He's been eaten down to the bones. I don't know about you but this is by far the worst case of frostbite I've ever seen.
We imagine Boston born author James Holden sitting around one bitterly cold night, probably just a little tipsy from drinking warm brandy, staring out at a December snowstorm, thinking to himself that if anyone's out there in such terrible weather they're risking frostbite. And then his eyes grow wide and he says aloud, “What if the frost... takes more... than just a bite? Yes! Writer's block cured!” And some months later he finishes Snow Fury, in which the snow eats people entirely. Yep. How could snow eat people? Might have something to do with a scientific experiment run amok. And just to push the entire concept to full fruition Holden named the main character David Storm. Well, at least the cover is brilliant, and for that you can thank James Meese. This Perma edition is from 1956 and the book originally appeared in hardback in 1955.
Do you, Edmund, take this woman to be—and stop me if you've heard this before—your lawful wedded wife?
The title of The Bigamist may seem to give the plot of the film away, but the point of this once-neglected-now-rediscovered drama is not the revelation of bigamy, but rather the details of how a man ends up with two wives. Edmond O'Brien plays a successful traveling salesman married to lovely Joan Fontaine, and their lives in San Francisco seem pretty good, despite all the time O'Brien spends away on sales trips. When they decide to adopt a child the agency's investigation uncovers O'Brien's other wife Ida Lupino in Los Angeles, and an entire domestic existence with her. Oh what a tangled web.
From that point forward The Bigamist is O'Brien's mea culpa to the insurance agent who busted him. This movie pops up a lot on television but not because it's great—because it's in the public domain, and because people are interested in the output of Lupino as a director. Yes, she helmed this one and did so with style, turning what was probably destined to be a forgettable melodrama into a quasi film noir. In the end the movie still isn't great, but it's a lot better than it should be thanks to Lupino. The Bigamist premiered in the U.S. today in 1953.
Being the object of every man's desire will tend to take a toll.
It took us a while to figure it out, but this is a West German poster for Anita Ekberg's drama Screaming Mimi, which we talked about a couple of years ago. Die blonde Venus is a pretty generic re-titling, in our opinion, but we do like this unusual visual approach for the poster. The movie is about a woman suffering from the effects of a traumatic event in her past, who takes on a new identity and suffers the double misfortune of being dominated by her lover and targeted by a killer. It's definitely worth a watch. You can read more about it here. After opening in 1958 it finally premiered in West Germany today in 1960.
L.A. stands for Lew Archer in John MacDonald's tinseltown thriller.
We love this cover art by Harvey Kidder for John MacDonald's, aka Ross MacDonald's first Lew Archer novel The Moving Target. The way the figures are placed at such a remove from the viewer and the text is stretched across the underside of the pier is strikingly different. The book was originally published in 1949 with this Pocket Books paperback coming in 1950, and it stars MacDonald's franchise detective trying to locate a philandering millionaire who's gone missing. The man's wife is more concerned about the possibility of her spouse being on a bender and sharing the family money than she is about foul play, but Archer soon decides that the situation is a kidnapping.
We'd been meaning to read MacDonald for a while. We'd heard that his prose has a Dashiell Hammett vibe and that certainly turned out to be true. Set in and around Los Angeles, it weaves summer heat, wacky mysticism, outsize ambition, and broken dreams together into a tale with great Southern California flavor. And Archer is appropriately road worn: “I believed that evil was a quality some people were born with, like a harelip. But it isn't that simple. Everybody has it in him, and whether it comes out in his actions depends on a number of things. Environment, opportunity, economic pressure, a piece of bad luck, a wrong friend.”
In this world that he's accepted as more complex than he'd like it to be, he navigates using a solid personal code and a very hard skull—both severely tested multiple times. We gather the story is considered unremarkable compared to later Archer novels, but for us it was entirely satisfactory. It satisfied Hollywood too, which made it into a star vehicle for Paul Newman called Harper. Why the name of the detective was changed we can't even begin to guess, but we saw the movie a couple of years ago and it was enjoyable. Below you see a 1959 Pocket Books edition of The Moving Target with Jerry Allison art. More from MacDonald later.
Then she smashed my head repeatedly into the turnbuckle until the ref stopped the match. So... how was your day?
Nice cover for Ben West's Loves of a Girl Wrestler, from Beacon Books, with art by Al Rossi. We won't bother to summarize this one because we've also uploaded the interesting rear cover, just below, and it has a full rundown. Originally 1952 copyright, with this edition appearing in 1960.
She has your grandma's hair, but the similarities end there.
One of your older relatives definitely sports this look. We mean from the neck up. In 1959, when this Corp. A. Fox Technicolor lithograph was made, short hair was the rage and remains so for women of this era that are now senior citizens. There's nothing senior about the rest of this model, though. We're unable to identify her, but we suspect she was at least semi-famous. A. Fox models often were. If you recognize her drop us a line.
I told you to always stand on a hard 17, and never double down when they deal out death, but you don't listen.
Dealing Out Death is another paperback given to us by a friend. He bought it randomly years ago and passed it along to us when he visited from the States a while back. Of the books he gave us we'd have read this one first if we knew, one, that it had to do with the movie industry (where we once worked), and two, that it was so good. It was written by W.T. Ballard, published by Graphic Books in 1948, and deals with bigtime studio VP Bill Lennox, who tries to figure out who murdered star actress Renée Wilson's husband. Wilson is in Las Vegas to deal with a personal matter—her screw-up brother's desperate plea for money to get out from under a mob boss—but soon discovers that her brother's troubles and her husband's murder are connected to an impending turf war, one initiated by mobsters from the east who want to move in on the legitimate hotel owners. Lennox flies out from Hollywood to find the killer, save his star actress from both danger and bad publicity, and navigate the seething cauldron of Vegas without losing his cool or his life.
In mid-century crime fiction you find tough guys in unlikely places. The various authors, casting about for signature characters, made ass kickers out of insurance adjusters, chemists, charter fishermen, and more. Having known a few movie producers we can tell you they run the gamut. Being a producer generally means you merely have access to money or the ability to raise it, or you have access to a script or treatment and the mandate to shop it. You can get into such a position by working your way up the ladder, but if you come to the party with money already in pocket that buys your entrance. Thus producers in both the old days and today might be former organized crime guys, former drug dealers, and such. Think Chili Palmer in Get Shorty. So the fact that the studio exec hero in Dealing Out Death is so tough is unusual but not unrealistic. Ballard uses the character of Lennox to construct an engrossing plot, imbue it with a strong sense of place, and populate it with numerous interesting characters. He's a very confident writer and he gets the job done in Dealing Out Death briskly and skillfully. The ending is not perfect, but they rarely are. Recommended stuff.
Step away from the controls, men. You've had your shot at running the world and the results speak for themselves.
The James Bond book and movie franchises spawned an army of literary and cinematic spies with numerical and acronymic designations. The film we talked about yesterday is a good example, and 1964's television show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is another. Author Bob Tralins joined in the fun in 1966 with his creation The Miss from S.I.S. The letters stood for the Society for International Security, and the group consisted of women—particularly lead spy Lee Crosley—cleaning up the mess men had made of the globe. Above you see the three entries in the series with their great cover art that is, amazingly, uncredited. We'll keep digging for info. In the meantime, more Bob Tralins here.
There are 777 ways to make a bad 007 movie.
Above you see a Mario de Berardinis poster painted for the Italian spy thriller Agente segreto 777 - Operazione Mistero, known in English merely as Secret Agent 777. The plot of this revolves around a doctor's cell regeneration process—i.e. he can bring people back to life, a miracle somehow made possible through nuclear physics. No, it didn't make sense to us either. But all you need to know is that basically Agent 777 is a low rent James Bond rip-off with a touch of updated Frankenstein mixed in.
It's as silly as it sounds, and has too many problems to enumerate, but we did enjoy the Beirut setting, and it rather amused us when a character spoke of going to the “Portuguese colonies to find his fortune.” Back then that meant going to Angola or Mozambique and extracting something of value that rightfully belonged to the local people—oil, antiquities, jewels, anything. The sequence struck us because at the time Agent 777 was extracting something of value from us—our patience. It premiered in Italy today in 1965.
Help! I'm trapped in this terrible film and I can't get out!
A dirty picture is worth a thousand words.
As long as we're on Italy today we might as well highlight this Renato Casaro poster for the giallo flick Le foto proibite di una signora per bene, aka The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion. We've dubbed the pose you see here the alpha, for both its theme of dominance and the A shape made by the legs of the foreground figure. Typically the figure is male, but not always. We put together a collection of paperbacks using this pose while ago.
In the film a bored housewife played by Dagmar Lassander is convinced by a sadistic stranger that her husband is a killer. In her desperation to protect her spouse she's manipulated into the stranger's bed, which results in him having explicit photographs with which to blackmail her. When Dagmar finally tells her husband and the police what's happening the evidence disappears, which makes Dagmar look mentally unstable. This seems to have been the plan all along, but who's behind it? Is the stranger working alone? Is Dagmar's husband or best friend involved?
With its leisurely pace and unconvoluted plot, the film lacks some giallo characteristics, but it's officially considered part of the genre. Because of its relative simplicity it avoids serious logical missteps, which is a worthy achievement considering how wacky these movies get. But while it's sure handed and reasonably entertaining, you can expend ninety minutes of life in better ways, which is why we don't recommend this except for giallo completists. Le foto proibite di una signora per bene premiered in Italy today in 1970.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1984—Britain Agrees to Cede Hong Kong
Great Britain signs over Hong Kong to China in an agreement stipulating that
the colony be returned to the Chinese in 1997. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher signs the Joint Sino-British Declaration with her Chinese counterpart Zhao Ziyang, while political groups in Hong Kong push futilely for independence.
1912—Piltdown Man Discovered
A hominid fossil known as Piltdown Man is found in England's Piltdown Gravel Pit by paleontologist Charles Dawson. The fragments are thought by many experts of the day to be the fossilized remains of a hitherto unknown form of early man, but in 1953 it is discovered to be a hoax composed of a human skeleton and an orangutan's jawbone. The identity of the Piltdown forger remains unknown, but suspects have included Dawson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Conan Doyle and others.
1967—Australian Prime Minister Disappears
The Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, who was best known for expanding Australia's role in the Vietnam War, disappears while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria and is presumed drowned.
1969—Project Blue Book Ends
The United States Air Force completes its study of UFOs, stating that sightings are generated as a result of a mild form of mass hysteria, and that individuals who fabricate such reports do so to perpetrate a hoax or seek publicity, or are psychopathological persons, or simply misidentify various conventional objects.
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