Albert Camus' fatal 1960 auto accident may have been a KGB assassination.
Italian author Giovanni Catelli has just published a book that claims French writer Albert Camus was assassinated by the KGB, rather than dying in an auto accident, as largely believed. When you say the words “Cold War intrigue,” we're all in, so the story caught our eye. Catelli's theory, which he first began airing in 2011, is that the KGB silenced Camus because he was a globally famous figure who made a habit of criticizing the Soviet Union. The order was allegedly given by Dmitri Shepilov, the USSR’s minister of internal affairs, after Camus slammed him in the French newspaper Franc-Tireur in March 1957. Camus died in 1960, so the killing took three years to come to fruition, according to Catelli.
His book length argument, La mort de Camus, is getting white hot press right now, however it's very interesting to look back at contemporary articles about the crash. Camus was riding as a passenger in a car driven by his publisher Michel Gallimard, with Gallimard's wife Janine and their daughter Anne in the rear seat. Michel Gallimard died, but his wife and daughter survived to describe the crash. Michel was driving fast and had been told to slow down, and had drunk wine at dinner.
A gander at the wreckage of the heavy Farcel Vega HK500 attests to its speed. We checked the various articles popping up online and found none that mentioned either the velocity of the car or the drinking of the driver, but that's how the internet works—a fantastic claim circles the world five times faster than anything resembling balance or a fact check.
Catelli, though, has an answer for the reckless driving theory—the Soviets had attached a device to the car that would puncture a tire only in the event of sufficient speed. If the Soviets came up with the device described, it would not kick in without the added ingredient of driver haste, which often happens in conjunction with alcohol consumption, which in turn is a near certainty when talking about French people, all of which means the chances of a crash with muddied circumstances were pretty high. The device, if it ever existed, was certainly clever. It would be like a device that tied your shoelaces together, but only if you went downstairs in a rush, and you happened to live in a fourth floor flat with a balky elevator.
Catelli's belief that Camus was disposed of via assassination is bolstered by the fact that the car he was riding in somehow careened off a stretch of straight road thirty feet wide. Nobody described Michel Gallimard trying to dodge a hedgehog or pothole, so despite speed and possible drunkenness, some unforeseen factor seems required to send the vehicle into the weeds. On the other hand, three years is a long time to enact a death plot. We've seen Yankees and Red Sox fans patch their shit up in less time. But let's move this death from the settled bin into the mysterious bin, which is where we like everything to be anyway. Camus, the famed absurdist, once wrote that, “There can be nothing more absurd than to die in a car accident.” And if Catelli is correct, nothing can be more convenient either.
How many secrets can one man keep?
Charade is one of the great romantic thrillers in cinema history, and is a movie you should definitely see if you haven't. Audrey Hepburn plays a woman whose husband is fatally thrown off a speeding train and Cary Grant is a charming but mysterious stranger willing to render aid in solving the murder. But Grant has ulterior motives, as well as multiple identities. Others are interested in the killing too, and it soon develops that they're after $250,000 worth of missing gold.
The movie is great, as legions of fans and critics have agreed, but in addition to its narrative, directorial, and acting brilliance, what we like about it is that the unlikeliness of the May-December attraction between Grant and Hepburn does not go unaddressed. At one point Grant, 59, quips to Hepburn, 30, that he's afraid he'll be arrested for transporting a minor. We love the tack taken in dealing with the romance because it gives the audience credit for being intelligent enough to appreciate the subtleties of life. That's increasingly rare in popular movies—as well as in popular culture.
For example, these days there's talk of such things as “age appropriate” relationships, the inference being that older men should not be with younger women (and possibly vice versa). Horseshit. We can think of little more sexist than assuming women aren't able to make their own life choices. Consenting adults—older/younger, male/male, female/female, other/other—trying to find love will tend to look anywhere they can, and internet tribunals can take a flying leap. We don't say that merely because neither Pulp Intl. girlfriend is age appropriate. We say it because nothing in this life is more important than finding the right partner.
Interestingly, numerous other mid-century films—among them classics like Sabrina and To Catch a Thief—also addressed the presumed incongruity of older men with younger women, and did it in an empathetic, humanistic way. Charade does it more amusingly than most. Grant is initially embarrassed by Hepburn's attentions, but of course she eventually wears him down. The film mixes comedy, romance, and thrills, plus it was made in beautiful locations around Paris, all of which makes it a total winner. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1963.
Arizona Jim? Never heard of him. I'm New Mexico Clarence. Totally different guy.
Above, Arizona Jim, by the prolific Charles Alden Seltzer, 1949, for Popular Library. A preacher named Jim McDonald shows up in the town of Red Rock and has to deal with a gang of local outlaws led by Flash Haddam. Usually, facing lawless thugs would be a big job for a preacher, but it's only a disguise—Jim is really a government lawman. Classic motifs, including romance with a local good girl. The paperback is fronted by cover art from an unknown.
Ex-footballer Fred Williamson finds hits in cinema a bit more elusive than hits on a gridiron.
Above is a poster for the blaxploitation movie Mr. Mean, which hit cinemas this month in 1977. First, the title. Mr. Mean. We don't like it. It doesn't project the dignity of Mr. Majestyk, the approachable earthiness of Mr. Ed, the dystopian oppressiveness of Mr. Robot, the humor of Mr. Bean, the cultural examination of Mr. Baseball, the weirdness of Mr. Meaty, the paternalism of Mr. Skeffington, the righteousness of They Call Me Mr. Tibbs!, and, most importantly, the melodic promise of the forgotten ’80s pop band Mr. Mister. In short, Mr. Mean just sounds like a movie about a guy nobody wants to know.
It was written, produced, and directed by ex-NFL bonecrusher Fred Williamson, and long story short, directing a film is just a little more complicated than spearing wide receivers as a defensive back. He should have done better, since this was his fifth go-round of nearly twenty in the director's chair. Possibly the studio messed up his final cut. Or, considerably more likely, it was a disaster from the jump. Problem one: there's an unbelievable number of scenes of Williamson going from point A to B, either by car on on foot. If all the transit scenes were cut the movie would be ten minutes shorter. Problem two: every actor in the film is made of wood.
But we made it through this interminable slog across a fireswamp of first year film student errors for two reasons—Williamson himself, who has charisma and actually does mostly okay in the lead role, and his co-star Crippy Yocard. Both are great looking and many viewers will probably dig him, her, or both. Yocard in particular was one of the more free-spirited Italian stars, which she proved by posing for numerous extremely nude photos, including this one. Back yet? Now just imagine what the others are like. Maybe there's even a third point of interest with the movie—it feels a bit arthouse, which makes it a curiosity within the blaxploitation genre.
Notice we haven't discussed the plot? Fred didn't even know what it was, so how can we? Basically, he plays a fixer living in Rome who takes jobs come what may, but is asked to cross the bright white ethical line and kill a guy. He doesn't want to do it, but he needs the money, the target is supposedly a real asshole, and so forth. Despite the hackneyed premise, a decent movie could have resulted, but it feels as if an investor backed out halfway through and Williamson and crew found themselves stuck up the Tiber River with neither paddles nor budget.
So what's the upshot here? Williamson gets to strut and whip ass, Yocard gets naked, and arrogant white villains get obliterated. All good things. An unexpected aspect is that the legendary funk band Ohio Players get the soundtrack duties and close the movie with “Good Luck Charm,” which is a song so good it almost erases the memory of them opening the movie with a laughably bad theme song called—guess?—“Mr. Mean.” What can be said? Even musical geniuses will fumble when pressured. As for Williamson—he just dropped the ball. Which is why he was a defensive back in the first place.
Rat-a-tat-tat, all the men fall flat.
Above is a promo image of the wonderful Jennifer Jones, made for her 1948 Cuba adventure We Were Strangers, in which she played a character with the amazing name China Valdez. Wanna see her use that gun? If you watch the film, which was directed by John Huston, you'll see it happen during one of the most action packed climaxes in ’40s cinema, though the actual movie isn't one of Jones's nor the great Huston's best.
'Tis the season for generous giving—of prison time.
This unusual photo made today in 1953 shows a man named Edward Hallmark, aged seventy-three, being wheeled into a Pasadena courtroom to testify against twenty-four year old Donald Randazzo. Apparently, the previous September Randazzo kidnapped and beat Hallmark in an effort to rob him of his life savings. The shot is part of the large Los Angeles Examiner archive held by the University of Southern California, and which we've mined for interesting historical shots often.
In the photos below you see the defendant Randazzo conferring with his lawyer Edward S. Cooper. Randazzo is being shown a page from an edition of Advance California Reports. Advance reports or advance sheets are legal aids—specifically, pamphlets containing recently decided opinions of federal courts or state courts of a particular region. So basically Cooper is informing Randazzo of something relevant to their court appearance.
And we know exactly what that relevant something is—a standard in California case law stating that when the chief prosecution witness is trundled into court on a stretcher the defendant is seriously screwed. We have a feeling a wheelchair would have worked fine for Hallmark, but when you're facing your kidnapper you play your best card. The bedridden victim card beats everything king and below. Cooper is doubtless saying to his client, “As you can see here in Advance California Reports, Donald, legally you're fucked.”
Left brain calling right brain. Left brain calling right brain. Wake up, convict—you're daydreaming.
Here's a fun Robert Bonfils cover for Kitty Morgan's 1967's sleazer Turn-On. The art was recycled from March Hastings' 1962 book Design for Debauchery, with bars added to give the later art a jailhouse theme. It's kind of funny how shoddily original art was sometimes treated in efforts to adapt it for later usage: "Just paint some black bars over the earlier piece and we're good to go." We doubt Bonfils was the person tasked with defacing his own work, but you never know. In any case, the imagery makes us imagine some poor convict enjoying a beautiful cellblock daydream, which is then ruined when his fantasy girl says in a prison guard's baritone, “Hey convict! Who you think you eyeballin' like that?” As penal cover art goes, this is nice, but it isn't even in the same class as our favorite. Check here.
Looking back at one of the solar system's hottest celestial bodies.
Anita Ekberg's film noir Screaming Mimi opened in West Germany today in 1960. We've had a look at one West German poster, but today we've decided to share another one. This version is similar to the U.S. promo, but the unusual color palette makes it seem like a completely different design. We think's it's really beautiful.
Who says it never Raines in L.A?
You can't tell with her face all scrunched up, but the person in the above photo is actress Ella Raines, who appeared in such films as Brute Force, The Web, and Phantom Lady. Here she makes a July 1943 cameo in the pool at the Town House Hotel in Los Angeles, which was famous for its water nymphs that frolicked as guests in the hotel bar watched through plate glass. We've featured the Town House pool before, and those shots are worth a look. Just click the keywords below and scroll.
Joan Collins finds herself shipwrecked on Temptation Island.
Our Girl Friday is not by any stretch of the imagination anything close to pulp style, but we stumbled across the film and figured we'd briefly expand our scope. This one premiered in Great Britain today in 1953, and played in the U.S. in 1954 retitled The Adventures of Sadie. In this day and age it's considered uncouth to perv over an actress but we don't care, so here goes: the only reason to watch this is for the all-too-brief moments of Joan Collins in a bikini. She's an absolute goddess, spun from seafoam, illuminated by moonlight, and delivered to Earth by cherubs and songbirds. Otherwise the movie is a waste of time.
Basically, it's about four people who get stranded on a deserted island. You have Joan and three guys of widely varying type—nervous geek/uneducated cad/debonair yuppie—who all want to sample her tropical fruit. There's a moment when it seems she won't choose any of these chumps, and that would have been a nice lesson to impart about never settling for less, but this is the 1950s, which means somebody is going to get her. Who she chooses and why doesn't matter and you won't care. The truth is no mortal human could deserve her anyway.
Joan Collins was defined for us when we were kids by her late-career television roles. Back then we never even had a notion of her as a young woman. Thanks to maintaining Pulp Intl. we've been able to correct that omission, because, while she was pretty hot as a fifty-year-old troublemaker on Dynasty, she's really something as an ingénue. The other thing about this film that's worthwhile is its British promo poster, above, rendered largely in lovely sky blue. The depiction of Collins is nice, as well. We don't know who painted it, but they did a bang-up job.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
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