I guess I'll just wait until they're finished before I tell them I only date women.
Danger Trail, written by Theodore Pratt, is about a mailman in Florida who braves storms, gators, thieves, politics, and more, along a seventy mile route from Miami to Palm Springs, to get a difficult job done. If it sounds like an unusual and imaginative tale, you're right. Pratt was an experienced writer who knew his stuff, and had five books adapted to the big screen. Danger Trail was originally published in 1943 as The Barefoot Mailman and was made into a 1951 movie with that title. This Bantam paperback arrived in 1949.
*gasp* That phone is just everything! Where did you find it in that color? I'm dying of jealousy right now.
Murder takes no holiday and neither does artistic talent, as proven by this beautiful Robert McGinnis cover of a man losing his shit over the latest pink phone from Ma Bell. Okay, that isn't what's happening, but it looks that way, right? Actually the male figure is way over his head in a smuggling plot and the female figure—a femme fatale named Vivienne Larousse—is keeping him from losing his nerve. The book is set on the fictional Caribbean Island of St. Albans, a British enclave that seems to be modeled after the Caymans. Brett Halliday's franchise sleuth Michael Shayne is thrown into the mix to solve a murder that took place in the U.S., and follows the clues to the tropics. Of the approximately seventy Shayne novels, this one—number thirty-five or so—is merely adequate. Actually, all the ones we've read have been merely adequate. But we'll keep at it. McGinnis, on the other hand, is masterful. Of all the moments in an action oriented book to illustrate he chose an unlikely one, but the result is just everything. His alternate cover, below, is also great.
They say the truth sets you free, but a Jaguar roadster helps quite a bit too.
A great title cannot go unborrowed forever. The Fast and the Furious would be a good name for a film noir, a war movie, or even a romantic melodrama (young and restless, anyone?). So it was a good fit for the action franchise starring Vin Diesel. But it was first used for a little crime drama released today in 1955 starring John Ireland and Dorothy Malone. In the film, Ireland, who's been framed for murder, breaks out of jail, takes Malone hostage in her convertible Jaguar XK 120 roadster, and enters a cross-border road race hoping to get into Mexico. That's a killer concept for an action movie, but this is American International Pictures, which means it's done low budget, with lots of projection efx and stock footage in the action scenes, and minimal work on the script. But while the movie isn't great, it's certainly suitable as a Saturday night popcorn muncher. Invite witty friends, enjoy the cars, laugh at the repartee, and marvel over Dorothy Malone.
Post-noir classic's reputation keeps soaring even as its director's keeps falling.
Nearly ten years into this website we've mentioned Chinatown only once—when we wrote a few lines while sharing two Japanese promo posters. The above poster was made for the film's Australian run, which began today in 1975. The film has been discussed everywhere, which means we can't add much, so let's just call it an all-time masterpiece, and one of the most watchable and re-watchable movies ever made, filled with details you notice over time. For example, it didn't strike us until after a few viewings that Jack Nicholson does his own stunt in that culvert scene, the one where the water rushes down the sluiceway and pins him against a chain link fence. You wouldn't see many modern day stars get wet and cold for a moment that lasts five seconds onscreen. We also failed to notice the first few times that the police lieutenant, Escobar, is Mexican-American. It just didn't strike us. But he would have been an extreme rarity in the 1937 L.A. of the film, and the writing and/or casting choice there was certainly deliberate. Other details continue to emerge, and we've seen the movie five or six times.
As far as director Roman Polanski goes, we've talked about him before. But we'll add that art stands on its own, and people stand on their own too. Having created superior art should not absolve someone of crimes; having committed crimes should not serve to denigrate superior art. That's just our opinion. Plus, a director isn't the only one responsible for a film. The hundreds of others involved, including the select group pictured below, and especially the unpictured screenwriter Robert Towne—who is just as responsible for Chinatown as Polanski and won an Oscar for his screenplay—deserve credit. We will always criticize art for being inaccurate when it pretends to be truthful, or for promulgating false or harmful beliefs. Chinatown doesn't do that. Quite the opposite—it offers sharp insights into how and why Los Angeles became what it is. Meanwhile its subplot somewhat foreshadows Polanski's own crime, which makes the film ironic in the extreme. If you haven't seen it you simply must.
Have you ever considered the possibility that it's just a penis substitute offering psycho orgasmic relief for self esteem inadequacies?
Leave it to a woman to overcomplicate things. Sometimes a gun is just a plain old penis substitute. Dan Cushman's 1953 novel Jungle She features plenty of those, as his franchise man's-man Frisco Dougherty helps an escaped “half caste” damsel in distress return to the locale of her captivity on a Borneo plantation and to try and steal the tyrannical owner Van Hoog's hidden fortune. That's supposed to be her in John Floherty, Jr.'s cover art, and if you're thinking to yourself she looks inclined to use to gun on Frisco, well—spoiler alert—she actually does shoot him, but he survives to confront Van Hoog in a vertiginous rope bridge climax. If you want to buy any of Cushman's jungle adventures you'll probably find them expensive—up to $100 for this one. But be patient. We also saw it for eight bucks.
Al Wheeler gets caught in an explosive situation.
Barye Phillips art adorns the cover of Carter Brown's The Bombshell, first published in 1957, with this Signet edition appearing in 1960. The book features his franchise police detective Al Wheeler, who's assigned a murder case where there's no body. He protests because it's really a missing persons investigation, but his boss is convinced young Lily Teal's corpse is somewhere to be found. Even so, a previous investigation came up empty and Wheeler is assigned the case with the expectation he won't get anywhere. But failure is for lesser detectives. Our favorite exchange in this one:
Femme fatale: “Maybe it's something to do with me being born in the South—a girl matures early in a hot climate.”
Al Wheeler: “And you've been carrying that climate around with you ever since.
We shared this cover as part of a collection several years ago, but hadn't read the book. The scan above is from our own copy. This is the third Al Wheeler book in the long running series, but it already feels a bit perfunctory. The narrative doesn't really take off until Wheeler is framed for attempted sexual assault. At that point, based on how far his still unknown enemies are willing to go, he realizes there's more to the case than just a possible murder. Overall, not a bad outing, but nothing special. We have more Al Wheeler mysteries we acquired recently, so we'll see how those go.
Marie Forså indulges in a summer of ecstasy.
Marie Forså appears above on yet another beautiful Japanese promo, this time for Molly, aka Sex in Sweden, a sexploitation flick based—very loosely we think—on Moll Flanders. The only similarity seems to be that the main character is away from home (in the Côte d'Azur, poor tortured thing) and undergoes a sexual awakening. The version we watched was fully hardcore, with scenes performed by Anne Magle and others. Forså's sex scene is shot with a body double, which is a little strange considering she already had an x-rated magazine spread to her credit, but it was a very obscure Swedish publication, which is a whole different ball game, so to speak, from doing the same for international cinema audiences. Without her sex scene and the several others scattered at intervals Molly would be maybe 40 minutes long, and that should tell you exactly what to expect in terms of plot—dubious Moll Flanders connection notwithstanding.
We usually post screenshots or production stills when we write about a film, but we won't bother with that here because our copy's image quality was blurrier than your vision after several hits of the aforementioned ecstasy. Instead we decided to share the below image of Forså. It's rare, and with Forså covering her furry bits it reminds us of the many Japanese promos we've uploaded. We think it's a beautiful shot, but others—possibly our girlfriends among them—may disagree. Well, if they have any serious objections about our website it's way too late to register them now. We're going to talk about one more of Forså's movies before consigning her to the completed bin, so look for that a bit later. You can see our other posts on her movies by clicking her keywords at bottom. Molly opened in Sweden in 1977 and premiered in Japan today in 1978.
We're here for the West Side Story audition. And you better understand this right now—we intend to nail it.
We've talked before about the amazing Harlan Ellison. We came to know him as an unparalleled sci-fi writer, but later discovered he was also a juvenile delinquency author. These gang stories were obscure curiosities for us, but through running Pulp Intl. we've since learned that Ellison's juvie fiction is a much discussed and much collected part of his output. Above you see the rare 1958 Pyramid Books edition of his first novel Rumble, later published as Web of the City, with an amazing cover by Spanish artist Rudy De Reyna. Consider this an Ellison trial run that made it into the light of day. Anyone familiar with him knows this will be a strange and violent tale, but the craftsman who gave the world stories like “All the Birds Come Home To Roost” is not yet in evidence. Plotwise, the protagonist Rusty is leader of a street gang and wants out while he's still young enough to make something of his life. Quitting is a savage and harrowing ordeal. Staying out is impossible thanks to his little sister, whose involvement with the gang pulls Rusty back into the life. Ellison is a guy who once claimed he never revised his work. That isn't true because Rumble was cut down and cleaned up by him, and became Web of the City. Everyone says the revised version is much better. Without having read it, we suspect they're right.
If anybody can recover the ancestral farm it's Mari.
Zoku Imokinchaku*, for which you see the poster above and which premiered in Japan today in 1970, was the sequel to the previous year's Imokinchaku, but shot in color. Atsumi plays a high school girl named Hamako who tries to save enough money to buy her family's ancestral land. Her plan to obtain it through work seems sound enough, but trouble in finances and love, including the theft of her money and a doomed infatuation with a dreamboat who happens to be gay, present serious obstacles. Of course, if the previous film taught Mari anything it was to persevere, and she makes forays into nude modeling and singing in efforts to cobble together a sufficiently large nest egg to buy the land. Do any of these schemes actually work? You'll have to add this one to your queue if you want to find out.
On a related note, we learned that Daiei Co. released an Atsumi record in conjunction with this film, and that it also engineered the publication of a photo book. Cross promotion of pinku films was a common tactic back then. In fact, many stars performed live in cinemas between double features, either singing, dancing, or reenacting bits from the films. Japanese law was strict about nudity onscreen, but we've been told these live performances sometimes featured full nudity, which is interesting to contemplate. Atsumi made a lot of public appearances. Below, for example, she's in Shimizu Park in Chiba, where a gaggle of photographers shot pictures of her in her undies. We have images from another Atsumi public appearance we'll share later.
*We can't find a romanized title for this film anywhere, but Zoku Imokinchaku is probably right. It's at least close. If anyone wants to correct us feel free. The official title is 続・いそぎんちゃく.
Nikkatsu pushes the envelope of taste—and social responsibility—with Okasu!
Above, a poster for the roman porno flick Okasu!, which premiered in Japan today in 1976. The title here, in a rare occurrence and complete contrast to the above film, translates directly—Rape! Considering that hundreds of roman porno (short for “romantic porno”) movies were made by Nikkatsu Studios during the ’70s and ’80s we take them seriously and seek to understand them. So we watched this and... we don't understand. Starring Natsuko Yashiro, who you may remember from her female diver movies, and co-starring Naomi Tani and Yuri Yamashina, Okasu! is the story of a rape victim who develops an obsession for her attacker and searches the city for him, constantly exposing herself to similar dangers.
To be clear, we make no cultural judgments here—around the same time in the U.S. on the soap opera General Hospital, Luke raped Laura and became the number one hunk on daytime television. So we're not failing to understand Okasu! from a cultural vantage point, but from a generational vantage point. We don't find non-consensual anything sexy. From our perspective this dubious flick has only two plusses: there's a highly ironic, even grimly comical, ending; and Yashiro masturbates with a walnut, which we never knew was possible. Wanna try it? Follow her lead below. But when you're making your way through vintage Japanese movies give this one a pass.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Blaine Act Passes
The Blaine Act, a congressional bill sponsored by Wisconsin senator John J. Blaine, is passed by the U.S. Senate and officially repeals the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, aka the Volstead Act, aka Prohibition. The repeal is formally adopted as the 21st Amendment to the Constitution on December 5, 1933.
1947—Voice of America Begins Broadcasting into U.S.S.R.
The state radio channel known as Voice of America and controlled by the U.S. State Department, begins broadcasting into the Soviet Union in Russian with the intent of countering Soviet radio programming directed against American leaders and policies. The Soviet Union responds by initiating electronic jamming of VOA broadcasts.
1937—Carothers Patents Nylon
Wallace H. Carothers, an American chemist, inventor and the leader of organic chemistry at DuPont Corporation, receives a patent for a silk substitute fabric called nylon. Carothers was a depressive who for years carried a cyanide capsule on a watch chain in case he wanted to commit suicide, but his genius helped produce other polymers such as neoprene and polyester. He eventually did take cyanide—not in pill form, but dissolved in lemon juice—resulting in his death in late 1937.
1933—Franklin Roosevelt Survives Assassination Attempt
In Miami, Florida, Giuseppe Zangara attempts to shoot President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, but is restrained by a crowd and, in the course of firing five wild shots, hits five people, including Chicago, Illinois Mayor Anton J. Cermak, who dies of his wounds three weeks later. Zangara is quickly tried and sentenced to eighty years in jail for attempted murder, but is later convicted of murder when Cermak dies. Zangara is sentenced to death and executed in Florida's electric chair.
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