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.
Every time I turn my back you bite another little hussy from the village
This unusual Japanese poster was made to promote the horror flick The Brides of Dracula, which premiered in the U.K. today in 1960. We don't have a Japanese premiere date, but we're guessing it was several years later. In the film, a French schoolteacher is hired to staff a position in Transylvania and, having lodging difficulties upon arrival, ends up accepting an offer by Baroness Meinster to spend the night in her creepy old castle. The teacher discovers the Baroness's son chained up in one of the rooms. She helps the seemingly beleaguered wretch escape, not realizing she's just released a vampire. She still doesn't realize it when she later agrees to marry him, but that's about when Dr. Abraham Van Helsing shows up with plans to ram a sharp piece of wood through his heart. Will it happen in time to save the teacher from a really bad marriage to a vampire who has neglected to mention not only that he's undead, but that he already has several undead wives? You'll have to watch to find that out. If you like dungeon horror, it's worth the effort, as this is from Hammer Studios, and is probably one of the best efforts from one of the most storied horror production companies.
All greatures great and small.
This might be our first piece of Finnish pulp. Actually, nope—we just checked. We have some Finnish items here, here, and here. So this poster is our fourth entry from that country, and it's a promo for Uga-uga ihmishirviöiden maa, aka Creatures the World Forgot. Finnish is a weird language, but even without knowing how to read it you can probably discern that the movie was re-titled. The poster says, “uga uga a country of human beings.” So we guess the creatures the world forgot lived in Uga Uga. We didn't know that. Another online translator tells us the poster actually says, "the upright country of human beings," and a third tells us it says "the land of the sea of magpie." We have a former roommate who lives in Finland, so maybe he'll help us out with this one, especially the "uga uga" part. Did we mention we went to Finland once? Try drinking with that crowd and after a couple of hours, “uga uga,” is all you'll be able to say. You may also have noticed the creatures of the original movie somehow transformed into “greatures,” at the lower right of the art, one of the funnier misspellings we've seen on a foreign version poster. The film starred Julie Ege, who's in no way uga uga, and is probably the best reason to watch the movie. We've mentioned her before, particularly the publicity stunt Hammer Studios cooked up to promote the film. Read about that here, and read a short review here. Greatures—er, we mean Creatures—the World Forgot premiered in Finland today in 1971.
The hard work around the house is never done.
Above is a vanishingly rare Japanese promo poster for the sexploitation flick Maid in Sweden, with starred Christina Lindberg in her only U.S. production. The movie was made by the schlock factory known as Cannon Films, and coming early in Lindberg's career it helped establish her popularity with international audiences. We already talked about it back in 2013, so if you want to know what it's about check this link. We've also uploaded a promo shot of Lindberg you've never seen before, just below. It isn't the last of the unseen Lindbergs we have, so keep an eye out for more. Maid in Sweden premiered in Japan today in 1972 as 情欲 or Yokubō, which is, succinctly, “lust.”
There's no business like Monroe business.
Spanish illustrator Francisco Fernandez Zarza-Pérez painted this beautiful poster for the comedy Luces de candilejas, aka There's No Business Like Show Business, and signed the piece as his alter ego Jano. As you can see by comparing the poster to the set photo below, he covered Monroe's leg, which maybe isn't surprising, since he was working in Franco's fascist Spain. Even so this is by far the best poster we've seen from him. The movie's Spanish title Luces de candilejas translates as “candle lights,” which is appropriate, as Marilyn Monroe gets into the type of moth-to-flame difficulties in which she specialized, with her arrival as a new talent on the Vaudeville scene bringing strife to a show business family. No pulp material here—it's a pure musical, with a lot of performance numbers from Monroe, Mitzi Gaynor, Johnnie Ray, Dan Dailey, and headliners Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor. The Jano artwork makes the poster a must share, but the film is a pass—not because it's a Vaudeville musical, but because it's bland, due in part to Monroe's minimal screen time. Luces de candilejas premiered in Spain today in 1959, and you can see more Jano here.
He likes to have his cake and kill it too.
The roman porno flick Bôkô Kirisaki Jakku was called Assault: Jack the Ripper in English, and that pretty much tells you what happens. Tamaki Katsura stars as a waitress in a dead end job who hits the road seeking thrills. She coerces nerdy Yutaka Hayashi into giving her a ride, and the two later pick up a hitchhiker, who through bizarre circumstances ends up dead. Something about the sight of blood activates a need to repeat the experience, which they do by kidnapping and killing young women, then having sex next to the bodies. The weapon of choice is unusual—it's a cake knife, the kind you might use to spread frosting. We'd have thought a dagger or hunting knife would work better, but cake is symbolic in the film, so a cake knife is a logical choice. While it doesn't look sharp, somehow it goes through flesh like butter. Technique is everything.
Thus armed, the couple's attacks become more brazen, then the man's bloodlust surpasses that of his girlfriend's. He starts killing alone, hoarding the thrills for himself, but each murder leaves him somehow unsatisfied. Like an addict upping the dosage, he has to keep taking greater risks. Can you guess what this leads to? We bet you can if you think about it. We can't recommend the film, at least not wholeheartedly, but we'll admit it's provocative the way it's both bloody and played for laughs. And as we've reported in the past, being sexually aroused by murder is a real thing, so that element was interesting too. And what's more than merely interesting is the promo shot of Katsura we found, which you'll see at bottom. Bôkô Kirisaki Jakku premiered in Japan today in 1976.
And they thought cellblocks 1 through 6 were bad.
Diario segreto da un carcere femminile, for which you see a nice poster above, was released in English as Women in Cellblock 7. Jenny Tamburi is thrown in prison as an accessory to a drug trafficking doublecross that led to the disappearance of twenty kilos of heroin. Interpol agent Anita Strindberg wants to prove her father, also an Interpol agent, had nothing to do with the heist, and has herself and her amazing hair placed in prison in order to ply Tamburi for exonerating evidence. Outside parties think Tamburi knows where the missing heroin is, including her lawyer and the mafia, but she claims to have no idea.
So you have an innocent woman in prison, under threat from convicts connected to the mafia, and into this arrives an undercover agent who soon becomes her protector. The cast, which besides Tamburi and Strindberg includes Eva Czemerys, Olga Bisera, Cristina Gaioni, and Valeria Fabrizi, get to rubbing on each other in beds and showers in cinematic approximations of lesbian sex, which means you've got yourself a classic women in prison sexploitation flick. There's also a plot thread external to the prison involving the mafia trafficantes, and some of this features effective action, but it's the ladies on lockdown that are the draw here.
Do they make the movie worth watching? We wouldn't go that far, but they're certainly scenic, and they work hard to hold together a ridiculous script. The conundrum of movie acting is that you have to give it your all or be judged unfit for further roles. At eighty-one minutes in length, at least the film lets the cast out early for good behavior even if the warden doesn't. Diario segreto da un carcere femminile premiered in Italy today in 1973, and the poster was painted by Enzo Nistri. You can see more of his work here and here.
Nikktasu's revitalized roman porno screens for NYC audiences.
Today in New York City at the New York Asian Film Festival, two productions from Nikkatsu Studios' ballyhooed Roman Porno Reboot Project will screen for audiences. The Reboot Project was announced last year, and includes major directors such as Hideo Nakata of Ringu fame, Sion Sono of Cold Fish and Tokyo Tribe, and Kazuya Shiraishi, who made The Devil’s Path. Three films will be included in the New York fest, which began several days ago—Kazuya Shiraishi's Mesunekotachi, aka Dawn of the Felines, and Akihiko Shiota's Kaze ni nureta onna, aka Wet Woman in the Wind, will screen today. Isao Yukisada's Gymnopedies ni Midareru, aka Aroused by Gymnopédies premieres on July 14.
Will these be as edgy as Nikkatsu's vintage roman porno offerings? We have our doubts—some of those movies indugle in excesses so extreme we're amazed they're even available on DVD. We expect the new roman porno to be milder but perhaps contain a modern feminist twist, a shift in point-of-view that would be welcome, at least to us. All three of the movies playing in NYC have already seen release in Japan and gotten decent reviews, which means festival audiences should find something enjoyable in them. If you're in the Big Apple area you now have a potential plan for the next ten days. As for us folks who live far across the ocean, hopefully we'll get a chance to see some of the films soon as well, and if we do we'll certainly report back.
Mamie Van Doren makes her mark on a Generation.
We think this is a beautiful promo poster for The Beat Generation, but don't let its colorful nature fool you—the movie is surprisingly dark. It uses the beatnik counterculture as a backdrop, but really has nothing to with it, except to belittle it. Steve Cochrane plays a Los Angeles detective chasing after a serial rapist. Through a random encounter, the rapist becomes aware of Cochrane and decides to make his wife a victim. Will he get away with it? You'll have to watch the film. We can tell you its most dramatic aspect involves whether a rape victim can obtain an abortion. The never explored details of how she plans to do it don't matter, because we know she'll change her mind.
You can't blame the movie for being predictable in that respect, though. How else was it going to go in the 1950s? The main thing to keep in mind about The Beat Generation is that it was mismarketed—deliberately, we suspect—to trick younger cinemagoers into forking over their cash for a Trojan horse message movie. We're not big fans of that sort of chicanery, but it's well produced, reasonably good, and as a bonus features Fay Spain, Irish McCalla, Robert Mitchum's brother Jim, and Steve Cochrane's chest hair. The Beat Generation premiered in the U.S. today in 1959.
Sharp curves and unexpected twists in road next 1,000 miles.
Every once in a while we come across a pleasant surprise of a film and Road Games is an example of that perfect nexus where no expectations meet good filmmaking to greatly improve our day. Starring Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis, Road Games is about an American hitchhiker making her way across the Australian outback the same time a depraved serial killer is loose on the road. She's picked up by truck driver Keach and the two of them come to believe they're following the same route across the country as the murderer. Keach and Curtis are great in this. Even though Curtis's attraction to a porno mustached forty-something can only be explained as a case of outback fever, the May/December storyline is deftly handled and reasonably believable, and the entire movie is given extra dimensionality by vast Australian vistas and witty dialogue. We highly recommend this one. It seems to have been mismarketed as a horror movie back in its day, but really it's just a thriller. Straightforward, well made, and starring two appealing performers, Road Games premiered in Australia today in 1981. You see the Aussie poster above, while the U.S. promo, along with some production photos, is below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
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