Now that you've shot the continent's last white rhino can we do something I think is romantic?
Jonathan Latimer's African adventure novel Dark Memory needs a more grandiose title, because it's pure Hemingway, and you know how lyrical his titles were. Latimer's novel is about nature, and courage, and women. It reads as if he said to himself after finishing Green Hills of Africa, “I wonder if I could do something like what Papa did here?” Well, he could. Dark Memory is a totally absorbing safari tale, a slice of time long gone. Latimer is in what we call the “trusted” category. He's set-and-forget. He's a concierge who's never failed a customer. If he wants to take us on an African safari, all we can say is, “Where do we get our malaria shots?”
Today people who hunt big game are excoriated on social media, and we understand why. The animals they shoot are simply too rare and valuable to be killed for ego. The hunters of yesteryear also killed for ego, but did so under a more limited ecological understanding and more lax political circumstances. Some practices of the past shouldn't survive, and killing lions for their skins shouldn't survive any more than should gladiatorial combat with swords. Big game hunters of today know that these African animals will be slaughtered unto extinction, but they simply don't care. Some might not want to shoot the last one, or hundredth one, or thousandth, but they're offset by sociopaths who'd pay a fortune to usher a species to oblivion. It's basic economics. The rarer the animal the more someone will pay to kill it.
If you were to search Dark Memory for good explanations why people kill African wildlife you'd be disappointed. Killing to prove one's own courage, killing a silverback gorilla carrying an infant, all seems shallow and pointless even to the main character, Jay Nichols, part of a group slogging through the wilds of Belgian Congo. When he later refers to the shooting—actually his shooting—of that female gorilla as a murder, his feelings are made crystal clear. In one scene another hunter explains how, during his current duties guiding a party of Brits, they've killed two hippos. For no reason except vanity. Then he lists the other casualties: “Zebra, eland, antelope, kuku, oryx, wildebeest, hartebeest, topi, [impala], waterbuck, dik-dik, oribi, bushbuck, reedbuck. I can't remember them all. Yes, and a number of different gazelles. We've killed more than two-hundred animals.”
Latimer is a show-not-tell type of writer, but seems to suggest that, while shooting a charging animal may prove a type of courage, it's of the crudest kind. The same rough men don't have enough courage to be truthful. Nor do they have the guts to be evenhanded—they must always weight the scales. Fairness angers them, because then they lose their advantages. But the book is only partly about all this. There's a woman on the expedition, Eve Salles, and her role barely differs from that of the animals. She's to be conquered for vanity too. In the context of this difficult trek through the Congolese jungle, she will be left in peace only if she belongs to someone. If the cruel, intimidating asshole running the safari has his druthers, it'll be him. She resists this depressing reality, but how long can she last?
Latimer tackles his themes declaratively, methodically, repetitively, and close to flawlessly. The man could definitely weave a tale, but for modern readers it'll be uncomfortable because he occasionally takes the route of racism in his descriptive passages. That's often true of vintage literature. We write—for a living even—so we never cut ourselves off from good writing. There's always something to learn. But those who read for pleasure should focus on the pleasure first. You have no other obligation, because there's plenty of good writing out there that doesn't equate gorillas and black men. But if, like the hunters in this book, you can trek past the hazards, your patience and forbearance will be rewarded—with high tension, savage action, deep reflection, and extraordinary visual power.
In the end, Dark Memory turns out to be a safari adventure that deftly channels the mid-century classics—Hemingway, Blixen, and others. Like those books, there's a level of dismissal toward the inhabitants of the land the characters claim to love, yet also like those books, there's insight into that rarefied realm of rich white Americans in the African wild. Latimer, a highly regarded crime writer, added big outdoor adventure to his résumé with Dark Memory, and as far as we're concerned he pulled it off. Originally published in 1940, the cover at top is from the 1953 Perma-Doubleday edition, painted by Carl Bobertz. It's actually a Canadian cover. We know only because every edition we've seen online has the price of 35¢, and a small notation that says: in Canada 39¢. Ours being 39¢, it must be Canadian. Brilliantly deduced, eh?
You think crawling is going to help? Have some pride. Get up and take it like a man.
Above, a fun shot of U.S. actress Tippi Hedren, née Nathalie Hedren, made when she was filming the 1964 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Marnie. Despite having one of the odder pseudonyms of the era there's no elaborate story involved. Her father nicknamed her Tippi when she was four. Hedren also appeared in such films as The Birds, The Harrad Experiment, and the unbelievable Roar. Have you heard of Roar. No? Well, it's certainly one of the most bizarre movie projects in history.
Rather than get into the plot (such as it is), we'll just tell you that during its making Hedren broke her leg after being bucked off an elephant's back, and received thirty-eight stitches after a lioness gnawed the back of her head. In addition, her daughter Melanie Griffith, cinematographer Jan de Bont, and producer Noel Marshall were also mauled by lions. Griffith needed fifty stitches in her face and plastic surgery, de Bont needed one hundred twenty stitches and his scalp sewn back in place, and lucky Noel Marshall merely developed gangrene.
If you haven't seen Roar and are an aficionado of weird cinema, we can't recommend watching that one highly enough. Ironically, while we've seen that all-time obscurity, we haven't seen the well-known Marnie. But there's a reason—one of the worst people we ever knew, someone who stole several of our most prized belongings, was named Marni, so avoiding that reminder has kept us from getting around to the film. But it isn't like that's Tippi's fault, so her movie is finally in the queue. When we watch it we'll report back.
I never have sex on the first date. It's almost midnight. At 12:01 we'll say we're on our second date.
Above: James Clayford's Tonight for Sure, 1951 from Exotic Novels, with yet another amazing cover by George Gross, plus the original art. Clayford was a pseudonym used by Peggy Dern, better known as Peggy Gaddis. We've discussed a couple of her books, and have still others to read that we'll break down later.
You can always bank on Andress.
Colpo da 500 milioni alla National Bank was originally made in England as Perfect Friday, and as you can see from the poster, it starred the Swiss vision known as Ursula Andress. That makes it a must watch, and what you get is the type of erotic caper Andress made more than once, as this time she becomes the center of a plot to rob a London bank of £200,000. Her partners are her husband and the deputy bank manager, and she's playing both ends against the middle, so to speak—i.e. doing the nasty with both while telling neither. The heist develops as heists always do, but the real question becomes who she'll choose to run away with in the end.
Andress must have loved making these films. If they weren't the easiest money in cinema history they sure look like it. Every time she got one of these scripts we imagine her going, “Ker-ching.” All she had to do was work in various European capitals, be charming and sophisticated, speak in that impossibly sexy Germanic rasp of hers—and of course strip. In that respect Andress was as reliable as government bonds. Getting naked isn't easy for some, let alone doing it in front of twenty people, but she had a pretty insouciant attitude about it, once saying, “I have no problem with nudity. I can look at myself. I like walking around nude. It doesn't bother me.”
Of course, the anti-nudity set in today's new age of prudishness would claim she said that because it was expected/demanded of her. Well, we have only her words to go by. When a person's own statements are ignored, that makes it mighty easy to turn them into whatever one wishes. There's a lot of that going around today. But we'll show her some respect and assume she said what she she meant. Her face and body got her in the door and kept her at the party, and she was aware of that. While she was a solid actress, she wasn't about to win any awards. At least not with these scripts. Colpo da 500 milioni alla National Bank is a silly little movie but it shows Andress at her best—in every way. For her fans it's mandatory. It had its world premiere in Italy today in 1970.
Zsa Zsa gives Venus va-va-voom in all time sci-fi clunker.
We're back from a spontaneous vacation, and it seems fitting to discuss a movie about the same. We went to Tarifa, but this trip deals with Venus. Once more a cheapie sci-fi flick has brilliant promo posters, as you see above for Queen of Outer Space, which premiered today in 1958 starring Zsa Zsa Gabor, Laurie Mitchell, and Eric Fleming, with a brief appearance from Joi Lansing. Set in the then-distant future of 1985, a group of astronauts are unexpectedly propelled in their rocket millions of miles to a crash landing on our solar system's second planet. This is not the hellhole Venus of scientific reality, but a place with snow, forests, a breathable atmosphere, and intelligent inhabitants—more specifically, babes. In fact, babes in mini skirts and heels, much like Tarifa. And they speak English. And are starved for love because men have been banished from Venus after a revolt by women. Now the world is ruled by a cruel, masked queen. We'll stop there and offer this snippet of dialogue:
“That's incredible. How did she manage to overthrow the men?”
“They didn't take her seriously. [snip] After all, she was only a woman.”
If that gives you an idea the movie is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, you're right. It actually strives to be a sci-fi comedy. In fact, Queen of Outer Space is almost unique in our experience in that it tries to be funny, fails spectacularly on those terms, but is so badly made it's still hilarious. It's the movie equivalent of a stand-up comic slogging his way through a lame routine with no idea he's getting laughs because his fly is open. It's cringingly awful, yet consistently uproarious, as the astronauts come into conflict with the titular space queen while she hides behind her mask and plans to destroy Earth. Actually, we'll give the movie a little credit for humor—there's one instance when this campfest tries to be funny and succeeds. The three astronauts and several horny Venusians are making out in a cave. Someone notices their campfire going out.
One astronaut to another: “Larry, get some more wood, will you?”
Larry: “What do you mean, 'Larry, get some more wood?' What's the matter with, 'Mike, get some more wood?'”
Mike: “This is one time when seniority really pays off. Turner—more wood!”
You're thinking the lines are unintentional, but no—they're deliberately written to be double entendres. Need proof? Look no further than the next line, delivered by a Venusian hottie, between smooches: “We don't really need any more wood.”
So, yes, it's deliberate. Only a muted trumpet going wah wah waaaaah waaah could have made it more clear. Wanna know what accidental looks like? Have a glance here. Whoops. Sadly, because this is the 1950s, none of the Venusians actually get the ole deep space nine, but the wink-wink implications of impending sex are clear, as the astronauts use their sharply honed kissing skills to turn the queen's royal inner circle against her. While her plot to explode Earth was spawned by understandable concerns that men will ruin the galaxy, to that we say, “Stop her! Joi Lansing is down there!” Defeat looms, as does an embarrassing unmasking that reveals— Well, we bet you you can guess. Bad doesn't begin to encompass Queen of Outer Space, but as we've always told the Pulp Intl. girlfriends, if you're going to be bad, at least be fun.
We hear Tarifa is terrific this time of year.
Hello. And goodbye—but only briefly. We're taking a little break, heading to a place called Tarifa. It's not far, but after pondering ambitious ideas about going to Italy, Croatia, and Malta, we decided a short trip was best to get back into the swing of travel for pleasure. It's been a couple of years (the move doesn't count—that was back breaking, shin barking work). We don't know much about Tarifa, just that a few friends like it. Will there be pulp there? Only the kind that comes in a mimosa, we're betting, but you never know.
As we've noted before, Spain is one of the countries that actually did generate a fair amount of pulp style art, and it's also a country where you occasionally stumble upon a used book store that has a lot of old crime novels. About the time the pulp craze was in full swing, Tarifa looked like what you see in the photo below. Even if there's no pulp to befound there these days, and despite it modernizing a bit from its quaint form of yesteryear, we expect to have (careful, socially distanced) fun. We'll be back in four or five days. As usual we're linking to a few posts for your enjoyment, and this time, for a change, they're all books. A picnic with a special treat. The shortest car trip ever. The unparallelled work of Giovanni Benvenuti: here and here. It's true, we like to make fun of sorority girls, as evidenced here, here, and here. Fraternity boys are also favorite targets, as we show here, here, and here. A match made in pulp heaven: Robert McGinnis and Carter Brown. And here are thoughts about cowboy fashion, what a real cowboy drinks, what a real cowboy eats, what's a noble ending for a cowboy, whether a cowboy really needs a horse, and whether higher education makes him less of a real cowboy, or more. Everybody sing along—you know the words. Knock down drag out fighting in mid-century art.
And finally, proof here
that the female of the species can be more deadly than the male.
Wait—you're in the mafia? I thought being a good fella was your explanation for why everyone in Little Italy is so nice to you.
I, Mobster, published in 1951, is credited to anonymous but we learned somewhere that it was written by Joseph Hilton Smyth. We don't know how we found that out—a rumor, a tip, an informant—but we're pretty sure we're right. The art is also by an unknown, by the way. The book details the rise of a petty crook through the ranks of the mafia. Anonymous or not, you can be absolutely sure whoever wrote it came forward at some point, because the book was adapted into a 1958 movie and the author would have wanted to get paid for that. We decided not to buy the book, but the movie stars Steve Cochrane and features Lili St. Cyr, so we'll definitely check that out later.
Whew! That's better. I was sweating like a Texas fry cook in this outfit.
Above is a fun photo of Japanese actress Yûko Iruka suddenly realizing the shortcomings of wearing leather during summer. We last saw her headlining the 1977 girl gang movie Jigoku no tenshi: Akai bakuon, aka Hells Angels: Crimson Roar, and we were thinking we'd check her out in another flick, but it looks like she made only the one. Considering the crazy things actresses were asked to do in Japanese genre films, she may have gotten off easy. We have no date on this image, but we figure it's from around the same time as her movie.
As far as I'm concerned whoever let the cops in should pay all our legal fees.
On this day in 1949, during the wee small hours of the morning, Robert Mitchum, Lila Leeds, Robin Ford, and Vickie Evans were hanging in a secluded Hollywood Hills home smoking a little mota when there was a scratch at the door. The house was the residence of Leeds and Evans, and it had become a spot where people, including Hollywood showbiz types, occasionally partook of the Devil's weed. By some accounts entry could be gained only via a secret knock, which—actually this is pretty clever—was to scratch at the front door like a cat. Since police had been tipped to the house's possible purpose, we can assume they too scratched at the door. We like to think they meowed too, but that probably didn't happen.
Anyway, Evans answered the door, and to her shock and dismay, in barged the police. Evans, Leeds, Mitchum, and Ford were corralled and escorted to the police station—and right into the cameras of the waiting press. The quartet are seen above with their legal representatives. Below, Mitchum, Leeds, and Ford are facing the camera, while Evans is facing away. Mitchum actually thought his career was ruined, but after being convicted of conspiracy to possess marijuana and serving sixty days in jail he continued as a top rank star. The up and coming Leeds, on the other hand, really was ruined by her conviction—at least according to her. Ford, who was a realtor, was also convicted, but we have no idea what happened to him afterward. Only aspiring dancer Evans was acquitted.
Monroe counts the days for Japanese film fans.
Above is a September/October calendar page printed by the Japanese film magazine Eiga no tomo, or “friend of movies.” And who is that ushering summer out and autumn in but Marilyn Monroe? As you've surely noticed by now, Monroe was a huge star in Japan. This is just one of many unique items we've located, along with this, this, this, and others. Though the calendar is for 1954, the photo dates from 1951, and a dandy one it is. |
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