If you’re looking for mercy you’ve come to the wrong place.
The Big Bird Cage finds writer-director Jack Hill at the top of his form as he sticks star Anitra Ford in a Philippine jungle prison where an evil warden uses the female inmates as slave labor to process sugar. Pam Grier and Sid Haig are revolutionaries who want to recruit women for their cause, so Grier infiltrates the prison and primes the women for a big break out. This is one of the most remembered of 70s B-romps, a sleazefest filled with iconic scenes such as Ford being suspended by her hair, and seven-foot model Karen McKevic slathering her body with grease and dashing naked through camp. The classic poster is above, a brilliant production photo appears below, and if you’re looking for actual reviews, well, there are about a thousand online. Wild, weird, and oh so incorrect, The Big Bird Cage premiered in the U.S. this month in 1972.
Christina Hart offers a special type of in-flight service.
This Japanese poster for the American film The Stewardesses indicates that the movie played in 3D. That wasn’t the case only in Japan—it played in 3D globally and, because it was produced for about $100,000 and grossed $25 million, became the most profitable 3D film released up to that point. The movie was rated X, but it’s a non-porn film, with no actual sex to be found. Basically, star Christina Hart and her fellow stews party and get laid. That’s it. As a bonus for 60s-philes, there’s a psychedelic approach to the filming and some groovy music, along with Monica Gayle doing nude yoga, Hart making out with a stone bust and displaying one of cinema’s earliest bald groins, and various cast members enjoying lots of softcore nuzzling and wriggling. Does that sound your bag, man? Radical. The Stewardesses premiered today in 1969.
Wanna go out with me Friday? Oh, you’re committing suicide that night? How about Thursday?
Above is one of the great film noir posters—the three-sheet promo for Where Danger Lives (presumably de-seamed by some enterprising Photoshopper). The movie starred Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue, and Claude Rains, and deals with a doctor who gets involved with a suicidal patient, a situation that simply can’t end well. Like most film noirs, Where Danger Lives is well regarded today, but it’s strictly second tier—watching Mitchum stagger around for half the movie making bad decisions because of a concussion just didn’t engage us, but more importantly there’s no real basis for his relationship with Domergue. Writing it into a script is not enough—the actors need to establish chemistry and heat to make recklessness understandable. When you start asking questions like, “But why would he have any interest in this crazy chick when he already has a great girlfriend?” you know the movie is fatally flawed. If you like noirs, you might be inclined to give this one’s failings a pass—after all, even so-so noir is better than 90% of what’s coming out of Hollywood today. And it has Mitchum, who’s also better than 90% of what’s coming out of Hollywood today. Where Danger Lives premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
Patachou starts with a little patch of Paris and conquers the planet.
1954’s Montmartre nocturne was a twenty-five minute exposé of the Parisian cabaret Patachou, which Jean Billon and his wife Henriette Ragon opened on famed Montmartre hill in 1948. Ragon went on to release numerous records, and soon became so famous she evolved into a one-name star. The name? Patachou, the same as the name of her club. Montmartre nocturne somehow, despite its brevity, made it to Japan, resulting in the classic promo poster you see above. That isn’t Patachou on the art—she was already thirty-five in 1953 and rocking mom hair, which was considered hip back then (see below). In 2009 at the venerable age of 90 she was made Officier of France’s Légion d'honneur, and she just died a couple of months ago at age ninety-six.
Something Nikki this way comes.
USA gyaru pâto 5: Karei naru higi premiered in Japan this month in 1983, and it’s an example of an erotic movie made with an American star for the Japanese market, such as this excellent example we shared way back. The top billed actress on this one is Carol Frazer, who was better known in the U.S. as Nikki Randall, and is a veteran of more than 100 adult productions. She also maintained a presence on mainstream network television, and appeared twenty or so shows between 1973 and 1989. She's joined above by Japanese actress Mayumi Sanjo.
USA gyaru pâto 5: Karei naru higi is so little known that we were unable to find a synopsis anywhere, but here’s what we can tell you for sure—despite the appearance of the posters, it isn’t a porn movie, which we’re sure of due to Japanese censorship laws of the time. We can tell you that “gyaru” is a transliteration of the English word “gal,” and “pâto” is a category of part-time female workers. So the first part of the title is something like “American part-time gal.” We thought the 5 had to do with a series of similar films, but after finding no mention of previous installments on the entire world wide web, we’re now thinking 5 refers to either the number of gyaru in the movie or Randall/Frazer’s designation within the film as the fifth of that category. No idea, really.
The last three words mean, among other things, “beauty,” “become,” and “ceremony.” So there you go—as best we can tell the movie is about a beautiful American sex worker, and some sort of figurative or literal change she undergoes. Usually, when we do this sort of piecemeal translation, someone who actually speaks Japanese writes in to correct us, so let’s hope that happens this time. In the meantime, just for the hell of it, we have a completely not-safe-for-work full-frontal promo image of Randall/Frazer below—not the raciest image we’ve ever shared, but very provocative.
If you’re going to have an empty life, at least make it a beautiful one.
La poupée d’amour played in the U.S. by the silly title Take Me, Love Me, but was originally released in Sweden as Naná, after the Emile Zola novel from which it’s adapted. Director Mac Ahlberg and cinematographer Andréas Winding deserve credit for making the film look fantastic, star Anna Gaël is certainly beautiful, and the cabaret numbers are entertainingly staged, but on the whole we found this one a bit tedious. The movie is basically ’70s arthouse porn and, thanks to some coupling by Gaël’s body double, still qualifies today as adult cinema, but only barely. Zola’s Naná ended up covered with pustules and dying in agony; this movie wouldn’t dare harsh on its own groovy high to that extent, but Gaël does find happiness elusive, as do her lovers. If you watch the movie you may find enjoyment elusive, but in purely visual terms, it’s a real treat. The Belgian promo poster, also a treat, was painted by Loris, an illustrator whose online presence is small, which means we can’t tell you anything about him/her—not even a full name. But he/she did paint other nice promos, and we may dig some of those up later. La poupée d’amour premiered in France/Belgium today in 1970.
, La poupée d’amour
, Take Me Love Me
, Anna Gaël
, Emile Zola
, Mac Ahlberg
, Andréas Winding
, poster art
, movie review
Shine on you crazy diamond.
There’s some confusion online about whether this promo poster for Moon over Miami was painted by Alberto Vargas. Jan-Christopher Horak’s book Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design states: “Virtually all movie poster design work remained anonymous, although a few well-known designers received contracts, including Alberto Vargas for Moon over Miami.” On the other hand, several auction sites claim Vargas only worked on the print ads, and that the artist who painted the poster was charged with emulating the Vargas style. So there you go—cleared that right up, no? Well, we tend to believe Vargas would not have received a contract simply for print ads. What would the point of that be? So we think this piece is his.
In any case, we’ve always loved the poster and it prompted us to finally watch the film. Guess what? It’s just what you’d expect from looking at the art—goofy, gooey, and terminally good-natured. None of that is particularly pulp, but hey, crazy as it sounds, some filmmakers actually prefer to downplay death and mayhem. Betty Grable stars here as a woman determined to marry a millionaire. She sets up at a Miami hotel with her sister and aunt, and pretends to be rich herself, with the aim attracting the proper suitors. Confusion ensues, enlivened by musical numbers. Grable proves in this movie why she was a star, as does the object of her destiny Don Ameche, and excellent support comes from Carole Landis and Charlotte Greenwood. We don’t generally go for this sort of film, but we liked this one, as did our girlfriends. Now back to death and mayhem. Moon over Miami premiered in the U.S. today in 1941.
, Moon over Miami
, Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design
, Betty Grable
, Carole Landis
, Charlotte Greenwood
, Don Ameche
, Alberto Vargas
, Jan-Christopher Horak
, poster art
, movie review
Scenes from the class struggle in film noir.
This nice piece was painted by French artist Emmanuel Gaillard for Une femme dangereuse, which was originally released in 1940 as They Drive by Night. The movie, which is adapted from A. I. Bezzerides’ 1938 novel Long Haul, deals with two wildcat truckers caught in the American class struggle—you know, that thing all the millionaire pundits on television tell you doesn’t exist? The drivers want to rise above their station, but find many obstacles in their way, including leasing companies, fruit buyers, competing truckers, road accidents, injuries, fatigue, and eventually, murder. While the world-against-the-working-man aspect is interesting, the best part is watching George Raft and Humphrey Bogart play the two hard luck drivers. The movie also boasts the excellent Ann Sheridan, as well as film noir icon Ida Lupino in full-on crazy mode. But like the several trucks onscreen that veer off the road, the movie itself lurches into melodrama at the end. Une femme dangereuse had its French premiere today in 1947.
, Une femme dangereuse
, They Drive by Night
, Long Haul
, George Raft
, Humphrey Bogart
, Ida Lupino
, Ann Sheridan
, Emmanuel Gaillard
, A. I. Bezzerides
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
An Affair to beat all affairs.
These two posters for The Thomas Crown Affair are among the more visually pleasing Japanese promos for Western films we’ve come across, both versions managing to capture the style and mood of the movie quite nicely. Directed by Norman Jewison, The Thomas Crown Affair was his follow-up feature to the bravura Oscar winner In the Heat of the Night and showed him in masterful command of his already razor sharp craft. And Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen aren’t too shabby either, as what begins as enmity between a career thief and a genius investigator quickly becomes one of cinema history's most enjoyable mating dances.
Even if you’ve seen 1999’s redundant though palatable remake with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, Jewison’s radiant original is still a must see, and it’s different in enough details to keep viewers guessing. Direction, cinematography, editing, music, production design, wardrobe, and script all combine self-consciously and expertly as if in an irresistibly decadent multi-layer cake baked by a top pastry chef. Good through and through, The Thomas Crown Affair opened in Japan today in 1968.
It isn’t really a racing movie, but it is a bit of a drag.
Hot Rod Gang falls into that category of movies that are better known for their poster art than for the actual film. And the poster art is definitely brilliant—no dispute there—but the movie? Not so much. John Ashley plays a hepcat who gets in trouble for reckless driving and, due to the pursuit of the local strongarm cop, has to adopt a new identity. Thrown onstage by happenstance, this new identity—Jackson Dalrymple—becomes a rock and roll star. Where’s the hot rodding, you wonder? The movie is really a musical comedy with a bit of racing wrapped around, while uniformly atrocious acting bogs down the whole enterprise. The main attraction is watching early rocker Gene Vincent play himself and put on a couple of numbers. The film also features other, less adept, probably dubbed performances, including several by Ashley, who you may remember for his run of Mystery Science Theatre-worthy 1970s horror/action epics shot in the Philippines. In the end Hot Rod Gang all comes together in a rumble and a chase. We can't recommended it, but it’s amusing if you’re in the right frame of mind. Oh, and we almost forgot—our copy kicked off with the ad you see below. Hot rods indeed.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1957—U.S. National Guard Used Against Students
The governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus
, mobilizes the National Guard to prevent nine African-American students known as the Little Rock Nine from enrolling in high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.
1941—Auschwitz Begins Gassing Prisoners
Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of Nazi Germany's concentration camps, becomes an extermination camp when it begins using poison gas to kill prisoners en masse. The camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, later testifies at the Nuremberg Trials that he believes perhaps 3 million people died at Auschwitz, but the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum revises the figure to about 1 million.
1967—Nation of Sealand Established
The Principality of Sealand, located on a platform in the North Sea, is established under the rule of Prince Paddy Roy Bates. Proving that paradise is a pipe dream as long as humans are involved, Sealand has already endured a coup, a war, and a hostage crisis since its formation.
1973—J.R.R. Tolkien Dies
British fantasy novelist J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, dies at the age of 82.
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