It's best not to get a head of yourself.
American actress Virginia Leith had a perfectly respectable show business career, appearing in the thriller Violent Saturday and on hit television shows such as Baretta and Barnaby Jones, but what she'll always be remembered for is her turn as a decapitated head in the 1962 schlock sci-fi flick The Brain that Wouldn't Die. Have you seen that one? You really should check it out. It's a hoot. In the film Leith is beheaded in a car accident and her scientist fiancée just can't let go. Well, looking at the rest of Leith at top, now we see why. We don't have a date on the photo, but we're guessing it's from around 1955.
Run silent, run deep.
This Japanese poster for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is damaged but still amazing. It was made for the 1954 movie's premiere in Japan today in 1955. Jules Verne's classic novel about Captain Nemo and his futuristic submarine has been mined often. There have been other films, a mini-series for television, a cartoon, and we understand a new cinematic version is in the works for 2017. We have low expectations for that. In today's Hollywood environment, with its thirst for bland global blockbusters, its aversion to storytelling depth, and its addiction to mindless and often pointless computer graphics, Verne's great story could finally be ruined. But we shall see. We're pretty sure the promo poster won't be as good either.
After the apocalypse man's best friend is more important than ever.
This is a pretty unassuming poster considering A Boy and His Dog is one of the top cult films of the 1970s. Based on a novella by Harlan Ellison and starring a young Don Johnson and co-starring early Pulp Intl. femme fatale Susanne Benton (who you can see in all her glory here), the movie is a post-apocalyptic tale of desperate survivors wandering radioactive wastelands scratching out a hard fought existence. Mutations have done a number on living creatures, which is why Johnson's co-star is a shaggy telepathic dog named Blood. Man and dog have a symbiosis, with Johnson offering protection, the dog sniffing out food and women, and both profiting companionship. Sounds goofy, we know, but the telepathic dog bit really works. Blood is irascible, but funny, smart, and warm, while Johnson is a slave to his id and libido. Ultimately, circumstances offer a choice between a dangerous and unpredictable freedom on the wastelands, or a secure but tedious existence in an underground sanctuary. The final question becomes whether conventionality diminishes a man. Playing like a bizarro prequel to The Road Warrior, and ultimately revealing itself to be a barroom joke stretched out to feature length, this is a film we recommend, however be forewarned that Harlan Ellison's post-apocalypse is a tough place for women. A Boy and His Dog premiered in the U.S. today in 1975.
Scientist creates test tube baby that grows into Barbara Carrera. We'll have two, please.
These two pretty posters were made to promote the sci-fi movie Embryo. It hit cinemas stateside in 1976 but didn't reach Japan until today in 1977. What you get here is a research biologist, played by Rock Hudson, who in classic mad scientist style learns he can accelerate gestation and decides to experiment on humans. He acquires an early stage fetus and dumps it in his magic tank. In hours it's born, in days it's a child, and in short order it's Barbara Carrera. So he's the smartest scientist who's ever lived. At least until one figures out how to create a test tube Elke Sommer. Carrera is super beautiful and super smart, but has one big problem. Can you guess what it is? We'll give you a hint—if you think too long she might be dead before you answer. The threat of early death will throw anyone for a loop so we'll forgive poor Barbara her transgressions. She dances naked—and that's worth all the forgiveness in the world.
A Wood time was had by all at 1995 triple bill.
Above, a very nice chirashi mini-poster made in 1995 to promote a cinematic triple-bill of three Ed Wood films—Plan 9 from Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, and Bride of the Monster. None of the three played in Japan when originally released—and if you've seen any of them you realize there's no reason they should have—so this poster is for their premieres. The reason this happened is because Tim Burton's biopic Ed Wood became a hit in the U.S. in 1994 and this triple bill occurred about a month in advance of that film's arrival in Japan.
The art is signed, which you can see in the inset image at right, but we can make neither heads nor tails of it. Or rather, we can make out the letters just fine for the most part, but we can't really determine how they should be arranged. Conjizukin or Comjizukin seem most likely, but we get nothing on either of those names with online searches. We weren't surprised. These artists with their esoteric sigantures. We guess none of them imagine they might one day be obscure and their abstract autographs might actually be a hinderance to recognition. If anyone can identify who this is drop us a line.
Update: The answer has arrived. A reader has informed us the artist is Suzuki Cohjizukin. We'll dig up more work from him a bit later, and thanks very much to the person who wrote in.
Me and you Barbarella! High noon. Time to settle this once and for all!
As long as we're on movie posters today, above is a completely different type of femme fatale. The promo art, which we think is quite nice, is for the DVD release of CQ in Japan today in 2003. If you look closely at the right border of the art you can just make out the Japanese text. The movie was made by Roman Coppola, starred Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, and Élodie Bouchez, and dealt with a struggling young director making a cheeseball sci-fi movie to pay the bills while working in his spare time on his beloved art film. That's Lindvall above as secret agent Dragonfly, a Barbarella-type space heroine, armed with vaguely organ-shaped retro-futuristic space gun. CQ premiered in 2002 and quickly achieved cult status, but writer-director Coppola has not had much opportunity to direct films since then, though he did helm a 2012 Bill Murray project called A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. We haven't seen it, but we know it flopped pretty hard. We've talked about CQ before, so we won't reiterate except to say we loved it.
What are the odds of a Mayan comet showing up at exactly the worst moment? Pretty good in cheeseball sci-fi.
Caltiki—The Immortal Monster was an Italian production originally titled Caltiki il mostro immortale, but made in English starring Canadian actor John Merivale in a tale revolving around Guatemala's Tikal ruins. We used to live in Guatemala and visited the Mayan ruins at Tikal, so we simply had to watch this movie. But the actual ruins shown are an amalgam of pyramids and what look like buttes and rock spires from the southwest U.S. There's a volcano thrown in there too, though Tikal is flat rain forest and low lying swamps. Creative license, we suppose. It all looks kind of otherworldly, which we guess was the goal, so nice work by the efx department.
The basics of this story are that there's a legendary Mayan monster or goddess in a lake, and when a group of scientists is attacked, one of them returns to Mexico City with a piece attached to his arm. Doctors manage to carve off a sample and learn that radiation makes it grow. They of course keep the piece safely stowed away, but unfortunately a highly radioactive comet spoken of in Mayan lore choses that week to pass close to Earth. It only comes once every 1,352 years, so this is really unfortunate timing on the comet's part, but that's just Maya luck. Celestial bodies are nothing if not implacable and aloof. The lake specimen is irradiated, grows to monstrous size, and oozes terrifyingly across the city.
But the solution to this problem isn't so difficult. Fire kills Caltiki, so it's really just a matter of directing some flames onto the beast. Cue flamethrowers, army guys, and soundtrack tympani. Caltiki turns into a Caltiki torch then goes down like an undercooked soufflé. This is b-sci-fi at its goofiest, but we'll admit the blob effects are actually pretty cool, aided as they are by the fact that all of them take place at night. Mario Bava, who is uncredited but actually did most of directing here, does a decent job and the acting is passable. Recommended? We wouldn't go that far. Caltiki—The Immortal Monster premiered in Italy in 1959 and reached the U.S. today in 1960.
You have to be in it to win it.
When the dystopian sci-fi movie Deathsport premiered in West Germany today in 1978, the unusual poster above was used to promote it, the title having been changed to Giganten mit stählernen fäusten, which means “giants with steel fists.” That's obviously a terrible name, but whatever, that's what they went with. And what they got was David Carradine and Claudia Jennings in a tale of defiant freedom fighters known as range guides pitted against the minions of a state at eternal war.
The government needs to propagandize the population into joining the armed forces, so it stages televised gladiatorial spectacles in which statemen use fancy death machines to do battle. These contraptions are supposed to be so cool they bedazzle credulous viewers into joining the war effort. This is a really interesting point for an American movie to make, but this is b-cinema, which means the death machines are really just motorcycles the prop department welded extra aluminum to.
The budget may be low, but the framework of the movie is sound. Against its totalitarian/post-apocalyptic backdrop you get an ambitious stateman, played by all time b-movie villain Richard Lynch, pursuing a personal grudge against Carradine's legendary range guide. You may not know who Richard Lynch is by name, but if you've watched even a few terrible ’70s movies you know his face because of its distinctive scarring.
The movie also offers up cannibal mutants, desert mysticism, silver jumpsuits, crystal swords, and naked women—including Jennings in a couple of her nudest scenes. Ah, but don't fret, lovers of manmeat—Carradine wears a loincloth for most of the film. True, he's got one of those high fat content ’70s bodies, but on a typical Friday night, were the clock to strike closing time at the club, you'd take his hairy hunkiness home and be happy about it. In a way, that's true of the movie too.
Everything about her is right on the money.
Above, a nice promo photo of American actress Rosalind Cash, best known for co-starring in 1971's sci-fi classic The Omega Man. She went on to score parts on many television shows.
You exasperate me earth woman! I want you out of my saucer. Pack up your shit and I'll drop you at your mom's.
Martians decide they want to study a thousand Earthlings, including protagonists David and Janice, with the eventual goal of turning the entire human species into love slaves. Sounds easy, but of course unpredictable consequences result. The rear of the novel describes the story as “unbelievable but possible.” We think a better description would be, "Impossible, but you'll want to believe." 1960, with cover art from Basil Gogos.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
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