They're barely legal but fully dangerous.
The promo poster for Teenage Doll is iconic, at least in our opinion. Has ever a lightbulb looked so sizzlingly ominous? The film, which has an amazing opening credit sequence, deals with a girl gang called the Black Widows who lose a member to a killer and vow to exact revenge on the perpetrator, a square named Barbara who had the misfortune to leave identifying evidence behind. The killing was actually an accident but the Widows don't know that and doubtless wouldn't care. They're going to hunt down Barbara—who's played by June Kenney—wherever she runs. She doesn't run far—just to her parents' house to steal a gun, even as the Widows lay their hands on a firearm of their own. There's gonna be a showdown.
IMDB.com calls Teenage Doll a film noir but it isn't. That website really needs to clean up its act—the internet was supposed to increase knowledge, not mangle it. This movie is a juvenile delinquent flick, directed by b-movie legend Roger Corman, and it's one of a truckload of girl gang pictures that came out during the late 1950s. All the action takes place at night, but to paraphrase what we wrote just a couple of weeks ago, night falls in all kinds of movies, including comedies and pornos, but that doesn't make them film noir. The best place online to find proper film categories is at the American Film Institute website, and there Teenage Doll is classified correctly—as a drama.
In fact, it even verges on melodrama, the way it drips with tragedy. But its primary characteristic is that it's amazingly earnest and in so being transforms via cinematic alchemy from cheap celluloid into pure comedy gold. This one has it all—longsuffering parents, hypergrim cops, obnoxious gang boys, psychopathic lackeys, and most importantly Fay Spain, who as the top gang girl Helen chews the scenery with thirty-six teeth and even claws it with ten fingernails. We know adults normally have thirty-two teeth, but Spain has extras to help her get through plywood and nails. Ultimately, we learn that the entire murder snafu is, at its root, a man's fault, which is the only part of the movie that's realistic. We recommend this one highly—or lowly. It premiered today in 1957.
Voltage schmoltage. I failed English. And science.
You know, Vandalettes has a sort of girl-group ring to it. Can anybody sing?
There's nothing behind the curtain but your worst nightmares.
You can consider this fan art. Extraordinary fan art. It's a GGA style promo poster for David Lynch's freaky neo-noir Blue Velvet, his tale of unspeakable evil behind the tranquil façade of smalltown America. This was painted by Lisa Wood, aka Tula Lotay, an English comic book artist best known for illustrating Supreme: Blue Rose. The film had its global premier in August 1986 at the Montreal World Film Festival, but it opened in the U.S. today the same year. This is a bang-up re-imagining of the promo art from Lotay, and you can see more of her work at her website.
Sabrina Siani is the queen of hearts. Livers, spleens, and kidneys too.
There are a surprising number of cannibal sexploitation movies out there. La Dea Cannibale is one of the better known entries. It's an Italian production with Sabrina Siani in the title role as a little girl found by jungle maneaters who grows up to be fine as hell and becomes the queen of the tribe. As per usual in these movies, an expedition to locate her is mounted by cityfolk. These lunch items comprise the father who lost Siani in the first place—along with his arm—accompanied by several witless adventurers. Or maybe it's fairer to call them brave rather than dumb. But when the group come across stray body parts and gnawed upon corpses yet keep right on trekking into the heart of schlockness, what would you call that? Dumb, right?
Pretty soon the cannibals start picking them off with darts and poisoned arrows, but a few stubborn souls eventually reach the evil village, whereupon daddy is shocked to discover his daughter has grown into a bleached blonde bombshell cavorting in only a thong. The question at that point is whether he can wrench her from the clutches of the godless flesheaters. They won't give her up easily and you can really understand that—other jungle tribes in 1970s cinema have white girl goddesses so why shouldn't they? We'd almost recommend this one for laughs if there were a digital transfer out there, but sadly the version we saw was obviously ripped from a VHS tape and it was annoyingly murky. Sort of like its plot. La Dea Cannibale, which was also called Mondo cannibale, opened in Italy today in 1980.
She's not supposed to kill but she certainly develops the knack for it.
We have two interesting nun themed posters today. The first can be seen in various places around the internet, but the second one is rare and can't be seen anywhere but here, as far as we're able to ascertain. These were made to promote a film called Nidaime wa Christian, aka The Second Is a Christian, starring Etsuko Shihomi as a nun who's desired by both a gangster and a cop. Sounds twisted, right? Well it is. Shihomi is not the devout type, something you may have gathered from the fact that she's brandishing a sword in the top poster. How she comes to use this blade on others is a bit convoluted to explain, but it involves two competing Yakuza factions, a very short marriage, and a murderous ex-girlfriend. One thing is certain—screenwriter Kôhei Tsuka, who adapted the script from his own novel, has unique ideas about nuns. Wanna see more Japanese nun posters? We have a small collection at this link. The promo images below show Shihomi in non-lethal mode. Nidaime wa Christian premiered in Japan today in 1985.
In this game everybody gives their all.
Above, a poster for Kôkôsei banchô: Bôtate asobi, aka The All-Out Game, the second film in the High School Gang Leader franchise. The movie stars Kimisaburo Onogawa, Kei Wakakura, and Saburo Shindo, but Eiko Yanami stars on the poster. Basically, a high school boxing group comes into conflict with a high school judo club thanks to differences between their two leaders, one of whom is a top student and the other of whom is a moron. When we were in high school smart kids couldn't fight but maybe Japan is different. This premiered there today in 1970. See two more posters from the series here and here.
A textbook case of pianist envy leads to serious trouble.
This poster was made for Strange Fascination, a film put together by triple threat Hugo Haas, who wrote the screenplay, directed, and starred. It premiered this month in 1952. Plotwise a rich widow traveling in Europe meets a brilliant pianist who wants to leave the continent to get away from its “recent misfortunes.” She sponsors him and brings him to New York City, where he has immediate success, but his head is soon turned by platinum blonde showgirl Cleo Moore. She's got show business ambitions but no avenues, so she hitches herself to the rising pianist and proceeds to make his career go limp.
Hugo Haas headlined scores of movies and accumulated more than forty credits directing and writing, so Strange Fascination was no vanity project. In fact we suspect it was uniquely important to him because of its autobiographical elements. For instance, like the pianist he plays Haas left eastern Europe—Brno, Austria-Hungary, which is now part of the Czech Republic—and became respected in his chosen industry. And his given name was Pavel Haas, while his lead character here is named Paul, the Anglicization of Pavel.
In Strange Fascination Haas crafted a solid movie but don't let the online reviews fool you—it isn't film noir. These days any movie that's mid-century, black and white, and dramatic gets the noir stamp on crowd sourced websites like IMDB and Wikipedia. Strange Fascination contains bits of noir iconography, but films of the period have no choice about that—after all, rain falls even in musicals and neon signs occur even in comedies. Strange Fascination is really a straight melodrama. Go into this little b-movie with that expectation and it may prove satisfying.
So when I sign this I'm giving you permission to turn my life into an unrelenting hell?
They could not resist when they saw little Nikki grind.
Back to an actual Japanese poster today, with this promo for the roman porno movie OL nikki: Waisetsuna kankei, aka Office Lady Journal: Indecent Relations, which is about two female co-workers who totally shred company rules against fraternization. Is that even the right word when it's two women? Maybe we should go with consorting. Neither is named Nikki, by the way, though we have to thank Prince for the assist there. They're actually named Mina and Aki. Nikki means “diary” or “journal.” This is yet more output from Nikkatsu Studios, more edgy weirdness from Junko Miyashita and Akemi Nijô, and another plot way too complicated to summarize. But even if we did would it matter? By now you know whether this is your thing. Decide accordingly. OL nikki: Waisetsuna kankei premiered in Japan today in 1975.
First you scheme, then you lie, then you seduce.
Usually it was Japanese distributors that made amazing new versions of Western posters, but today it's happened in reverse. L'amaro giardino di Lesbo was originally made in Japan and called Utsukushisa to kanashimi to, which translates as “with beauty and sorrow.” It was based on a 1964 novel by Nobel-winning author Yasunari Kawabata, and stars Kaoru Yachigusa, So Yamamura, and the beautiful Mariko Kaga, whose likeness fronts the promo art. We watched it and the story is basically that two lovers lose their baby via miscarriage and split up because of it. The man, whose name is Toshio, gets over it and moves on with life, but his ex, Otoko, is deeply traumatized.
Years later the two meet again. Toshio is married and has a son. Otoko has a female partner named Keiko, and when Keiko meets the man who is intimately connected to her lover's tragedy, she decides to seduce him, have his baby, and give it to Otoko. Yeah. Pretty out there, but Japanese filmmakers specialize in these kinds of crazy ruminations. Does Keiko succeed in her plan? Well, male resistance is never high, but when a woman says things like, “Don't touch my right breast because that one's not for you,” even the horniest man will get weirded out. We won't tell you more, except that the movie is decently made and effective. It premiered in Japan in 1965 and reached Italy today in 1969.
The future's so bleak he has to wear shades.
Above, a poster for the game changing science fiction adventure The Terminator painted for the Czech (then Czechoslovakian) market by Milan Pecak. The fading effect at the bottom of the art is the way Pecak painted it, rather than the result of a bad scan or photo. This movie may look a bit clunky to modern viewers, but so will Avengers: Infinity War in twenty years. Along with stunners like Alien, Blade Runner, and others, The Terminator changed the idea of what cinematic science fiction could be. It premiered in the U.S. in 1984 and eventually arrived in Czechoslovakia as Terminátor today in 1990.
The Florida heat cooks up trouble in Lawrence Kasdan's masterful neo-noir.
Kill your husband for you? Sure, I can make that happen, I guess. Spousal murder is a film noir and pulp fiction plot tentpole, and the motivation for trying something so risky generally revolves around sex. But during the time the film noir and pulp fiction genres were extant their makers could only imply it. The neo-noir thriller Body Heat, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1981, fixed that problem, as not-so-bright lawyer Ned Racine, played by William Hurt, is seduced into a murder plot by whip smart bombshell Matty Walker, played by Kathleen Turner in her cinematic debut.
Body Heat is an apt title. The setting is South Florida during a heat wave, with most of the action set in the mythical towns of Pinehaven and Miranda Beach. Every frame of the movie seems to vent steam. There's copious slippery sex and nudity, all of it important to the plot. When the pair have their electric first encounter Hurt pulls off Turner's panties with an expression of pure awe on his face and intones, “So wet.” For just that moment he wonders if it's really him turning on a woman that much. And he's right to wonder, because it isn't him. What's turning her on is money.
Directed and written by Lawrence Kasdan, the film is a reworking of Double Indemnity, but it improves on the original in the sense that we fully understand the visceral reasons why murder has occurred. That moisture between Turner's legs causes an electrical short in Hurt's brain. After subsequent sexual encounters, including an anal session that's implied but clear as day thanks to some clever visuals, he's hooked like a bluegill. For a guy just smart enough to get a law degree, but not bright enough to avoid being known as his town's worst lawyer, bedding Turner makes him feel godlike. Surely he can pull off murder and make it look like an accident.
Body Heat made Turner, Hurt, and Kasdan superstars, and did the same for a few of its below-the-line players. Turner went on to become one of the pre-eminent actresses of her generation; Hurt, who had starred in the brilliant but under appreciated Altered States, became one of Hollywood's top leading men; and Kasdan directed Silverado, The Big Chill, and other hits. Co-star Ted Danson also blew up, and Mickey Rourke parlayed a blazing supporting bit into a career as Hollywood's go-to rebel creep. You know any film that ignites five such careers is top notch, but as a post-noir entry Body Heat is also cinematically important. Not only did it finally lay bare the motivation behind all those noir murders and obsessions, but it did so with a reverent visual style and pitch perfect mood. We can't recommend it strongly enough.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
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