This is one tough dame. I think it's time we tried Thai food, a few glasses of white wine, and a back rub.
No! Not the back rub! Anything but that! It'll work, though. And once she starts talking she'll give up the details on everyone. Occasionally you read a book and it isn't anything like you expected. We knew A.E. Van Vogt was a science fiction writer, but we figured that—like others in his literary niche—he dabbled in crime or sleaze fiction early in his career. And perhaps he did, but not with this book. It starts with a quasi-detective character believing he's rescuing a woman from whip wielding villains, but soon takes a left turn to involve secret Central American cults and an ancient marble house that bestows its inhabitants with eternal life, with the protagonist of course refusing at every step to believe what he's seeing. It's a fascinating concept, but Van Vogt forgot to piece his tale together in a way that allows the narrative to gel. We give it major points for weirdness, but demerits for execution. Interesting effort, though. The cover art on this Beacon edition from 1960 is by Gerald McConnell.
Treat your mummy special every day.
When we see the word “mummy” in a news story we pay extra attention. Even more so when the mummy has nothing to do with Egypt. Late last week police in Moffatt, Colorado arrested seven members of a ragtag cult called Love Has Won after they were found in possession of a mummified body. The body was once Amy Carlson, above, the leader of the sect. She was known to the cultists as Mother God, and believed that she was the 534th avatar of God on Earth and had revoked the free will of humanity. Mummy Carlson was posed in a shrine, wrapped in a sleeping bag festooned with Christmas lights, and decorated about her eyeless face with glitter make-up. The cult members were charged with, among other things, abuse of a corpse.
Abuse? Do the police have no idea how expensive the top make-up brands are? L'Oréal's best eye shadow, the shimmery Avant Garde Azure, which is so good it de-emphasizes the fact that you don't even have eyes, costs a small fortune. Maybelline's Superstay lipstick, which makes lips so kissable even a death rictus won't stop an admirer from going in for some tongue action, runs a pretty penny too. And Guerlain's Fève Délicieuse parfum is so intoxicating it masks even the charnel stench of death. Don't get us started on that. The point is, this was no abused corpse. Love Has Won adherents spared no effort or expense transforming their rattling husk of a mummy-goddess into a glamour queen that turned heads wherever she went.
And no wonder they treated her so well, considering they believed she'd lived hundreds of lives, both male and female—and we assume non-binary too, if she was really on her game. They thought she'd been Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc, and who knows what other historical personages. You ever notice people who live past lives were never mid-level sanitation workers in some plague-wracked medieval town? Or some young male virgin sacrificially beheaded atop a Mayan pyramid in the year 450? Or a little girl who got trampled flat by a mammoth? Seems to us you'd remember being all those things.
But it's always Joan of Arc for some reason, or Cleopatra. Mother God even claimed to have been Marilyn Monroe, and that's going too far in our book, because Monroe was a real goddess. We can prove it because every time we see those early nudes of hers things start to miraculously rise around here. Anyway, we suspect that the sevendetained Love Has Won cultists—you see them above, plus a stand-in for Mother God, the beef jerky version, because we couldn't find a photo—are looking at some years under the care of the state of Colorado. That'll be followed by a sprint through the talk show circuit, public repudiation of their bizarre beliefs, blaming it on trauma in childhood and meth usage as adults, finally capped off with careers as self-help gurus. And to think Mother God said humanity has no free will. It does, and we're going to use ours right now by choosing to “worship” Monroe for a bit. Don't expect us back today. Hi, Mother God here. I command thee: Bring me a glass of the sacramental wine.
Get while the getting is good.
It's the classic film noir pickle: what will a guy do when he can't find a job? Pretty much 100% of the time he resorts to crime, and pretty much 100% of the time he gets in deep shit real fast. The unlucky mug in Try and Get Me! is Frank Lovejoy, who moved with his wife and son to California but didn't realize “a million other guys had the same idea.” Desperation sets in and a chance meeting precipitates his descent into crime, as he becomes a getaway driver for stickup artist Lloyd Bridges. Meanwhile, over in the subplot, a news publisher who wants to move more copies of his paper convinces a reporter to portray the holdups as part of a crime invasion by eastern gangs. Interesting, right? If you're a media outlet that wants to rake in profits, just claim some “other” is ruining your community.
Here's the money quote: “People love to be scared to death. The more you scare 'em the more papers they buy.”
Without putting too fine a point on it, which we'll do anyway, clearly nothing has changed seventy years later, except now cable and radio don't sell fear, because that implies weakness—they sell “outrage,” which sounds macho and proactive, but is nothing more than a fight-or-flight reaction to fear. Would a character in a popular movie made in 2021 casually toss off an observation like that? We mean a line that gets at an essential societal ailment—to wit, people will think exactly what they're told to think, as long as the information comes from someone they like? We doubt it. In Try and Get Me! the newspaper guys use the “eastern criminals” fairy tale until people are so riled up they lose the capacity for rational thought. They even—ahem—form a lawless mob and assault the seat of government.
Too much plot info? Oops. It's less relevant than you'd suspect, though. Anyway, Bridges, who's instigating the crime spree, inevitably tires of taking in twenty and thirty bucks per job and drags Lovejoy along on a prospective big score. How do you think that turns out? Could it possibly be... murder? And now they're both in it up to their noose-sized necks. The audience knows from an earlier scene that Lovejoy's collar size is fifteen and-a-half. Foreshadowing? Possibly, but there's still an hour left in the film at that point, and anything can happen. Later there's an interesting shot of a window shade and its circular pull, which looks sort of like a noose. Hmm... Well, best not to dwell on possible signs and portents too deeply. Try and Get Me!, also known as The Sound of Fury, premiered in the U.S. today in 1950
Gardner and MacMurray juggle love and danger in wartime Malaysia.
We talked about the 1947 war adventure Singapore in August. Here's a beautiful Italian poster for the film, on which co-star Ava Gardner takes front and center, with Fred MacMurray lurking in the background. There are several Italian promos. This one is by Zadro, who painted a number of other brilliant pieces, but about whom little is known today. We'll get back to him. And you can read more about the movie here.
My last lover died right here of sheer pleasure. But I can hear his spirit talking to me, and he says it was worth it.
Lana Turner strikes a highly unusual pose in this photo made she was filming Marriage Is a Private Affair in 1944. She actually does this in the movie. This exact pose. But it has no sexual overtones—at least it isn't supposed to. Turner is actually sick and complaining. As for us, we feel much better after seeing this shot.
Entry by special invitation only.
Above, a really nice cover for Beach Party by Peggy Gaddis, aka Joan Sherman, Joan Tucker, Pearl Gaddis, Peggy Dern, et al. This was published in 1950 by Venus Books, and the art is uncredited.
Welcome to the school of hard knocks and sharp knives.
How does an interest in bad cinema start? For us it began with Switchblade Sisters. We'd seen scores of bad movies growing up and through college, but after those years we moved toward mainstream movies and well reviewed indie cinema. Sometime after we started our magazine we received a comp ticket to a late night showing of Switchblade Sisters. It was an old b-movie also known as The Jezebels being re-released by Quentin Tarantino's Rolling Thunder Pictures, and we watched it in a landmark cinema packed with people primed to have a raucous time. It was a hell of a night*, and the afterparty was good too.
Plotwise, what you get with Switchblade Sisters is a juvenile delinquent flick about a high school gang called the Silver Daggers and its women's auxiliary the Dagger Debs. Robbie Lee plays the head Deb, while Joanne Nail plays a new girl brought into the gang. Everything is fun and games until jealousy rears its ugly head due to the fact that Lee thinks her man, who's the leader of the Silver Daggers, wants the new girl. Matters deteriorate when Nail sets off a war between the Silver Daggers and a rival gang. These are seriously murderous clans, fully intent on killing each other. Gunplay abounds, blood flows copiously, and the lesson is— Well, we aren't sure. Say no to gangs, we guess.
Switchblade Sisters is atrociously acted in parts, and mediocrely acted in all the other parts, but Robbie Lee deserves special mention for making a three course meal of her role, delivering every line as if she has a case of lockjaw. Someone must have told her tough people speak through clenched teeth. But so do constipated people. Someone should have told her that too. But some movies are more than the sum of their parts, and Switchblade Sisters falls into that category. It's terrible, but uproarious. Dumb, but immensely entertaining. We can't think of many better films to watch with friends. And that's worth a lot in this crazy world. Switchblade Sisters originally premiered yesterday in 1975.
*The best part of that premiere night was actually showing up for the film. The promotional company had reserved a row of seats for local reviewers. PSGP was our magazine's movie critic. He showed up in this packed cinema and took a reserved seat. Some fratboy-looking chump in the row behind him leaned forward and told him, “These seats are reserved.” It's here we should mention that PSGP doesn't look like what most people would think of as a film critic, so he knew exactly what was happening—this moron, who was not anyone of any importance or authority, and had no connection whatsoever to the premiere except he probably won tickets from a radio giveaway, took a look at PSGP and decided to play citizen enforcer.
Fratboy chump got up and told the people running the premiere that someone had invaded the reserved seats. PSGP saw it happen. Fratboy flagged down someone, had a conversation while pointing directly at PSGP, and probably felt full of power for calling the cinema cops. PSGP savored the next moment, when the guy was told the evil seat inavder was in fact one of the invited critics and was sitting in exactly the right place. Fratboy moron, crestfallen, went back to his seat, and PSGP, without turning around, said, “That didn't work out the way you hoped, huh?” He got good mileage from the story at the afterparty. And the fratboy? He wasn't invited.
That's right, I'm looking at you. Read this magazine and learn how to be a real man.
It seems to us that the purpose of men's adventure magazines was to teach ordinary schlubs a little something about how to keep it real, and this issue of Male published in April 1962 fulfills the mandate. Behind the steely-eyed cover art by Harry Schaare, and mixed between interior art by Charles Copeland, Rafael de Soto, James Bama, and Walter Popp, readers learn how to navigate big city vice, survive a nuclear attack, avoid appliance repair scams, pick the perfect car to cruise the open road, and—most importantly—get a raise at their soulsucking office jobs.
Those are all fine offerings, but we particularly like the story, “Let's Let the Russians Beat Us to the Moon,” which suggests that if the Russians are so eager to get to the moon let them serve as sacrificial lambs—since the place is filled unknown dangers. Journalist and skeptic Ray Lunt reasons, “For all our scientists know, the moon may be 10,000 miles from where we think it is, paved with quicksand 90 feet deep, and full of brain gas instead of air.” Instead of air? Sounds like he was the one inhaling brain gas.
We checked out the story just to find out what brain gas was, and learned basically nothing. He mentions that some scientists—unnamed of course—believe the moon might harbor poisonous gas, but the brain thing never comes up. What a tease. He does, though, run through a long list of other moon horrors fit for a Heinlein novel. He must have been really bummed in 1969 when it turned out to be just a big, dusty rock. We have scans below, and more Male in the website. Feel free to click the keywords.
It was horrible! *sob* I don't know if I'll ever get over it. I'm so— Are you seriously grabbing my ass right now?
We can't actually see where the man's other hand is on this uncredited cover for Robert Sylvester's 1953 novel Indian Summer, but no matter what's happening around a man he's always thinking about sex. At least a little. It isn't so weird. We know from the Pulp Intl. girlfriends that they're always thinking about chocolate. A little. Fortunately for both of them, they're tiny, so their obsession has cost them nothing. Men thinking about sex all the time? It costs them plenty. Which is what mid-century fiction is mostly about.
With warmth and tender loving care you can grow anything.
Above are two photos of actress Monica Strebel, who was born in Switzerland but mostly appeared in Italian films. She also, like many actresses of her era, appeared in photo novels and posed nude in magazines, such as the French publication Io, which is where the above shots originated in 1969. Several of Strebel's films had amusingly unwieldy titles, among them 1970's La lunga notte dei disertori - I 7 di Marsa Matruh, aka Operation Over Run, and the 1971 giallo La bestia uccide a sangue freddo, aka Cold Blooded Beast. Perhaps her most notable role was in 1972's Racconti proibiti... di niente vestiti, aka Master of Love. We have a promo shot from it below. Strebel plays Death in the form of a naked woman, and she and star Rossano Brazzi run away together across an open field. They don't make 'em like that anymore.
*smack* *smooch* You're so beautiful. I'll follow you anywhere. What's your name again? Did you say Lady Death? That's weird but whatever... *nuzzle* *smooch*
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1985—Theodore Sturgeon Dies
American science fiction and pulp writer Theodore Sturgeon, who pioneered a technique known as rhythmic prose, in which his text would drop into a standard poetic meter, dies from lung fibrosis, which may have been caused by his smoking, but also might have been caused by his exposure to asbestos during his years as a Merchant Marine.
1945—World War II Ends
At Reims, France, German General Alfred Jodl signs unconditional surrender terms, thus ending Germany's participation in World War II. Jodl is then arrested and transferred to the German POW camp Flensburg, and later he is made to stand before the International Military Tribunal at the Nuremberg Trials. At the conclusion of the trial, Jodl is sentenced to death and hanged as a war criminal.
1954—French Are Defeated at Dien Bien Phu
In Vietnam, the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, which had begun two months earlier, ends in a French defeat. The United States, as per the Mutual Defense Assistance Act, gave material aid to the French, but were only minimally involved in the actual battle. By 1961, however, American troops would begin arriving in droves, and within several years the U.S. would be fully embroiled in war.
1937—The Hindenburg Explodes
In the U.S, at Lakehurst, New Jersey, the German zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg catches fire and is incinerated within a minute while attempting to dock in windy conditions after a trans-Atlantic crossing. The disaster, which kills thirty-six people, becomes the subject of spectacular newsreel coverage, photographs
, and most famously, Herbert Morrison's recorded radio eyewitness report from the landing field. But for all the witnesses and speculation, the actual cause of the fire remains unknown.
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