

It's just a man being manly! He can't... de-sist!

Ladies let me warn you too! These guys... are... rude!

But hey, it's the 1950s! There's nothing... I can... do!*

*Please don't send us any obtuse e-mails. We obviously abhor violence against women.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 24 2017
PICKUP LUCK
First rule of plotting a murder: make sure the victim isn't listening in.

Above you see a poster for Pickup, one of the nastier little noirs we've run across our years maintaining this website. Beverly Michaels tries to worm her way into a retired man's affections in order to have the life of leisure she thinks she deserves. But her target, in addition to being old fashioned and a bit obtuse, has some sort of chronic or psychosomatic brain injury that results in confusion and hearing loss. Even so, she manages to marry the poor slob, then sets about figuring how to kill him to obtain his savings of $7,300. When he's hit by a car one afternoon his hearing returns, but Michaels has no idea it's happened and openly plots to murder him, assuming he's still deaf while the entire time he listens in horror. This isn't supposed to be funny, but it is, uproariously. Michaels says the most vicious things about the guy, behind his back and right to his face, day after day, with no idea he can hear every word. These crazy sequences are a big reason why this cheap little b-flick has survived the decades. Plus Michaels knocks her first starring turn over the center field bleachers, playing shrill, wall-eyed evil to the hilt. She was rewarded with more work, including similar gold digger parts in 1953's Wicked Woman and 1956's Blonde Bait. The latter was her last role, making for a short career, but a memorable one. We recommend Pickup, morbid plot, shoestring production values, and all. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1951.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2017
ICE ESCAPADES
Proceed carefully—ice may occur at major plot points.


The thriller Suspense featured the unusual promo poster you see above, which we think really captures the visual feel of film noir in a way posters more typical of the genre do not. Those posters are amazing, but this one is a nice change of pace. The movie stars Olympic ice skater and sometime magazine model Belita, alongside Barry Sullivan, an incredibly prolific actor who appeared in scores of films. Sullivan plays a hustler who weasels his way up from lowly peanut vendor to fast living impresario at a wildly popular Los Angeles ice skating extravaganza. The catalyst for his ascent is his radical suggestion that Belita leap through a circle of swords. Only in old movies, right? “Hey, that circle of swords gag was a great idea! How'd you like to manage the joint!”

Belita's ice skater is a riff on the standard film noir chanteuse, except instead of doing a few a nightclub numbers she does a few skate routines. She's as good as advertised, too. But the success of any film romance hinges on the chemistry between the boy and girl and here it feels contrived. Both Belita and Sullivan are decent actors, but he's a little too charisma challenged, in our view, to attract someone whose life is going as skatingly as Belita's. But it's in the script, so okay, she likes the schlub. What Suspense does well, though, is visuals. Check out what director Frank Tuttle does late in the film when the shadow of the aforementioned sword contraption appears outside Sullivan's office. Beautiful work, suggesting that karma may indeed be a circle.

On the whole, Suspense uses ice the same way Die Hard uses a skyscraper. The entire film is improved by the freshness of the setting. Add expensive production values and visuals worthy of study in a film school and you have a noir whose many plusses cancel out its few minuses. We recommend it.
 
As a side note, the ice show is staged in the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, one of the most breathtaking art deco structures ever built, which was of course eventually demolished because that's what they do in Los Angeles. Actually, a fire destroyed it, but only after seventeen years of abandonment which would not have happened if anyone important in the city cared about historically significant architecture. Suspense brings the Pan-Pacific, just above, back to life, and that's another reason to watch it. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1946.

I'm going to stand right here in your personal space and repeat myself until you say yes.

We're supposed to do a screen kiss, but I'm totally gonna slip you some tongue.

Wow, these are razor sharp, but you'll be fine. Unrelated question—how's your insurance coverage?

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Vintage Pulp May 28 2017
THE GILDA AGE
Some women are trouble. But some trouble is worth it.


Above you see a poster for the game changing film noir Gilda, which opened today in 1946 with Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in the starring roles as a casino owner's wife and a gambling drifter. This promo is different from the three we showed you some years back, so we thought we'd upload it just to further bolster our visual documentation of this classic. The piece was painted by the storied Russian born artist Boris Grinsson, who we've discussed only briefly but will certainly get back to. As for Gilda, it's been exhaustively covered by virtually every film writer far and wide, so we've got nothing to add. Watch it. 

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Vintage Pulp May 27 2017
1,000 TO 1 SHOT
You ever feel like you're going to lose no matter what?

This awesome cover art is by Tommy Shoemaker, a new talent to us, but not to more experienced paperback illustration aficionados, and his work fronts William Irish's The Night Has 1000 Eyes. The cover alone got us into this one. It tells the story a woman who has been burdened with very dark—and very real—predictions about the future, forecasts far too specific to be lucky guesses. For example, she's told she'll meet a woman who wears a diamond watch around her knee, and it comes true when one of her friends asks to borrow a garter, then raises her skirt to show how she's dealt with her broken one by fastening her watch around her stocking. Given that these predictions are so specific, the crucial announcement that the woman's father will be killed by a lion seems utterly unavoidable, even though they live in the middle of a metropolis.

The cover may seem to remove the need to read the novel, but don't worry—it actually depicts not the climax or any point in the middle, but the first several pages, in which a beat cop comes across a woman determined to leap from a bridge. It's after he rescues her that we learn the bizarre story of why she's there. Irish, aka George Hopley, aka Cornell Woolrich, is perhaps a bit too reiterative with his prose in this one, tending to belabor his points after they've been fully made, to the extent that the novel feels a bit like it's been padded out to reach a word threshold. Minor flaw. Even if you're periodically tempted to skip some of the existentialism 101 musings, Irish/Hopley/Woolrich weaves a compelling tale here—one later made into a film noir starring Edward G. Robinson—and it's well worth the time spent.  

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 18
1968—Olympic Committee Suspends Carlos and Smith
The U.S. Olympic Committee suspends African-American track & field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos for saluting the crowd with raised, gloved fists during a medal ceremony at the Mexico City games. The salutes represented the black power and civil rights movements in the United States. Both athletes also received their medals shoeless to represent black poverty.
October 17
1933—Capone Sentenced to Prison
Chicago organized crime boss Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion after all other attempts to tie him to an assortment of crimes, from the mass murder of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to widespread violations of the Volstead Act, fail. He is sentenced to eleven years in federal prison and, cut off from the outside world while on Alcatraz Island, his power is finally broken.
October 16
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
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