Florinda Bolkan is a textbook case of multiple epidermal disorder.
Una lucertola con la pelle di donna premiered in Italy in 1971 and in the U.S. as Lizard in a Woman's Skin today in 1973. It's a giallo—i.e. a thriller with mystery, slasher, detective, and psychological horror elements. Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan stars, and she has a problem—she's having erotic dreams about her beautiful neighbor Anita Strindberg. The dreams disturb and arouse Bolkan, but she's working out her concerns in therapy. All well and good, until matters take a turn for the worse when she dreams about dispatching Strindberg with a knife, and later wakes to find that Strindberg has indeed been murdered in the exact fashion as in her nightmare.
The cops arrest her for the killing and send her to a mental hospital to await trial. But the case is hardly airtight. Loose ends include Bolkan's dream diary, an illicit affair, and a blackmail plot. The mental hospital is hardly airtight either. A stalker shows up intent on putting Bolkan out of commission. Eventually doubts arise in the case and Bolkan is sprung from the booby hatch, but who committed the murder? Well, below we have some production shots, and at bottom is a poster for the film's re-issue as Schizoid—a title that's a blatant spoiler. Actually, considering lizards change their skin by molting, the original title is a spoiler as well. Too clever by half, these Italian filmmakers, but the movie is still fun.
A killer in black stalks Rome's fashionista set.
In Nude per l'assassino, aka Strip Nude for Your Killer there's a motorcycle helmeted serial killer on the loose and police have no idea who he is. The murderer first slaughtered a gynecologist whose most recent patient died of cardiac arrest during an abortion, but now the maniac is working his way through staff and talent at the Albatross Modeling Agency, killing women and men, catching many at their most vulnerable—i.e. naked. Suspects and clues are minimal. But hmm, let's see, how does a botched abortion tie into the other killings? Could it be.... revenge? Very likely. And what often happens in giallo when killers wear face-obscuring motorcycle helmets? Could it be... Well, we won't give it away, except to say the twist of who's under that helmet isn't a twist at all.
Near the end of the film there's a radio broadcast during which an announcer talks about the most recent murder. But first he reports on the government's “drastic new austerity measures.” We were fascinated to learn this was going on in Italy forty years ago. It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now. We can say the same about the movie. But while you won't find Nude per l'assassino on any list of top giallo films, it has some charms: Edwige Fenech, Femi Benussi, Solvi Stubing, and Erna Schurer. We've been pretty lazy about the giallo genre over the years, but watching this movie made us decide to remedy that. We're going to check out some of the better giallo flicks and report back. Nude per l'assassino premiered in Italy today in 1975.
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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—Piltdown Man Discovered
A hominid fossil known as Piltdown Man is found in England's Piltdown Gravel Pit by paleontologist Charles Dawson. The fragments are thought by many experts of the day to be the fossilized remains of a hitherto unknown form of early man, but in 1953 it is discovered to be a hoax composed of a human skeleton and an orangutan's jawbone. The identity of the Piltdown forger remains unknown, but suspects have included Dawson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Conan Doyle and others.
1967—Australian Prime Minister Disappears
The Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who was best known for expanding Australia's role in the Vietnam War, disappears while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria and is presumed drowned.
1969—Project Blue Book Ends
The United States Air Force completes its study of UFOs, stating that sightings are generated as a result of a mild form of mass hysteria, and that individuals who fabricate such reports do so to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, or are psychopathological persons, or simply misidentify various conventional objects.
1985—Gotti Ascends to Mafia Throne
In New York City, mafiosi Paul Castellano and Thomas Bilotti are shot dead on the orders of John Gotti, paving the way for Gotti to assume leadership of the powerful Gambino crime family. Gotti is eventually arrested by federal authorities in 1990, and dies of throat cancer in 2002 in a federal prison hospital.
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