Just call him the noble formerly known as Dracula.
We don't have to tell you what Blacula is. It's clear from the poster alone that it's a retelling of the Dracula legend. It's also an early high point for blaxploitation cinema. It isn't perfectly made, but as an allegory it's on the nose: centuries ago an African prince named Mamuwalde was transformed into a vampire out of sheer racist spite, cursed to eternal hunger, taken as cargo to a strange foreign land, and now fights to survive there, far from his home. William Marshall in the lead role is doubtless the sweatiest vampire in movie history, but he's good in what is by definition a patently absurd role. In supporting parts are Thalmus Rasulala, Denise Nicholas, and the ravishing Vonetta McGee, who Mamuwalde thinks is his long lost wife Luva and treats to some sweet vampire love. As pure horror Blacula is middling, and it's homophobic in parts, but audiences liked the film and made it one of the top grossers of the year. Despite its flaws the undead Prince Mamuwalde embodied a fresh approach to black themed cinema, and it's certainly fun to watch. It opened in the U.S. today in 1972.
Actually, I'm not nicknamed Flame because of my hair. You know what pyroflatulence is? Toss me that lighter.
Above, another great Midwood cover, this time for Flame, by sleaze stalwart Joan Ellis, aka Julie Ellis. The art is, sadly, uncredited (but looks like Paul Rader).
Christina Lindberg flick expounds upon reality, fantasy, and a woman's struggle in a sexualized world.
The sexploitation flick Exponerad, which premiered in Sweden today in 1971 and is known in English as Exposed and Diary of a Rape, is an exceedingly serious movie considering its genre. That would normally be a sin in our book, but this stars Christina Lindberg, so we figured okay, it's worth a gander. Lindberg, in one of her earliest roles, plays Lena, a high school girl torn between her twerp of a boyfriend Jan and an older, depraved sociopath named Helge. She prefers Jan, but Helge has taken nude photos of her and is using them to blackmail her into servicing guests at his wild parties.
When Jan learns that Lena has been sharing her fuzzy favors, his caveman side comes out and he slaps her. Lena promptly runs away to the country. Here we learn that the wall between reality and fantasy is a thin one for her, and she crosses between it multiple times. She's raped by a stranger, tries to seduce a man who picks her up hitchhiking, dies in a fiery automobile crash, and has other imaginings the audience only knows are in her head once the movie leaps back to the point where those scenes began.
If we consider these fantasies closely it's possible Lena is coming to grips with her sexuality and her place in a sexualized world. A particularly insightful review we read suggested that all of these waking dreams represent the male gaze, which is why they're creepy and violent. It's a theory we like, but we aren't sure if it actually holds up—unless daydreams can leave physical artifacts behind. We know we're being vague. This is when that no spoilers promise we made a while back is inconvenient.
In any case, what the filmmakers wanted to do here was make thought-provoking erotica, and they definitely accomplished that. We picture the producer shaking hands with director Gustav Wiklund and saying, “Well done, lad. Despite all the nudity there's no possibility anyone will get a boner.” Whether the film makes any sense is a different issue. We recommend that if you watch Exponerad, you watch with full attention or you'll get lost long before the double twist ending that'll make you say either, “Aha!” or “Huh?” Fans of ambitious sexploitation, this movie is your jam. We have some promo images beow, and you can see more here and here.
The tabloid media was like a pack of animals and Mansfield was the meal.
We never realized this before, but the editors of Whisper really had it in for Jayne Mansfield. We mean more than usual for a vicious tabloid. Most of the issues we have contain highly negative stories about her, such as this one published in 1962 that calls her and husband Mickey Hargitay “the biggest pair of boobs in the business.” Geez, what did she do to them? Piss in their grits? Dropkick their Corgis? Obviously, the biggest boobs thing is a play on words referencing Mansfield's bust, but they're referencing her personality when they talk about her “false façade” and “up-front ways.” Regardless of whether Whisper approved of Mansfield, it couldn't stop featuring her—a fact the magazine acknowledged. We'll see her in these pages again.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Whisper, the amazing Señor Fidel Castro makes one of his regular appearances. Like Mansfield, the magazine couldn't stop writing about him. According to the editors, the Beard had launched a plot to addict American youth to drugs. We call Castro amazing because according to various mid-century tabloids he was simultaneously training Viet Cong soldiers in Cuba, funneling arms to U.S. inner cities, assassinating JFK, planning to overthrow the Catholic Church, raping teenaged girls, and helping East Germany revive the Third Reich. Talk about great time management skills. If only we were half as organized.
Did drugs flow from Cuba to the U.S.? It's an accusation that has come up numerous times over the years. Considering that since at least 1950 drugs were flowing into the U.S. from Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Afghanistan, Thailand, et al—it would be astonishing if drugs didn't also originate from or transit through Cuba. With what degree of official approval we'll probably never know. Heads of state are notoriously insulated. In fact, the only one we can think of offhand who was definitively tied to drug dealing was Panama's former strongman Manuel Noriega, who was doing it with the help of the CIA,, but we can probably safely assume he wasn't the first national leader to peddle drugs.
Whisper isn't aiming for investigative journalism in its Castro piece. That would require actual work. Its story is 90% lollipop, 10% stick. But the ratio of fiction to fact is meaningless as long as the writing fits the brief: focus obsessively on the sensational, the frightening, and the infuriating. That's why we call mid-century tabloids the cable news channels of yesteryear. Though people were doubtless highly agitated about what they read in these quasi-journalistic outlets, the passage of decades makes them harmless fun for us to explore. Maybe one day a future website—or whatever passes for one ages from now—will be able to make jokes about the things agitating us. Let's hope so. We have a bunch of scans below, and more tabloids than we can count inside the website. Look here.
Gringos take their criminal activities south of the border in Mystery in Mexico.
When a vintage movie is set in Mexico, it's a bonus when it's actually filmed there. Most movies with a Mexican backdrop—even good ones—didn't bother, but Mystery in Mexico goes the extra mile. And not for just a scene or two. There are numerous exteriors in city and countryside. Among the sights sharp-eyed viewers will see are the Monumento a la Revolución, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the nightclub Ciro's, which had a Mexico City branch famous for a Diego Rivera mural in its Champagne Room. The Mexican authenticity extends to the cast, which features local superstar Ricardo Cortez and numerous bit players. Even some of the dialogue is in Spanish, including bits spoken by lead actor William Lundigan—quite a departure for a star in an old-time thriller.
So we've established that Mystery in Mexico aims for authenticity. But is it any good? Well, what you have here is a story about insurance investigator Lundigan following Jacqueline White around Mexico City hoping she'll lead him to a stash of stolen jewelry. White doesn't know where the loot is, but her brother might. Except he's missing. Also looking for the jewels is a gang of local thieves. For the most part the film plays as a romantic adventure, with love-hate turning into love-love thanks to Lundigan's dubious charm. The mystery aspect is pretty slight by comparison, but with Robert Wise in the director's chair everything looks good and runs smoothly. Mystery in Mexico won't make anyone's top 100 list, but for its novelty factor alone it's worth a look. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1948.
Get out of my astrological house or I'll blow your brains out.
This photo shows Latvian actress Ilse Taurins rocking what looks like a Russian ushanka hat, accessorized with a pistol. She's actually a Virgo, not a Taurus. Apart from a single motion picture, she acted exclusively on television, appearing on shows like Wild Wild West, Perry Mason, and Bonanza, between 1963 and 1972. This shot was made as a promo for The John Forsythe Show in 1965.
I'm sorry but I'll have to get dressed. Your insurance company just informed us they won't pay for physical therapy.
If anyone ever had a reason to back universal healthcare it would be the patient denied the joys of sexual healing by the for-profit system. Kimberly Kemp's Intimate Nurse deals with a highly sexed live-in medical professional who brings trouble to an unsuspecting family. You know the drill—the healing lasts until the hurting begins.
Kemp was a pseudonym used by Gilbert Fox, who wrote such sleaze classics as Operation: Sex and Illicit Interlude. Those sound fun, but we especially love nurse novels. And who wouldn't, with examples like this and this out there? We'll have more from Kemp later. The above effort was published in 1962, and the art is uncredited.
Birdwell get wings clipped, ends up in cage.
It started as a fun evening, but twenty-year-old Joan Birdwell was later booked on charges of felony drunk driving, something that happened in Los Angeles today in 1951. And wouldn't you know it? Just to make matters worse, a photographer from the Los Angeles Examiner was on hand to document Birdwell's humiliation from beginning to end. In addition to her wild night ending with arrest and photographic infamy, she may have actually crashed her car, because a companion photo below shows her passenger Vernon Burgess in a hospital bed, though not seriously hurt.
Birdwell was the daughter of powerful press agent Russell Birdwell. L.A. tabloids obsessively sought good art, and a juicy jail photo of someone connected to a celebrity—however obscure that celebrity might have been—certainly qualified. Celebs, killers, thieves, and regular folk all got this treatment. We can't confirm that Examiner ever actually ran these shots. Either way they're out there now, thanks to the University of Southern California's online Examiner archive. Ah, the internet: where everything you hoped was long forgotten lives in mortifying perpetuity. Joan, if you're out there, sorry.
That old quote is true. Since I got into politics I've had quite a few fellows in bed and most of them were strange.
In Winchell Barry's Scarlet City ambitious anti-heroine Lora Paton insinuates herself into the inner workings of a big city's political and vice machines by using her own inner workings on various lustful men. Her constant sexual activity leaves her by turns empowered and embittered, depending on how her scheme to get her main man into the governor's mansion is going at any given moment. If she can get him elected, they'll marry and live on the taxpayer's dime happily ever after. But is he playing straight with her? Hint: politicians are generally scum.
Scarlet City is pretty frank stuff from Barry, who was in reality longtime television writer Leo Rifkin. Through various plot covolutions he manages to get Lora in bed with five different men, each a rung on her ladder to the top. The book was originally published in 1953, with this Beacon edition coming in 1960. It was also reprinted in a 1954 issue of Daring magazine, so its mix of easy sex, political chicanery, and strange bedfellows must have done well on newsstands. It's not going to be studied in any creative writing classes, but we'll admit we liked it.
When you're rich you're never insane. You're just a little eccentric.
La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba, aka The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, premiered in Italy today in 1971, and is an Italian made, set-in-England, gothic giallo flick for which we shared an unusual Greek poster some years ago. The art on that was retasked from the original poster, which was painted by Sandro Symeoni, a genius we've featured often. If you don't know his work, click his keywords below and have a look. He's worth your time.
In the movie a British lord violently obsessed with his deceased redheaded wife goes nuts and is committed to a mental institution. When he gets out he immediately brings disrepute to the entire psychiatric profession's notion of “cured” by going on a redhead killing spree. While he's busy reducing rural England's carrottop population one pale person at a time, his headshrinker, who knows nothing of the murders, is encouraging him to remarry in order to get over his dead wife.
That doesn't strike us as responsible psychiatric advice, but as we mentioned, there are lousy doctors in this film, so the Lord indeed picks out a suitable spouse, who's blonde, importantly. Things go fine until Mrs. Lord notices a redheaded maid in the manor. This is impossible, you see, because the Lord hates (and kills) redheads. So it goes without saying he'd never hire one. Who was this woman, and why was she there? Soon we're treated to the reliable giallo staples of imposters, unknown people creeping through the woods at night, disappearing corpses, and the question of whether what's happening is real, or is an attempt to induce insanity.
What might induce insanity for you is the screenwriting of the female characters in this flick. They're pure murder magnets. For example, whenever the Lord meets a redhead he yanks painfully on her hair to see if it's real. “Ouch! That hurt!” “Sorry, I thought it might be a wig.” “Oh.” Here's some advice: kick him in the gonads and run like Flo-Jo. Yet the women instead decide painful hair-pulling is just a cute quirk, and later meet their bloody ends.
There's also an incredible scene where the Lord slaps his wife around until she's bloody-mouthed, only to finally be stopped by the appearance of a friend, who asks, “Why were you fighting?” Why were you fighting? A more appropriate line might be, “Why were you beating the fuck out of your beloved?” But with this latter incident there may actually be a plotworthy reason the Lord is forgiven. We could reveal it, but that would be a spoiler. Of course, saying it would be a spoiler is a spoiler too. Oh no! Everything is spoiled! We have to murder a redhead now. Is that a non-sequitur? No, it's just giallo.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1939—First Baseball Telecast
The first televised baseball game, a doubleheader between the Cincinnati Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers, takes place at New York City's Ebbets Field.
1944—Vive la France
With the surrender of the last occupying German garrison, Paris is liberated from Nazi occupation by Allied troops after six days of fighting. The city had been administered by Nazi Germany since the Second Compiègne armistice in June 1940 when Germany occupied the north and west of France and when the Vichy regime was created in the city of Vichy in central France.
1954—Communist Party Outlawed
In the U.S., during the height of the Red Scare, President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Communist Control Act into law. The new legislation bans the American Communist Party, and prohibits people deemed to be communists from serving as officials in labor organizations.
1968—France Explodes Nuke
a two-stage nuclear weapon, codenamed Canopus, on Fangataufa, French Polynesia.
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