Scenes from a Roman marriage.
1960s and 1970s Italian poster art is consistently great. Even obscure pieces are beautiful. The above locandina style promo is for the drama Seduzione coniugale, which means “marital seduction,” and starred Gabrielle Tinti and Rosemarie Lindt in the story of spouses who hit a rough patch, resulting in the wife enjoying sexual extra- curriculars with a hairy young judo instructor, while the husband scores with the less hairy but more beautiful Gaia Germani. He pays dearly for his straying, though. In fact, you could say he hits another rough patch—at high speed and with irreversible consequences. Directed by Daniel Franco with an excess of style, and assisted by a dreamy title track that's a minor classic of the Italian sexploitation genre, the film is a curiosity but we can't really recommend much about it beyond Germani and the promo poster. It premiered in Italy today in 1974.
It's brain versus brawn in sunny Cuba.
Our favorite luchador Santo el Enmascarado de Plata has taken on monsters and men and beaten them all like your grandmother beats a dusty throw rug. In Santo contra cerebro del mal, or Santo Versus the Evil Brain, he takes on a man with a monstrous plan—a villain who wants to use a thoughtsucking machine to steal scientific secrets and sell them to international bidders. Needing Santo's brawn to pull this off, he kidnaps him, sucks him, and turns him into a dickbag. Don't worry, though—Santo is eventually located by his buddy El Incognito and, after a serious ass whipping administered with the utmost love, restored to his right mind. What a wonderful world it would be if all it took were a couple of suplexes and powerbombs to clear the evil out of people's brains. A single wrestler sent to the headquarters of every transnational bank could save the planet. This is the first Santo film, shot in Havana in 1961, the year of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and we have to say later entries are much better. But this one does have excellent exteriors shot around town, mainly in the suburbs, which look little different from Miami. The old part, with its baroque buildings and tight streets, was a little too logistically tricky for location work, we're guessing. Havanaphiles and fans of retro thoughtsucking machines, enjoy. All others, maybe take a pass. Santo contra cerebro del mal premiered in Mexico today in 1961.
Jesus. I'm schvitzing like a pig. Shoulda packed my summer mask.
These cholesterol readings are off the charts. What the hell does this guy eat?
Santo! Do something!
Hey, don't look at me. I'm thoughtsucked.
, Santo contra cerebro del mal
, Santo Versus the Evil Brain
, Joaquín Cordero
, Norma Suárez
, Enrique Zambrano
, lucha libre
, poster art
, movie review
John Payne goes to hell and back for loot and love.
The film we talked about Sunday, 1944’s Bermuda Mystery, was an island thriller in name only, but Hell’s Island actually works hard to create a Caribbean mood—though it was shot in Southern California. John Payne is hired to fly to the mythical island of Santo Rosario and retrieve a priceless ruby in the possession of his former girlfriend. The girlfriend, Mary Murphy, ran away to the island after jilting the hero to marry a rich islander. Payne arrives and finds that moneybags is imprisoned for life for murder, and Murphy now lives alone in a big mansion, pining for her incarcerated husband. But did he actually commit the crime?
Murphy wants Payne to help her husband escape, and Payne agrees because supposedly only the husband knows where the ruby is. This is all a pretty fertile set-up for a thriller, and while the filmmakers don’t get every element right, they end up with a passably engrossing final product. Some websites call Hell’s Island a film noir, which it is in terms of story elements, mood, and characterizations—but it’s shot in Technicolor, which for some may put it in another category visually. In the end, think of it as a passable vintage crime flick with a few twists and turns, a conveniently placed alligator pit, plenty of swanky menswear, lots of corpses, and one very elusive ruby. Hell’s Island opened today in 1955.
Any evil a man can do she can do worse.
This colorful poster was made for the Australian release of Deadlier Than the Male, known elsewhere in the world as Born To Kill. The movie stars Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney. We had seen Trevor in several roles over the years, including in Murder My Sweet, Johnny Angel, and 1948's Key Largo, but for some reason had never learned to appreciate her talent until seeing her here. Lawrence Tierney, who you may remember as Joe from Reservoir Dogs, is also excellent, if inordinately repellent (as required by his role). A cold-hearted woman meets her match in a brutal man, and the two become entwined in both a murder coverup and adultery. Money is the backdrop but it's jealousy that is the catalyst for every terrible event that occurs. Not a perfect movie, but very good, sprinkled with engaging secondary characters—including Walter Slezak as a sleazy detective—and Trevor knocks her bit out of the park. Deadlier Than the Male premiered as Born To Kill in the U.S. today in 1947.
The message is pretty clear—get on her bad side and you’ll regret it.
This beautiful and very rare promo poster was made to promote a Japanese film called Onna banchō nora-neko rokku. In the English speaking world its various distributors couldn't seem to settle for long on a title, and it was called variously Alleycat Rock: Female Boss, Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss, Female Juvenile Delinquent Leader: Alleycat Rock, and Wildcat Rock. It’s the first of five Alleycat Rock or Stray Cat Rock films, and revolves around Meiko Kaji’s girl gang’s unwitting influence over a fixed boxing match. The boxer is supposed to take a dive for a yakuza cartel but instead wins the fight in order to save face with Kaji and her hotties (two of the gang members are played by Bunjaku Han and charismatic pop star Akiko Wada, so we can understand the boxer’s change of heart). But unbeknownst to Kaji, it was her boyfriend who had convinced the yakuza the bout could be fixed in the first place, and now he’s in deep trouble. Wonderfully lensed like so many of these pinku movies, with the requisite grey Tokyo cityscapes, neon splashed nightclub locales, and shots featuring eight or ten characters meticulously packed into the same frame, Onna banchō nora-neko rokku is a nice all around effort. It premiered in Japan today in 1970.
, Onna banchō nora-neko rokku
, Alleycat Rock: Female Boss
, Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss
, Female Juvenile Delinquent Leader: Alleycat Rock
, Wildcat Rock
, Meiko Kaji
, Akiko Wada
, Bunjaku Han
, Ken Sanders
, pinky violence
, poster art
, movie review
The mystery happens on an island, alright. But the island is Manhattan.
We thought Bermuda Mystery would be an island adventure, a copycat To Have and Have Not, but not a single exterior scene takes place in Bermuda. The film is actually set in New York City. The mystery of the title refers to an offshore investment fund based in Bermuda and shared by six war vets. If any of the six die before the account comes to maturity the others split the extra, which in a modern storyteller's hands would be a recipe for a Tarantinoesque six-sided gun battle, but which in this film leads to the investors being bumped off one by one. Ann Rutherford plays the classic mid-century ditz role as the niece of the first victim who drags a private dick into the mystery to help her unmask the killer. Of course, romance eventually develops between ditz and dick, though he's engaged to another woman. “I told you I'd get him before this was over,” Rutherford says directly to the audience, winking. But it was obvious from the get-go. Marginally enjoyable if low budget. Bermuda Mystery premiered in the U.S. today in 1944.
Like Shakespeare wrote, what's past is prologue.
This unusual poster was made to promote the Spanish run of Retorno al pasado, a movie better known as Out of the Past. The title says it all. A man who thinks he's left his sordid past behind sees it rear its ugly head and threaten to ruin the good future he's planned for himself. Starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, and Kirk Douglas, this is one of the top noir thrillers, in our opinion. Certainly it's one of the most beautifully shot, thanks to director Jacques Tourneur and cinematographer Nicholas Mesuraca. Like the poster art by Macario Gomez, the film is richly textured and lushly black, which makes for a nice sense of gathering danger, especially in the pivotal fight sequence about forty minutes in. Plus it has the always compelling Mexico connection used by many excellent noirs, as well as nice location shooting around Lake Tahoe and Reno. Highly recommended, this one. After opening in the U.S. in November 1947 it had its Spanish premiere in Madrid today in 1948.
, Lake Tahoe
, Retorno al pasado
, Out of the Past
, Robert Mitchum
, Jane Greer
, Kirk Douglas
, Rhonda Fleming
, Jacques Tourneur
, Nicholas Mesuraca
, Macario Gomez
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
Nobody gets out of here alive.
We wrote about Spanish director Jesus Franco not long ago. Sort of. When we noticed another premiere date approaching for one of his films we thought we'd check it out. El reformatorio de las perdidas, originally titled Frauengefängnis, and called Barbed Wire Dolls in the U.S., is a nearly plotless exercise in sadism featuring Lina Ronay, Monica Swinn, and other overheated female convicts dealing with predatory guards and an evil wardeness. There's an escape, as usual in these Franco films, and as usual it fails. That's giving nothing away because the escape isn't the point—the nudity and sex are. Last time we discussed Franco we made a joke of it without really talking about the quality of his films. So here's the deal—they range from the arty to the ridiculous to the outright terrible. This one falls unambiguously into the latter category. That is all. Hey, but you gotta love that Spanish poster. Frauengefängnis premiered in West Germany today in 1976, and hit Spain and other countries in 1977. Spain
, West Germany
, El reformatorio de las perdidas
, Barbed Wire Dolls
, Jesus Franco
, Jess Franco
, Lina Romay
, Monica Swinn
, poster art
, movie review
There isn't much chasing in The Great Chase but the movie is definitely great.
Norifumi Suzuki's Karei-naru tsuiseki, aka The Great Chase is fast, funny, and bizarre entertainment. Etsuko Shihomi plays a Formula 1 driver who also works for the Japanese secret service, in this case taking down an international drug syndicate. Shihomi was already a star in Japanese cinema from her supporting roles in Sonny Chiba's Streetfighter and its spin-offs. Karei-naru tsuiseki sees her honing her solo chops—literally, as she karates the shit out of dozens of guys. But you get so much more than fistfights here—you get Shihomi in disguises, a corpse filled with cocaine, a girl in armor being force fed a banana, a nun brawl in a church, a mob boss dressed as a bear, a fight on what has to be the world's highest cable car, and more. Pure cheese, but of the most flavorful sort, and with a top notch promo poster featuring Shihomi in a discolicious polka dot two-piece. We have posters for five other Shihomi actioners and she looks badass on all of them. We'll share those in the future. Karei-naru tsuiseki premiered today in 1975.
, Toei Company
, Karei-naru tsuiseki
, The Great Chase
, Etsuko Shihomi
, Norifumi Suzuki
, Sonny Chiba
, Shin’ichi Chiba
, poster art
, movie review
But I only want to kill my stepmom and take her money. What’s the big deal?
First things first—this poster was painted by Nicola Simbari, yet another genius from the ranks of Italian illustrators, someone who today is thought of as one of Italy’s most important modern artists and has pieces hanging in museums all over the world. He painted the above masterpiece for the Howard Hughes produced Seduzione mortale, known in the U.S. as Angel Face. It's the story of a man who tries to trade up to a richer, flashier girlfriend and ends up entangled in a murder plot. Robert Mitchum stars as the fickle hero, Jean Simmons co-stars as the femme fatale, Mona Freeman is the loyal girlfriend, and Jim Backus—aka Mr. Howell from Gilligan’s Island—is a tough district attorney.
This one is worth watching for the cringe-inducing central killing alone, which ranks top five in the annals of film noir for sheer brutality. Mitchum is good as always, Simmons less so due to her occasional tendency to act! rather than act, but that’s a minor issue. The movie works. It's well scripted by a trio of writers with an assist from Ben Hecht, and nicely directed by Otto Preminger. Best line in the film: “Is rigging a car like he says a very complicated thing? Or could anyone do it? Even a woman?” Ah yes, film noir—sexy and sexist. But there’s a real lesson there—never teach a femme fatale how a car’s transmission works. You’ll regret it.
Angel Face opened in the U.S. in late 1952 and premiered, according to all the sources we checked, in Italy today in 1953. But the poster at top advertises a premiere at a Rome cinema called the Fiamma on 6 May, 1953. Which date is right? Possibly both. April 18, 1953 was a Saturday, which would be a typical day for a film’s run to commence. May 6 was a Wednesday—not typical for launching a wide release. We suspect the poster was made for a special engagement, probably one night only. But we’re only guessing. We may have to slot this question in the unanswered file. There are only so many things you can figure out from a computer terminal after all. We have another poster below, plus two nice promos.
, Seduzione mortale
, Angel Face
, Robert Mitchum
, Jean Simmons
, Jim Backus
, Otto Preminger
, Howard Hughes
, Nicola Simbari
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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