I think I've finally got his strategy figured out. Every time he throws a punch he hits me.
William Campbell Gault was a fan of sports—or at least of using sports as a backdrop for his fiction. In The Canvas Coffin the boxer hero Luke Pilgrim wakes up the morning after a tough title fight and fears he may have killed Brenda Vane, the woman he escorted to his victory party. He can't quite remember, though, what with all those blows to the head, but she's definitely dead, and he needs to unpuzzle the mystery before he ends up in prison. As set-ups go, this is a nice one. Guys who think they may have committed murder are staples of crime fiction and film noir, but the idea of making the character a concussed boxer is clever. Gault wrote about twenty sports thrillers, so he knew his stuff. Illustrator William George knew his stuff too, and produced a nice cover for this Dell paperback, dated 1954.
Theft becomes death in the blink of an eye.
Last week we shared a brilliant Italian poster for Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, and today you see the French and Belgian posters. The title is a double entendre that refers not only to murder but also to killing in the sense of a big score, which is why in France the movie was called L'ultime razzia, or “the last raid,” and in Belgium it was Coup manqué, which translates as “mis-hit,” as in badly striking a ball—i.e. missing a target. The Belgian poster also has a banner at the bottom with the title in Dutch—Mislukte opzet, or “failed set up.” Those titles, taken together, reveal exactly what happens in the film—a robbery goes terribly wrong. Both of these are very nice posters, fitting ror Kubrick's early masterpiece. The Killing opened in France today in 1956, and in Belgium shortly thereafter.
Mick doesn't quite get it done as real life Aussie outlaw Ned Kelly.
This poster was made to promote the western adventure Ned Kelly, a movie mainly remembered for having starred Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger as a real-life Aussie outlaw. Jagger hasn't done much cinematic acting and there's a reason why—he just doesn't have the knack. He seems to read his lines more than perform them, and director Terry Richardson did so much better with films like Tom Jones and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. But the poster is unique, which made it worth a share. The movie premiered in Japan today in 1971.
You're hired. I guess we better have you fill out an application now.
Herb Roberts, aka Robert Carney, takes a stab at the always fertile office sleaze genre with 1963's Love-Hungry Women, for which you see the cover above. It isn't so much the women who are love hungry here. It's more a story of rabid male ambition. The protagonist Steve is a small-time hustler getting his last shot at a good job at Garland Real Estate. He's vowed to play it straight, but wouldn't you just know it—the boss's wife takes a shine to him and isn't about to take no for an answer. She says she can help him get to the top, and pretty soon he's not only in deep with her, but with other women around the office. With so many plates in the air it isn't a question of whether he'll drop them but when. The book purports to be an inside look at the business world à la Mad Men, but it's really just lightweight titillation with no aspects worth serious consideration. We love this cover though. It fits right into the office nookie collection we put together several years ago. Too bad the art is uncredited.
National Spotlite goes where few tabloids dare to follow.
How far did cheapie tabloids go in their quest for continually more outrageous stories? Pretty damn far, as this issue of National Spotlite published today in 1968 shows. The editors give the cover to Gloria Wilmot, but it's Eva Rast who brings the shocks by claiming that her father—in hands-on fashion—taught her about sex when she was thirteen. You know how this works by now. Eva Rast is supposedly one of “the top actresses in Europe,” but has no presence anywhere on the internet. Spotlite claims she starred in The Lotus Flower with Cliff Richard, but while that title is shared by several movies made in different eras, no film called Lotus Flower was made during the mid- to late-1960s, it doesn't appear on Cliff Richard's IMDB page, nor does the page list him as acting in anything between 1968 and 1973.
So what we have is a pretty detailed piece of fiction produced back when there was no handy internet to vet the claims proffered as facts. What does “Eva Rast” say about the event? About what you'd expect: “Mother was out. I asked dad where she had gone and he told me she went to my grandmother's for a week. He said, 'We're on our own and we'll have to make do.' I was real happy about it because it seemed like an adventure that daddy and I were sharing.” And so forth. In the mid-century tabloid lowering-the-bar sweepstakes National Spotlite has taken pole position. Can it be outdone? We have about forty tabs left to look through, so we wouldn't be surprised. We'll report back. See more Spotlite here, and more tabloids at our index here.
Land of the free—except for the slaves.
First daddy, and now uncle. But the family theme is purely coincidental. Addio Zio Tom, aka Goodbye Uncle Tom, premiered today, so we're discussing it today. The last time we shared a poster for this Italian epic the art gave absolutely zero idea what the movie is about. The above poster is a bit more faithful to the subject matter. You can probably look at it and guess you're dealing with a film about slavery. We discussed it in great detail back in 2013, and concluded that it's a daring but flawed piece of cinema. You can read what we wrote at our earlier write-up, but even if you aren't interested in the movie go to see that first poster anyway. It's one of the most amazing promos we've ever shared.
Admit it—when I walked over and said I was going to sue your pants off you were really worried.
Above, a cover for Norman Bligh's novel Bad Sue, 1950, from Quarter Books. We've always thought this was an unusually pretty cover, but the artist is unknown.
If you think armed robbery is tough try surviving as a poster artist.
Rapina a mano armata is a title that would translate as “armored rampage,” but the movie being promoted by these spectacular Italian posters is actually none other than Stanley Kubrick's famed thriller The Killing. After debuting in the U.S. and Britain in early 1956, it opened in Italy today that same year. We discussed the film in detail a while ago. If you take a look at that post you'll immediately notice that once again the foreign promo art destroys the U.S. version. This is consistently true for most movies made after the mid-1960s because the studios began to jettison top notch promo artists in favor of simpler—and we assume cheaper—visual approaches. The foreign companies would follow suit, but not until later. European posters began to lose their pizzazz by the 1970s, and Japanese promos went the same direction by the early 1980s. Which leaves us where we are today—besieged by Photoshop jobs, all of which seem to feature a couple of large heads against some uninspiring background.
But we're here at least partly to celebrate the glories of vintage art, which means what you really want to know is who painted these particular masterpieces, right? It was Renato Casaro, whose work is consistently amazing. In fact he was so good that he survived as an illustrator well into the 1980s, painting iconic promos for the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicles Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja, and somewhat less iconic but no less brilliant posters for Sylvester Stallone's Cliffhanger and Over the Top. The Rapina a mano armata poster you see below is unsigned but we can be reasonably sure it was also a product of Casaro's hand, as it was common practice in Italy's movie industry for the commissioned artist to produce more than one version. If the above pieces aren't the best we've seen from Casaro they're sure close. You can see several more of his efforts by clicking his keywords below.
Mess with a man and you've got a problem. Mess with his money and you've got a murder.
Above is a cover for The Crazy Kill, by Chester Himes, 1959, with beautiful art by George Ziel, someone we've technically never featured before, but who did a lot of work for Avon. We say we haven't technically featured him, but he painted the femme fatale at the top right of our webpage. It comes from a paperback by Bonnie Golightly called The Wild One. So in a sense we've showcased him every day for many years. And even more interestingly, when we narrowed down the various femmes fatales we were considering using in the site design, we ended up with three, one of which was the figure on the cover of The Crazy Kill. Not sure why we didn't choose her. In any case, we've had an affinity for Ziel's work for a long time.
And we've had an interest in Chester Himes for a while too. The Crazy Kill was our first Himes novel but it probably won't be our last. The book wasn't perfect, though. While the Harlem setting provides good atmosphere, the professional gamblers peopling the narrative are fascinating, and the two detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones are about as expected, the overall lack of sympathetic characters threw us a bit. In fact, we didn't like the two cops much either, but one scene won us over. During a previous investigation Ed had acid thrown in his face and was terribly scarred. But he presents an unfailingly tough façade—until a crook tells him he looks like Frankenstein's monster. Ed flies into a rage and beats the man, but then comes this:
Coffin Ed stuck his pistol back into the holster, turned and left the room without uttering a word, stood for a moment in the corridor and cried.
It turns out Ed is human after all, and from that point it was easier for us to be on his side. Though the writing has its flaws in our opinion, a central mystery that probably only Himes could have come up with kept us forging ahead: a preacher falls out of an apartment building window but lands in a bread basket, the type bakeries once used to deliver large orders. The preacher is fine and returns to the building, but somehow another man is found dead minutes later in the same bread basket. How he got there and why is utterly baffling. The Crazy Kill is weird, but fun and worth a read. In the meantime we may go back to the first Coffin Ed/Gravedigger Jones book For Love of Imabelle to see what these guys are all about.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Capone Sentenced to Prison
Chicago organized crime boss Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion after all other attempts to tie him to an assortment of crimes, from the mass murder of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to widespread violations of the Volstead Act, fail. He is sentenced to eleven years in federal prison and, cut off from the outside world while on Alcatraz Island, his power is finally broken.
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
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