Vintage Pulp Oct 31 2014
HELL AND BACK
Amid medieval Japan’s manners and restraint, how can a person tell the difference between love, honor, and duty?


Above is a poster for Teinosuke Kinugasa’s masterwork samurai drama Jigokumon, which was known in English as Gate of Hell. It was the first Japanese film shot in color, via the process Eastmancolor, which was a leap beyond three-strip Technicolor, and one that makes Jigokumon blaze like a supernova. The story, from a play by Kan Kikuchi, concerns a Heian-era samurai named Moritoh whose bravery during a battle is rewarded by his lord granting him anything he desires. What he desires is the Lady Kesa. Problem is she’s married to another samurai. The lord mistakenly grants Moritoh’s wish, which is soon revealed to be impossible, but Moritoh resolves to have Kesa anyway, by any means necessary—trickery, bribery, even all-out murder. What develops is not just a thriller about entitlement and lust, but a meditation on honor, love and, especially, social strictures.

Jigokumon was a sensation. A hit in Japan, it was a revelation to foreign audiences. It took home the Palme d’Or from the 1954 Cannes Film Festival, a 1955 special Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, an Oscar for Best Costume Design in a color film, and more prestigious nods. Along with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Kimisaburo Yoshimura’s Genji Monogatari, Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu Monogatari, and other films from the early 1950s, it marked the emergence of Japanese cinema onto the international scene. We’ve posted a large group of screen grabs below—perhaps overkill, considering how many—but the film just looks so damn good and the shots are so spectacular that we couldn’t help ourselves. Jigokumon premiered in Japan today in 1953.


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Vintage Pulp Oct 24 2014
MANINA AT SEVENTEEN
A young Bardot perfects her precocious style in Manina, la fille san voiles.

Brigitte Bardot took a while, like Marilyn Monroe, to morph into a bleached blonde, internationally famous sex symbol. The Girl in the Bikini, aka Manina, la fille sans voiles, presents a chance to see her just as she had begun to embark on that road. It was her second film and it opened when she was eighteen, but was shot while she was seventeen. The U.S. poster above doesn’t offer much in the way of style, but the film is another matter entirely.

Bardot plays a lighthouse keeper’s daughter who meets two men determined to find a treasure myth says was lost at sea after the Peloponnesian War. She appears about halfway through the film, sun spangled and filled with energy, frolicking on a rocky shore while almost—but never quite—losing her bikini. One of the treasure huntersmakes time for romance, while the other schemes to steal the loot. Bardot seems oblivious to the effect she has on men, and this innocent sexiness would be a style she’d hone to razor sharpness in later movies. It’s high on style and light on substance (and acting ability), ultimately quite watchable (and in true egalitarian French fashion, the guys also spend much of the movie barely clothed).
 
Just above you see two production stills, one of which was the basis for the American poster, followed by a very famous promo photo from the film showing a nude Bardot at the seaside. And below we have a few more posters—first, the original French promo by Guy Ferard Noël, followed by an alternate version by Clément Hurel. Below those are two more, including a French-language Belgian poster. Manina, la fille sans voiles premiered in France in December 1952, and in the U.S. today in 1958.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 19 2014
ZONED OUT
She’s dreaming of the day when she gets to change out of that ridiculously uncomfortable outfit.


Above, an alternate promo for Yoru no saizensen: Tôkyô onna chizu, aka Secret Zone of Tokyo. This one is nice, but the previous version is one of the coolest Japanese posters we’ve seen.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 15 2014
MASTERFUL KEY
Glass Key paperback art is tops thanks to another Italian master.

Brian Donlevy and Veronica Lake’s film noir The Glass Key, which was Hollywood’s second try at Dashiell Hammett’s novel, premiered this month in 1942. To be exact, it opened yesterday in New York City and throughout the U.S. on October 23. The poster most often seen online is the theatrical release version we showed you several years ago, but alternates were produced and two of them appear below. What we really wanted to share, though, is this great paperback cover from UK-based Digit Books. It’s from 1961 and features the art of Italian illustrator Enrico de Seta, who we’ve mentioned before. If you haven’t watched The Glass Key we recommend it, and if you haven’t read the book, just know that it was Hammett’s personal favorite. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 1 2014
INTIMATE PORTRAIT
Naomi Tani gets roped into a weird situation.


Above is a poster for Genso fujin ezu, aka Fascination: Portrait of a Lady, aka Fantasy Portrait of a Wife, one of many S&M movies starring Naomi Tani, aka the Queen of Pink. In this one Tani plays Hisako, a bored housewife married to a conservative art professor. Hisako is beset by bizarre sexual daydreams, including one of being captured like a stray dog and stuck in a cage. Her frustrations soon center on Tachiki, a visionary art student her husband has expelled from school for being too modernist. Hisako and Tachiki soon begin meeting, and Tachiki introduces Hisako to a world of bondage and other dubious delights. The husband doesn’treally understand the extent of his wife’s straying until she doesn’t come home one night. Not entirely her fault, though, as she’s tied up in Tachiki’s flat. In the morning Tachiki is inspired by lingering rope impressions on Hisako’s flesh to attempt something more permanent—he tattoos her entire body with a rope design. Hisako’s husband, you can be sure, is going to be pissed.

That’s all we’ll say about the plot of Genso fujin ezu. The idea of a person’s transformation taking on psychic then physical dimensions is pretty clear, but daydreams of domination and humiliation just don’t resonate for us. Bondage and rope arts occupy an important place in Japanese culture, so maybe that’s simply the default direction for bored cinema wives, the same way American movies from the period often featured women taking a walk on the wild side with hot-rodders or counterculture types. That’s our best guess, anyway. Oniroku Dan is the mind behind the literary genre that birthed these films, and if we’d read any of his books we’d have a better idea exactly why Hisako veers into S&M, but failing that we’ll just take the movie on its own merits. Genso fujin ezu premiered today in 1977.


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Vintage Pulp Sep 29 2014
ESOTIK DANCE
It’s exotic, erotic, and psychotic—but is it good?


When Radley Metzger’s softcore movie The Lickerish Quartet was released overseas, its Italian distributors rightly decided that was a stupidish title for a movie and changed it to Esotika Erotika Psicotika. Unfortunately, Esotika Erotika Psicotika sounds glossier and more sophisticated than what you ultimately receive here. What you get is a rich, jaded couple and their surly son who watch 16-millimeter porno loops in their castle for thrills. One night they go out and encounter a motorcycle stunt rider who resembles a woman in one of the loops. They invite her back for what they hope will be a night of debauchery, but which turns out to be less conventional fuck than extended mindfuck. It quickly becomes apparent why the movie opened with a Luigi Pirandello quote pondering the nature of reality, as time and space soon become malleable, leading toward an ending that questions the truth of everything that came before.

The movie received good reviews when released, but we suspect much of that owes to its novelty and Metzger’s previous successes with Camille 2000 and The Dirty Girls. In other words, it hasn’t aged well. It’s like that summer you wore an orange shirt and your friends lauded you for experimenting with your wardrobe, but later you saw a photo of that night and realized you looked like a traffic cone with shoes. Like that shirt, this movie was a bold experiment that made sense at the time but seems a bit silly now. On the plus side, it’s shot on location at Balsorano Castle in L’Aquila, Italy, so at least the audience was able to indulge its fantasies of running away to Abruzzo. Esotika Erotika Psicotika, with Silvana Venturelli, Erika Remberg, and others, premiered in Italy today in 1972. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 24 2014
RIGHT NUMBER
Sommer isn’t over quite yet.

In June we shared a Japanese poster for Elke Sommer’s 1966 comedy Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number and talked about the movie a bit. Today we have an even better Italian promo for the same film. In Italy it was succinctly retitled Un bikini per Didi, and the art is by yet another Italian talent, this time Tino Avelli, who we haven’t featured before. Another version of the poster appears below, and we’ll have more from Avelli later.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 22 2014
HARM SCHOOL
One wrong answer and you’re done.

Sachi Hamano’s pinku flick Bankaku joshikökösei no sex to böryoku no jittai was retitled for its English language release True Story of Sex and Violence in a Female High School. If you’d like to experience a bit of digital age paranoia, think about inputting that online as a search term knowing that various entities are saving your browsing data forever. Luckily, we’ve done the work for you, and though we haven’t managed to find a copy of the movie, we know it involves Hitomi Kozue earning her way into her local high school’s female gang, which is led by Naomi Oka, and later realizing that the two were already linked by a terrible event in Oka’s past. In addition to the two main stars you get Meika Sera, Noriko Igarashi, and Hidetoshi Kageyama. If we ever find a copy of this we’ll screen it and report back. In the meantime, enjoy a previously unseen promo shot of Hitomi Kozue, below. Bankaku joshikökösei no sex to böryoku no jittai premiered in Japan today in 1973.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 21 2014
OF RICE AND MEN
We gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing we ever do.


This great poster was painted by Italian illustrator Dante Manno to promote Riso Amaro, aka Bitter Rice, one of the neorealist movies that came out of Italy during the post-World War II period. If you watch the movie you’ll find that some elements aren't very “real,” but remember that the term neorealism refers to a rejection of the phoniness of Fascist-era film production, rather than a broad description of cinematic properties. Basically, the movie is about two petty criminals, played by Vittorio Gassman and Doris Dowling, who hide from the cops by posing as lowly rice pickers. What’s real here isn’t the rice pickers (whose female ranks are uniformly beautiful and sexily clothed), nor some of the action (typified by a scene in which the workers break into perfect operatic harmony even though the tune they’re singing is being made up on the spot). No, the realism is in the themes and production values. Riso Amaro deals with weighty issues and was made on location by director Giuseppe De Santis in the rice fields of Italy’s Po Valley in crisp, documentary style black and white.

One of Riso Amaro’s rice pickers is the voluptuous Silvana Mangano, who catches Vittorio Gassman’s eye. Since he’s a criminal, he spies opportunity in his circumstances, and while chasing Mangano also plots to steal the entire rice crop while everyone is occupied during an end-of-season festival. Mangano, who has her choice between the slick Gassman and the honest rice picker Raf Vallone, is symbolically torn between American-style and traditional values. Doris Dowling has the same dilemma to a lesser degree. The choice both make will be crucial. Riso Amaro is a good movie, beautifully rendered, and consistently interesting. Tame today, it’s easy to see how provocative it must have been when first released. As with many films, certain elements resonate more over time, and here the secondary theme exploring tensions between legal and illegal workers fascinate. The legal workers resent the presumed loss of jobs, but the illegals must eat somehow and are willing to toil much harder than the legals. All the while the bosses reap the benefits. Sound familiar? Riso Amaro premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in early September and opened in Italy today in 1949.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 15 2014
ASSASSIN'S CREED
Sonny Chiba is the Duke of hazard.

Above, a poster for Golgo 13: Kûron no kubi, aka Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon, starring Sonny Chiba, who is better known as Shin’ichi Chiba in his native Japan and the rest of Asia. Chiba plays an assassin named Duke Togo, but codenamed Golgo 13, whose latest contract proves more complex than he imagined. The movie, based on a popular manga, was a Japanese production set in Hong Kong, and was an influence on the excellent crime thrillers that came out of Hong Kong in the 1980s, particularly those by John Woo. Plenty of reviews online so we won’t go into detail, except to say that this one is well worth a viewing, in our opinion. Golgo 13: Kûron no kubi premiered in Japan today in 1977.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 01
1938—Seabiscuit Defeats War Admiral
At Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Maryland, the thoroughbred stallion Seabiscuit defeats the Triple Crown champion War Admiral in a match race that had been promoted as "The match of the Century" in horse racing. The victory made Seabiscuit a symbol of triumph against the odds during the dark days of the Depression, and his story became the subject of a 1949 film, a 2001 book, and a 2003 film, Seabiscuit, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
October 31
1984—Indira Gandhi Assassinated
In India, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two of her own Sikh security guards in the garden of the Prime Minister's Residence at No. 1, Safdarjung Road in New Delhi. Gandhi had been walking to meet British actor Peter Ustinov for an interview. Riots soon break out in New Delhi and nearly 2,000 Sikhs are killed.
October 30
1945—Robinson Signs with Dodgers
Jackie Robinson, who had been playing with the Negro League team the Kansas City Monarchs, signs a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers to become the first African-American major leaguer of the modern baseball era.
1961—Soviets Detonate Super Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates an experimental nuclear weapon called Tsar Bomba over the Arctic Circle, which, with a yield of 100 megatons of TNT, was then and remains today the most powerful weapon ever used by humanity.

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