Hollywoodland Jan 21 2012
BARELY NANCY
Confidential gets out its trusty airbrush.

We like this fun blue cover of Confidential from January 1968, but it’s just a bit misleading. The image of Nancy Sinatra is doctored to imply that she's naked. The original, which you see below, was shot around the time she was filming her 1966 comedy caper The Last of the Secret Agents? In the movie there’s a scene in which her dress gets snagged on something and accidentally torn off. The moment is played for laughs, in a public setting. The ensemble she wore in that scene is exactly what she has on in the photo, which suggests it was probably shot to promote the film.

Nancy in her undies could not save The Last of the Secret Agents? from bad reviews and an underwhelming run, but while the movie was a dud, the undies photo became quite famous and was used on many magazines, including a cover of The National Police Gazette that we showed you a couple of years ago. Leave it to Confidential to suggest that more came off during the filming of Secret Agents than ended up in the final version of the film, but as far as we know, Sinatra never appeared fully nude in any medium until 1995, when she was 54 years old and did a layout for Playboy. Before that she had shot a promo photo in which she appeared to be bare, but with arms and legs arranged to hide the naughty bits. The Playboy spread, by contrast, hid nothing. And Confidential? It hid the truth.

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Femmes Fatales Aug 16 2011
UNIQUE DOMINIQUE
Never known a girl like you before.

Above, a brilliant shot of French/Italian actress Dominique Boschero, who acted in about sixty films during the 1950s and 1960s, including OSS 77—Operazione fior di loto (aka OSS 77—Operation Lotus), Gli imbroglioni (aka The Impostors), and Agente 310 spionaggio sexy (we probably don’t need to translate that one, right?). This image is from 1966. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 6 2011
CHANGING TIMES
Curious George goes to the hospital.

This January 1954 issue of Whisper tells readers about a stripper named Lola Dewitt Stewart who bit a cop, covers a gala Harlem dance, and exposes the voodoo rites of Haitian virgin priestesses. The issue also contains a profile of Christine Jorgensen, the most famous transsexual of her day. Jorgensen—whose name is misspelled "Jorgenson" by Whisper editors—had been born George Jorgensen and had lived unhappily as a male for twenty-five years. After a stint in the Army, he learned about the possibility of becoming more feminine and started by taking hormones, and later travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark to have his male sex organs removed. At the time, Denmark used castration on sexual criminals, which is why the procedure was legal there. Jorgensen, now female in appearance, returned to the U.S. and New York’s Daily News broke her story with one of the most famous headlines in publishing history: Ex-G.I. Becomes Blonde Beauty. Jorgensen parlayed the recognition into a show business career, establishing a blueprint for later transgenders like Coccinelle. Jorgensen finished the last of her reassignment surgeries in the mid-1950s and, now sexually female, continued in show business for many years. She danced in Las Vegas, appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, was voted “Miss Neutral Zone” by American soldiers serving in Korea, and had high-profile romances. Later in her life she reflected that she was proud to have been part of the sexual revolution. “We may not have started it,” she said of herself and other transgenders, “but we gave it a good swift kick in the pants.” 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 7 2010
SWEDE NOTHINGS
The unhappy hooker goes to Stockholm.

We just finished watching L’ultimo giorno di lavoro di una prositituta, and it’s pretty much exactly what the title says—the last day in the job of a prostitute. Lovely Dagmar, played by Diana Kjær, is a hooker in Copenhagen and has decided to quit the rackets and escape to Stockholm. We follow her during her last day as she sees various clients, co-workers, friends and relatives, and also gets slapped around by her pimp. This movie is really bad—it’s poorly acted, poorly produced, and poorly written. In parts, it’s unintentionally funny, but the deliberate attempts at comedy fall flat. Stereotypes abound: you get a couple of Japanese guys with bowl cuts who say “Ah so,” and know karate, a Russian diplomat who’s always drunk on vodka, a mustachioed Italian guy who air-conducts classical music, and a hippie who’s trying to be a rock star and needs money to get his girlfriend an abortion. While we didn’t enjoy the movie, it’s worth noting that the radiant Anne Grete Nissen appears in a minor role, and we absolutely love the rare Italian poster you see above. L’ultimo giorno di lavoro di una prositituta, aka Dagmars Heta Trosor, aka Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc., premiered in Italy today in 1971. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 20 2010
DAS KAPITAL
Maybe we’d understand the principal if we spoke the language.

We have no idea what’s going on in this 1950 issue of the West German magazine Das Ronke because German is not one of our languages. What are major stars doing paired with various automobile brands? Nein idea. Are they ads? Possibly. We’ve seen American stars used in foreign ads before. But ads imply legitimacy, so why are there naked women in the magazine? We ask because you would think, especially in 1950, no Hollywood actress would wish to be associated with a smut publication, especially one that has broken the magical pubic hair rule that at the time defined obscenity. It’s all destined to remain a mystery to us until we find ourselves a German somewhere. We’ll try the nearest pub and get back to you on this later. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 23 2010
COMBINATION ROCKS
Lesser-known noir The Big Combo is well worth a viewing.

In the old noirs criminal gangs are sometimes the Mafia, sometimes the Mob, and still other times the Syndicate. In this one the gang is the Combination, hence the title The Big Combo. While the film isn’t a big budget noir, it makes up in inventiveness what it lacks for dollars. Example: one thug who wears a hearing aid is about to be rubbed out. He begs for his life, and one of his executioners says, “I’ll do you a favor—you won’t hear the bullets.” He then snatches out the thug’s hearing aid and we see a silent close-up of muzzle flashes. The film is filled with visual treats like that, and as a bonus it has first-rate acting, with the lead Cornel Wilde even pulling off a crying scene. For real. He turns on the waterworks with no help from the make-up department and it’s an exceedingly rare feat for male actors during the 1950s.

Another characteristic of The Big Combo is its sexual undercurrents. One character is a stripper and during a backstage scene we get a surprising flash of her bikini-clad bottom. Meanwhile, Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman play two hired thugs who we’re supposed to suspect are gay. We’ve seen the great documentary The Celluloid Closet about the many gay characters hidden in old films, so we’re familiar with the hints screenwriters like to drop. In this case the relationship between Van Cleef and Holliman is clearer than usual, which makes us wonder if it was an accident or a deliberate attempt to push the envelope when Holliman utters the line, “I’m sick of swallowing sausage.” Shortly thereafter the two are dispatched via hand grenade, so unfortunately we don’t get to know any more about these two great characters.
 
We’ve already given away too much, so we’ll quit while we’re ahead. If you like film noir, definitely give this one a spin. It’ll be a good expenditure of time, we promise. Above you see the great Spanish language promo art for this underrated classic. It was released with the title Agente Especial in most Spanish speaking countries, but for Argentina the producers went with Gangsters in Fuga, which translates rather poetically as “Gangsters in Flight.” It first flew in the U.S. in 1955, and migrated to Argentina in the spring of 1956.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 11 2010
RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
The Asphalt Jungle remains one of the top crime thrillers ever filmed.

The Asphalt Jungle is half a century old, but remains one of the best procedural heist films ever made. The men who commit the robbery at the center of this movie come from all walks of life—some are perennial losers, others are opportunists, and others are just having a hard time and need a way out. All of them long for better lives. All of them desperately need the money to get there. These footmen, facilitators, and financial backers plan every aspect of a lucrative heist, but the caper begins falling apart almost immediately, due to back luck, mistrust, and greed.

Sterling Hayden, who we’ve mentioned before, is incendiary in the lead, exuding extreme menace but with a hint of recognizable humanity behind the eyes. One of his best moments comes in a brief but exquisitely choreographed shooting involving a thrown valise.

All of this takes place under the sure hand of director John Huston, working from a 1949 book by William Riley Burnett. Burnett was a bit of a legend himself. He was a prolific crime novelist who wrote the source material for Little Caesar, Scarface, and High Sierra, and whose screenplays include This Gun for Hire, I Died a Thousand Times, and Nobody Lives Forever.

Put Burnett, Huston and Hayden together (not to mention James Whitmore, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, and a young Marilyn Monroe in a small role as a rich man's plaything) and you get exactly what you’d expect—a genre classic that transcends its boundaries and becomes instead a piece of high art.

The film was a major hit that wowed audiences worldwide. At top you see the Italian promo art, and below that we have both the hardback and paperback cover art. The Asphalt Jungle opened as Giungla di asfalto in Italy today in 1951.

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Sportswire Dec 19 2009
COWER OF THE PRESS
Tabloid had Tiger Woods by the tail two years ago but buried the story.

Until now, the Tiger Woods scandal has lacked that element of pulp sordidness that interests us. Sure, there were multiple dalliances with a porn actress, but no grand scams or hidden bodies. All that changed yesterday when The Wall Street Journal published an article claiming that The National Enquirer had photographic proof of Tiger Woods’ infidelity back in 2007 and traded it for an exclusive interview for its sister publication Men’s Fitness. This is simply not the way a true tabloid is supposed to behave. A true tabloid would publish a story about Woods being an alien hybrid who became great at golf from playing in zero gravity, so quashing a blockbuster about history’s greatest golfer tomcattin’ around is a major transgression of tabloid ethic— uh, ethiclessness— er, of a tabloid’s presumed (and indeed required) ethical bankruptcy. We’re all used to the failings of the mainstream press, but when muckraking tabloids can’t live up to even nonexistent ethical requirements the end times are truly near.
 
We suppose this sad failure by The National Enquirer is a testament to the sheer power of Tiger Woods. After all, The Enquirer cheerfully outed John Edwards’ affair as blithely as if reporting another celebrity wedding. We’re talking about a U.S. Senator who could have presumably had Homeland Security put the entire Enquirer editorial staff on a barge to Guantánamo. But these hardnosed news hawks were cowed by a golfer. We said earlier in the week that the (now failed) Copenhagen talks should be helmed by prostitutes. We take that back. With the kind of power Tiger has, we should have sent him into the negotiating chamber with a sand wedge. Right now ice shelves would be unfracturing, snows would be reaccumulating on Kilimanjaro, and we’d all be hearing a loud hissing noise from excess CO2 venting into space. We’d love to be that powerful for a day. Know what we’d do? After stopping global warming and putting a curse on the Boston Red Sox, we’d give the power away to a lowly assistant whose only job would be to periodically remind us that, in this day and age, recognizable and respected people who fuck around will always get caught. And by “remind,” we mean he’d wear a Bill Clinton mask and squeeze our nuts with vice grips while slapping us in the face. 

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Politique Diabolique | Sex Files Dec 14 2009
EMISSIONS STATEMENT
Maybe the politicians should let some real experts forge a climate deal.

It’s come to our attention that, in advance of the big Copenhagen summit on CO2, city officials placed tens of thousands of flyers in hotels, bars, and other establishments urging visitors to avoid a different type of emissions altogether—namely the sticky kind associated with patronizing the city’s many sex workers. We can just picture the bureaucrats patting each other on the backs after coming up with this idea. But the prostitutes are cunningly offering discounted rates to any customer who presents a flyer to them. Not only does this make the suits look like amateurs for being so easily outmaneuvered—in effect, it turns the flyers into coupons. We aren’t scientists, but that sounds like true sustainability at work. Now the question is: Can we somehow put the sex workers in charge of the summit? They’d put together an emissions deal that leaves everyone satisfied.     

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Vintage Pulp Aug 13 2009
DICKING AROUND
The name’s Malloy—Dick Malloy.

We shared the American art for Agente 077: Missione Bloody Mary in our post on James Bond imitators. The original Italian version of the film premiered today in 1965, and for an idea how it stacks up to a Bond picture, just consider the secret agent’s name: Dick Malloy. See? No zing. No pizzazz. In our overactive imaginations we kept hearing people he introduced himself to respond, “I’m sorry, you want to me dick your what?” But that didn’t happen in the movie. Not even once. This one may leave you shaken, but it definitely won’t leave you stirred.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 14
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
August 13
1995—Mickey Mantle Dies
New York Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle dies of complications from cancer, after receiving a liver transplant. He was one of the greatest baseball players ever, but he was also an alcoholic and played drunk, hungover, and unprepared. He once said about himself, "Sometimes I think if I had the same body and the same natural ability and someone else's brain, who knows how good a player I might have been."
August 12
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
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