Focus on both the writing and the art.
Focus was Arthur Miller's first novel, written in 1945, with this Ace Books edition appearing in 1960. If you haven't read it, basically it tells the story of a man who buys a new pair of glasses that alter his appearance to the extent that he is constantly mistaken for being Jewish. From harboring the same prejudices as others, he is suddenly cast as an enemy, as the hatreds around him are revealed. It's a very good, very ernest book. We've actually shared this, though, because the cover was painted by the Italian artist Sandro Symeoni, and it's the first time we've found his work on a paperback. The art reflects nothing of the book's content, but it's amazing just the same.
A widow gets back into the swing of things and trouble soon follows.
We're still working on that today-is-yesterday theory. Maybe we better explain. We planned to share both this and the ticket from the above post yesterday, but it's summer and our local beach is hopping and Saturday night we were at a party that didn't end until after sunrise, which pretty much wiped out Sunday for us, except for crawling to the aforementioned beach and sitting under a shady spot and oozing toxins until we were human again. But enough about us. Above you see a poster for 1981's roman porno production Mibōjin no shinshitsu, aka Widow's Bedroom, which we meant to share yesterday, on its premiere day. The movie deals with a smalltown inn proprietress whose husband has committed suicide, which is difficult enough to deal with, but whose situation is complicated by the arrival of two guests—a wheelchair bound novelist there to write a new book, and his beautiful nurse. The writer develops an obsession with the widow, the nurse likewise grows interested in a bit of same-sex fun, the widow's brother-in-law is determined to have her for himself, the dead husband reappears as a figment of the widow's imagination, and so on, in reliably complicated roman porno style, very much like the convoluted sentence we just wrote to describe the plot, and all in just about sixty minutes plus change—the movie, not the sentence. Mibōjin no shinshitsu stars Izumi Shima, who makes every one of those sixty-something minutes worthwhile. In order to make our writing worthwhile we've shared a rare promo image from the film below. Shima was one of Japan's top roman porno stars, and possibly the most beautiful, if one were inclined toward rankings. We've written about other movies of hers, which you can learn about by clicking here.
Forget my wife—I think I need help regaining feeling in my lower half.
Nursing isn’t easy—especially in mid-century fiction, where in addition to dealing with medical issues you have to dodge the roaming hands of doctors and patients alike. Visiting Nurse, written by Norman Bligh, aka William Neubauer, deals with an angel of mercy sent into the slums who finds herself giving the fellas some unconventional treatments. Why? Because “she has all the weaknesses and yearnings of women, the need to be loved, the aching desires, the mad impulses” and because “she tries and tries again, yet cannot help making mistakes, cannot help the fact that she is a woman.” At this point, we'd note that the weaknesses and yearnings of men have reduced entire countries to parking lots, but that would be a digression. 1953 copyright, with cover art by Ray Pease.
Hitchcock's epic thriller shows his directorial gifts but misses the mark.
This Italian poster for Io ti salverò, aka Spellbound is wonderful. The movie, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, isn't. The central plot device involves a man who may have blacked out committing a murder. That's a good place for a thriller to start, but the actual psychiatric science is approached clumsily, the love story is overwrought, and the orchestral musical score is omnipresent and overbearing. You have to wonder if composer Miklós Rozsa actually watched the film, because while Spellbound is big, his music is positively galactic. A re-edit with 60% of his output removed would make this one a much smoother ride. It's always a danger to criticize a classic film, we know, but not all classics are created equal. This one lives on Hitchcock's reputation, the overall technical execution, and a groundbreaking dream sequence designed by renowned artist Salvador Dalí. At the end of the dream a faceless man drops a wheel. Maybe it was a steering wheel, because despite all the money and star power poured into Spellbound, somehow it went down a middling road. It premiered in 1945 and reached Italy as Io ti salverò today in 1947. Italy
, Io ti salverò
, Ingrid Bergamn
, Gregory Peck
, Alfred Hitchcock
, Miklós Rozsa
, Salvador Dalí
, poster art
, movie review
Whew. I'm bushed. You know, when you said you needed your field plowed I was thinking along totally different lines.
Above, a typically low rent cover from Sanford Aday's sleaze imprint Fabian Books, uncredited but probably by Bill Edwards. Dolores Dee was actually an author named Delores Cardwell, and Passionate Lovie, which seems to be the only book she wrote, fits squarely into the sub-genre of farm sleaze where a sexually precocious hayseed wants out of hickville. “What goes on in the big towns?” she wonders constantly. The only way to find out is to work her charms on several hapless men. 1959 copyright.
West German cinema begins looking at the world in a different way.
Confession d'une pécheresse, aka The Sinner caused a bit of a scandal in West Germany, where it premiered as Die Sünderin in 1951. The movie's depictions of pre-marital sex, prostitution, nudity, and particularly double-suicide got the Catholic church bent out of shape. Despite protests against cinemas and death threats directed toward star Hildegard Knef, the movie was a smash, seen by two million West Germans within the first two weeks of its run. So based on that preamble you know pretty much what the film is about—amid a desperate post-war backdrop a prostitute falls in love with less-than-satisfactory results. But even if the story is familiar by now thanks to the many newer films that have touched upon similar subject matter, Die Sünderin is a cinematic landmark, produced in a war shattered country that had begun to put the pieces back together in a new way, including in its film industry. The above poster, a beautiful piece by the way, was made to promote Die Sünderin 's French run, which began today in 1953.
Eight... nine... aaaand... ten! You know, my arms have really gained definition since I started weight training with you.
The noble white men vs. savage primitives narrative around the colonization of the New World gets so ingrained in Americans by the time they're adults that for many it can be a shock or even feel like an attack to learn that the colonists killed millions of Native Americans via the most dishonorable and underhanded means. Literature often tries to explore nuances in this scenario, and Frank G. Slaughter's Fort Everglades has the typical set—i.e., it’s acknowledged that the white men constantly break treaties and kill without provocation, thus Seminole leader Chittamicco has understandable grievances, but his response (killing them) is intolerable and for the good of all there’s only one solution (killing him). It always seems to come down to that, but for those willing to accept the obvious historical and moral whitewashing, there are thrills to be found in these books. The hero here is a doctor whose blonde love is kidnapped by Chittamicco, and the cover depicts the moment he hurls the poor girl into gator infested waters. Artist James Meese deserves extra credit for this one. He really captures a dramatic and action packed moment.
Machine gun Margaret strikes again.
In the tropical Republic of San Rosario four beautiful nurses—Margaret Markov, Rickey Richardson, Andrea Cagan, and Laurie Rose—are kidnapped and forced to teach the healing arts to a revolutionary army so it can bring medical care to villages it liberates. While one of the nurses begins to agree with the captors, the others just want to escape. But when they do, they are captured by an army leader and what they learn prompts them to escape back to the revolutionaries' jungle compound to warn them of an impending government attack.
Scripted by Jonathan Demme and produced in the sweaty Philippines by sexploitation specialists New World Pictures, The Hot Box features most of the elements you expect from jungle sleaze, with perhaps less skin than the standard. But there's plenty of leering, drooling, and general depravity, followed by punching, kicking, stabbing, and Margaret Markov going cyclical with a machine gun. By the way, we'd not note this ordinarily, but post-massacre we'll add that mowing down people with machine guns is fine for cinema, but all other applications are idiotic and tragic.
There's a debate online about whether this is a women-in-prison film. People often get obtuse online—of course it's a women-in-prison film. The nurses don't spend three reels inside a bamboo cage being hosed down with river water, but they are twice held against their will and escape both times. Textbook stuff. Do we recommend the film? Not quite. But Markov is always worth the time. Amongst a slate of atrocious performers, she can almost act. Almost. The Hot Box premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.
, New World Pictures
, The Hot Box
, Andrea Cagan
, Laurie Rose
, Rickey Richardson
, Margaret Markov
, Jonathan Demme
, poster art
, movie review
French musical comedy looks at the follies, foibles and failures of a terminally chaotic burlesque production.
This beautiful and rare Japanese poster was made to promote the French burlesque comedy Ah! Les belles bacchantes, which was known in English by the titles Peek-a-Boo and Femmes de Paris. We managed to locate a copy and basically you get a musical about a local cop who decides to look into reports of sexual dancing at a local cabaret. The movie stars Louis de Funès as the cop, Colette Brosset as an aspiring dancer, and Les Bluebell Girls du Lido. The image on the poster features one of those Bluebell Girls personifying La nuit, or the Night, and as impressive as she looks on paper, you should see her in the movie. Other dancers portray the Sun, the Moon, and so forth. We'd go so far as to say that sequence alone was worth the time spent watching Ah! Les belles bacchantes. But is it actually a good movie? Sure—if you like ventriloquists, leopards, pratfalls, brawls, and sputtering doubletakes. In other words, it's very silly, and very likeable. It opened in France in 1954 and reached Japan yesterday in 1955.
, Ah! Les belles bacchantes
, Femmes de Paris
, Colette Brosset
, Louis de Funès
, Les Bluebell Girls du Lido
, poster art
, movie review
There's nothing standard about this model.
This 1953 wall calendar from the Standard Parts Co. of Memphis, Tennessee features a lovely painting from famed pin-up artist Bill Medcalf. While it looks as if the painting featuring a golfer with a perfect follow through has been pinned to a sunny wall for ages and the colors faded as a result—an assumption seemingly confirmed by looking at Medcalf's original lithograph at right—the image isn't actually faded. A glance at the orange border, which is as vibrant as something harvested by Sunkist, proves it. The makers simply decided for stylistic reasons to go with a monochromatic sepia for the color. Why? We don't know. Maybe because golf is an exercise in serial failure that sucks all the vitality out of you.
The real bonus with this piece, though, comes when you flip it over. There on the other side of the Standard Parts calendar is none other than anything-but-standard model Diane Webber, aka Marguerite Empey, who was America's most famous nudist from the mid-century period. She's popped up on our site several times, usually in rare treasures we've had the pleasure of putting online for the first time, like here, here, and especially here. We're happy to add another find to the collection, and we'll have more from her a bit later.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1914—Rasputin Survives Assassination Attempt
Former prostitute Jina Guseva attempts to assassinate Grigori Rasputin in his home town of Pokrovskoye, Siberia by stabbing him in the abdomen. According to reports, Guseva screamed "I have killed the Antichrist!" But Rasputin survived until being famously poisoned, shot, bludgeoned, and drowned in an icy river two years later.
1967—Jayne Mansfield Dies in Car Accident
American actress and sex symbol Jayne Mansfield dies in an automobile accident in Biloxi, Mississippi, when the car in which she is riding slams underneath the rear of a semi. Rumors that Mansfield were decapitated are technically untrue. In reality, her death certificate states that she suffered an avulsion of the cranium and brain, meaning she lost
only the top of her head.
1958—Workers Assemble First Corvette
Workers at a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, assemble the first Corvette, a two-seater sports car that would become an American icon. The first completed production car rolls off the assembly line two days later, one of just 300 Corvettes made that year.
1950—U.S. Decides To Fight in Korea
After years of border tensions on the partitioned Korean peninsula, U.S. President Harry Truman orders U.S. air and sea forces to help the South Korean regime repel an invasion by the North. Soon the U.S. is embroiled in a war that lasts until 1953 and results in a million combat dead and at least two million civilian deaths, with no measurable gains for either side.
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