Vintage Pulp Aug 30 2016
THE FAST AND THE FURIA
Sarli does sexploitation with a South American flair.


Isabel Sarli was a gigantic sex symbol in her home country of Argentina, and throughout Latin America as well, renowned for her boobs and smoldering ferocity. Furia infernal showcases both to great effect. She plays a dancer coveted by a rich pervert, who promptly kills her husband and kidnaps her to some snowswept mountainous retreat where sheep bleat continuously and everyone wears chaps and stubble. This all happens pretty quickly—within the first eight minutes of running time. After all, why delay when what everyone wants to see is how Sarli will use wits and tits to escape imprisonment? Both come in handy, and eventually Sarli's oily tormentor, his rugged but stupid sons, assorted henchmen and a sheep or two are deservedly dispatched. Sarli, as was her trademark, squeezes a few masturbatory nude frolics into all this melodrama, including one in a bath and another in a meadow. She was a throwback star. In an era when actresses were getting ever thinner she looked as if she could have used Marilyn Monroe as a toothpick. Her director and husband Armando Bo thought she looked best in nature, and he was right—she was as lush and dark as an old growth forest. We won't say Furia infernal is good, but Sarli certainly is. The movie premiered in Argentina today in 1973.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 21 2016
TAKING A SEAT
Tate gives chase in an international fortune hunting comedy about a missing chair.


In ¿Las cual de 13?, aka 12 + 1, aka Twelve Plus One, an Italian barber played by Vittorio Gassman inherits thirteen chairs and, deeming them useless, sells them to a London antique shop. He later discovers one of the chairs contains a fortune, but when he returns to the shop he's told they've all been sold. So he offers the antique shop employee Sharon Tate half of the fortune to help him track down the chairs, which of course have scattered to the four winds. Their search takes them to Paris, Rome, and beyond, in 1960s screwball fashion with its expected pratfalls, mix-ups, and sticky situations. Gassman and Tate do reasonable jobs with the goofy script that's been made of Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov's satirical source novel, and the film is boosted by appearances from Vittorio De Sica, Mylène Demongeot, Terry-Thomas, and Orson Welles. This was an Italian production, but the poster above was painted for the film's Spanish run by Carlos Escobar, who signed his work “Esc.” This is the best we've ever seen from a very good artist. Since the movie didn't premiere in Italy until after Tate had been slain this month in 1969, and didn't reach Spain until mid-1970, the poster very likely was painted post-murder, which means Escobar probably was thinking of how to best portray someone who'd become a tragic figure. We suspect he put special effort into his work as a tribute, and if so, a fitting tribute it was.

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Modern Pulp Aug 6 2016
BAD KITTY
Russ Meyer's tale of killer cats from Southern California is absurd but entertaining.


Though the text is in English, this promo for Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was made for a 1994 re-release in Japan. You can see that the flipside at right is partially in Japanese. Faster Pussycat is one of those movies—everyone has heard of it, but fewer than you'd suspect have actually seen it.
 
So what's the deal? Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams drag race, wisecrack, and roughhouse their way around Southern California. But because they're bad tempered and sociopathic, they eventually kill a guy, which then requires abducting the only witness, and in turn leads to a scheme to cheat a wheelchair bound old man out of his disablement stash. It's an uneasy alliance between these three kittens, destined for implosion, an inevitability helped along by Satana's unending torrents of shouty abuse.
 
You really have to hand it to Meyer—what he did, he did really well. Faster Pussycat is a completely overdone tale of reckless youth and the lawless west, but ripping around the Mojave Desert with these girls is consistently fun. The type of moral decay and geographical desolation showcased here is one American film's time-honored motifs. Meyer's entry in the genre holds up pretty well. The movie originally premiered today in 1965.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 5 2016
STRANGENESS ON A TRAIN
Someone in the sleeping compartment isn't going to wake up.


Film noir teaches us that anyone can get in too deep, even a railroad engineer. In Human Desire, Fritz Lang's retelling of Emile Zola's 1890 novel La Bête humaine, Glenn Ford finds himself trapped between lust for Gloria Grahame and reluctance to kill to have her. He's already helped her cover up another killing and gotten in the middle of blackmail plot, but every man has his limits. This is flawed but canonical noir, with a cocky Ford, a quirky Grahame, a brutish Broderick Crawford, and Kathleen Case playing the loyal gal pal, who for our money is much more alluring than Grahame. Ford figures that out too, eventually. Too bad his realization is sandwiched between two murders on his train. Human Desire premiered today in 1954.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 3 2016
THREE THE HARD WAY
Hong Kong kidnappers have problems mastering possession, and so do the filmmakers.


If Tarantino likes it, it must be tops. At least that's the assumption some would make upon learning that 1976's Ebony, Ivory & Jade has Tarantino's stamp of approval. Well, despite the endorsement and status as a minor classic of the blaxploitation genre, the film isn't great. It has some highlights, including confidently staged action sequences and camerawork that does seem to have influenced Tarantino. But its failings are legion—bad script, wooden acting, and heavy duty crushed black levels that make the actors almost impossible to see in the night sequences. We'll give a pass on that last problem, because it could have happened during the video or DVD transfer.

We'll admit though, this flick is damned funny in parts—unintentionally so, foremost the character Stacy's beatdown of a bad guy who morphs into a dummy at the moment she hoists him overhead and helicopter spins him through a room divider. The basic idea of the film is also appealing—Hong Kong bad guys kidnap five female track stars for ransom, unaware that two of them happen to be martial arts experts that will cause no end of trouble once they untie themselves. Playboy playmate Rosanne Katon in the lead role is also a plus. But as blaxploitation, even a discernibly elevated budget doesn't lift the film above other entries in the genre.

As a side note, the above promo poster should help put to rest any idea that apostrophe illiteracy has something to do with modern education or the internet or whatever. It has always been a problem, and we see it all the time in old American tabloids. This particular failure to master the possessive form is pretty egregious, though. Yes, it's attached to a movie shot in the Philippines, but the error made it all the way through a phalanx of American writers, designers, pre-press workers, printers, and producers working in the U.S. of A. at—or at least for—Lawrence Woolner's Dimension Pictures. Pretty bad. Though as we've noted in the past, sometimes apostrophe placement can be legitimately tricky.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 31 2016
ORIGINAL SIN
Secrets are meant to come out.


The poster sucked us into this one. The posters always do that. Una mujer sin amor isn't a thriller or noir. It's straight drama about a woman who cheats on her husband, plans to leave him, but due to various circumstances changes her mind and spends the next twenty some years with him. When her old lover dies and leaves his fortune to her younger child it triggers suspicions on the part of the older sibling that his brother is the product of infidelity. This matters because both brothers are in love with the same woman and the older one has no qualms about using this information to his advantage. Sound like your cup of tea? The good news is that you'll now be able to say you've seen a movie by Luis Buñuel, something every film buff ought to be able to say they've done. The bad news? Buñuel himself said this was his worst movie. Love that poster though. Una mujer sin amor premiered in Mexico today in 1952.

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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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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 30
1918—Lenin Shot
Russian political revolutionary Fanny Kaplan shoots Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, wounding him in the shoulder and jaw. Lenin survives, she doesn't—she's executed three days later.
1963—Washington-Moscow Hotline Established
A hotline between U.S. and Soviet leaders, known as the Washington-Moscow hotline or Red Telephone, goes into operation. It linked the White House to the Kremlin at the height of the Cold War, and presumably still does today.
2006—Glenn Ford Dies
Canadian actor Glenn Ford, who starred in some of the best films ever made, including Gilda, The Big Heat, and the original 3:10 to Yuma, dies in his home in Beverly Hills, USA. He was still in love with Rita Hayworth, his one-time co-star who had died years earlier. Reputedly, his last words were, "You don't keep Rita Hayworth waiting."
August 29
1949—Soviet Union Joins Nuclear Club
The Soviet Union detonates a nuclear weapon at a test site in Kazakhstan. American experts are shocked and dismayed because they had thought the Soviets were still years away from having a workable bomb. The resultant fear helps trigger an arms race that would see the Americans and Soviets stockpile approximately 32,000 and 45,000 nuclear devices.
August 28
1963—King Gives Famous Speech
In the U.S., Martin Luther King, Jr., at the culmination of his march on Washington for jobs and freedom, gives his famous "I Have a Dream Speech," advocating racial harmony and equality.
1981—Scientists Announce Existence of New Disease
The National Centers for Disease Control announce a high incidence of pneumocystis and Kaposi's sarcoma in gay men. These illnesses are later recognized as symptoms of a blood-borne immune disorder, which they name AIDS. The disease is initially thought to have developed in the late 1970s among gay populations, but scientists now know it developed in the late 1800s or early 1900s in Africa during the height of European conquest of the continent.

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