Divorce probably would have been the easier option.
Conflict was Humphrey Bogart's follow-up to the crowd pleasing To Have and Have Not, and he takes a dark turn as a man whose bad marriage is complicated by the fact that he's fallen in love with his sister-in-law. He's willing to kill to be free, but his plan goes sideways, as they always do. We won't go into detail except to note that, interestingly, Bogart begins to see the same jumbled pyramidal shape everywhere—in a pile of fallen logs, in an architectural drawing, in the kindling set up to start a bonfire, etc. It's a Hitchcockian touch designed to symbolize the inner conflict of the title, but why exactly is he seeing these things? Is it because he killed his wife? Or because he botched his opportunity and now she's trying to drive him insane? We won't tell you. We'll only say that the winding road toward a resolution is reasonably entertaining, and Bogart can pull even a flawed film to the positive side of the ledger. Conflict, which co-starred Alexis Smith and Sydney Greenstreet, premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.
Woman heads south of the border but her career options stay north.
Quella viziosa di Susan is a U.S.-made porn flick that was originally titled The Last Tango in Acapulco. It starred Becky Sharpe and Bill Cable, supplemented by various unidentified stunt genitals. The plot of this is fascinating. Sharpe is routinely forced by her dad to submit sexually,, a fate she escapes by fleeing to Mexico, but once there she descends into a life of prostitution. Many victims of sexual abuse do become prostitutes, obviously, which makes it quite weird that in an escapist genre like porn the filmmakers actually get anywhere near such subject matter, but clearly they served a higher cause than mere sexual titillation. Sadly, reality intruded on their lofty goals in the form of budget, thus despite high ambition, great Mexican beach locations, and an appealing lead actress, the movie comes across as below average sexploitation. But it still earned an Italian release, for which someone with talent painted this nice promo poster of a woman going south of the border in a different way. Sadly, like owners of the stunt genitals, the artist goes unidentified. The Last Tango in Acapulco opened in the U.S. today in 1973 and made it to Italy in 1976.
All deliveries guaranteed fresh and warm or you get 50% off.
The Corpse Came C.O.D., as if you couldn't guess from its screwball title, is a comic murder mystery, and yes, it features a corpse sent through the mail—or more precisely by messenger. This stiff arrives in a crate to a famous actress's home, and when the body spills out she calls a well-connected newspaperman to help her with the problem. For him this involves not only solving the crime while staying ahead of the police, but fending off a rival who smells a juicy story. This rival happens to be his romantic interest, so the two fight and feud while trying to snatch the scoop from each other. This love-hate relationship is the core of the film, with the two hurling lines at each like, “I wouldn't trust you if I had an atomic bomb in each hand!”
This is a pretty fun flick. Think The Thin Man, but with less budget and a bit less panache. It stars George Brent, Joan Blondell, Adele Jergens, and Leslie Brooks, and has interesting cameos from actual Hollywood gossip columnists George Fisher, Hedda Hopper, Erskine Johnson, Louella Parsons, and others. The film was written by columnist Jimmy Starr, which accounts for the tabloid focus, and he has a cameo too. You pretty much can't lose with this one. It's good natured and well put together, and might even make you wonder why movies like this aren't made anymore. The Corpse Came C.O.D. premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
There's only one way out and it isn't retirement.
Above is a poster for Gendai yakuza: yotamono jingi, aka Hoodlum Yakuza, which premiered in Japan today in 1969 and starred Bunta Sugawara as a yakuza footsoldier trying to escape the life. He wants to run away with his girlfriend, and with the help of his brother hatches a scheme he hopes will make his freedom possible. Fat chance.
We shared a standard promo of this at the bottom of a collection we put together five years ago, but this piece is an exceedingly rare, horizontally oriented, two-piece promo, a style known as bo-ekibari. We have the halves uploaded separately below, and we have another rare poster for the film we'll share later.
Mari Atsumi goes searching for her place in the sun.
Above, two beautiful posters for Taiyo wa mita, aka I Saw the Sun, with Mari Atsumi. We couldn't track this one down but we know it's a drama set in a seaside town and know it premiered in Japan today in 1970. We already shared a really nice promo image for the film here, and if we learn more we'll report back.
Ever feel like you were born in the wrong time?
Above is another Mexican promo poster, this time for the drama La loca, which starred Libertad Lamarque in an Ariel nominated performance as a woman who believes she's living in 1936. We feel that way sometimes ourselves. But in her case, her delusion is preventing her family from collecting an inheritance, which pits them against her, prompting a psychiatrist to take up her cause in order to defend her against being exploited. Speak Spanish? You can watch the movie online here while the link lasts. The poster was painted by Juan Antonio Vargas, and as we discussed earlier this beautiful style of illustration was popular among Mexican poster artists of the time. La loca premiered today in 1952.
Hit novel Blindfold returns as a movie vehicle for Rock Hudson.
Rock Hudson was in the decline phase of his cinema career when he made Blindfold, and was just about to move into television, where he would score a huge hit with the cop show McMillan & Wife. But this film shows him in solid form. As in the novel, it all starts when his psychiatrist character is asked by a government agent to treat a mentally broken scientist in total secrecy, which Hudson reluctantly agrees to do, and is conducted to an isolated house while blindfolded. Days later he's run into—literally—by the sick man's sister Claudia Cardinale, who believes her brother has been kidnapped. Was the man who asked Hudson for help really with the government? Or did he merely want to unlock a secret hidden in the scientist's brain? When another agent appears and tells him this is precisely the case, Hudson and Cardinale have no idea who to believe. It begins to look like the scientist is being held against his will. If Hudson and Cardinale hope to rescue him, they need to pinpoint his location even though Hudson was blindfolded every time he was taken there.
As in the novel this is the central gimmick, and it seems an impossible task, but Cardinale convinces Hudson he can find this isolated house. Obviously, this section is handled in less detail than in the novel. Hudson estimates how long the flight was, eliminating impossible flight plans, learns where migrating geese fly south, and remembers what he heard during the car journeys—a body of water, a rickety bridge, a strange type of boat, and a church choir. It was a fun idea in the book and it's a fun idea on the screen too. In fact, it must have made an impression, because aspects of it were directly borrowed by Robert Redford for his 1992 comedic thriller Sneakers. Hudson and Cardinale, first as adversaries and later as budding romantic partners, try to unravel the where what why when and who, while shamelessly flirting with each other. As we said in the previous post, think of Charade or Arabesque. Blindfold isn't executed as well as those films, but it's certainly a nice little trifle, and it's worth watching. Anything with Cardinale is. And Rock ain't so bad either. The film premiered in the U.S. today in 1966.
Last stop—the city morgue.
Watching lots of movies eventually brings everything your way. The promo poster for Grand Central Murder lured us, and we found ourselves watching an archetypal Sherlockian whodunnit, complete with the villain unmasked in the final moments. When a Broadway showgirl is murdered on a private train car the police gather a gaggle of suspects and go through each of their stories trying to uncover the killer. Among the detainees—her escaped convict boyfriend, her sad sack ex-husband, her jealous co-worker, her phony psychic stepfather, her theatrical understudy, and others, including the convict's lawyer, played by lead actor Van Heflin. Various alibis and reminiscences are shown in flashback until the killer is revealed via a monologue that wraps everything up nice and neat. We wouldn't call the movie screamingly thrilling and funny like the poster does, but it's okay if you like mysteries, and the mass transit backdrop is actually kind of interesting. Grand Central Murder premiered in New York City today in 1942.
Brothers can you spare a production budget?
It's fair to suggest that most blaxploitation movies weren't good in the traditional sense. But The Dynamite Brothers, aka Stud Brown, which premiered in the U.S. this month in 1974, is probably close to the worst movie of the genre. It's a low budget The Wild Ones with a chop socky revenge thriller tacked on, and it has “rush job” scribbled all over it. Everything is off, from the direction to the screenplay to the sound effects. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's films like this that helped kill blaxploitation.
Picture the first screening for the studio, Asam Film Company. Director Al Adamson managed to put up a brave front during the shooting schedule, but he's made his final cut and knows the movie is shit. He's cringing. He's slumped so low in his seat he looks like he's lost air pressure. He even considers scuttling for the exit during the second reel. If he stays low, like a crab, he might make it unseen. But he's still there when the lights come up, and various execs and investors are sitting around looking stunned. They're just white guys with money and don't know dick about this blaxploitation thing, so they have no idea what to think.
Finally someone ventures hopefully, “Was that good? Or...”
Someone else: “Al? Al? Where are you?”
Al: *sigh* “I'm down here.”
“What the hell are you doing on the floor?”
“Uh, my back. Laying flat helps with—”
“Were you hiding?”
“I was just—”
“Are we fucked?”
“Did you FUCK US?”
He fucked them. The Dynamite Brothers was an unremitting disaster. It turned out to be the only movie Asam Film Company ever made. Co-star Timothy Brown in particular had to be disappointed with the final product, considering his film debut was the all-time classic M*A*S*H, in which he played Corporal Judson. Top billed Alan Tang also had to be bummed. Back in Hong Kong when he was first approached about the project, someone told him mixing kung-fu into a blaxploitation flick was a no-brainer. Halfway through the screening he began to wonder if he'd misunderstood the meaning of that term.
Nevertheless, somehow both he and Brown survived The Dynamite Brothers and went on to have long careers, which is a tribute to their talent and persistence. Al Adamson kept working too, which is possibly a tribute to filmgoers' short memories. But like Bran the Broken in Game of Thrones, allow us to serve as the memory for all humanity here—steer clear of this one like the un-defused bomb it is. Get a tactical robot to delete it from your movie queue. It's baaaad. We don't mean cool-bad or funny-bad. It's just bad-bad.
I didn't know that a girl like you could make me feel so sad...
A couple of weeks ago we shared a Mexican movie poster we weren't 100% sure was actually from Mexico. This time we're sure—this beautiful promo Antonio Caballero painted for the melodrama La red says right in the lower left corner “impreso en México.” In that previous write-up we also talked about how popular locally produced films were in Mexico before the industry was suffocated by U.S. business and political interests, and this effort is an example. It was made by Reforma Films S.A., based in Mexico City, and starred Libyan born Italian actress Rossana Podesta, Costa Rican actor Crox Alvarado, and U.S. born actor Armando Silvestre. Enticing a burgeoning international star like Podesta over from Europe indicates how established the Mexican film industry was in 1953, when La red was made.
Interestingly, when the movie played in the U.S. it was titled simply Rosanna, which makes sense, because it would be nothing without Podesta. It struck us that even though Toto didn't write their song of obsession “Rosanna” about Podesta, they might as well have. The film begins when a group of men botch a robbery, a shootout commences, and one of the bandits, Antonio, played by Alvarado, tries to help his wounded comrade. But the dying man gasps to Antonio, “Save yourself—for Rossana.” So we know she's a special woman even before seeing her. Antonio does save himself and goes to live on the seaside with Podesta, where the two harvest sea sponges. It's idyllic, but as a wanted thief he has to lay low, which means sending her alone to town to sell their catch. And the men in the town are... well... see below:
I am intrigued by this spicy redhead.
I too find myself somewhat taken with this mysterious chile pepper of a woman.
Perhaps I'll invite her to coffee and a cronut. That's a cross between a croissant and a donut, my friend, and living out there on the idyllic seashore as she does, I bet she's never had one.
I wonder if she's a fan of our great romantic poet Salvador Díaz Mirón?
I'm certain she has no idea how quickly European skin can burn in this tropical climate.
I'm admittedly less high minded than other men, and mainly wonder what she looks like naked, and whether the carpet is red too.
What the hell are all these guys staring— Oh. I think it's me.
Clearly, these trips into town are menacing affairs for Podesta. If you were to screen the sequences at an anti-sexual harassment seminar, every guy in the joint would bow his head in shame. Important to note, though, that within the narrative these aggressively pervy guys are depicted in a negative light, with even the soundtrack music growing ominous. When one of Antonio's robbery compatriots shows up in town, he gets into a shootout that leaves two men dead, and therein are sown the seeds of future troubles. We won't say more, save that the film is stagy, stylized, operatic, almost devoid of dialogue, and largely remembered because of Podesta's role. It all worked well enough to earn the Prix International du film le mieux raconté par l'image, aka the Award for Visual Narration, at the Cannes Film Festival.
Moving on to the poster, have a look at a previous Mexican promo we shared last year. It's here. We'll wait. Back? You'd think it was the same person who painted both, but the reason we wanted you to glance at the other one is because it exemplifies the strange phenomenon of artists within the same film industry biting each other's styles. It happened in Italy and Sweden too. Either through direct influence from the studios, or through osmosis due to mutual association, several Mexican artists delved into this art deco tinged style. Check out Leopoldo Mendoza Andrade here. Interesting, right? You'll see what we mean even more clearly when we share posters from other Mexican artists, for example Juan Antonio Vargas. That'll be soon. La Red premiered in Mexico today in 1953.
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