Vintage Pulp Jul 26 2016
THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
Whatever happens don't lose your head.

This weird Japanese poster was made to promote the weird Hong Kong movie Xin Mo, aka The Bedeviled, aka Sam moh, a horror flick starring Taiwanese actor Chun Hsiung Ko and Japanese actress Reiko Ike in a tale of corrupt elites in a rural village who frame a peasant and force his wife into sexual servitude. This is not a pinku film—the story unfolds with restraint and the plot is linear. And the moral is clear: don't use your power to subjugate others. But alas, the one-percenters of this village let their greed run rampant and as a result are haunted by severed heads and eventually wind up dead. Too bad greed isn't punished like that in the real world, right? So many severed heads would be flying around they'd turn the noon sky to midnight. We prefer Ike with her head attached, but this is still a good movie. It premiered in Japan today in 1975.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 24 2016
COLD AS ICE
Why bother with divorce when murder will do?

From the moment Leslie Brooks makes her appearance in Blonde Ice, striding down a staircase in her wedding dress and casting a hawkish gaze over the crowd, you know she's trouble. This is a woman that clearly shouldn't marry, and indeed the union is strained before the reception ends, and the husband is dead within days.
 
Yes, we have a killer on our hands, a sociopath who married for money then disposed of the unnecessary man attached to it. The police don't buy suicide as a cause of death, which presents problems for Brooks, and other aspects of her plot don't go according to plan, but this is a person you don't want to count out even when the tables seem to be turning against her. She'd hardly be worth the appellation femme fatale if you could take her down just like that.
 
Low budget, but well executed, with the lead perfectly played by the occasionally crazy-eyed Brooks with a blend of chilly slyness and gee-whiz phony innocence, Blonde Ice shows how much filmmakers can achieve with very little budget, quite a bit of careful thought, and a very good headliner. A little more money might have solved some problems with this production, but it's a nice little time eater even if the tidy ending hurts it a little. Blonde Ice premiered in the U.S. today in 1948.

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Modern Pulp Jul 16 2016
MACHINE POWERED
Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.


This poster for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine was made for the movie's premiere in Bangkok. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.

When Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in her artistic choices, we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
 
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified in that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds' loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.

It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.

The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 12 2016
COLD BLOODED
Live like a snake, die like a snake.


Kaidan hebi-onna is known in English as Snake Woman's Curse, or sometimes Ghost Story of the Snake Woman, and it stars Sachiko Kuwabara, who is also known as Yukiko Kuwabara, and whose last name is read informally as Kuwahara. These various designations have caused some confusion online, but whether Sachiko or Yukiko, or Kuwabara or Kuwahara, they're all the same woman. She doesn't star on the poster, though—that honor has been reserved for Yukie Kagawa, who's there because, well, we'll get to that.

The plot here involves a cruel landlord in feudal Japan who overworks a sharecropper couple, bringing about their untimely deaths by illness, causing them to linger as vengeful spirits who regularly pop up and scare the shit out of everyone. The couple's bereft daughter also soon dies, but by her own hand. The landlord and his son begin seeing spirits and snakes everywhere, and even begin to think those close to them are becoming snakes. Kagawa undergoes such a transformation, though only imagined by the villains, and that's why she's on the poster despite her secondary role in the film.
 
Kaidan hebi-onna is well shot and acted, but the blood efx are amateur hour and the snake sequences mainly consist of the poor creatures being thrown into shots from off-camera. Based on the highly polished look of the film, we'd have thought there was enough budget to get this stuff right, but what do we know? Maybe all the money went into the sets and costumes. Not frightening, but still an atmospheric evocation of classic revenant themes, Kaidan hebi-onna opened in Japan today in 1968. You can see an alternate poster for the film here, and as a double bonus, below are two promo photos of Kuwahara, or Kuwabara. Talk about cold blooded—she must be freezing inside and out.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 3 2016
SPRINGS TEEN'S RAW TALENT
Reiko Ike’s pelvic floor exercises pay off big time.

Onsen mimizu geisha, which premiered today in 1971, stars an eighteen-year-old Reiko Ike, along with Miki Sugimoto and Junkô Tôda, in yet another tale centered on a Japanese hot spring—Toi Onsen on the Izu Peninsula. So what is this about specifically? Basically, in order to avoid losing the family’s ancestral burial plot to debt collectors, Ike is forced to become a geisha, which turns out to be a natural choice because of the muscle control she has over her vagina. The extraordinarily pleasurable sensation she creates in there is akin to that of worms writhing. Yes, you read that right—worms. Warm ones, of course. And this is where the title of the movie comes from—Onsen mimizu geisha, or “hot springs earthworm geisha.” Do you need to know more? This is a classic, with a lot of goofy humor, plenty of bare skin and bikinis, a strong visual style from director Noribumi Suzuki, and some bizarrely aggressive octopi. And most importantly it has Ike, who’s radiant throughout, never more so than when flashing the viewer during the naughty opening credit montage. Maybe not for everybody, this one, but it certainly worked for us. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 27 2016
SHIMA'S GOTTA HAVE IT
A widow gets back into the swing of things and trouble soon follows.


We're still working on that today-is-yesterday theory. Maybe we better explain. We planned to share both this and the ticket from the above post yesterday, but it's summer and our local beach is hopping and Saturday night we were at a party that didn't end until after sunrise, which pretty much wiped out Sunday for us, except for crawling to the aforementioned beach and sitting under a shady spot and oozing toxins until we were human again. But enough about us. Above you see a poster for 1981's roman porno production Mibōjin no shinshitsu, aka Widow's Bedroom, which we meant to share yesterday, on its premiere day. The movie deals with a smalltown inn proprietress whose husband has committed suicide, which is difficult enough to deal with, but whose situation is complicated by the arrival of two guests—a wheelchair bound novelist there to write a new book, and his beautiful nurse. The writer develops an obsession with the widow, the nurse likewise grows interested in a bit of same-sex fun, the widow's brother-in-law is determined to have her for himself, the dead husband reappears as a figment of the widow's imagination, and so on, in reliably complicated roman porno style, very much like the convoluted sentence we just wrote to describe the plot, and all in just about sixty minutes plus change—the movie, not the sentence. Mibōjin no shinshitsu stars Izumi Shima, who makes every one of those sixty-something minutes worthwhile. In order to make our writing worthwhile we've shared a rare promo image from the film below. Shima was one of Japan's top roman porno stars, and possibly the most beautiful, if one were inclined toward rankings. We've written about other movies of hers, which you can learn about by clicking here.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 25 2016
MISSPELLED
Hitchcock's epic thriller shows his directorial gifts but misses the mark.

This Italian poster for Io ti salverò, aka Spellbound is wonderful. The movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, isn't. The central plot device involves a man who may have blacked out committing a murder. That's a good place for a thriller to start, but the actual psychiatric science is approached clumsily, the love story is overwrought, and the orchestral musical score is omnipresent and overbearing. You have to wonder if composer Miklós Rozsa actually watched the film, because while Spellbound is big, his music is positively galactic. A re-edit with 60% of his output removed would make this one a much smoother ride. It's always a danger to criticize a classic film, we know, but not all classics are created equal. This one lives on Hitchcock's reputation, the overall technical execution, and a groundbreaking dream sequence designed by renowned artist Salvador Dalí. At the end of the dream a faceless man drops a wheel. Maybe it was a steering wheel, because despite all the money and star power poured into Spellbound, somehow it went down a middling road. It premiered in 1945 and reached Italy as Io ti salverò today in 1947.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 23 2016
BOXED IN
Machine gun Margaret strikes again.

In the tropical Republic of San Rosario four beautiful nurses—Margaret Markov, Rickey Richardson, Andrea Cagan, and Laurie Rose—are kidnapped and forced to teach the healing arts to a revolutionary army so it can bring medical care to villages it liberates. While one of the nurses begins to agree with the captors, the others just want to escape. But when they do, they are captured by an army leader and what they learn prompts them to escape back to the revolutionaries' jungle compound to warn them of an impending government attack.
 
Scripted by Jonathan Demme and produced in the sweaty Philippines by sexploitation specialists New World Pictures, The Hot Box features most of the elements you expect from jungle sleaze, with perhaps less skin than the standard. But there's plenty of leering, drooling, and general depravity, followed by punching, kicking, stabbing, and Margaret Markov going cyclical with a machine gun. By the way, we'd not note this ordinarily, but post-massacre we'll add that mowing down people with machine guns is fine for cinema, but all other applications are idiotic and tragic. 
 
There's a debate online about whether this is a women-in-prison film. People often get obtuse online—of course it's a women-in-prison film. The nurses don't spend three reels inside a bamboo cage being hosed down with river water, but they are twice held against their will and escape both times. Textbook stuff. Do we recommend the film? Not quite. But Markov is always worth the time. Amongst a slate of atrocious performers, she can almost act. Almost. The Hot Box premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.
 

 
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Vintage Pulp Jun 22 2016
TAKING A PEEK
French musical comedy looks at the follies, foibles and failures of a terminally chaotic burlesque production.


This beautiful and rare Japanese poster was made to promote the French burlesque comedy Ah! Les belles bacchantes, which was known in English by the titles Peek-a-Boo and Femmes de Paris. We managed to locate a copy and basically you get a musical about a local cop who decides to look into reports of sexual dancing at a local cabaret. The movie stars Louis de Funès as the cop, Colette Brosset as an aspiring dancer, and Les Bluebell Girls du Lido. The image on the poster features one of those Bluebell Girls personifying La nuit, or the Night, and as impressive as she looks on paper, you should see her in the movie. Other dancers portray the Sun, the Moon, and so forth. We'd go so far as to say that sequence alone was worth the time spent watching Ah! Les belles bacchantes. But is it actually a good movie? Sure—if you like ventriloquists, leopards, pratfalls, brawls, and sputtering doubletakes. In other words, it's very silly, and very likeable. It opened in France in 1954 and reached Japan yesterday in 1955.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 13 2016
YOU GOTTI BE KIDDING
Colleen Brennan headlines history's worst mafia flick.

These two promos were made for the Japanese premiere of Mafia Girls, aka Love, Lust, and Violence, a grindhouse production that starred porn actress Colleen Brennan working under the name Sara Bloom and remaining fully garbed until the last three minutes. How do we describe this one? Plotwise, a general and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff calls on a badass ex-soldier to take on the Chicago mafia, a motley crew that spends most hours of the day either watching live porno or getting blowjobs in a massage parlor. The movie is visually ambitious yet totally inept, which is a difficult combo to achieve, but director Norbert Meisel, a cast of b-grade co-stars, and several disinterested porno queens botch matters to such a degree that a comedic classic is the result. Imagine sweat, sideburns, semi-erect dicks, and pear-shaped bodies mixed with bad technical execution from acting to Z, and you'll have an idea what to expect. We cannot recommend this, but it provided some killer laughs. Mafia Girls premiered today in 1975, and its censored Japanese release occurred some years later.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 28
1945—Plane Hits Empire State Building
A B-25 bomber crashes into the north side of the Empire State Building, between the 79th and 80th floors. One engine plows entirely through the structure, lands on a nearby apartment building, and sparks a fire that destroys a penthouse. The other engine falls down an elevator shaft. Fourteen people are killed in the incident.
1965—Vietnam War Heats Up
U.S. president Lyndon Johnson commits a further 50,000 US troops to the conflict in Vietnam, increasing the military presence there to 125,000. Johnson says about the increase, "I do not find it easy to send the flower of our youth... into battle."
July 27
2003—Hope Dies
Film legend Bob Hope dies of pneumonia two months after celebrating his 100th birthday.
July 26
1945—Churchill Given the Sack
In spite of admiring Winston Churchill as a great wartime leader, Britons elect Clement Attlee the nation's new prime minister in a sweeping victory for the Labour Party over the Conservatives.
1952—Evita Peron Dies
Eva Duarte de Peron, aka Evita, wife of the president of the Argentine Republic, dies from cancer at age 33. Evita had brought the working classes into a position of political power never witnessed before, but was hated by the nation's powerful military class. She is lain to rest in Milan, Italy in a secret grave under a nun's name, but is eventually returned to Argentina for reburial beside her husband in 1974.

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