The mafia are no match for Jim Brown.
In the blaxploitation flick Slaughter Jim Brown plays Slaughter—no first name—a former Green Beret captain whose underworld connected father is killed by a car bomb. He vows revenge and guns down some of the responsible parties at an airport. That's when the government steps in and turns Slaughter into an operative in exchange for dropping murder charges. All he has to do is head to Mexico and capture the top mobster. South of the border he goes, where shootings, chases, and general mayhem follow as he pretty much turns the country upside down. There are occasional interesting visual flourishes during the violence, including hallucinatory ultra wide angle shots. Maybe director Jack Starrett heaped on the style a bit heavily, but it does set Slaughter apart, and in the end doesn't really harm the final product. Another thing heaped on is the racial insults, even more than in most blaxploitation, and if there's a lesson being imparted it's that eventually n-bombs go off in your face.
Blaxploitation is nothing without its femme fatales, and in those roles Slaughter casts Marlene Clark and Stella Stevens. Clark, though talented, is mere window dressing here; Stevens gets a substantial temptress role, and she's perfectly suited for it, a dozen years after her Playboy centerfold appearance at age twenty-two, and about twice as beautiful in her mid-thirties. According to Brown, Slaughter is one of the three favorite films he starred in. Maybe Stella had something to do with that. In an interview some years back she was asked about the love scenes and said, “I was told that in the movie he did with Raquel Welch, he had a towel put between them, because he didn’t want to touch her flesh in the love scene with her.* I can tell you, we didn’t have anything between us except good feelings and fun.” Well, it looks to us like they had a good time too, and why not? Stevens is hot as hell and Brown is unadulterated manhood on a level few males can hope to reach. We think this one is well worth a watch for fans of the genre. Slaughter premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.*Jim Brown is no fool, and we doubt he ever made such a request. Welch wore undergarments, which was probably always the plan, considering she has done no nude scenes during her career.
William Powell discovers a rare species of marine life.
Today we're looking at a decidedly non-pulp movie—Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid, a featherweight comedy starring William Powell and Ann Blyth. We watched it because we featured Blyth as a femme fatale last year. She was wearing a mermaid costume in the photo we shared, and an image like that will make one curious. In the movie a fifty-year-old man having a bit of a two-thirds-life crisis takes a Caribbean trip with his wife, stumbles across a youthful mermaid, and falls in love with her. Powell is good, of course, as he is in everything, and Blyth is expressive—which is to say she doesn't speak. Why would she? She's a fish, silly. She does hiss, though. Irene Hervey as Powell's hot wife has a bit of a wandering eye herself, but for an actual man rather than a fantastical creature, and Andrea King plays a woman intent on making the moves on Powell. With all these potential infidelities there's lots of dramatic potential, but this is a family comedy, which means nothing too taxing to the average moviegoer occurs and everyone ends up where they belong—Powell and Hervey recommitted to their marriage, and Blyth recommitted to the sea. Cute stuff. Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid premiered in the U.S. today in 1948.
In a place like Atlantic City there's always one more chance.
The poster you see above was painted by the Spanish artist Francisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, who signed his work as Jano. As you can see, it was to promote Louis Malle's drama Atlantic City, U.S.A. Most sites call the film just Atlantic City, but we're going with what the opening credits called it. Though the movie starred U.S. performers and tends to be thought of as an American effort, it was French produced and premiered all over Europe in 1980 before reaching the States in 1981. It opened in Spain today in 1980 and tells the story of a sixty-something minor crook who finds himself involved with twenty-something hustlers and their sale of stolen drugs. Circumstances place both the party favors and the profits in his hands, and he suddenly has a chance to be the big time mobster he never was.
Not only did Atlantic City, U.S.A. win the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, it's one of the few movies to be nominated for all five major Academy Awards—Best Actor (Burt Lancaster), Best Actress (Susan Sarandon), Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Screenplay. With a résumé like that we don't have to tell you the movie is good. Watch it. You'll like it. The woman on the poster, by the way, looks nothing like Susan Sarandon, but it was early in Sarandon's career, and we suspect Jano wasn't too invested in getting her likeness correct. It was within his capability, certainly—his Lancaster looks great. We don't know why he got Sarandon wrong. Considering how famous she eventually became, we have a feeling he wished he'd done better.
Humans aren't highest on the food chain anymore.
Above, a West German poster for Joe Dante's groundbreaking werewolf movie The Howling, which we discussed in detail back in May. We found the art on this promo rather weird and thought it would be a worthwhile share. The movie premiered in West Germany as Das Tier—The Animal—today in 1981.
Must be the tropical weather that brings out the beast in them.
Affair in Trinidad, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1952, brought Gilda co-stars Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford together for another go round as star crossed lovers in a foreign land. Hayworth is a nightclub singer, and Ford is the brother of her dead husband, who's first thought to be a suicide, then suspected to have been murdered. There's no mystery who's responsible—it's the oily one percenter who wants Hayworth for himself. Ford wants this fella to hang from Trinidad's highest coconut palm, but Hayworth stands in his way for reasons you'll have to watch the movie to discover.
Overall, as an attempt to rekindle that ole Gilda magic, Affair in Trinidad fails, mainly because Ford is not as appealing as in the former movie. But the problem could lie with us—we don't buy anger, jealousy, and brutal face slaps as aphrodisiacs. We know, we know—things were different in 1952. But puhleeeze—that different? Just because she was kind of nice to him, it means he owns her? We just can't get behind slappy Glenn and his primitive behavior. Affair in Trinidad isn't bad—it just isn't good, exactly. But at least Hayworth works some singing and dancing magic. It isn't as fun as watching her deliver a swift kick to the nutsack would have been, but at least she makes the best of her situation.
Wow, that's one slappable babe. Appearing nightly? I better come back and see if I can slap her.
Slow motion replay. Slaaaaaaaap!
Christ, does my face hurt. You must really love me.
I can slap you too. Lemme slap you too. Look, my hand is ready to slap. I'll slap so good you won't believe how good I slap. I do the best slaps.
I just can't get that slap out of my head. Focus, girl! Spying to do.
I usually slap, but you I'll choke. Because I dig you too, in a different way.
A one, a two, a one, two, three, four: Though my face is swollen I'm so thrilled my man's controllin' in the moooooor-nin!
Every time he hurts me I just have to swirl my skirts because he waaaaarned me!
It ain't a man's fault he hits me! I shouldn't... re-sist!
It's just a man being manly! He can't... de-sist!
Ladies let me warn you too! These guys... are... rude!
But hey, it's the 1950s! There's nothing... I can... do!*
*Please don't send us any obtuse e-mails. We obviously abhor violence against women.
First rule of plotting a murder: make sure the victim isn't listening in.
Above you see a poster for Pickup, one of the nastier little noirs we've run across our years maintaining this website. Beverly Michaels tries to worm her way into a retired man's affections in order to have the life of leisure she thinks she deserves. But her target, in addition to being old fashioned and a bit obtuse, has some sort of chronic or psychosomatic brain injury that results in confusion and hearing loss. Even so, she manages to marry the poor slob, then sets about figuring how to kill him to obtain his savings of $7,300. When he's hit by a car one afternoon his hearing returns, but Michaels has no idea it's happened and openly plots to murder him, assuming he's still deaf while the entire time he listens in horror. This isn't supposed to be funny, but it is, uproariously. Michaels says the most vicious things about the guy, behind his back and right to his face, day after day, with no idea he can hear every word. These crazy sequences are a big reason why this cheap little b-flick has survived the decades. Plus Michaels knocks her first starring turn over the center field bleachers, playing shrill, wall-eyed evil to the hilt. She was rewarded with more work, including similar gold digger parts in 1953's Wicked Woman and 1956's Blonde Bait. The latter was her last role, making for a short career, but a memorable one. We recommend Pickup, morbid plot, shoestring production values, and all. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1951.
Sharks aren't the worst predators in the water.
Behold! The longest piece of promo art we've ever shared. The oceangoing thriller The Deep premiered in the U.S. in June 1977 as part of a wave of similar movies that came in the wake of Jaws (see what we did there, with the "wave" "wake" thing?). Yeah. So anyway, author Peter Benchley, who wrote the novels that spawned both films, used similar themes for the two, but switched the monster shark for human dangers in The Deep. The Japanese run of the film began today in 1977, and for once the Japanese title isn't something wildly different—they went with ザ・ディープ, which means “the deep.”
We've never seen anything like this poster before, and we doubt we will again. Also of note is that the movie, which was not considered top notch, was a massive hit thanks to a brilliant marketing campaign that saw co-star Jacqueline Bisset wardrobed in a white t-shirt that turned transparent when wet, such as during her opening diving scene in the warm Bahamian waters. Never had a pair of nipples made such a splash. A longtime a sex symbol and thirty-three years old when the The Deep appeared, the film made Bisset a legit superstar for the first time.
If you love somebody pin them to a corkboard.
You know by now that roman porno is a Japanese softcore film genre, and that the “roman” stands for “romantic.” So it's fitting that the poster for the roman porno flick Seishojo: hitontasu no keiken has a romantic image. That isn't usually the case, but this one, with the colors and flowers, is pretty. The English title of this was One Summer Experience: Sexy Virgin, or sometimes Sex Virginity Hito: Natsu's Experience, and what happens is a man named Nobuyuki who collects butterflies meets a girl named Ruri who thinks she's the incarnation of a butterfly. Turns out she's a mental patient, but nuts never looked as good as Terumi Azuma, so Nobuyuki has to be be forgiven for violating the tenets of the hot/crazy matrix. This one gets pretty weird. There's a scene where Ruri experiences sexual pleasure from being stabbed with insect pins, and all we can say is, you know, it's roman porno. The movie has immense importance, at least to us, because it was Azuma's first lead role, and she gave the cinema world plenty of enjoyable material over the years. Below you see a beautiful promo shot—reversed by the lithographer, which we know because in real life Azuma's torso mole is actually on her left—and a nice alternate poster. Seishojo: hitontasu no keiken premiered today in 1976.
The ocean is perfect for covering a multitude of sins.
Manatsu no joji, aka Midsummer Affair—Underwater Series Part 4, appeared in 1960 from Shochiku Company Limited, and above you see two nice promo posters for the movie. These epics are, of course, nothing without franchise star Kyoko Izumi, and here she plays a woman discovered adrift on the sea. She tells her rescuers that her husband, less lucky, drowned trying to save her. But some elements of her story don't add up—for instance she claims to be a poor swimmer, but soon it becomes clear that she's quite at home in the water. Suspicions arise that Izumi has committed foul play, a fact soon clear enough to the audience. Meanwhile a swimwear fashion show and a bitter rivalry between two female aquatic teams give her the cover she needs to try to eliminate the person most intent on proving she murdered her husband. All she has to do is point and shoot—with a poison filled syringe. Will she get away with this crazy scheme? We're not telling. This was the last film in this franchise, but she did act in one more ama film, 1963's Ama no kaishinju, which was made by a different production company. So it looks like this'll do it for the series, except for an alternate poster for part 3 we have hiding somewhere. We'll get that up at some point.
Now you see him, now you don't.
The open road adventure Vanishing Point is one of cinema history's most beloved cult classics. You know the story probably. Barry Newman plays a guy hired to drive a beautiful 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum from Denver to San Francisco. He decides to do it in record time, and this brings him the attention of police, who try to stop him. It's austere, introspective, and mystical, and is an interesting commentary on the rootlessness and disillusionment of Vietnam War vets. Highly recommended. And as a bonus, not only do you get to watch that Challenger move at high speed, but there's the classic naked-woman-riding-her-motorcycle-through-the-desert scene starring Gilda Texter. The scene made Texter famous, but she only appeared in a few more productions. Ironically, though, she had a forty year career in another area of cinema—costume and wardrobe design. We consider Vanishing Point to be her best wardrobe work. You see two Japanese promo posters above, six production photos below, and can see four more, along with further discussion of the film, at this link. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
1969—Woodstock Festival Begins
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which was billed as an Aquarian Exposition, takes place on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. It would run for three sometimes rainy days and feature thirty-two acts performing at all hours of the day and night. Today the festival is regarded as one of the greatest events in popular music history.
1977—Radio Signal Arrives from Deep Space
An unidentified radio signal, nicknamed the WOW Signal for the notation a scientist made on a computer readout, is briefly detected by the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project's Big Ear radio telescope. Despite a month of searching the same section of space, the signal is never found again.
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