Jack the Ripper, with an Italian twist.
Above, the original Italian poster for Dario Argento's horror thriller L’uccello dale piume de cristallo, aka The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which premiered in Rome today in 1970 and has since become an iconic example of the giallo genre. We talked about the film, and shared the Spanish posters back in 2010. You can see those here.
Tropical storm Anita blows into Port-au-Prince.
Set in Haiti, the Italian thriller Al tropico del cancro follows the story of a doctor who invents a powerful hallucinogenic drug that interests various parties who believe it to be priceless. In addition to being a giallo, some people consider this film a classic of—what would you call it?—not blaxploitation, but that unofficial sub-genre of movies (which we also wrote about yesterday in assessing Emmanuelle IV) in which white women go to the tropics and jettison their inhibitions. Though the promise of Renato Casaro's brilliant poster art undoubtedly draws many viewers to the film, star Anita Strindberg's interracial coupling is a highly stylized hallucination or dream, ancillary to the plot. She gives it her theatrical best, though, gangbangy subtext and all. The scene was bold in 1972's racial landscape—and still is today, which shows you how little progress we've made in half a century.
Strindberg is a favorite around Pulp Intl. She was one of our early femmes fatales—in fact the one that made us decide to feature the occasional frontal nude on the site. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to share this shot. Under a ridiculous crown of sculptural ’70s hair, she's all high cheekbones, icy eyes, and a recurved mouth. Everything below her neck looks good too, although she sports a pair of early breast implants, but hey—her body her choice. Her nordic looks juxtapose nicely against Haiti's tropical setting. She's a gleaming alien there, which is important for the sense of disconnection her character feels as the various male cast members busy themselves trying to outsmart each other to acquire the drug formula.
Al tropico del cancro features awesome location shooting in Port-au-Prince, not only in the streets and estates, but in unlikely locales like a functioning abattoir where island beef production is depicted in full gore. Cows aren't the only animals that fare poorly, so be forewarned. The movie eventually ends in foot chases and gunshots, as greed for the formula triggers a spate of violence. Reaching this climax isn't the most gripping ride, but we've been on worse. We recommend the movie for fans of Strindberg, as well as for people interested in historic Port-au-Prince, much of which—the prized Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince, the capital building, the parliament, et al—was destroyed in a 2010 earthquake. Al tropico del cancro premiered in Italy today in 1972.
Where it stops looking good nobody knows.
Below, a selection of beautiful Benedetto Caroselli covers for ERP’s giallo series I Narratori Americani del Brivido, with various Italian authors such as Aldo Crudo and Mario Pinzauti writing under Anglicized pseudonyms. We have much more from Caroselli. Just click and scroll.
He may be her pimp, but he certainly isn’t her boss.
In Italian a “magnaccio” is a pimp, and Il magnaccio deals with a pimp nicknamed the Little Prince who is loved by his live-in prostie, but whose affection he either ignores or violently rebuffs. When she disappears the Prince replaces her, but she’s never far from his mind, and this being giallo we know disappearances don’t last. And indeed she turns up again, seemingly by chance, and the dysfunctional lovers get a chance to resolve unfinished business—assuming they don’t kill each other first. The movie stars Franco Citti, Riccardo Salvino, Elina de Witt, and Silvana Venturelli, who we last saw in the Radley Metzger mind trip Esotika Erotika Psicotika.
There’s confusion online about whether Il magnaccio premiered in 1967 or 1969. IMDB says ’69, but a lot of Italian sites say ’67. We say it was 1969. We went outside the film universe, located the soundtrack album, and found that it was released today in 1969. The promo poster above, which is what we really wanted to talk about, was painted by Giovanni di Stefano. He obviously is not the Italian con artist Giovanni di Stefano (though he would fit nicely on Pulp Intl.) nor, even more obviously, the fifteenth century sculptor Giovanni di Stefano. This particular Giovanni di Stefano—who according to all evidence has one of the most common names to be found in Italy—is yet another very good illustrator whose original work goes for exorbitant amounts of money today. We plan to show you more of his output later.
Three Italian covers offer three visions of Mickey Spillane’s hard-boiled Mike Hammer classic.
The top cover for Mickey Spillane’s Ti ucciderò was painted by the excellent Giovanni Benvenuti for Garzanti in 1957. You can see the artist’s signature more or less in the middle of the cover. The title Ti ucciderò means “I will kill you,” which is considerably less evocative than the original title I, the Jury, but maybe that just doesn’t translate well in Italy for some reason. The second cover is also from Garzanti and dates from 1972. The shifty eyes at top were a design element on all the Spillane covers from Garzanti during the period. Last you see a 1990 edition of I, the Jury published by Oscar Mondadori, and though we don’t know the artist, it’s interesting to see a book appear so late with a painted cover. The detective on that one, if you take a close look, is the actor Stacy Keach. He was starring as Mike Hammer on an American television show called The New Mike Hammer, from which you see a still at right, and the Mondadori book was a tie-in for when the show hit Italian television. All three covers are nice, but Benvenuti is tops, as always.
They call me Signore Tibbs!
1966 cover for La calda notte di Virgil Tibbs—better known as In the Heat of the Night—from Milan based Edizioni Mondadori for their Il Giallo Mondadori series, number 907. The cool cover art is by Carlo Jacono, who we’ll get back to in a bit.
Doing her part to take a bite out of crime.
Above is the cover of Bagliori sulla città, written by Roy Parks for S.P.E.R.O.’s series I Gialli Polizieschi Americani, 1957. Parks was actually a writer named Mario Casacci, who also published novels as Bill Coleman, Mario Kasak, Rex Sheridan, and possibly others. Casacci was also a noted screenwriter most famous for inventing, along with Alberto Ciambricco, the figure of Lieutenant Sheridan, who was a staple on Italian television through the 1960s and early 1970s, played by Ubaldo Lay. Casacci also participated on several soundtracks as a lyricist. The art here is from Averardo Ciriello, who we’ll for sure get back to later.
Two Fleming covers offer opposite visions of how to Live large.
Sometimes we get in the mood for a true classic, so at top is the excellent 1966 Macmillan Publishers edition of Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die. It’s possible the James Bond books have had more cover iterations than any other series, and most of them are high quality, often trending toward the sort of luridness we love, but we also like the simple, elegant graphics of Macmillan's deep green masterpiece. On the other hand, if we were to go lurid then there’s no better art to be found than on the 1964 cover Vivi e lascia morire from the Italian imprint Garzanti. The variations on Live and Let Die are practically infinite, but the Garzanti edition is our other favorite (though this one is great too). There is no artist info on these, which is criminal, we think. We’ll dig, though, and see what we can find. As a matter of taste, it’s interesting to contemplate which of the two books we would buy, assuming we could buy only one. Tough choice. What do you think?
Update: the second cover was painted by Giovanni Benvenuti.
The virgin homicides.
Above and below, the cover and assorted scans from Gong! This is an Italian foto giallo from Rome-based publishers Edizioni MEC, first printed in 1967, and what you get inside is a giallo-style crime story in comic book format but with photos of models instead of drawings. As far as we know, only nine editions of these were ever published, which would make you think they’re very expensive, but in fact they generally go for between ten and twenty euros. This one is titled Una vergine per… morire, aka A Virgin for… Dying, and we did our best to identify the models, thinking they might be actual actors, but had no luck there, and they aren’t named in the masthead. If you recognize any of them give a shout. As cool as this thing is, it’s a Sunday, which means we just don’t have it in us to get all sixty-four pages posted. We may keep adding those as the days pass, but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy what’s here now.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Mussolini Is Arrested
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacci, and fifteen supporters are arrested by Italian partisans in Dongo, Italy while attempting to escape the region in the wake of the collapse of Mussolini's fascist government. The next day, Mussolini and his mistress are both executed, along with most of the members of their group. Their bodies are then trucked to Milan where they are hung upside down on meathooks from the roof of a gas station, then spat upon and stoned until they are unrecognizable.
1933—The Gestapo Is Formed
The Geheime Staatspolizei, aka Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, is established. It begins under the administration of SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police, but by 1939 is administered by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or Reich Main Security Office, and is a feared entity in every corner of Germany and beyond.
1937—Guernica Is Bombed
In Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica is bombed by the German Luftwaffe, resulting in widespread destruction and casualties. The Basque government reports 1,654 people killed, while later research suggests far fewer deaths, but regardless, Guernica is viewed as an example of terror bombing and other countries learn that Nazi Germany is committed to that tactic. The bombing also becomes inspiration for Pablo Picasso, resulting in a protest painting that is not only his most famous work, but one the most important pieces of art ever produced.
In Detective Comics #27, DC Comics publishes its second major superhero, Batman, who becomes one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, and then a popular camp television series starring Adam West, and lastly a multi-million dollar movie franchise starring Michael Keaton, then George Clooney, and finally Christian Bale.
1953—Crick and Watson Publish DNA Results
British scientists James D Watson and Francis Crick publish an article detailing their discovery of the existence and structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in Nature magazine. Their findings answer one of the oldest and most fundamental questions of biology, that of how living things reproduce themselves.
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