Famed author Ian Fleming arrested after strangulation rampage at his publishing company.
We talked about how Ian Fleming feuded with his publisher Perma Books over name changes to his James Bond novels. This is another one of the offending paperbacks, 1957's Too Hot To Handle. Not only had this book already been successfully published as Moonraker by the British hardback imprint Jonathan Cape, but the Lou Marchetti cover art Perma used doesn't fit the Bond brand at all. Signet Books did infinitely better when it got the rights in 1960. As far as Fleming trying to strangle everyone at Perma, we can't confirm that as fact. But we bet he thought about it.
Seems like the news in this paper is always bad.
This is an interesting piece of crime memorabilia. We've seen it around a bit, but decided to share it here anyway. It's a copy of the Daily Police Bulletin, a publication put out by the Los Angeles Police Department meant for internal use, updating cops on the department's focus items. We gather the LAPD did this from 1907 until the late 1950s. These were generally two pages in length, with printing on the front and back. We checked around and learned that the Chicago and San Francisco police also printed these newspaper style bulletins. It's a good bet other departments did too. This Bulletin on murdered and mutilated Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia, is from today in 1947, about a week after her death. The photo used is a headshot she had made, something she needed because she intended to become an actress. She never got the chance. Her life ended at age twenty-two.
Classic ninja movie Ren zhe da is a kick in the head.
This chaotic poster was made for a 1986 Taiwanese kung fu movie called Ren zhe da, which in English was renamed Ninja: The Final Duel. It stars Wang Chi Chung acting under the name Alexander Lo, along with Alan Lee and Alice Tseng. We gather the film is distilled from an eight hour television series. Cutting all that footage down to a ninety minute adventure makes for a final product that's choppy (see what we did there?), but the basic idea is the Ji Ho Clan wishes to defeat the Shaolin Temple, which is protected by the heroic Lo, two Hare Krishna martial arts experts, a renowned African American monk from Harlem, and others.
The film is notable for Alice Tseng's pivotal fight scene, in which—à la Reiko Ike in Sex & Fury—she battles a group of men while naked. If you unrepentantly use the freeze frame feature on your telly the fight is a vulva memorable sequence. Also memorable is the Harlem monk, played by Eugene Thomas acting under the name Eugene T. Trammel. His dialogue is dubbed by a voice actor imitating black vernacular English, but with an appalling Taiwanese accent. As surprising as the explicitness of Tseng's nude sword battle is, the black monk's ghettofied dialogue is, in a way, even crazier. We can't imagine why the filmmakers thought that was a good idea, but as unintentional humor goes, it's top tier.
The fighting between Ji Ho Clan and Shaolin Temple builds to a climax, with various good guys making the uiltimate sacrifice, until finally, as in many kung fu movies, the grizzled (but surprisingly spry) Shaolin master shows up to restore order by whipping ass on the best enemy fighter. Why doesn't the old master just fight this guy immediately and save his loyal underlings a lot of effort and pain? The Buddha once famously said, and we're paraphrasing, "Be loathe to pull thine disciples' bacon from the fire, because, after all, there is nothing more replaceable than a loyal follower." Or something like that. In any case, Ren zhe da is a movie kung fu aficionados must see.
Anytime is the right time for great cover art.
Above, a cover for K. Beerman's Baarnse Moord (Murder in Baarn), painted by Dutch artist Martin Oortwijn. We said we'd get back to Oortwijn and here we are, three years later. He remains, in our eyes at least, a unique talent. We were reminded of him because he illustrated the cover of a Christine Keeler biography, and Keeler is back in the spotlight thanks to the new BBC series The Trial of Christine Keeler, which we've been watching. So far so good on that, and we'll try to dig up more from Oortwijn.
By any Reckoning this poster is a top quality piece.
This promo poster for Dead Reckoning is deliberately garish and highly effective at drawing the eye. They don't make 'em like this anymore, nor movies like this either. It had a special premiere today in 1947 in San Francisco, and went into wide release across the U.S. a month later. We shared a piece of Japanese promo art years ago and talked about the film, so if you want to know more, check here.
To billions of people I'm a superstar but you have the nerve ask who I am? You are so dead.
Above, an awesome image of Indian actress Rekha—née Bhanurekha Ganesan—from her hit fantasy adventure film Nagin, which is the fantastic tale of a magical snake that takes human form in order to revenge-kill some hunters. Rekha wasn't the snake in the movie, but she looks ready to kill too. Obviously, the fact that she's a one-name star indicates her level of fame, and though that recognition never quite took hold outside Asia, several billion people recognize her as one of the cinematic greats. Our loss, their gain. Nagin premiered in India today in 1976, so this photo would have been made sometime in 1975.
Remember when politicians were motivated not by money and power, but by a desire to help people? Neither do we.
Below, a small collection of vintage paperbacks all featuring images of the U.S. Capitol. They're reminders that the building has always been a place of intrigue and treachery. Which is exactly why it's perfect for our website.
It was a different flavor of men's magazine.
Zest magazine, with its bold graphics and cover portraits, looks like a classic mid-century tabloid, but its banner tells you it's really a men's magazine. It lives up to its billing in this issue from January 1956—issue number one, actually—with short stories from Michael Avallone and H.P. Lovecraft, real life adventure tales, scare stories (“Is Your Daughter a Sex-Film Star?), glamour photography, and humor.
The Lovecraft tale, “Rats in the Walls,” is called “the greatest horror story ever written.” We wouldn't go that far, but it's freaktacular, like everything Lovecraft wrote. It had originally been published in Weird Tales in 1924, and we imagine that its bizarro mutant/cannibalism themes were pretty shocking back then. The Avallone story, “The Glass Eye,” is novella length. He had already published three novels and was building a reputation as a reliable author of thrillers, which makes his inclusion a nice coup for a new magazine.
The photography in Zest is just as impressive as the fiction. Readers get to see rare shots of major celebs such as Sophia Loren, Sabrina, and Delores del Rio. All in all Zest was a high budget effort, but it lasted only two issues. Why did it fold? No idea on that. Competition in the market was plenty stiff at the time. On the other hand, maybe two issues are all that were planned. We're thrilled to show you one of them, comprising thirty-plus scans below for your Thursday enjoyment.
Nations to betray, people to murder. *yawn* Let me nap for about twelve hours before I spring into action.
We move from yesterday's canines to today's felines. Pure pinup style art by Willard Downes adorns this Gold Medal paperback of John Flagg's, aka John Gearon's, novel The Persian Cat. Looking at this, we were pretty sure Downes painted it long before Gold Medal came knocking at his studio door, simply because this piece, while wonderful, is also generic enough to front probably a quarter of mid-century thrillers. A read through the tale seems to confirm our suspicion. The main character is ex-OSS agent Gil Denby, who money lures back into the spy game for a high stakes mission in Teheran, where he's supposed to bring to justice a femme fatale who was a Vichy traitor during World War II. The femme does plenty, but she never quite gets around to lounging abed in her undies.
This was published in 1950, a crucial period in Iranian history. Though the narrative doesn't reveal an exact time frame, it's a given that the tale and publication date are closely aligned. That means the story takes place when Iran was ruled by Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, aka the Shah, with some power also apportioned to a series of prime ministers. In fact, there were seventeen prime ministers from 1940 to 1950, which hints at the political volatility of the country. Iranians would eventually elect the reformist Mohammed Mossadegh as PM in 1951, and the U.S. and Britain would promptly overthrow him in 1953, leading to the Shah gaining unchallenged power.
You will learn none of this reading The Persian Cat. It isn't even there as deep background. Also missing is any affinity for language, culture, geography, architecture, or life in the streets. Nor does Flagg mention that the predominant language in Iran is Farsi, not Arabic, and he only hints that the predominant ethnic group is Persian, not Arab. In short, the book lacks a sense of place. When reading about the exotic and distant city of Teheran, this is a letdown. Flagg traveled the Middle East but could have written this novel without ever leaving the U.S. We can't say why the Iranian flavor is so weak, but lack of interest and/or lack of willingness to have learned usable details of the country are leading possibilities. See: David Dodge for how to write exotic locales successfully.
That said, The Persian Cat is a reasonably fun, well-written adventure. Yes, we know that assessment seems contradictory. We'd have liked a more atmospheric and informative tale, but Flagg has talent. His hero Denby deals with betrayal, murder, hairsbreadth escapes, and serious doubts about whether he wants to send that languorously stretching femme fatale to her death. The book's biggest flaw—besides the usual behavior toward women that might easily earn Denby a restraining order or prison time today—is a climax built on revelatory dialogue, pages of it, that will leave you screaming in your head, “Enough talk! Just shoot the fucker!” Still, Flagg overcomes these issues to craft nine tenths of a good book. We'll probably try him again down the line.
These are the warmest, slimiest raindrops I've ever felt.
Since we were on the subject of werewolves a couple of days ago, here's a fun promo shot of Claude Rains about to precipitate doggie drool onto Evelyn Ankers in their 1941 horror flick The Wolf Man. Ankers had trouble with other weird creatures too, including ghosts in Hold That Ghost, a vampire in Son of Dracula, an unseen troublemaker in The Invisible Man's Revenge, and a reanimated monster in The Ghost of Frankenstein. All that experience and she never learned to look up. Well, in her defense Rains is unusually sneaky, plus canines don't usually climb trees.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1950—Alger Hiss Is Convicted of Perjury
American lawyer Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury in connection with an investigation by the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), at which he was questioned about being a Soviet spy. Hiss served forty-four months in prison. Hiss maintained his innocence and fought his perjury conviction until his death in 1996 at age 92.
1977—Carter Pardons War Fugitives
U.S. President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all of the country's Vietnam War draft evaders, many of whom had emigrated to Canada. He had made the pardon pledge during his election campaign, and he fulfilled his promise the day after he took office.
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign
comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
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