It's a man's man's man's world. Until now.
It was inevitable. You can't have a pulp website and not talk about the iconic GGA-influenced poster for Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. This masterpiece came from the brush of Reynold Brown, who also painted promos for Creature from the Black Lagoon, Spartacus, Ben-Hur, and—ironically—The Incredible Shrinking Man. But 50 Foot Woman is the one people remember. It's the one that appears on t-shirts, lithographs, refrigerator magnets and spoof posters to this day. And for good reason. It's a perfect promo piece, from the execution, to the chaotic scene depicted, to the giant's straddle-legged pose that titillatingly suggests the world's most shocking upskirt shot. It also makes the film look far better than it is. You'd never think the 50 Foot Woman of the poster is, onscreen, mainly a big foam hand and some weak projection work.
The movie premiered today in 1958. It was directed by Nathan Juran under the pseudonym Nathan Hertz, and while it's mediocre it isn't close to being one of the worst films of the period. People remember it because of Allison Hayes' character, an unhappy wife whose growth into a giant gives her all the physical power she could ever want, but none of the emotional strength she needs to deal with her philandering husband Harry.
She's desperately in love with him, though he's a heel. When she eventually hunts him down the film becomes a feminist parable. We don't think that aspect was intentional, but it's definitely there by virtue of a male screenwriter creating a colossal feminine problem then determining how his male characters react to her. Guess what? She's fifty feet tall and still can't break through the glass ceiling.
The 50 Foot Woman has the power to deal with dirty Harry in a way he understands—dominance. Good. But she's also mad as hell and has busted out of her social niche. Bad. There's no attempt to reason with or negotiate with this newly empowered woman. Because she brings upheaval to the world elimination is the only solution. Yes, this movie has almost everything—an examination of gender roles as they relate to money, a discussion of emotional violence within marriage, and ruminations about male privilege. The one thing it doesn't have is a budget—for efx, good actors, multiple takes, or anything else. But that's why it's so endearing. Like the random growth spurt central to the plot, everything significant about Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a total fluke.
Clearly they have consent issues.
Monsters may be horrible but you can't fault their taste. To borrow a line from one of their number, they're automatically attracted to beautiful. It's like a magnet. We wonder if it's possible their need is an unconscious manifestation of the id of male Hollywood screenwriters. Or were the writers deliberately making commentaries about male power, nuclear paranoia, and environmental degradation? Well, those are questions for smarter people than us. We take monsters at face value. Maybe that's not what we mean—some don't even have proper faces. What we mean is we judge them as individuals. Most monsters are direct, like Pongo, above, trying to impress Maris Wrixon in the 1945 movie White Pongo, while some, on the other claw, are more circumspect. But the language barrier usually sabotages their delicate efforts. “I know an independently owned café that serves a killer macchiato,” comes out as a series of glottal grunts. “I loved La La Land too and I think the naysayers are mainly joyless jazz purists,” comes out as a sustained sodden hiss. Even if these vocalizations could give a true indication of the inner depths of a monster's personality, women generally wouldn't give them a shot anyway, because despite what they say, looks really do matter. What's a monster to do?
This Island Earth, with Faith Domergue.
The Time Machine, with Yvette Mimieux.
Creature from the Black Lagoon, with Julie Adams.
The Alligator People, with Beverly Garland.
The Man from Planet X, with Margaret Field.
Robot Monster, with Claudia Barrett.
The Beach Girls and the Monster, with Sue Casey.
The Monster of Piedras Blancas, with Jeanne Carmen.
The Day of the Triffids, with Janette Scott.
It! the Terror from Beyond Space, with Shirley Patterson.
I Walked with a Zombie, with Christine Gordon.
From Hell It Came.
I Was a Teenage Werewolf, with Dawn Richard.
It Conquered the World, with Beverly Garland again crushing a monster's hopes for love and fulfillment.
El retorno del Hombre Lobo, aka Night of the Werewolf.
Empire of the Ants, with Joan Collins.
I Married a Monster from Outer Space, with Gloria Talbott.
The Wolf Man, with Evelyn Ankers.
Better killing through chemistry.
Above is a 1958 Avon edition of The Death Dealers, sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov's first foray into the mystery genre. When a chemistry professor's best student dies of an apparent lab accident the professor ponders taking over the protege's cutting edge research as a way to impress peers—and perhaps earn a long denied tenure. But he's deduced there's a murderer loose and is worried the police might deduce it too, and consider the valuable research a perfect motive. While Asimov lays out the killing and resulting dilemma in a methodical way, and the world of chemists on a college campus is one he knew well as a professor of biochemistry at Boston University, the linear nature of the plot and emotional coolness of the characters don't allow the mystery to truly grip the reader. Yet the book is very readable—the details of life on campus, the politics, the maneuvering for that elusive tenure, are all interesting. And the backdrop of advanced chemistry, the detailed but not overwrought descriptions of experiments and processes, the fact that most of the characters are geniuses in their field, all work well. But there are so many mystery masterpieces out there we can only feel good recommending The Death Dealers to voracious readers in the genre. Or to Asimov fans. Neither group will be disappointed. All others, no guarantees.
Imperial battleship—suddenly give me godlike powers to win this war!
Whenever the subject of the worst movie ever made comes up you can count on everyone to have an opinion. When that discussion happens Starcrash is the film we mention. Generally people are skeptical. Everyone has their beloved favorites. Sometimes we'd have to prove our point, we'd end up renting this puppy to show to friends, and by the third reel any doubters were staring agape at the colossal implosion this movie is. It was a Star Wars knock-off, obviously, filmed in Italy and Switzerland with Marjoe Gortner and Caroline Munro in the leads, and written and directed by Luigi Cozzi working under the pseudonym Lewis Coates.
Whenever we watch this with friends the question always arises: did they mean it to be a good film? Yes. They did. But no. It isn't. Not even remotely close. And that's what makes Starcrash such a treasure. Not merely that it's terrible, but that the filmmakers wrapped the production feeling good about what they'd done. They thought they'd made an exciting, visually stunning, somewhat humorous smash hit. It's the sincerity of ambition that makes Starcrash, in our opinion, the best bad movie of all time. Worse (better) than Roadhouse, Plan 9 from Outer Space, and all the usual contenders. While Cozzi does an okay job directing, his script and budget sabotage him at the outset.
We'll give you an example (yes, it's a spoiler, but in a movie like this it doesn't matter). Near the finale, with no previous indication that such a power existed, Christopher Plummer, the emperor of the galaxy, bellows this command: “Imperial battleship—halt the flow of time!” You can't just suddenly go deus ex machina like that. It would make as much sense if Plummer shouted: “Imperial battleship—make my enemies' dicks fall off!” He explains in a smirky aside, "You know, my son, I wouldn't be Emperor of the Galaxy if I didn't have some powers at my disposal." That's amazing. And don't even get us started about how Cozzi forgot that space is a vacuum.
Get some friends over, get some booze flowing, get Starcrash rolling, and see if watching Gortner and Munro ham it up across a Christmas lighted galaxy isn't one of the best movie nights you've ever had. One thing that isn't terrible about it, at least, is the U.S. promo art by John Solie you see above and below. The international posters are nice too, though we don't know if they were painted by Solie. We'll show you those later. In meantime you can see another beautiful Solie effort here. Since Starcrash was Italian made it premiered in Italy and West Germany before reaching the U.S. today in 1979.
This is not a light saber.
This is not like Princess Leia's hologram.
He in no way resembles Darth Vader.
But to be fair, motifs in sci-fi repeat. In a universe of ideas, writers for some reason tend to think of the same stuff. Below are aspects of Starcrash that—suspiciously?—recurred in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back.
Han Solo's deep freeze in carbonite in no way resembles this.
Princess Leia's slave costume is not similar to this at all.
The ice planet Hoth is near here, but is a totally different planet.
And below are more production photos from the film. If these don't make you want to watch it, well, you probably don't have a pulse. Or possibly you just have good taste and think life's too short to watch terrible films. Either way.
Outer space is a cold, empty, indifferent void. But only in places.
Way back in 2009 we shared a production photo of Italian actress Ornella Muti from the 1980 schlock space opera Flash Gordon. It was a nice shot, but we recently acquired this much better promo image of her in the same crazy costume as Princess Aura and thought we'd bring her back. As celestial bodies go she's one of the best.
So this robot and the doctor have kind of a co-dependent thing going on, don't they?
Above, an Italian promo poster for Il pianeta proibito, aka Forbidden Planet, which premiered in Italy today in 1956 with future comedy icon Leslie Nielsen in the lead role. There are a few Italian promos. On this poster you see an unconscious Walter Pidgeon being carried by Robby the Robot. This is what happens in the movie, but on most other posters, including the U.S., Spanish, and French iterations, the robot carries a female figure—which doesn't happen at any point in the film. All the posters are great, but the fact that only the Italian version showed what actually happened in the film instead of going for the damsel in distress motif is interesting. Check out the Spanish and French promos here.
Ever watch a movie that really makes your skin crawl?
The above poster was made to promote the Italian release of the sci-fi movie L'allucinante fine dell'umanità, which was originally made in Japan and called 昆虫大戦争, or Konchû daisensô. The chaotic Japanese poster appears just below. It's a mutant bug movie obviously, an angry bug movie, a swarming bug movie, a planes-crashing-because-of-bugs-ganging-up-on-jet-engines movie. Basically, these insects get into everything, including your sinus cavities. If you know the film at all, it's probably as War of the Insects or possibly Genocide, which were its two English titles. It is, amazingly, part of the Criterion DVD Collection, which consists of “important classic and contemporary films,” but we can't call it anything better than adequate.
It's interesting on one level, though. Japanese creations such as Godzilla are often called a reaction to being the victims of two nuclear bombs. If so, then Konchû daisensô fits that category too, as the rogue insects that turn on humans can only be defeated with a lost but undetonated American atomic bomb. Germany is worked into the plot as well, so with three major World War II powers involved there may be war psychology at work. Entomopohobia is at work too, so if you hate or fear insects, definitely give this one a pass. Konchû daisensô premiered in Japan today in 1968, and began its run in Italy as L'allucinante fine dell'umanità at some unknown date afterward.
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.
Come, human female. We will go to my crib and get to know each other better.
Spanish artist Carlos Escobar painted this poster for the sci-fi flick Planeta prohibido, better known as Forbidden Planet, which premiered in the U.S in 1956 and reached Spain today in 1957. Escobar was a master of realistic figures, such as those he painted of Sharon Tate and Beba Lončar, but for this piece he used a more stylized technique to depict Robby the Robot and an unconscious figure we suppose is Anne Francis. We don't remember Robby carrying her in the film, but it's been a while since we watched it, so maybe we've spaced that. But in any case this is a fantastic piece of promo art. We especially love the trippy sky. It reminds us of this time we dropped acid in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Interestingly, French artist Roger Soubie painted an almost identical promo, which you see here also. We can only assume the studio dictated the look of the poster and each artist expressed their personal style with the backgrounds. Why not use the same poster in both Spain and France? We don't know the answer to that. We can't help but think it would have been more economical than paying two artists to reproduce the same basic image. But it's fine with us, because all these years later we have two top shelf promos to admire. As a bonus, we've uploaded a Robby and Anne Francis promo photo below. For a robot, Robby's got game. Leslie Nielsen better be careful or the far reaches of the galaxy are going to get a lot colder.
Celestial bodies discovered in California
This winners photo was made today in 1952 at a beauty pageant held at the Civic Auditorium of San Jose, California, and sponsored by Ray Van Cleef and his Gateway to Health gym. Van Cleef was a former competitive weightlifter who became a fitness guru by opening his gym, writing a column for Strength and Health magazine, and serving as a trainer for the 1948 U.S. Olympic Team. The above contest competitors were judged on “physical beauty, facial beauty, personality, and grace,” and the lucky winner, who earned the crown Miss Venus, was Beverly Jocher, a dancer from the Bruce Variety Show in Port Hueneme, north of Los Angeles. We assumed she was trying to break into movies, which is the case for most pageant participants, and indeed when we checked she possessed a single film credit—for the 1954 sci-fi flick Gog. Second place at the pageant went to Jill Gion, and third to the interestingly named Bandy Lee. No word on what any of the contestants actually won.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
1967—Muhammad Ali Sentenced for Draft Evasion
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was known as Cassius Clay before his conversion to Islam, is sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. In elucidating his opposition to serving, he uttered the now-famous phrase, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”
1953—The Rosenbergs Are Executed
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted for conspiracy to commit espionage related to passing information about the atomic bomb to the Soviet spies, are executed at Sing Sing prison, in New York.
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