It's Ho Chi Minh City (not Saigon). Why they changed it we can't say. People just liked it better that way.
This is a beautiful Spanish poster for the 1947 adventure Saigon, which opened in Madrid today in 1948. The film is one of innumerable mid-century thrillers set in foreign cities. At a time when the rest of the world was so distant and hard to reach, Hollywood fetishized it, romanticized it, and set stories wholly or partly in Mexico, Argentina, Morocco, China, Hong Kong, Martinique, and an entire atlas of other places. But today, with the rest of the world so easy to reach, Hollywood mostly tells audiences they'll be kidnapped or dismembered if they leave home. Saigon is old school. It makes viewers wish they could fly to mystical East Asia. Of course, the film's Saigon doesn't exist anymore, but the fact that Hollywood set a movie there tells you it must have been quite a place. But they say that about all the former colonial cities, don't they? Rangoon, Bombay, and Constantinople, as brilliantly eulogized in the satirical song by The Four Lads, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).”
Saigon deals with two recently discharged military buddies played by Alan Ladd and Wally Cassell who decide to stay in Asia to show their terminally ill third pal a good time before he dies in a few months. The third man doesn't know he's ticketed for oblivion, which leads to problems when Veronica Lake takes a liking to him. No mater how romantic old Saigon was, only so many tropical nights and platters of French-Vietnamese fusion cuisine can distract you from the fact that the love-hate relationship between Ladd and Lake is unpalatable. To us, slapping, insults, and over-the-top meanness feels like hate-hate. But put on your retro filter and you'll find a lot of comedy in this film, thanks to motormouth quipster Cassell. Some of his lines are truly clever. It wouldn't be exaggerating to say he makes the first sixty minutes of running time watchable.
When Lake inevitably falls for Ladd even though he's been treating her like a disease for hundreds of nautical miles, you'll accept it because it's a motif in old movies—though usually managed with a lot more charm and finesse. Overall we consider Saigon recommendable, but just barely. You know what we really took away from this movie, though? What you needed to do back then was open a shop and sell white suits. You'd have made a fortune. There are more white suits here than you can count. Far more than in Casablanca or Our Man in Havana. This film will make you wonder whether you can pull off the white suit. But even if you looked okay in it where would you wear it these days? Like old Saigon, that city is gone.
She was so good Horwitz had a second helping.
Senta Berger makes a second appearance on a Horwitz Publications paperback cover, this time for Carter Brown's Murder Is My Mistress. We showed you the Horwitz cover for Brown's Swan Song for a Siren a while back. That actually came second of the pair and was numbered 34 in the company's Reprint by Demand series. The above is number 19 and was published in 1960. We found it on the Nick Carter & Carter Brown blog, which is a stop you should make if you want to know everything about Brown. Anyway, we've been discussing these Horwitz paperbacks for a while because of their celebrity covers. In using Berger twice the publisher chose well.
There's an actual iron maiden down here. Looking at it, I admit it's an unduly harsh thing to call you when I'm angry.
As you know by now, we're often drawn to books by the covers, and John Dickson Carr's Hag's Nook attracted us because of the instantly recognizable art by Robert Stanley. Well, you can't win them all. This is a gothic mystery featuring Dr. Gideon Fell, who would appear in more than twenty other novels. Fell is unique in crime lit. He's obese and gets around on two canes—which is actually a pretty good description of the book's plot. Carr would go on to become a legendary writer of golden age mysteries, so we don't doubt for a moment that he penned numerous excellent tales, but this early effort—1933 originally, with this Dell edition appearing in 1951—didn't get it done for us. What did get it done for us, though, is the dungeon feel of Stanley's cover art. He's one of the good ones. We remember the blog Pop Sensation once described his work as "rich and creamy," which was descriptively on the nose, we think. Check for yourself here and here.
That moment when you realize your neighbors have known all along you've been watching them.
Above, a poster for Danchizuma: Kanki no yoru, aka Apartment Wife: Night of Pleasure, starring Junko Miyashita, Tatsuya Hamaguchi, and Masumi Jun. This is of course another Nikkatsu roman porno romp, with all that the label suggests. This entry was seventh in a franchise that eventually totaled twenty-one films. It premiered in Japan today in 1973.
This book strips everything off—logic, subtlety, humor, character development...
Strip, Wench... or Die! This one had us at strip. Plus it was cheap, a mere five bucks. And you get what you pay for sometimes, because this was really bad. Basically, Rip Austin is an insurance investigator posing as a rep for the local strippers union in order to look into the death of a dancer. He finds himself involved in an organized crime scam, and soon more strippers are dying. But not before they get naked and he manages to fall into bed with a few. Typical passage:
Naked women were hardly anything new in the life of a loving rounder like Austin, but he was hardly used to having one come to the door of a fashionable mansion in broad daylight. He looked at the massive mounds of her breasts—huge but beautifully formed with nipples that jutted upward with almost virginal audacity.
We get it—it's not supposed to be taken seriously. But it should at least be written in engaging fashion. Author Gene Cross, aka Arthur Jean Cox, obviously didn't give a shit about this as long as he still got paid. In that way he's a bit like a stripper himself. But again, at least the book was only five bucks. And there's a character named Kooky Marsh, which we think is kind of cool. And the cover has a rare image of a beautiful burlesque dancer (who we once used third from the bottom of this post). Those are the sum total of the book's merits. Oh well. Onward and upward.
The town's not big enough for the both of them.
We just wrote about a French werewolf novel—The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore—and now we've come across Les loups de la violence by Michael Shiofy. Some sources claim this was written by Belgian author Guy de Wargny under a pseudonym, but it's actually a 1966 reprint of a 1965 Italian novel called La dama dei lupi, which was written by Harry Small, a pseudonym used by Mario Penzauti. Yes, it's always complicated with these European books. It was published in France by Éditions Bel Air and was part of its Les Adventures de Dracula line, a twelve book series that featured all kinds of monsters, but not Dracula, strangely. However a vampire did star in entry nine, Frank Graegorius's Le vampire de la pleine lune, so that counts, we guess. We haven't read this. If it's as good as The Werewolf of Paris we'd be shocked. But the cover is comparable, we think. It was painted by James Hodges, whose artistic virtues we've extolled before. To see him at his best we suggest you check here and here.
Mercedes Molina bends over backward to please her daddy.
Thanks to The Exorcist a wave of possession films flooded cinemas during the mid-1970s. Above you see posters for one of them—Le notti di Satana, which was originally released in Spain as Exorcismo. Basically, it's about a young woman whose behavior radically changes, causing friends and family to conclude that she's possessed by the spirit of her recently dead father. But the priest knows better. It's just Satan, up to his usual tricks. Mercedes Molina stars as the possessed, performing under the name Grace Mills, for some reason, almost as if she didn't want to be associated with the movie. Though it isn't terrible. Just uninspired. Check this dialogue exchange:
At times I'm certain my sister is possessed.
Yes. How can I say it? Like something has taken possession of her.
That's bad. On the plus side, Molina/Mills manages some good contortions and screams, until the exorcism brings the expected climax. Also, the lovely Maria Perschy co-stars as Molina's flummoxed mother, so there's that. And there's some nude ceremonial cavorting that'll catch your eye, so there's that too. Otherwise, not a top effort. But all these posters are fun, if of varying quality. Only one is signed—the last one, by Italian artist Angelo Cesselon, whose work we've shown you here and here. We have a few screenshots below that capture the essence of the movie. Now you don't even have to watch it. Le notti di Satana premiered today in 1975.
Get behind me, ma'am. You'll be safe. I didn't jog and bike and do the paleo diet just to get gunned down in this stinking saloon.
They Died Healthy is a great title for a western. Logan Stewart was actually a pseudonym for an author named Les Savage, which we think is a far better name for a writer of westerns than Logan anything. Stewart/Savage authored more than twenty books and something like ninety published stories before dying young at age thirty-five. Was he gunned down healthy? Not so much— he was in poor health for a while due to diabetes and high cholesterol before succumbing to a heart attack. But his fiction lives on. He's considered by many to be one of the better western writers of his day. They Died Healthy is copyright 1951 with art by unknown.
A step by step guide to being a total badass.
This incredibly cool collectible poster was made to promote Wakai kizoku-tachi: 13-kaidan no Maki, aka 13 Steps of Maki: The Young Aristocrats, which is more girl gang goodness from the schlockmeisters at Toei Company. Etsuko Shihomi (sometimes spelled Shiomi) plays Maki of the 13 Steps, leader of the Stray Cats, a group of very tough, martial arts trained femi-delinquents. Maki and the gang bury an arrogant one percenter up to her neck on a beach in retaliation for a traffic related insult, which is all good fun, but the victim is Takako, daughter of the powerful, yakuza connected owner of Ebihara Tourism. Once she digs herself out of the sand she retaliates. This in turn brings re-retaliation from the Cats, which brings re-re-retaliation from Takako, and pretty soon things are well out of control.
The movie is based on an Ikki Kajiwara/Masaaki Satô comic, and director Makoto Naitô uses some amazing comic book style, multi-character framing, as seen in our screen grabs below. This is top notch work from Toei's pinky violence line, about as fun as a Japanese actioner gets. And in supporting roles you'll encounter Sonny Chiba, Meika Seri, and Yûko Kanô. Watching movies like this almost makes up for all the Nikkatsu roman porno misfires we slog through. Almost. Etsuko Shihomi is considered a bit of a film icon in Asia because her martial arts skills were real, and she appeared in so many movies. We have numerous posters of hers to share later and they're even more amazing than this one. Wakai kizoku-tachi: 13-kaidan no Maki premiered in Japan today in 1975.
Step one is here, on the bottom of my platform boot. Have a close look.
Step two is don't put your face where people tell you. We'll get to step three after you heal.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1931—Nevada Approves Gambling
In the U.S., the state of Nevada passes a resolution allowing for legalized gambling. Unregulated gambling had been commonplace in the early Nevada mining towns, but was outlawed in 1909 as part of a nationwide anti-gaming crusade. The leading proponents of re-legalization expected that gambling would be a short term fix until the state's economic base widened to include less cyclical industries. However, gaming proved over time to be one of the least cyclical industries ever conceived.
1941—Tuskegee Airmen Take Flight
During World War II, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, aka the Tuskegee Airmen, is activated. The group is the first all-black unit of the Army Air Corp, and serves with distinction in Africa, Italy, Germany and other areas. In March 2007 the surviving airmen and the widows of those who had died received Congressional Gold Medals for their service.
1906—First Airplane Flight in Europe
Romanian designer Traian Vuia flies twelve meters outside Paris in a self-propelled airplane, taking off without the aid of tractors or cables, and thus becomes the first person to fly a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Because his craft was not a glider, and did not need to be pulled, catapulted or otherwise assisted, it is considered by some historians to be the first true airplane.
1965—Leonov Walks in Space
Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov leaves his spacecraft the Voskhod 2 for twelve minutes. At the end of that time Leonov's spacesuit had inflated in the vacuum of space to the point where he could not re-enter Voskhod's airlock. He opened a valve to allow some of the suit's pressure to bleed off, was barely able to get back inside the capsule, and in so doing became the first person to complete a spacewalk.
1966—Missing Nuke Found
Off the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean, the deep submergence vehicle Alvin locates a missing American hydrogen bomb. The 1.45-megaton nuke had been lost by the U.S. Air Force during a midair accident over Palomares, Spain. It was found resting in nearly three-thousand feet of water and was raised intact on 7 April.
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