Hollywoodland Mar 27 2013
A SHOW OF HAND
I just got this a-maz-ing manicure. Nice, right?

We stumbled across this recently. It’s a promo photo of Humphrey Bogart made for his 1951 crime drama The Enforcer. The image was used on a great Israeli poster for the movie, as well as an almost-as-good Spanish promo. We showed you both of those, among others, a few years ago. If you haven’t seen them maybe click back there and take a look. They’re well worth a glance.

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Femmes Fatales Mar 22 2013
RIGHT TURNER
The postman will ring as long as it takes.

This shot of American actress Lana Turner shows her at the height of her fame during the filming of the 1946 film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice. Turner’s own life rivaled that of any of her characters, encompassing the murder of her father to her daughter stabbing a Mafia thug to death. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 30 2013
TOP GUN
When you get on his wrong side, it’s the other side of a marksman’s scope.

A few days ago we mentioned the Noir City Film Festival and waxed nostalgic about San Francisco. The festival schedule reminded us of noirs we haven’t seen in a while, and revealed others we’ve never seen. On the Noir City bill this evening is a film from the latter category, Edward Dmytryk’s 1952 thriller The Sniper. We watched it last night and it more than deserves a slot in a prestigious festival like Noir City. The film was shot in San Francisco, and stars Arthur Franz as a former mental patient named Eddie Miller who is gripped by murderous impulses. Perching in windows and on rooftops, he uses a carbine and scope to target unsuspecting victims. As yet the gun isn’t loaded, but his sexual feelings for a female acquaintance catalyze his urges. The expert marksman begins killing, ultimately slaying four women (that’s not a spoiler, given the four scoped targets on the poster art). Eddie Miller treads similar ground as hundreds of other cinematic lost souls, but film historians say he was first—American film’s first serial killer. This one is worth it both for the movie and for its usage of San Francisco exteriors, which are so expertly and extensively intergrated into the production, we have a feeling Bay Area audiences will marvel over that more than the actual plot. But they should pay close attention to both. Dmytryk is the same director who gave the world Murder, My Sweet and Crossfire. This is top tier filmmaking. 

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Intl. Notebook Jan 25 2013
NOIR AND REMEMBRANCE
Famed San Francisco film noir retrospective returns for its annual run.

The most popular film noir festival in the world launches its eleventh edition tonight in San Francisco when the Noir City Film Festival returns to the Castro Theatre. It runs until February 3, and screens 27 films, including three new 35mm restorations. Some of the movies on the slate this year include 1950’s Try and Get Me!, 1949’s Repeat Performance, 1948’s High Tide, 1950’s Sunset Boulevard, and 1962’s Experiment in Terror. Along with the films, the festival features guest of honor Peggy Cummins, who played the unforgettable character Annie Laurie Starr in 1950's Gun Crazy. There’s also a noir themed nightclub with live music, torch singers, burlesque and more. Although we love living overseas, events like this are a reminder of why the Bay area lifestyle is so wonderful. If we ever return to the U.S., it’ll be straight back to the Bay. The festival poster above is just the latest in a long series, and we’ve uploaded all the predecessors below. You can find out more about the Noir City Film Festival at the festival website.

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Femmes Fatales Sep 6 2012
BALANCING ACT
She’s well known for hopping from bed to bed.

Above, American actress Janet Blair, who appeared in many films, including the 1948 noir I Love Trouble, and the 1945 musical Tonight and Every Night, seen here clowning around in a cute shot by Joseph Jasgur, mid-1940s.

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Femmes Fatales Jun 26 2012
BRIGHT IDA
Anything you can do, I can do better.

England-born actress Ida Lupino began in film as a bleached blonde leading lady, and eventually appeared in fifty-nine productions. A nice career by any measure. But along the way she also produced, directed, and wrote, becoming one of the first women to take complete control of film projects in Hollywood. She contributed significantly to film noir with her work on 1953’s The Hitch-Hiker, and more importantly, contributed to the cause of women in the workplace with virtually everything she did. This Paramount promo shot dates from the beginning of her career, 1934. 

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Vintage Pulp May 29 2012
REVOLUTIONARY NOIR
Only the good go to sleep at night.


The French coined the term film noir, so it seems only fitting to feature a collection of French posters celebrating the genre. Above and below are fifteen examples promoting films noir from France, Britain, and the U.S., representing some of the best ever produced within the art form, as well as some less celebrated examples that we happen to love. Of those, we highly recommend seeing Le salaire de la peur, for which you see the poster above, and Ride the Pink Horse, below, which played as Et tournent les chevaux de bois in France. Just a word about those films (and feel free to skip ahead to the art, because really, who has time these days to listen to a couple of anonymous internet scribes ramble on about old movies?).
 
1953’s Le salaire de la peur is about a group of men stranded in an oil company town in the mountains of South America. In order to earn the wages to get out, four of them agree to drive two trucks filled with nitroglycerine over many miles of dangerous terrain. The idea is to use the chemicals to put out a raging oil well fire that is consuming company profits by the second, but of course the film is really about whether the men can even get there alive. Le salaire de la peur was critically praised when released in Europe, but in the U.S., political factions raised their ugly heads and got censors to crudely re-edit the prints so as to reduce the movie’s anti-capitalist (and by extension anti-American) subtext. The movie was later remade by Hollywood twice—once in 1958 as Hell’s Highway, and again in 1977 as Sorcerer. The original is by far the best.

1947’s Ride the Pink Horse is an obscure noir, but a quintessential one, in our opinion. If many noirs feature embittered World War II vets as their anti-heroes, Robert Montgomery’s Lucky Gagin is the bitterest of them all. He arrives in a New Mexico border town on a quest to avenge the death of a friend. The plot is thin—or perhaps stripped down would be a better description—but Robert Montgomery’s atmospheric direction makes up for that. Like a lot of mid-century films featuring ethnic characters, the most important one is played by a white actor (Wanda Hendrix, in a coating of what looks like brown shoe polish). It's racist, for sure, but within the universe of the film Lucky Gagin sees everyone around him only as obstacles or allies—i.e., equals within his own distinct worldview. So that makes up for it. Or maybe not. In any case, we think Ride the Pink Horse is worth a look. Fourteen more posters below. 
 

 
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Femmes Fatales May 3 2012
HOLD THE PHONE
What am I wearing? Well, baby, let’s just hope one day they invent a phone with a camera in it.

Above is a great shot of American actress Jean Wallace, who debuted in the 1941 musical Ziegfeld Girl, co-starred with husband Franchot Tone in the 1949 film noir Jigsaw, and appeared in about twenty other movies. This image, which, considering the time period is quite racy for a mainstream actress, is from 1948 or 1949. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 30 2011
ROUGH ROAD AHEAD
He took the road less traveled by—and that made all the difference.

One of the better movies that exists in the public domain, Detour is a seminal film noir starring Tom Neal as a hapless hitchhiker, and co-starring Ann Savage as a femme fatale so screechingly mean it’s a wonder Atticus Finch doesn’t suddenly appear and shoot her for having rabies. The poster is a classic too, one of the best of the film noir era. Hey, there’s an idea: top 10 film noir posters. Maybe we’ll put something together. Maybe we’ll also discuss Mr. Neal, who murdered his third wife by shooting her in the back of the head. In the meantime, see a classic promo shot of Ann Savage here. Detour premiered in the U.S. today in 1945. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 30 2011
ONCE MORE WITH FEELING
The sins of the past always lead to a Reckoning.

A while back we made fun of some English-language websites for uploading a Japanese poster backwards. Well, now it’s Japan’s turn. Play it again Boggy? Seriously guys? Is that supposed to be phonetic? We think not. Well, it just goes to show you that whatever your language is, written down it’s just a bunch of chicken scratching to billions of other people. In any case, what you’re looking at is a poster for the film noir Dead Reckoning, starring Bogie, not Boggy. In Japan the movie was titled Great Split. At least that’s what the big red writing at bottom says. Platinum-haired Lizabeth Scott co-stars with Bogart, and we think she fares better in this than in Pitfall, which we discussed last week. She’s more alluring here, and has a meatier role to play as a woman with a complicated past.

The film is narrated by Bogart, and his tale is peppered with combat and gambling metaphors as various gambits come up “snake eyes,” or he’s “dealt a joker.” Of course, the real wild card is Scott—is she or isn’t she in with the villains? Bogart’s rational side says yes, but his gut—and groin—are seduced by Scott’s siren song. We mean that literally. Mid-century filmmakers often snuck in vocal numbers for their female starsto perform. Sometimes they fit seamlessly into the plot. In this case—not so much. Scott’s routine occurs at dinner while she’s sitting at the table with Bogie. You can see the thoughts playing on his face, above, and, “This is one freeeaky chick,” eventually loses out to, “I wonder if she dyes her muff?”

In the end, the whole conspiracy—the lies, the murders, the blackmail—is all about money. No shock there. And the head villain is the one with the best suit. Of course. So Dead Reckoning isn’t special, and in fact it borrows from a few other film noirs, but how can we resist it when Bogart sneers lines like: “I haven’t had a good laugh since before Johnny was murdered.”? It’s those hardboiled moments that make Dead Reckoning worth watching. As for the mandatory love angle, strings swell and eyes well, but despite best efforts from Bogart and Scott, their chemistry is a bit, er, boggy. So maybe the Japanese were right after all. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 24
1967—First Space Program Casualty Occurs
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when, during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after more than ten successful orbits, the capsule's main parachute fails to deploy properly, and the backup chute becomes entangled in the first. The capsule's descent is slowed, but it still hits the ground at about 90 mph, at which point it bursts into flames. Komarov is the first human to die during a space mission.
April 23
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder, Carmen Jones, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Stalag 17, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
April 22
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.

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