Japanese toy guns of yesteryear conjure the future while reflecting the past.
Yesterday’s Things To Come poster got us thinking about retro-futurism, so above and below you see a collection of 1950s through 1970s toy guns. Although some are tied into American or British television shows or serials, these particular guns are of Japanese manufacture and come from companies like Nomura, Yoshiya, and Daiya. The one above, for example, is a tin water gun from Crown Co. of Japan, and was designed as a tie-in with the British television series Space Patrol. You may notice the strong art deco influence—that’s common in these items and is a major reason they’re so attractive. The one just below, made of tin and plastic, ties in with the American television show Bronco, and features hero Bronco Layne’s face on the grip. Just below that is a machine gun promoting the Japanese anime hero Ōgon Bat, aka Golden Bat. And so forth.
While some of these are water guns, and others use battery power to produce lights and sounds, the ones we like best are friction guns, which means pulling the trigger causes flint-like mechanics in the chassis to produce sparks that make the gun flash and glow. The latter variety, as you might imagine, also produce a grinding/gearing noise to go along with the visual effects. We had one of these just a few years ago and couldn’t put it down. Back then though, we had no idea it was a collectible and so we lost track of it, sadly. It may still be in a relative’s garage Stateside, though, so all hope is not lost. Anyway, in addition to being fun, beautifully designed, and coveted on the collection circuit, these toys also make excellent props for provocative femme fatale photos, like here. That should put a little fuel in your rocket, and we have thirteen guns below that’ll bring out your inner space trooper.
, Space Patrol
, Ōgon Bat
, Golden Bat
You can’t go home again—and sometimes you don’t want to even if you could.
Anne Francis, née Anne Marvak, was born in the prison town of Ossining, New York—location of Sing-Sing Correctional Facility. Once she made her escape to Hollywood she became known for her role opposite Leslie Nielsen in the sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, but other notable credits include Bad Day at Black Rock, Rogue Cop, and the television series Honey West, all of which are well worth a gander. This romantic shot is from the early 1950s.
, Forbidden Planet
, Honey West
, Bad Day at Black Rock
, Rogue Cop
, Anne Francis
, Anne Marvak
, Leslie Nielsen
Three Italian covers offer three visions of Mickey Spillane’s hard-boiled Mike Hammer classic.
The top cover for Mickey Spillane’s Ti ucciderò was painted by the excellent Giovanni Benvenuti for Garzanti in 1957. You can see the artist’s signature more or less in the middle of the cover. The title Ti ucciderò means “I will kill you,” which is considerably less evocative than the original title I, the Jury, but maybe that just doesn’t translate well in Italy for some reason. The second cover is also from Garzanti and dates from 1972. The shifty eyes at top were a design element on all the Spillane covers from Garzanti during the period. Last you see a 1990 edition of I, the Jury published by Oscar Mondadori, and though we don’t know the artist, it’s interesting to see a book appear so late with a painted cover. The detective on that one, if you take a close look, is the actor Stacy Keach. He was starring as Mike Hammer on an American television show called The New Mike Hammer, from which you see a still at right, and the Mondadori book was a tie-in for when the show hit Italian television. All three covers are nice, but Benvenuti is tops, as always.
, Oscar Mondadori
, Ti ucciderò
, I the Jury
, Mickey Spillane
, Giovanni Benvenuti
, Stacy Keach
, cover art
Actually, I like wearing it—except I have to run for shelter whenever lightning is in the area.
French actress Maria Latour had a relatively minor career, appearing in four films in 1967 and several television shows between 1965 and 1973, but there’s nothing minor about this shot of her rocking a metal bra. It’s doubtless uncomfortable, but it’s also great in a low rent sci-fi way. The shot is from 1968.
Sci-fi icon Leonard Nimoy dies in Bel-Air, California.
Above is a promo photo of American actor Leonard Nimoy. We’ve been working our way through the original Star Trek and last night just finished the episode “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” Watching the show for the first time since childhood, it’s easy to see now that Nimoy was the best part of it. Shatner is great in that cheesy way of his, but Nimoy is the center of the Trek universe. He was especially good when his purely logical Mr. Spock was allowed to show emotion. In “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” while possessed by a cloud-like alien named Kollos who'd never occupied a physical form before, he waxed, “How compact your bodies are. And what a variety of senses you have. This thing you call language though—most remarkable. You depend on it for so very much. But is any one of you really its master? But most of all, the aloneness. You are so alone. You live out your lives in this shell of flesh. Self-contained. Separate. How lonely you are. How terribly lonely.” Star Trek was greater than the sum of its parts. It was escapism, but it managed stunning insights into the human condition. Leonard Nimoy was often the conduit. He died today in Bel-Air, California of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease aged eighty-three.
Straight to the toplessness.
This issue of the Swedish magazine FIB Aktuellt appeared today in 1973 and its cover star, Sophia Loren, is exposed inside in exklusivt! photos from her 1951 campfest Era lui... sì! sì, aka It’s Him!... Yes! Yes! You probably know the story by now. Loren described the decision that led to her toplessness this way: “The scene involved several girls like myself in harem costume and, for the Italian version it was all right to wear clothes. The director asked that we do one take topless for the French version. I did not want to, but I was hungry. The other girls obliged him and, after a moment’s hesitation, I did too.” Loren said later that in general she couldn’t bear to be naked. “I’m not exactly a tiny woman. When Sophia Loren is naked, this is a lot of nakedness.”
It’s interesting that the photos are labeled exclusive by FIB Aktuellt, considering images from Era lui... sì! sì! had been floating around for years. We shared a page from the low rent Goodtime Weekly Calendar of 1963 featuring the same topless shot you see above. But we suppose in the days before the global internet the images were a scoop each time a new magazine acquired them. Playboy made a big deal of printing them in 1966. Loren’s nudity remained mildly controversial for decades due to her superstar status, but time marches on, and in 2011 she appeared on prime time television on Italy’s RAI 1 with a humungous topless still from Era lui... si! sì! in the background. That’s progress.
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.”
Sweet Homicide? The song is called “Sweet Caroline.” What is this new singer of yours, Vinny, some kind of friggin’ smart aleck?
Bad times never felt so good, so good, so good, especially for an ambitious newspaper reporter investigating a murder in Prohibition-era Chicago. The novel Sing Out Sweet Homicide is a tie-in to the 1960-1962 television series The Roaring 20’s, and you get all the elements here—mobsters, molls, and money by the fistful. The cover art is by Mort Engle.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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