Modern Pulp Jan 22 2016
CANDID CAMERA
How far would you go to get the perfect shot?


A freelance photographer who has spent his career documenting the mean streets of New York City, always arriving in the aftermath of terrible events, finds himself presented with the opportunity to photograph a gangland massacre at the instant it occurs. One crime family has decided to wipe out another and Joe Pesci's Leon Bernstein, aka the Great Bernzini, knows where and when it will happen. He wants up close photos and the only way he can get them is to be in the restaurant where the killings will happen. After two decades of seeing his photography ignored by the art world, he thinks pulling off this feat will make everyone take notice of him. Bernzini is reckless the same way Jimmy Stewart is in Rear Window, but in less cartoonish fashion because we’re taken inside his thought process and made to understand it.

There's more here of course—love, loneliness, social status, musings about art—but the shootout and whether Bernzini is crazy enough to shut himself in a room where one stray bullet could end his life is what the film is really about. The Public Eye, which appeared in 1992, was a clear influence (along with the French film Man Bites Dog), on the acclaimed 2014 thriller Nightcrawler, but this one is a period piece, set during 1942. While the historical details are convincing, director Howard Franklin and cinematographer Peter Suschitztky don't aim for a true noir look. The filmscape is dark, but not technically stylish. Still it's good, and it benefits from Pesci, who has a way of inhabiting roles to the extent that you can't imagine anyone else playing them. He makes the movie work.

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Modern Pulp Dec 15 2015
MAX OVERDRIVE
The rocker, the roller, the out of controller.

Mad Max premiered in Australia in April 1979 and made its way to Japan a few months later. Significantly, the U.S. premiere came after Japan—as well as Portugal, Italy, Holland, and Spain—and when it finally happened it was at The Motorcycle Film Festival in Seguin, Texas, several months before a wide U.S. release. The point is it’s amazing how careful the filmmakers were about releasing the movie in what was the world’s most lucrative film market. They weren't sure how American audiences would react to something so leftfield, but of course it did well enough there to become a series, and now a rebooted franchise helmed by original director George Miller. The Japanese poster above, painted by Tom Beauvais, was made for the movie’s Tokyo premiere today in 1979.

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Modern Pulp Nov 13 2015
THINGS CHANGE
Survival of the scariest.

It’s appropriate The Thing is about a monster that constantly evolves, because it’s another of those ’80s sci-fi movies, like Blade Runner, where most reviews of the day were unflattering, but have since evolved to acknowledge the high quality of the film. The Thing isn’t just great—it’s visionary. The cold, the vastness, the silence, the bone weariness of a bunch of working class scientists pitted against an interstellar horror right out of Lovecraft—a movie of this type could never be made today, as the less effective 2011 prequel proved. The ’80s Thing took the ’50s original and gave it grit and terror. The 2011 version lost the grit and, with its abundant CGI, managed only a few scares. You know, here’s the thing about CGI—producers always want the cutting edge of possibility, but those effects never look real. They’d be better off asking CGI techs to do only what they’ve truly mastered. Just because you can get the computers to render it doesn’t mean it looks good, or that it’s good storytelling. But don’t get us started. The above poster and promo pamphlet were made for the premiere of the second version of The Thing in Japan today in 1982. 

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Modern Pulp Sep 24 2015
PROFIT MOTIVE
Hookers, sports cars, yachts, serious consideration as a U.S. presidential candidate—I can buy anything now!

Here’s that unidentified Mexican artist from a few weeks ago again and he’s got a theme going with the money and the cruelty. This time the tables are turned. The person with the cash in this piece entitled Matenme por Piedad, is about meet a bad end via strangulation, whereas last time the money guy was winning. We like this one better.

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Modern Pulp Sep 15 2015
FUTURE SHOCK
1982 vision of a wrecked future gets better with time.

Did we already mention that the Blade Runner sequel will suck? We did, we think, and then expounded upon Ridley Scott’s fiasco Prometheus. But Blade Runner is an undisputed classic, one of our favorite films, part of a top ten that includes for us Casablanca, Chinatown, Altered States (and a few non-pulp movies such as Dazed and Confused). It’s worth noting that the movie wasn’t well reviewed upon release. Critics have slowly upgraded their opinions over time to the point where Blade Runner now has one of the highest ratings you’ll find. The upgrades are nice, but it’s kind of funny how far over critics’ heads the movie went at the time. It premiered in June 1982, and first showed in France today the same year. The French promo poster isn’t wonderful, and that’s why we have a collection of stills below to celebrate the watershed event of Blade Runner’s creation. These augment the promos we’ve already shared here, and here. Now let’s just hope they scrap that sequel. 

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Modern Pulp Aug 28 2015
WALKING A TIGHTROPE
The makers of Female Teacher: Rope Hell needed to learn a lesson or two.


Based on a bdsm novel written by the acclaimed Oniroku Dan, Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku, aka Female Teacher: Rope Hell, is yet another Japanese exploration of the pleasures, pains, and limits of sexual obsession and bondage. Frankly, this one is a bit tedious. There’s a razor thin line between thoughtful and dangerous when dealing with this kind of material. When Japanese films, in particular, end up on the wrong side of that line, you really have a mess on your hands. We understand, yes, that bad men aren’t always punished in real life. But this isn’t real life. It's just a movie, and punishment is key. In fact, for us it’s the entire point. It’s the only thing that makes these films watchable. But in this case, the abusive male ties up the two objects of his obsession and is tormenting them when one of his candles sets an accidental fire. He and the bound women burn to death. His obsession destroyed them all. That’s the end. Roll credits. Hope we didn’t ruin it for you.

The fixation Japanese film has with sexual abuse is curious. It often occurs for pretty straightforward narrative reasons—rape, or perhaps the murder of husbands and children, or often all three, are the triggers that transform women into terrifying revenants. The mostly thirty-something writers and directors who conceived these plots were taking swipes at Japan’s patriarchal social structure by first explicitly revealing a sexist status quo, then allowing feminine power to demolish it. Or so it seems to us. In that way pinku does not differ from blaxploitation. In those, it’s a racist status quo that is revealed and demolished. However revenge movies represent only a slice of the Japanese whole. Many films feature degradation without revenge, in which case we think it needs to be very carefully done to avoid endorsing such behavior. Major fail on that account here. All respect to Oniroku Dan, but excesses such as a forced enema and subsequent sloppy evacuation onto a man’s face are not things we can get behind, so to speak. Onna kyôshi nawa jigoku premiered in Japan today in 1981.

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Modern Pulp Aug 26 2015
BACK IN THE STRADDLE
I’d love to chat, but I really have to split now.


Not all of our Japanese posters are of the vintage variety, and the eye-catching piece you see above is an example from our stash of newer promo art. It was made for Ranchijo: Bikyaku Feromon, which translates to—ready for this?—something like “turbulent slut legs pheromone.” Hey, we just work here. The movie never had a Western release, so there’s never been a Western title assigned to it, which means a ridiculous literal translation from the Japanese is all you get. Maybe one of our readers out in that part of the world will write in with a better interpretation. 

The movie is about a university professor who becomes obsessed with a rhythmic gymnast played by Sayaka Kitagawa. Basically, what you have here is an erotic production built around the idea of flexibility, because flexibility is Kitagawa’s thing—she’s gotten bent in most of her flicks and she’s really good at it. In this one she does a bit with a hula hoop that’s rather interesting and, while wearing pink lingerie, performs some standing splits similar to what you see on the poster. 59 minutes of mind- and body-bending fun, Ranchijo: Bikyaku Feromon premiered in Japan today in 2004.

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Modern Pulp Aug 18 2015
PULP EVICTION
What do I look like? A guy with a heart or something? Don’t let the door hit you in the culo on the way out.

This piece of Mexican pulp-style art depicting a woman being evicted by an evil landlord was made during the early 1980s, but it’s appropriate for today’s era of millions of evictions a year, which goes to show that the more shit changes the more it stays the same. The piece is entitled El pez grande... roba al chico, or “the big fish robs the small one,” a phrase that pretty much sums up the last few decades. The painting was made for a Mexican graphic novel series entitled Jungla de asfalto, or Asphalt Jungle, and it’s probably the most technically accomplished piece of Mexican cover art we’ve come across. It’s initialed, but, as you can see, in such baroque style that it’s impossible to discern the letters. What do you think? Is that “FE”? “TE”? We have no idea. Thus the piece is unidentified, at least for now. See more Mexican pulp-style art beginning here. 

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Modern Pulp Jul 10 2015
BABY SPLITTER
Aw, somebody’s made a little mess again, hasn’t he?

It’s been a while, so here’s another… erm, interesting piece of Mexican neo-pulp. This painting featuring a fanged baby only a mother could love is entitled Mi mamá me mima, which means “my mother spoils me,” and it was made during the 1980s for Mexico’s popular comic book/graphic novel market. Honestly, we like these Mexican pieces. There’s something a bit high-school art class about the execution of them, but they manage to work in the part of brain that generates bad dreams. This particular nightmare is unsigned. 

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Modern Pulp May 28 2015
TRIGGER HAPPY
Bond set to return to bookstores along with all-time favorite supporting character.

Author Anthony Horowitz has unveiled details concerning a new James Bond novel to be entitled Trigger Mortis. Any addition to the Bond pantheon is news in the adventure fiction community, but people are particularly abuzz this time around for two reasons. The first is that Horowitz has announced the return of iconic Bond character Pussy Galore. Apparently, the story picks up two weeks after the events of Goldfinger.

Many authors have taken Ian Fleming’s enduring property for literary spins—among them the respectful John Gardner, Raymond Benson, and Charlie Higson—but Horowitz is mixing in original Ian Fleming material drawn from Murder on Wheels, an episode from a never-produced television series. This is the second reason Bond fans are excited, though of course there's no way to know how the material will be used, and it's perhaps too much to hope it will survive in anything resembling recognizable form.

Regardless, there’s no question Trigger Mortis will be a worldwide success—even the Young Bond series sold 5 million copies. And since Bond is one of the longest running film characters in history, we also know the new novel will be bought with an eye toward movie production. The only thing we don’t know is if the book will be good. Horowitz’s résumé does not scintillate—he authored a series of young adult spy novels, and wrote two Sherlock Holmes piggybacks, so we’re not expecting strong style or risky choices. But with a Cold War setting, Pussy Galore, and some original Fleming material, at least he has good elements with which to work. Trigger Mortis will be out in September.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 14
1929—Seven Men Shot Dead in Chicago
Seven people, six of them gangster rivals of Al Capone's South Side gang, are machine gunned to death in Chicago, Illinois, in an event that would become known as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Because two of the shooters were dressed as police officers, it was initially thought that police might have been responsible, but an investigation soon proved the killings were gang related. The slaughter exceeded anything yet seen in the United States at that time.
February 13
1935—Jury Finds Hauptmann Guilty
A jury in Flemington, New Jersey finds Bruno Hauptmann guilty of the 1932 kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby, the son of Charles Lindbergh. Hauptmann is sentenced to death and executed in 1936. For decades, his widow Anna, fights to have his named cleared, claiming that Hauptmann did not commit the crime, and was instead a victim of prosecutorial misconduct, but her claims are ultimately dismissed in 1984 after the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to address the case.
February 12
1961—Soviets Launch Venus Probe
The U.S.S.R. launches the spacecraft Venera 1, equipped with scientific instruments to measure solar wind, micrometeorites, and cosmic radiation, towards planet Venus. The craft is the first modern planetary probe. Among its many achievements, it confirms the presence of solar wind in deep space, but overheats due to the failure of a sensor before its Venus mission is completed.
1994—Thieves Steal Munch Masterpiece
In Oslo, Norway, a pair of art thieves steal one of the world's best-known paintings, Edvard Munch's "The Scream," from a gallery in the Norwegian capital. The two men take less than a minute to climb a ladder, smash through a window of the National Art Museum, and remove the painting from the wall with wire cutters. After a ransom demand the museum refuses to pay, police manage to locate the panting in May, and the two thieves, as well as two accomplices, are arrested.

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