Lawless border town brings out the worst in its inhabitants—and in its screenwriter too.
We've shared some promos from the Orson Welles film noir Touch of Evil before. Those were worthy efforts, but we think this Belgian poster is the best. We don't have a Belgian release date but we can guess at one. The movie premiered in the U.S. in early 1958, then crossed to Europe during the summer, with premieres in the UK in April and France in June—in fact today. The film won the FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique) Prize at the Brussels World Film Festival that year, which was held from April 21 through June 13, but we think the movie showed after its French premiere. So we're guessing sometime between June 8 and June 13 for its Belgian unveiling.
So about the film. We've hinted at this, but now we'll come out and say it: It isn't as good as many claim. Award winner, yes, but one that hasn't aged well. Visual masterpiece with numerous breathtaking shots, certainly, but one in which the script (written by Welles) lacks narrative logic. We could choose a dozen examples of this problem, but we'll give you just one. Early in the film Janet Leigh, who's married to a cop and thus shouldn't be naive, allows herself to be led down dark streets by an unknown male at four o'clock in the morning. And she does this in a Mexican border town Charlton Heston describes as “bringing out the worst in people,” which we can assume to mean “not safe.” Leigh traipsing off into the unknown with an obviously dodgy character is absurd. The movie lost our girlfriends at that point. "Oh, come on!" was the general sentiment.
The truth is Touch of Evil flirts dangerously more than once with being laugh out loud silly. Dennis Weaver's motel desk worker is Norman Bates from Psycho two years earlier, several degrees twitchier, and immeasurably hammier. Even the staging of the film is bizarre at times, with various characters required to physically orbit the central action so they can be glimpsed or encountered at just the right moment. We know, we know—our complaints are total sacrilege. Don't get us wrong. The movie is still entertaining, but people who call it a masterpiece have decided to overlook Welles' screenplay. And generally these people will also call you stupid for disagreeing with them, so be prepared for that. But don't take our word on Touch of Evil. Watch it and see what you think. And if you're interested, we dicussed other aspects of the film a while back here.
Lady Luck shines on Roques book front.
Above is a beautiful cover for La Chance aime le jolies filles, published in 1955 with art by an unidentified genius. The work looks like Jef de Wulf to us, but we won't swear to it because we've guessed wrong before. French book titles can be a bit arcane but not this time—it translates as “luck loves beautiful girls.” Roques was an interesting character. He was both author and publisher of this and other books, running his company out of Boulevard Beaumarchais in Paris. He continually pushed the boundaries of what censors considered acceptable, for twenty years skirting but managing to avoid serious trouble, though books like 1955's Viol and 1957's Dit oui, madame were banned. Roques did not skimp on cover art. Every edition we've seen from his company is beautiful. In fact, one of our favorite fronts ever came from Roques. See that here, and expect more in the future.
Great whether they're large or small.
This is one of the nicest steins we've ever seen. It may surprise you to know that Germans don't use the word “stein” to refer to a container of beer. To them the word means merely “stone.” The phrase "beer stein" is actually an English invention, a neologism taken from the German word “steinzug, or possibly “steinzeugkrug.” Steins come in many sizes and are generally ornamental, though some bars and taverns may actually use them to serve customers. Now, regarding the top. The idea is to keep it closed and the contents fresh and untouched by anything that can affect its flavor. Keeping the top shut also helps prevent anything spilling out, which is always an embarrassing occurrence. The model in this photo, unfortunately, blocks the view of the stein somewhat, and we'd love it if she weren't there at all. But c'est la vie.
In the land of bad men the one eyed woman becomes queen
Above is a promo poster for the Swedish sexploitation flick Thriller - en grym film. When it was released in the U.S. it was retitled Thriller: A Cruel Picture, then edited and given the revised name They Call Her One Eye, and still later dubbed Hooker's Revenge, which we think gives a bit too much away. But what do we know? It's not like we have marketing degrees. Anyway, the poster above for the film's Thriller incarnation has an unusual shape sometimes referred to as subway size because such promos were usually displayed on mass transit vehicles. As far as we know, no standard vertically oriented poster was ever made with the title Thriller: A Cruel Picture. But if any do exist, you can be sure they're worth a fortune.
Sweden's best export Christina Lindberg stars here as a Frigga, a young woman gone mute due to a sexual assault in her youth. Terrible luck strikes again when, as an adult, she's abducted, addicted to heroin, and forced into prostitution. She resists, but after she harms a customer her pimp punishes her by cutting her eye out with a scalpel. After enduring further indignities she eventually musters the courage to try and escape. Heroin addiction is the leash her pimp counts on to keep her in line, but she's otherwise free to use her down time as she wishes. With the little money she has she secretly buys lessons in martial arts, shooting, and tactical driving, then when the moment is ripe she finally goes on a revenge spree.
There's nothing here you won't find in other 1970s revenge sexploitation flicks except lots of slo-mo, but for Lindberg's fans—among them Quentin Tarantino, who borrowed the eyepatch look for Daryl Hannah when he made Kill Bill—this is probably a must-see. As a side note, you'll sometimes find Lindberg referenced as a porn actress because of this movie. BAV Film made two versions, one with x-rated inserts and one without. The explicit stuff was done by a stand-in. Or a lay-in. In an interview Lindberg once said the hardest part of her career was resisting the constant pressure to do porn. We suspect this was a film she had in mind when she said that. After premiering in France at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973 and later playing in Sweden, Thriller: A Cruel Picture first opened eyes in the U.S. today in 1974.
What do you expect? I've tried therapy, meditation, and religion. But alcohol actually works.
Above, front and rear covers for John White's The Sins of Skid Row, 1959, for Hillman Books. This was originally published as Ward N-1 and it's basically five autobiographical days spent in Bellevue Mental Hospital's detox wing. These were the days of involuntary commitment, electroshock, and lobotomies, with a lot of secrecy around these practices, so this was likely a very illuminating book for the time. Inside are various curious characters with nicknames like Creep, Minny, and Bomber. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a similar story, would come along several years later, with the major difference being the ending. The art on this paperback is by an unknown.
If I manage get out of this situation how about dinner Friday?
You should always thank your human shield. It's a tough job and they deserve some acknowledgment. Piège en enfer fits perfectly into our growing collection of hostage art, and in fact it's one of the best covers of this type we've seen yet. The book was written by Paul Berg, aka André Jammet, for Editions S.E.G., published in 1965, and the title means “trap in hell,” which seems about right considering what's developing here. The art is uncredited—not unusual for S.E.G., but it's always a shame. Maybe someone should have taken the editors hostage and explained that covers should always be attributed.
Kyoko Izumi goes off the deep end.
Last year we shared two posters for the Kyoko Izumi ama movie Zoku-zoku-Kindan no suna: Akai pantsu, aka Woman Diver's Beach: Red Pants, and today we have a third poster. You can see the others, and learn about the movie, at this link. And if you don't know what an ama is look here. Zoku-zoku-Kindan no suna: Akai pantsu premiered in Japan today in 1959.
It's not perfect, but it's pretty close.
The colorful magazine Mr. was published out of New York City by the imaginatively named Mr. Magazine, Inc., and was in the mold of male oriented publications such as Man's Life or Adventure for Men. This issue is from May 1953 and we grabbed it from the now idle Darwin's Scans website. Queen Cristina of Sweden pops up inside, which surprised us, considering we just learned about her for the first time in our lives less than a month ago and here she is again. You also get contemporary figures such as Billy Graham (the boxer), Kid Gavilan, and Hubert F. Julian, aka the Black Eagle of Harlem.
But the magazine focuses mainly on fiction and true adventure. We like the story about Berlin as a center for vice, with “horrible sex cults flourishing” in the post-war rubble. Ludwig Dietzler writes, “I am one of the few non-Berliners who have witnessed the orgies [snip] which thrive in basements, cellars, and other suitable hiding places.” Hmm... it doesn't sound all that bad to us. Elsewhere in Mr. you get beauty queens Carlyn Carlew and Trula Birchfield, as well as Apache dancer Yvonne Doughty. What's an Apache dancer? You'll just have to look. Scans of that and everything else appear below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
1940—Smedley Butler Dies
American general Smedley Butler dies. Butler had served in the Philippines, China, Central America, the Caribbean and France, and earned sixteen medals, five of which were for heroism. In 1934 he was approached by a group of wealthy industrialists wanting his help with a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and in 1935 he wrote the book War Is a Racket, explaining that, based upon his many firsthand observations, warfare is always wholly about greed and profit, and all other ascribed motives are simply fiction designed to deceive the public.
1967—Muhammad Ali Sentenced for Draft Evasion
Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who was known as Cassius Clay before his conversion to Islam, is sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the military during the Vietnam War. In elucidating his opposition to serving, he uttered the now-famous phrase, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.”
It's easy. We have an uploader that makes it a snap. Use it to submit your art, text, header, and subhead. Your post can be funny, serious, or anything in between, as long as it's vintage pulp. You'll get a byline and experience the fleeting pride of free authorship. We'll edit your post for typos, but the rest is up to you. Click here
to give us your best shot.