Vintage Pulp Jan 20 2017
CROSSED UP
Bank heist goes every which way except the right way.

This year's Noir City Film Festival opens with the 1949 heist drama Criss Cross. Based on a bestselling novel of the same name by Don Tracy, it's the story of man played by Burt Lancaster who returns to Los Angeles after some years away to find that his ex-wife Yvonne De Carlo has hooked up with a local gangster. The exes rekindle their flame, but when it looks as if the gangster has caught them in the act Lancaster spontaneously cooks up a story about how he was putting together a plan to rob the armored car service for which he works.

Lancaster's robbery idea is not only designed to deflect the gangster's suspicion away from the affair, but to also fund the future he envisions with De Carlo when she and him run away. This scheme, which strains credulity, is probably one of the most obviously terrible ideas in the long, celebrated history of doomed ideas in film noir, but with good direction by Robert Siodmak, who had worked with Lancaster on The Killers, and good acting by all involved, the film concludes on the positive side of the effectiveness ledger. Numerous excellent Los Angeles exteriors, including at Union Station and on now mostly leveled Bunker Hill, make this noir an important time capsule as well, an aspect that increases its appeal. And an excellent musical number by Esy Morales & His Rhumba Band gives the proceedings a further boost. All in all, Criss Cross is a winner.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 17 2017
ACTION JACKSON
Jeanne Bell karate chops her way across Hong Kong.

T.N.T. Jackson, for which you see the U.S. promo poster above, is a mid-budget blaxploitation flick built around clumsy martial arts, a flimsy plot, and shoddy acting. But it has Jeanne Bell. Playboy magazine had made Bell a centerfold in 1969. From there she launched a movie career, with T.N.T. Jackson coming ninth in her filmography. She plays Diana “T.N.T.” Jackson, who learns that her brother was killed by Hong Kong drug dealers and seeks payback. While the plot is nothing special, Bell certainly is. She was twenty-five and wore a bouffant hair-do when she first appeared in Playboy; in T.N.T. she was thirty and had blossomed into an unforgettable beauty with a frosted afro, kicking and chopping her way across the movie screen. All the fight scenes are hilarious, with their cut-rate choreography and claw-handed posing, but they're fun to watch, especially the one in which she kicks the shit out of a bunch of guys while wearing only panties. That bit seems to us a clear homage to Reiko Ike's totally nude fight in 1973's Sex & Fury, another movie that surpasses its limitations by piling on style and attitude. Is T.N.T. Jackson actually good? No—but we bet it'll make you smile. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1974.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 10 2017
GAME OF BONERS
It's not like any circus you've ever seen.

The Hottest Show in Town was originally released in Sweden in 1974 as Sex-Cirkusse, and just as promised by the Japanese poster art above, you get a circus, a hot one, populated by assorted acrobats, aerialists, and clowns, some nude, some not. You also see people hook up, explicitly, which is really the entire point of this production. These bits earned the film an x rating, as well as some controversy caused by a sex sequence involving a very small man and a very small woman—aka dwarves. This isn't particularly shocking today. Or is it? Certainly dwarves are more mainstream now. Game of Thrones even features the horniest little person in entertainment history, so we're guessing Sex-Cirkusse's dwarf sex won't bother you. We could be wrong. But dwarves, clowns, and aerialists are all a sideshow. The real star of the movie is the lovely Danish actress Anna Bie Warburg, seen below in her bushy altogether, a bold image we couldn't resist sharing. We guess the general thrust of the film is that all the world's a circus and all its denizens merely players. Really horny ones. The Hottest Show in Town premiered in Japan today in 1976.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 5 2017
IVY LEAGUE
Murder comes a-creeping.

A little something from Argentina today, a poster for Abismos, which was originally released in the U.S. in 1947 as Ivy. Most sources list the movie as a film noir, but it's also an Edwardian costume drama, which is a detail you'll want to know going in. Basically, what you get here is a woman in a love triangle whose husband dies under suspicious circumstances, prompting a police investigation of her lover. Joan Fontaine plays the eponymous lead character and does a bang-up job, which is no surprise for such an acclaimed performer. Her Ivy is nervous, elusive, and frustratingly indecisive—or is she? Strong noir elements accumulate as the movie progresses and the ending is a classic exclamation point. Well worth the time spent.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 4 2017
DOLLS IN DANGER
Treat your toys with care or they might break out.

Above is an Italian poster for the American financed, Philippine shot sexploitation actioner The Big Doll House, which starred Roberta Collins, Brooke Mills, Pat Woodell, Pam Grier, and Judy Brown. This wasn't the first women in prison movie—those had been appearing for decades—but it was the one that got the ’70s prison sexploitation ball rolling in the U.S. It offers a full slate of whippings, waterboardings, overheated isolation, and bizarre snake tortures, orchestrated by the evil wardeness Christiane Schmidtmer. Collins leads the beautiful convicts' eventual escape from bondage and hers is the most memorable character in the ensemble, though all the personalities are interesting. Don't get us wrong—the acting is of course atrocious, and the production values aren't high, but that didn't bother us and it didn't bother American audiences either. They made the movie a hit and the women-in-prison conveyor belt quickly cranked out other Filipino bondage productions like Women in Cages, The Hot Box, The Woman Hunt, The Big Bird Cage, and many others. The Big Doll House wasn't the best of the lot, by any stretch, but hey—being a trailblazer matters. We think it's worth a viewing.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 25 2016
DOWN ON THE CORNERED
Revenge is never as uncomplicated it sounds.

A post on Christmas? Don't we ever quit? Well, we wrote some in advance and are allowing our Pulpbot to do the posting. We're actually on a tropical island with the Pulp Intl. girlfriends and have been for several days. But if we were watching the 1945 film noir Cornered it would not be a terrible misuse of time by any means. The movie deals with a war vet seeking revenge for the death of his wife, a member of the French resistance who was killed by French collaborators. While stalking them from Europe to South America he finds himself involved in a hunt for an entire cabal of traitors still up to their scheming ways. Motivations are murky all around, but the hero is hellbent on revenge—even if it upsets the delicate plans of a group of Nazi hunters. Good solid film noir, with good solid Dick Powell in the lead. The movie is set in France and Argentina but the production never left unexotic Culver City, California. Still works, though. Cornered premiered in the U.S. today in 1945. 

This is going to be the most awesome revenge ever.
 
What the fuck have I gotten myself into?
 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 24 2016
FLESH TONES
You can't keep a good girl down.

This dramatic poster was made for Nikutai no mon, aka Gate of Flesh, a movie based on a 1947 novel by Japanese author Taijirô Tamura. The book has been filmed five times. The most famous version was made in 1968 with Jo Shishido and Yumiko Nogawa earning acclaim for their lead roles in what was a serious and artistic film, but the above promo is for the 1977 roman porno version starring Reiko Kayama, Izumi Shima, and Junko Miyahsita. Needless to say, the two films diverge rather sharply. However, we need to point out, as we do periodically, that roman porno isn't porno—it's softcore. The “roman” in roman porno is short for “romantic,” and though the movies aren't typically romantic in the normal sense, they aren't explicit. Such depictions were illegal in Japan back then, and remain so today (though filmmakers use pixilation of sexual organs to skirt the law).

When the novel Nikutai no mon appeared in 1947 a different censorship regime existed called the Civil Censorship Detachment, which was under the authority of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, aka Douglas MacArthur. Under SCAP CCD censorship, explicit accounts of fraternization between Japanese and whites were forbidden, as were detailed accounts of the atomic bombings, or anything that could generate distrust toward the American occupiers. Most Japanese authors obeyed. A few wrote obliquely about the forbidden subjects. And a very few broke the rules entirely to describe war horrors—e.g. flashburned nuclear victims walking naked and blind amongst the ruins, their hairless bodies so swollen their sex could not be determined. Tamura's novel falls in the middle. It tells the story of a group of Japanese women trying to survive in the rubble of Tokyo via prostitution.
 
Where the 1968 movie stuck pretty close to Tamura's fiction, the roman porno focuses more on the sexploitation angle, though it keeps the action set in 1947. A criminal syndicate known as Black Rose provides Japanese girls as prostitutes to the American military, and any who resist the various examinations, training, and indignities are punished with torture and death. When Reiko Kayama arrives on the scene, she eventually inspires the others to follow her as she leads a revolt against her enslavers. You get sex, girlfights, killings, and blood. If you're looking for standard roman porno fare—with perhaps a bit more visual piazazz than usual thanks to director Shôgorô Nishimura and cinematographer Yoshihiro Yamazaki—you've picked the right film. Nikutai no mon premiered in Japan today in 1977.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 21 2016
JUST DESERT
Food and water may sustain a man, but it's revenge that really fills the belly.

In Inferno, a boorish millionaire played by Robert Ryan breaks his leg falling off a horse during a desert vacation and is left to die by his two-timing wife and her boy toy. While the lovers cover their tracks and try to confuse the police and search parties, Ryan has to figure out a way to escape the desert. We were surprised a movie like this was made back in 1953. There have been a lot of nature horror and survival thrillers in recent years and we had no idea the genre had roots so far back. The movie is solid, though we thought Robert Ryan's voiceover was often unneeded—maybe he should have had a volleyball to talk to like Tom Hanks in Castaway. But it's a minor issue. We gather that this had a 3-D release, which of course we didn't see, but it's obvious, especially during a truly tremendous fight scene where assorted and sundry items fly at the camera. But even watching in two dimensions you still get a nice piece of entertainment, shot in crisp Technicolor, well-paced and acted, as the desert provides assorted challenges and Ryan must come up with the needed answers or die. Inferno premiered in the U.S. today in 1953.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 15 2016
LE JAZZ HOT
Newman and Poitier show Paris how to sizzle.


Remember last week we said you should watch the movie Paris Blues? We took our own advice. Above is a nice poster promoting the film's run in West Germany, which began today in 1961. The movie features a couple of jazz horn players portrayed by Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier who are having a grand time in Paris playing the clubs and escaping the political unrest in the U.S. Both meet American women, and both fall in love. Poitier's girlfriend Diahann Carroll is deeply concerned with civil rights and goes about convincing Poitier that he's running away from his responsibility to make America better. Pretty soon he feels heavily pressured to go back, even though it means giving up his wonderful life for hatred and turmoil.

Okay. Forgive us. Here's the thing. As foreigners abroad we think this is utter horseshit. We feel no particular allegiance to our birth country, and it's only fair, because the people who really matter feel no allegiance to it either. If they did, then how could captains of industry ship millions of jobs overseas, people who have enough money to live fifty lifetimes constantly dodge taxes, and corporations suck public money out of the federal government until it can't pay for schools and roads? They obviously don't care, so why should we? And why should Sidney Poitier's character care? We don't think an actual man in his situation—especially an African American man who's escaped rampant racism—would let anyone make this an issue for him, not even Diahann Carroll, who's sweet looking, yes, but certainly nothing unique in Paris.
 
But it's in the script, so Carroll's constant harping on this provokes an inner crisis and Poitier frets and wonders if it's right to live an idyllic life playing jazz music in Paris while his brethren are suffering. Will he go back? Only a viewing of the film will reveal the answer. We'll encourage you to watch it by adding that on the way to his big decision you'll get cool Parisian scenery, lots of scenes in nightclubs, a jazz cameo or two, and an equally complex love story between real-life spouses Newman and Joanne Woodward. While Poitier and Newman aren't actual jazz musicians, their pantomimic musical sequences mostly work, and the movie is fun, exotic, and insouciant most of the way through. Just try not to fall for the Hollywood social engineering that suggests any life outside the U.S. is one filled with the blues.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 14 2016
COFFY WITH GRIT
It's strong and bold and might be just the wake-up you need.

Coffy is not a movie we planned to write about, due to the fact that it's been covered by so many websites. But then we came across this French poster made for its release in Paris today in 1973—where it was called Coffy: la panthère noire de Harlem—and we changed our minds. The movie possibly falls into the category of those everyone has heard about but few have seen, so we gave it a run for the first time in some years. The story is straightforward—a teen girl is in the hospital suffering from the effects of an overdose, and her sister, played by Pam Grier, goes looking for revenge. She kills the dealer who sold heroin to her sister, but soon learns there's another dealer behind that one, and so forth. In a world that's corrupt to the core, revenge is a maze where the center is impossibly difficult to find.

Coffy isn't well acted, but those who go in expecting Oscar worthy performances are setting up false standards. Blaxploitation was about telling stories from a new point of view, one lacking in American cinema. Trying to round out a black cast, as well as find compelling black leads, meant taking chances and bringing novice performers into the fold. The message is what mattered in these movies, and the message was that something was seriously wrong in America. Those who paid attention learned one of the most basic lessons anyone can learn—your reality is just one of many. Other people live entirely different lives governed by different, equally valid truths. Mainstream Americans who understood this concept learned plenty from blaxploitation. Those who denied this most simple of life's facts learned nothing—and are the same people who today look at what happens in America's inner cities with bafflement or scathing contempt.

Coffy was really an envelope pushing film. We'll just highlight one scene to make that point. Pam Grier's title character has sex with her boyfriend then heads toward the bathroom. On the way there, but off-camera, we hear her say, “Oops! Oh, you shouldn't have made me laugh.” What do you supposed happened? Here's a hint—it involves spillage, and not from a glass. It may well have been the first movie ever to hint at post-coital drainage. Later it does another off-camera bit with oral sex when Grier pours wine in her boyfriend's lap and proceeds to clean it up. Coffy may not have been well acted, but it had moments of earthy realism that were almost microscopic in focus. You also get plenty of action and a fierce, single-minded heroine you can root for. Coffy opened in France today in 1973. Check out a rare U.S. promo poster for it here.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
January 21
1950—Alger Hiss Is Convicted of Perjury
American lawyer Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury in connection with an investigation by the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), at which he was questioned about being a Soviet spy. Hiss served forty-four months in prison. Hiss maintained his innocence and fought his perjury conviction until his death in 1996 at age 92.
1977—Carter Pardons War Fugitives
U.S. President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all of the country's Vietnam War draft evaders, many of whom had emigrated to Canada. He had made the pardon pledge during his election campaign, and he fulfilled his promise the day after he took office.
January 19
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
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