Love and the single robot.
This National Star Chronicle published today in 1965 doesn’t stand up well against the more colorful Keyhole (above), but it does have Julie Newmar, which is something. The photo that editors opt to use is just a handout, and it’s actually several years older than the issue, having appeared in glamour magazines as far back as 1961. When Newmar says she’s no robot, she’s referring to her role in the television series My Living Doll, in which she played an android named AF 709. In the show she’s created as a blank slate, which prompts her maker to partner her with a psychiatrist played by Bob Cummings, whose job is to program her to behave like an actual woman. We know. We know. The job should probably be given to… erm… a woman, but where’s the fun in that? Anyway, AF 709 is redubbed Rhoda Miller, given over to Cummings, and he tries to teach her things like obedience to males, and to not talk back—yes, really—but she of course develops a few quirks independent of her programming, and hilarity ensues. The show didn’t last long, shockingly, but it did contribute an enduring catchphrase to the American lexicon: “Does not compute.”
They don’t show mercy. They don’t negotiate. They don’t listen. They don’t care.
Kampf der Welten is, we’re sure you can guess from the art, the West German title for War of the Worlds. This cinematic adaptation of H.G. Wells’ famous 1897 serial starred Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, and if you haven’t seen it we suggest it’s worth the time, though it’s quite different from the novel. Actually, we recommend the novel too. It’s grimmer than the film, and has a distinct, rationalist point-of-view that was whitewashed for cinema audiences. Actually, not whitewashed—more like inverted to portray the clergy heroically, where in the novel it is characterized by cowardice. Spielberg and Cruise left that out, too, in their 2005 interation, but in other respects their movie is very close to the book. In addition to the German promo, we also have the three English language posters below. War of the Worlds premiered in the U.S. during the summer of 1953, and reached West Germany today in 1954.
, Kampf der Welten
, War of the Worlds
, H.G. Wells
, Gene Barry
, Ann Robinson
, Stephen Spielberg
, Tom Cruise
, poster art
Yeeess master... I will vote against my own interests and instead help enrich billionaires and corporations…
You always see the phrase “complete and unabridged” on old books. Well, here’s the other side of the coin. Heinlein’s manuscript for The Puppet Masters, for which you see a Doubleday dust jacket above, is 100,000 words. Doubleday’s edition is abridged to 75,000 words. We came across a bunch of Heinlein dust jackets, and just for a change of pace, thought they’d be nice to share. These are from Scribner’s, Putnam, Shasta, and the art is from Mel Hunter, Jerry Robinson, the awesome Hubert Rogers (The Man Who Sold the Moon and Revolt in 2100), Clifford Geary, and others.
The weightlessness is over.
Marta Kristen, who was born Birgit Annalisa Rusanen in Oslo, Norway, acted in a handful of movies and many television shows, but is best known for the sci-fi series Lost in Space. The show was young adult fare, and it had some of the same elements that make people nostalgic about the more mature series Star Trek—imaginative adventures set on far distant planets, wildly costumed aliens and monsters, and sound stage landscapes dotted with Styrofoam boulders and psychedelic plastic foliage. It premiered in 1965 but we caught it in reruns on cable when we were kids and it still warms the heart to think about the show. Marta Kristen probably warmed hearts and other body parts. She played Judy Robinson, the twenty-something elder daughter of the Robinson clan. This gravity-defying image shows her during the early 1960s.
The shape of posters past.
More Swedish poster art, this time for Alexander Korda’s Things to Come, aka Tider skola komma. This design, with its art deco touches, is by Mauritz Moje Åslund, an illustrator who was most active during the 1930s, and who also worked in commercial art, set design, political propaganda, and animation. Things to Come was adapted by H.G. Wells from his sc-fi novel The Shape of Things to Come, and the movie reached Sweden today in 1936.
Spain conquers the cosmos.
Above, assorted covers of the Spanish science fiction series Luchadores del Espacio, or Space Fighters, from Editorial Valenciana, created and written by Pascual Enguídanos Usach under the pseudonym George. H. White, with other authors like Alfonso Arizmendi Regaldie, José Luis Sanchis Benet (writing as Joe Bennett), and Pedro Domingo Mutiñó (as P. Danger) also involved. Art is mostly by José Luis Macias, with a few contributions from Vicente Ibáñez Sanchís and José Lanzón Piera. A couple of these images came from audiolibrosdebolsillo (where you can download audio copies), so thanks to them.
, Editorial Valenciana
, Colección Luchadores del Espacio
, Pascual Enguídanos Usach
, George H. White
, José Luis Macias
, Vicente Ibáñez Sanchís
, José Lanzón Piera
, José Luis Sanchis Benet
, Joe Bennett
, Alfonso Arizmendi Regaldie
, P. Danger
, Pedro Domingo Mutiñó
, Domingo Santos
, cover art
Raquel Welch shows what survival of the fittest is really about.
The official poster for Hammer Film Productions’ smash hit One Million Years B.C., which was painted by famed British illustrator Tom Chantrell, is one of the most famous pieces of promotional art to come out of the 1960s. You see that just below. The piece above is also Chantrell's work. Dated 1965 and signed at lower right with his familiar block printing, it would have been made the year before One Million Years B.C. premiered, which perhaps explains why Raquel Welch isn’t yet the focus of the art. Good decision, eventually putting her on the poster, but we like this one too, especially that not-quite-big-enough tiger skin the character is wearing. Too bad we never saw Welch in that.
As for the movie, you’ve all seen it, right? Well, if not, just know that it’s the ultimate Anglo-Saxon, lost world fantasy, with light-skinned humans running around in a Neolithic wilderness living off the fat of the land. The fact that the women have shaved armpits and hot bodies is a bonus. There’s a plot involving early man’s inhumanity to early man, mixed in with threats from various giant amphibians and some pretty convincing stop-action miniatures from efx guru Ray Harryhausen.
But of course Welch is the focus of the movie, and it’s a bit of surprise she ever agreed to star, considering she was already pretty well established as an actress. Credit her for career savvy, though—One Million Years B.C., complete piece of cream cheese that it is, made her the top sex symbol in the world. We’ll leave you with a still from the film, but trust us—it’s nothing compared to Welch in motion. One Million Years B.C. opened in Europe in late 1966 and premiered in the U.S. today in 1967.
, Hammer Film Productions
, Hammer Studios
, One Million Years B.C.
, Tom Chantrell
, Raquel Welch
, Ray Harryhausen
, poster art
, movie review
Who knew doom and destruction could look so pretty?
Something a little different today, above are five Thai sci-fi and horror posters, showing the baroque stylings that make them so visually pleasing. The movies are, top to bottom, The Hidden, Scanners, Hex, Lifeforce, and The Believers.
We had no idea so many would disagree when we called Prometheus incoherent. We better explain ourselves.
Who’d have thought we’d stir up a hornet’s nest by criticizing Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus? We were simply making what we thought was a self-evident statement, but perhaps we’re off in left field on this one. We guess we better explain ourselves, and if you actually have the time and/or inclination to read this, we’ll be extremely flattered. First, note that defenders of Prometheus often hail the script’s unanswered questions as a virtue and suggest that haters just need everything spelled out for them. But our dislike of the film had nothing to do with unanswered questions—it had to do with failures of craft. Having been paid during our time in L.A. to write a few scripts, we know a little about story construction. Not that our opinion is any more informed than a perceptive non-writer’s, but for those who require pedigree from their pundits, we have a smidge.
Alien worked well for many reasons, but foremost among them was its characterizations. The Nostromo’s crew is intelligent, educated, and experienced. Once they are confronted with a difficult situation, they take appropriate steps—based on the information at hand—to solve the problem. Of course, the true nature of the threat is hidden from them due to the machinations of the science officer Ash, who not only works for the faceless, heartless corporation that has arranged the entire scenario, but is not even human. Thus they never know Kane has an alien embryo in his stomach, which is why they never put him into stasis. This results in Kane’s death. Later they don’t know the alien grows at a miraculous rate. This results in Brett’s death, as he wanders the dark corridors of the Nostromo mistakenly thinking the alien is about the the size of a badger.
When Brett is killed the crew realizes the threat is something uniquely lethal—Parker, who barely glimpsed it, says. "Whatever it was... it was big and..."—but they still don’t know the creature is intelligent, or at least cunning. They decide that, like any animal, it will flee in a panic from fire. That’s why Dallas ventures into the ship’s ducts with a flamethrower and a plan to force the beast into an airlock. It’s only once he’s in there that the maneuvers of the creature make clear not only that it’s intelligent (or cunning), but that it intends to attack him. But it’s too late to get out. That results in Dallas’s death.
After this loss, Lambert quite rationally suggests fleeing—but the problem is the shuttle only has room for three. Rather than draw straws and leave one person behind, they decide to continue—with considerably more caution—trying to force the alien into an airlock, but first Ripley seeks more information from the ship’s computer. This is quite rational. Before, it was Dallas who interfaced with the computer. But his loss makes Ripley the captain and she must seek all available information. Ash, fearing either that he’ll be exposed or Ripley will ferret out something useful, decides to stop her, and in the struggle he’s decapitated and unmasked as an android. Now the crew knows the full scope of the challenge. Not only is the monster against them—so is the corporation. But with Ash gone there’s no problem with room in the shuttle, so the survivors make the rational decision to get the hell off the ship. But the alien massacres them as they make the attempt.
You’ll note that every link in the chain of decisions is solid and logical. The crew faces a steadily mounting problem and they devise shifting solutions—move, countermove, move, countermove—to deal with that problem as more information becomes available. And having made alogical decision at every turn, they fail. That’s a big reason why Alien is scary. The characters’ logic in dealing with the problem is unassailable—as it should be, considering their education and experience—yet they still lose. Our sympathy as viewers doesn’t derive from cheap sentiment but from our admiration for the characters’ smart approach to tough circumstances, and our horrific realization that brains isn’t enough to ensure survival. We don’t need to know more about them because they are rock solid consistent in their behavior and at no point do they deserve scorn.
Contrast this with Prometheus. In this you have a group even more steeped in science, yet they behave like teenagers on a field trip to Yellowstone. The entire away party irrationally takes their helmets off because the air in one part of the ancient structure they’re exploring is breathable, but they have no concern for microbes, bacteria, or airborne pathogens. The geologist Fifield irrationally freaks out at the sight of an ancient corpse, and in so doing gets lost in the charnel depths, there to later meet his demise. The zoologist Millburn irrationally approaches and attempts to touch an aggressively behaving unknown species, triggering his demise. The archaeologist Holloway sinks into an alcoholic depression because no living Engineers seem to remain, also leading to his demise, because remember, David spikes a glass of booze with organic goo and gives it to him. Would Holloway have been pounding liquor at all if he’d had enough sense to simply go about his job?
We could go on in this vein, but it’s clear to see that Alien relies upon its characters’ intelligence to create the framework for horror, while Prometheus relies upon its characters’ stupidity to set them up as part of the body count. In this way Prometheus doesn’t differ from Friday the 13th, which is why when advocates defend the movie as intelligent we have to chuckle a little. It’s not intelligent—it’s colossally dumb, and wefind it quite impossible to sympathize with stupid characters. While Shaw doesn’t do anything overtly ridiculous, neither does she show any analytical genius (at most, we can give her credit for intestinal fortitude and a strong will to survive). She’s a scientist, yes, because the script labels her as such, but the writers couldn’t be bothered to demonstrate her intelligence within the framework of the plot. The same can be said for all the other cardboard cutouts populating the movie.
We have a couple more points to make. Why does the prequel have infinitely more advanced technology than the original, which takes place later? The idea of Prometheus as retro-futurism is a tantalizing missed opportunity, not just in terms of production design, but because a lower-tech future similar to Alien’s would have been scarier. But no, the front office types say lights and bells dazzle the masses, so the movie has floating laser probes where Alien, which takes place later, has mostly bolts, jury-rigging, and wishful thinking. It’s pure Hollywood logic. A big budget movie must have gadgetry—period. Thus we have David spying on Shaw’s dreams. What purpose does this intrusion serve? It reveals to him how Shaw’s father died, but he could have gotten that info from a sheet of paper in a manila folder. The scene exists only to flaunt pointless fx.
There are a hundred other problems with the movie, from its unneeded intro sequence to its outro of a full grown semi-alien emerging from an Engineer’s body to Meredith Vickers’ hilarious inability to dodge left or right, but we’ll leave all those alone for now. But we do have one last question. When Fifield gets his face burned off and Millburn gets to deep throat an alien worm, why is it Fifield who comes back as a homicidal monster, rather than something that gestated inside Millburn? It’s a very minor point, but it highlights the sloppiness of the script. If the ship must be attacked, why not have it attacked by something that grew from within the character that was obviously implanted by something? This would be consistent with the established alien life cycle. Having the weaponized goo turn Fifield into a monster is extraneous. The movie was so desperate to show an alien that it tacked one onto the end. Why not instead simply have an alien grow inside Millburn and use that creature as the centerpiece of the attack against the ship? Utterly baffling.
Are we hard on the film? Yes, and everyone should be, because the difference between Prometheus and a low budget sci-fi throwaway is the same as the difference between a street magician guessing your card and David Copperfield making a limousine disappear from onstage at Caesar’s Palace. The breadth of the ambition determines the intensity of the scrutiny. It has always been that way with art, it always will be that way, and it’s completely appropriate. The world expects more of thosewho show great ambition. That’s why a dinky little pulp cover can be praised with the same vocabulary used for the Mona Lisa. Before art can be great it must first meet or exceed expectations. That doesn’t mean expectations can’t be misplaced. It happens all the time. But not in this case. Prometheus was promoted as a scintillating piece of deep-thinking entertainment. While it looks amazing, two viewings of it (we watched it again last night) only make us more certain that it's just a loud, shiny failure. Alien
, Ridley Scott
, Charlize Theron
, Noomi Rapace
, Idris Elba
, Sigourney Weaver
, movie review
In space no one can hear you orgasm.
It isn’t often one finds new material on Jane Fonda’s 1968 sci-fi classic Barbarella, so we were surprised to run across this item. It’s a guide booklet for the movie’s 1993 re-release in Japan, and we managed to steal a few images and clean them up in Photoshop. See below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1922—Challenge to Women's Voting Rights Rebuffed
In the United States, a conservative legal challenge to the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing voting rights for women is rebuffed by the Supreme Court in Leser v. Garnett. The challenge was based partly on the idea of individual "states rights" to self determination. The failure of such reasoning as it applied to basic human rights created a framework for later states rights losses involving the denial of voting rights to African-Americans.
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
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