He doesn't have a hook for a hand yet, but he's always practicing for that day.
The first thing to know about Naked Paradise is that it's an early Roger Corman movie, made by Sunset Production and distributed through American International Pictures, companies he helped establish. Corman also directed, so it's safe to say he had near-total control of the movie on and off the set. While he's made some real stinkers over the years, by his standards Naked Paradise isn't terrible. That doesn't mean its good. It's still laughably dopey in parts, the type of movie you can riff on from start to finish, but narratively it hangs together reasonably well and a couple of the actors practice their craft with competence.
Plotwise, three criminals led by Leslie Bradley travel to Oahu disguised as pleasure cruisers to try lifting a massive pineapple and sugar cane plantation's payroll. Their escape is via the same method as their arrival, unbeknownst to their boatmates, who at first are too busy sunning themselves and romancing to realize there are three dangerous criminals in their midst. Tensions between the boat's captain Richard Denning and the crooks soon come to a frothing head when the lead heister and his arm candy Beverly Garland acrimoniously split from each other.
The group are then stuck together during a tropical storm, a plot turn which brings to mind Key Largo. In fact we can hear screenwriter Robert Wright Campbell's pitch to Corman: “You see, it's Key Largo, sandwiched on one side by deep backstory showing the audience why Johnny Rocco and his henchmen are on the run, and on the other by an extended aquatic climax.” That's exactly the movie Corman made, though doubtless done far more cheaply than Campbell ever envisioned.
Corman has a genius for conjuring final results that are better than their shoestring budgets should allow, and he certainly is an unparalleled wrangler of nascent talent. He's given opportunities to directors such as Coppola, Demme, Scorsese, and Ron Howard, and performers like Jane Fonda and William Shatner. If there's such as thing as a pulp filmmaker he's the guy. His stories nearly always aim for the gut by focusing on action with a hint of innuendo, and rely upon the most standard of cinematic tropes. Naked Paradise is quintessential Corman. Is it good? Not really. But it's certainly watchable. It premiered this month in 1957.
Coffy gets scalding hot in explicit novelization.
A novelization of the blaxploitation classic Coffy? We had to buy it. Paul Fairman was tapped to bring the iconic character of Coffy to literary life, and we were surprised to discover that the result is x-rated. We assume Fairman's marching orders came from Lancer Books or/and American International Pictures, and in a way it's a clever gambit—readers had no choice but to imagine Pam Grier dispensing the blowjobs and sizzling bed sessions described. Unfortunately, the other edge of that sword is Fairman has Coffy raped, which didn't happen in the movie (though she was seriously threatened with such). Except for the kicked up explicitness, the tale hews close to the motion picture, with Coffy seeking bloody revenge against the degenerates who addicted her eleven-year-old sister to heroin.
Fairman writes with as much soul as he can muster, but it's quickly discernible that he doesn't exactly have his finger on the pulse of the black community. Some of his attempts at African American vernacular are cringeworthy, especially the constant interjections of, “Sheeee-it!” We really don't think many black authors would have made that choice, and Fairman, who's not black and is no Toni Morrison, should have rethought it. The book has this and numerous other flaws, and isn't well written overall. We're particularly let down that Fairman never solved the mystery of Coffy's real name. Her last name is Coffin, but we don't learn a first name in the movie, and we don't here either. Her sister calls her Flower Child, but we feel like that's understood to be a nickname.
We managed to get Fairman's Coffy for seven dollars plus shipping. We've seen sellers ask for a lot more, even as much as eighty dollars, but we'd caution against extravagant expenditure. You get less than you expect. The book has extra large type to help pad it into a normal sized paperback. With regular type, leading, and kerning we think it would run maybe 100 pages. Instead of typographic tricks, a more detailed portrayal of No-First-Name Coffin would have been better, but no such luck. Even so, we're glad we bought Fairman's novelizationsploitation. If we hadn't, we would have wondered about its contents forever. The cover art on this is uncredited, but it comes directly from the film poster. That art, in turn, is rarely attributed, but it's by George Akimoto. Excellent work.
A change has come and it won't be denied.
Is there anything more glorious than a low budget, Philippine made, revolution themed, female centered action movie? Not much. There were many of the type produced, thanks to the clever folks at American International Pictures. The poster above was made for the Italian run of the studio's 1974 epic Savage Sisters, with Cheri Chaffaro, Gloria Hendry, and Rosanna Ortiz. We talked about it and you can see the U.S. posters and read what we wrote here.
Blacula hopes to get a hard restart.
Every blockbuster deserves—or at least spawns—a sequel, and so it was with 1972's blaxploitation hit Blacula, which American International Pictures followed up with Scream, Blacula, Scream. All it really needed was star William Marshall, who in the first movie showed true professionalism by playing his role of Mamuwalde the cursed vampire to the hilt. He does the same here, and with the addition of Pam Grier the filmmakers had their bases covered. Grier plays a Mamaloa priestess who Mamuwalde asks to use her voodoo judo to turn him into a man again. Presumably at that point he'll start his new life with a romp in bed with Grier. We would.
Grier tries to figure out how to transform Mamuwalde, but in the interim he still occasionally gets hungry, which presents the cops with a series of bizarre murders. You know the drill. Bodies are punctured about the neck and drained of blood, but everyone is skeptical about the vampire thing. In short order they change their minds, generally right before departing for the sweet hereafter. At least part of the fun for audiences would have been seeing cops beaten and maimed, and the climax surely offers plenty of that. Does Mamuwalde's scheme to rejoin humanity work? We'll give you a hint: When the man is on your trail bite more, talk less.
We have some nice promo images below. The two of Grier in a red crop top are usually considered to be from Foxy Brown, but she actually wears the outfit in this film. Maybe she wears it in Foxy Brown too. And why not—it's hot. You can read about Blacula at this link, and see plenty more of Miss Grier by clicking her keywords below. Scream, Blacula, Scream premiered in the U.S. today in 1973.
Ray Milland and Rosie Grier put their heads together.
Is it fair to describe The Thing with Two Heads as a legendary movie? We think so. It's The Wild Ones taken to its shark jumping extreme thanks to the blaxploitation maestros at American International Pictures. Instead of a white convict and a black convict handcuffed together after a prison escape, this flick features a racist white doctor whose head is grafted onto a black patient's body. These two really hate each other, which is a serious problem considering they spend 24/7 at kissing distance, but they're stuck.
Ray Milland, who once won a Best Actor Oscar, is trying to prolong his own life. Rosey Grier is a convict on death row who donates his body to science. He has no idea what the science he's donated himself to entails, just that he'll avoid execution for thirty more days and buy time for his relatives and lawyer to prove his innocence. Sounds fun, right? Once Grier wakes up after surgery and realizes what's happened he flees with Milland's noggin riding helplessly along and decides to prove his innocence himself. But Milland is slowly gaining control of their body. You get the feeling this isn't going to end well.
The Thing with Two Heads is low budget, cheeseball, light on genuine humor, and perfunctory in its ending. And yet... how can one resist? Is it an ingenious parable about the historical theft of black bodies by white men? Or is it just a chunk of opportunistic schlock? Only the screenwriters know. We'll say this, though—considering how low this movie could have sunk (picture Milland looking down at Grier's dick and exclaiming, "Whoa! That's bigger than my Oscar!") it's actually pretty restrained. Put it in the better-with-alcohol category and don't watch it alone. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.
Larger than life and twice as revolutionary.
The schlock factory known as American International Pictures and director Eddie Romero team up for another low budget romp with Savage Sisters, one of numerous shot-in-the-Philippines action epics they put together for the grindhouse circuit. AIP regulars Sid Haig, John Ashley, and Vic Diaz make appearances, but the stars of this one are Cheri Caffaro, Gloria Hendry, and Rosanna Ortiz, playing women caught up in a third world revolution.
Violence and dumb comedy combine into an entertaining mix, but entertaining isn't the same as good. Savage Sisters is strictly for movie parties with pals, something you glance at between beers and bong hits to catch the intermittent gun battles and soft titillation. Gil Scott-Heron said the revolution would not be televised. It won't be organized either, if these plotters are any indication.
It's ironic that all these AIP movies about overthrowing repressive governments were shot during Ferdinand Marcos's exploitative Philippine regime, but we guess he was just happy to have film production in the country and didn't actually care about the finished product. As long as you don't care too much about the finished product either you can put Savage Sisters in the awful-but-fun bin and enjoy. It opened this month in 1974.
The way you say that word makes me so hot. Say it again. Say... “epaulettes.”
Sorry, dude, I can't reach that knife in your pocket. But I can hold your hand. It'll comfort us both as we die of exposure.
Damn, girl. I never noticed before, but when the light hits your face just right you look a lot like Peter Frampton.
I think we all knew that Iota Kappa Ass has the most difficult initiations of all the sororities but this is just crazy.
It's a revealing outfit for a military assault, I know, but after we shoot up this munitions depot we're headed to the disco.
I think I just realized something. I don't give a fuck about the revolution. I just want to ventilate some honkies.
I'm uniquely qualified to lead this revolution because of my grand vision and infallible foresight. Take my outfit, for instance. This will never go out of style.
This one is paved with bad intentions every inch of the way.
When we saw these two Italian posters for 1966's I selvaggi our eyes deceived us and we thought—for a wonderful split second—that they were for a film starring Frank Sinatra and Jane Fonda. But then we realized it was Nancy Sinatra and Peter Fonda, who are pretty big downgrades, quality-wise. No offense intended toward them. Fonda is an icon of cool, but not because he can act. We aren't aware of Nancy Sinatra wowing people with her thespian chops either. But we watched the movie anyway.
It's better known as The Wild Angels, and it's Roger Corman directed schlock from American International Pictures about a group called the Hell's Angels ripping and bombing around Southern California, causing problems to law abiding folk and the police. While it's obviously a take on the infamous motorcycle gang, in real life the gang spells its name without an apostrophe. Why that makes a difference in terms of trademark infringement we have no idea, but we assume that's why it was put there. Or maybe it's just a correction of an assumed typo in the real gang's name. Or maybe nobody even noticed the difference.
Whatever the case, the Hells Angels couldn't really have claimed that the racist and violent Hell's Angels portrayed by Fonda, Sinatra, Bruce Dern, and company differed greatly from reality. The real Angels may not have clobbered preachers and taken over churches for all night bacchanals, but they did some terrible shit. Despite the incendiary verisimilitude of the movie, it's mostly a bore—but one that helped establish the outlaw biker genre and pave the way for 1969's Easy Rider. For that it deserves a little credit. Now we're going to try and find out if Jane Fonda and Frank Sinatra ever acted together, because that's a movie we'd like to see.
Greetings, humans—take me to your leading erotic dancing establishment.
This poster for The Astounding She-Monster is beyond a doubt one of the best mid-century sci-fi promos ever. The illustrator Albert Kallis was responsible for numerous top notch works like The Brain Eaters and Terror from the Year 5000, but we think this one is his masterpiece. He used famed nude model Madeline Castle as his inspiration for the monster, though she wasn't in the film. We'll get back to Kallis a bit later.
As far as the movie goes, the plot is simple: an alien that looks a lot like nude model Shirley Kilpatrick in a zipback jumpsuit lands on Earth and crosses paths with a group of kidnappers, who with their hostage have invaded a geologist's house. Though Kilpatrick is wardrobed like a stripper or go-go dancer, the filmmakers have a serious goal, which is to show how a celestial emissary immediately sees humans at their most basic—in pointless conflict. When the She-Monster is forced to defend herself she does so, like all strippers do, with her lethal radioactive touch.
This effort from American International Pictures is ’50s sci-fi at its worst yet most earnest. The underlying anti-nuclear, anti-violence messages are laudable, but undermined by an $18,000 budget and a four-day shoot rife with terrible execution and unintentional comedy. The stock bear footage alone will have you rolling your eyes. And Marilyn Harvey screaming in panic... ...as she bolts out of the geologist's house is such a funny sight we had to watch it over and over. We're talking fall-on-the-floor hilarious. Even so, when is the last time you saw an anti nuclear movie? All these cheesy peacenik flicks from the ’50s and ’60s cared, which makes them—in that way at least—far superior to most of the cynical films being produced today. The Astounding She-Monster premiered this month in 1957.
I call this the dreaded claw.
Oh yeah? I call this the dreaded fist!
Does anyone want a lap dance?
Oh my freaking God! Let's get the fuck out of here!
Kilpatrick, during calmer times, catches some rays and practices making creepy space hands.
Connie Stevens goes up against international drug dealers without a single hair slipping out of place.
This one we watched entirely because of the promo art. In Scorchy Connie Stevens stars as a Seattle undercover cop assigned to bust a Rome-based drug ring. Her name isn't Scorchy—it's actually Jackie Parker, and this Seattleite is sort of tough-cute, a flirt and an eyelash batter, someone prone to making sexual quips and comical faces. None of this seems to us as though it would be conducive to convincing international drug dealers that she's a charter pilot willing to fly shady cargoes, but whatever—it's in the script, so they buy it. Stevens maneuvers her way into flying a load of heroin and, theoretically, this will be the basis of a big drug bust. Does it work out that way? We aren't saying.
Scorchy came from low budget studios Hickmar Productions and American International, but they're serious with this effort, aiming for French Connection grit combined with a bit of b-movie cheese. But lofty aspirations aside, you know going into any American International movie that it's very likely to be bad, even if it's one they bought from another production company, as was the case here. And Scorchy delivers the badness in spades—the fight scenes and shootouts are lame, the acting is merely adequate, and the plot doesn't offer much in the way of twists and turns. What does offer some twists and turns is the centerpiece car chase. It's almost good enough to redeem the movie, and as a bonus it also shows a lot of Seattle scenery.
Scorchy also may be worth watching for another reason—the decors. Check the screenshots below. The set designers really went to town. Stevens' living room is especially noteworthy, with its flowered sofa, driftwood art, and random acoustic guitar leaning against the wall just in case she wants to get groovy. We'll throw Stevens herself in there as another of the film's assets. She looks excellent at thirty-eight, even with silver candyfloss hair and mascara that looks like it was applied with a hot glue gun. Like the movie, she's a bit ridiculous, but she's fun to watch as she makes the bad guys regret ever coming to the Emerald City. Scorchy premiered in the U.S. today in 1976.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1959—Holly, Valens, and Bopper Die in Plane Crash
A plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa kills American musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper, along with pilot Roger Peterson. The fault for the crash was determined to be poor weather combined with pilot inexperience. All four occupants died on impact. The event is later immortalized by Don McLean as the Day the Music Died in his 1971 hit song "American Pie."
1969—Boris Karloff Dies
After a long battle with arthritis and emphysema, English born actor Boris Karloff, who was best known for his film portrayals of Frankenstein's monster and the Mummy, contracts pneumonia and dies at King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst, Sussex, England.
1920—Royal Canadian Mounted Police Forms
In Canada, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, aka Gendarmerie royale du Canada, begins operations when the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, founded 1873, and the Dominion Police, founded 1868, merge. The force, colloquially known as Mounties, is one of the most recognized law enforcement groups of its kind in the world.
1968—Image of Vietnam Execution Shown in U.S.
The execution of Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem by South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan is videotaped and photographed
by Eddie Adams. This image showed Van Lem being shot in the head, and helped build American public opposition to the Vietnam War.
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