Singer elopes with girlfriend and everything falls apartheid.
We'd never heard of African Story, aka The Manipulator, before seeing this Italian promo poster painted by Renato Casaro. We were hoping for another semi-comical romp in the vein of Black Emmanuelle or The African Deal (i.e. lily white visitors are magically driven to get freaky in the bush with locals), but this film goes in a different direction. A famous singer named Rex Maynard runs away to South Africa with a powerful music producer's daughter, prompting the producer to set up a fake kidnapping to scare the crooner and simultaneously generate publicity for his career. Somehow or other a group of actual kidnappers decide to put the bag on Rexie, and mayhem soon follows. Rex may be a soft jazz kind of singer, but he's hard rock with his fists. He even uses judo to whip ass on several of his assailants. Luckily one of them packs a gun or they'd all have ended up in intensive care. Rex is also slippery as an eel, with his escapability aided by the kidnappers' generally lax security.
We'd file this movie in the terrible-but-fun category, with Stephen Boyd, who played the rugged Messala in Bur Hur, here putting on his evil capitalist pants, beautiful Sylva Koscina playing the femme fatale, and Michael Kirner expending far more physical energy in the role of the pursued singer than you'd think possible for a guy with his body fat. African Story has virtually no Africans of the black variety in it, but then again this is the apartheid era we're talking about. Blacks need not apply—particularly for speaking roles (except for those two fisherman guys who you'll miss if you blink). In fact, you see very few blacks even in the backgrounds of shots. With sequences set in offices, hotels, nightclubs, pools, and at a *ahem* race track, their conspicuous absence reveals the reality of how all good things in South Africa were reserved for whites. And some bad things too, if you count the movie. African Story premiered today in 1971.
The only rehabilitation going on here is by the poster artist.
Above you see a striking color poster for the Roger Corman produced women-in-prison flick Women in Cages, one of the many sexploitation epics filmed in the Philippines during the 1970s. For an entertaining ninety minutes on that subject, by the way, you should watch the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed. It's the final word on the chaos of Philippine movie production and covers everything from Savage! to Apocalypse Now. Women in Cages is one of the earlier Philippine women-in-prison flicks, coming after The Big Doll House.
Despite the fact that the poster is signed R. Engel and dated '72, it's actually a piece of modern pulp made within the last several years. The person behind it is German artist Rainer Engel, who put it together borrowing the DVD box cover art from Subkultur-Entertainment's 2013 re-issue of the movie, which in Germany was called Frauen hinter Zuchthausmauern. We ran across the re-styled poster on the artist's website, decided his mock-up beats the hell out of the 1971 original art, and thought it was worth sharing.
When we wrote about the film a while ago we said we thought it was a bit much. Specifically, it's relentlessly grim. Of the trilogy that includes The Big Doll House and The Big Bird Cage this middle entry is the one that forgot the first rule of the 1970s women-in-prison genre—the movie should be absurd and fun. When it isn't—i.e. when it shades into depressing realism—you come away wondering if there's something wrong with you for having watched it in the first place. You can read our post on the film here, and you can visit the artist's website here.
This is one night everybody wants to forget.
The North American poster for the 1980 high school horror flick Prom Night is pretty straightforward—as you see below, it's a masked head and a knife, and was used in Canada, where the film was made, and in the U.S. The Japanese promo, on the other hand, has a beautiful image of Anne-Marie Martin rendered by airbrush artist Harumi Yamaguchi. It's almost like the Japanese distributors took this movie seriously.
Have you ever seen it? It's cheesy as hell and slow to develop, with a cop voiceover, wooden acting from performers who in real life were all in their mid-twenties, and a final unmasking of the killer that's an anti-climax. It's also a sad reminder that high-waisted pants, despite the fact that many women are wearing them again these last few years thanks to the fashion industry championing them, are really fuckin' ugly.
But for all those flaws, the movie is better than it has a right to be. Plus it has Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen, and they make up for a multitude of sins. Prom Night premiered as プロムナイト in Japan today in 1981. That translates directly, but we don't think Japanese schools have proms. Somehow the American concept is known, though, which makes us wonder if they learned it from the movie. If so, proms will not be getting popular in Japan anytime soon.
Florinda Bolkan is a textbook case of multiple epidermal disorder.
Una lucertola con la pelle di donna premiered in Italy in 1971 and in the U.S. as Lizard in a Woman's Skin today in 1973. It's a giallo—i.e. a thriller with mystery, slasher, detective, and psychological horror elements. Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan stars, and she has a problem—she's having erotic dreams about her beautiful neighbor Anita Strindberg. The dreams disturb and arouse Bolkan, but she's working out her concerns in therapy. All well and good, until matters take a turn for the worse when she dreams about dispatching Strindberg with a knife, and later wakes to find that Strindberg has indeed been murdered in the exact fashion as in her nightmare.
The cops arrest her for the killing and send her to a mental hospital to await trial. But the case is hardly airtight. Loose ends include Bolkan's dream diary, an illicit affair, and a blackmail plot. The mental hospital is hardly airtight either. A stalker shows up intent on putting Bolkan out of commission. Eventually doubts arise in the case and Bolkan is sprung from the booby hatch, but who committed the murder? Well, below we have some production shots, and at bottom is a poster for the film's re-issue as Schizoid—a title that's a blatant spoiler. Actually, considering lizards change their skin by molting, the original title is a spoiler as well. Too clever by half, these Italian filmmakers, but the movie is still fun.
There's a thin line between love and hate.
Above is a poster we're reasonably sure you won't see anywhere else. It was made to promote a movie called 愛憎のからみ. The film never had a western release, but if it had it would have been called something like A Love Hate Relationship. It was from Aoi Film, another company that delved into softcore pink cinema during the 1960s and 1970s, and this one was directed by Taskashi Chiba and starred Yuri Izumi, who during a career encompassing dozens of screen credits would go on to become one of Japan's bondage queens. This is obviously a pretty obscure movie, since we can't come up with its rōmaji or romanized title. We also can't pinpoint its exact premiere date. But we know it appeared sometime this month in 1972. Below we've included some detail from the poster, and just for the fun of it we also have one of Izumi's many provocative bondage shots.
Theft becomes death in the blink of an eye.
Last week we shared a brilliant Italian poster for Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, and today you see the French and Belgian posters. The title is a double entendre that refers not only to murder but also to killing in the sense of a big score, which is why in France the movie was called L'ultime razzia, or “the last raid,” and in Belgium it was Coup manqué, which translates as “mis-hit,” as in badly striking a ball—i.e. missing a target. The Belgian poster also has a banner at the bottom with the title in Dutch—Mislukte opzet, or “failed set up.” Those titles, taken together, reveal exactly what happens in the film—a robbery goes terribly wrong. Both of these are very nice posters, fitting ror Kubrick's early masterpiece. The Killing opened in France today in 1956, and in Belgium shortly thereafter.
Mick doesn't quite get it done as real life Aussie outlaw Ned Kelly.
This poster was made to promote the western adventure Ned Kelly, a movie mainly remembered for having starred Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger as a real-life Aussie outlaw. Jagger hasn't done much cinematic acting and there's a reason why—he just doesn't have the knack. He seems to read his lines more than perform them, and director Terry Richardson did so much better with films like Tom Jones and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. But the poster is unique, which made it worth a share. The movie premiered in Japan today in 1971.
Land of the free—except for the slaves.
First daddy, and now uncle. But the family theme is purely coincidental. Addio Zio Tom, aka Goodbye Uncle Tom, premiered today, so we're discussing it today. The last time we shared a poster for this Italian epic the art gave absolutely zero idea what the movie is about. The above poster is a bit more faithful to the subject matter. You can probably look at it and guess you're dealing with a film about slavery. We discussed it in great detail back in 2013, and concluded that it's a daring but flawed piece of cinema. You can read what we wrote at our earlier write-up, but even if you aren't interested in the movie go to see that first poster anyway. It's one of the most amazing promos we've ever shared.
If you think armed robbery is tough try surviving as a poster artist.
Rapina a mano armata is a title that would translate as “armored rampage,” but the movie being promoted by these spectacular Italian posters is actually none other than Stanley Kubrick's famed thriller The Killing. After debuting in the U.S. and Britain in early 1956, it opened in Italy today that same year. We discussed the film in detail a while ago. If you take a look at that post you'll immediately notice that once again the foreign promo art destroys the U.S. version. This is consistently true for most movies made after the mid-1960s because the studios began to jettison top notch promo artists in favor of simpler—and we assume cheaper—visual approaches. The foreign companies would follow suit, but not until later. European posters began to lose their pizzazz by the 1970s, and Japanese promos went the same direction by the early 1980s. Which leaves us where we are today—besieged by Photoshop jobs, all of which seem to feature a couple of large heads against some uninspiring background.
But we're here at least partly to celebrate the glories of vintage art, which means what you really want to know is who painted these particular masterpieces, right? It was Renato Casaro, whose work is consistently amazing. In fact he was so good that he survived as an illustrator well into the 1980s, painting iconic promos for the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicles Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, and somewhat less iconic but no less brilliant posters for Sylvester Stallone's Cliffhanger and Over the Top. The Rapina a mano armata poster you see below is unsigned but we can be reasonably sure it was also a product of Casaro's hand, as it was common practice in Italy's movie industry for the commissioned artist to produce more than one version. If the above pieces aren't the best we've seen from Casaro they're sure close. You can see several more of his efforts by clicking his keywords below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
1989—Guildford Four Exonerated
The men known as the Guildford Four, who were imprisoned for a series of bombs attacks on British pubs that left five dead and 100 injured, are decreed not guilty after an investigation reveals that police colluded in doctoring statements that appeared to incriminate the defendants.
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