Vintage Pulp Apr 9 2024
WORTH THE PRICE
Vince waxes philosophical and discovers the secret of life—death.


House of Wax, which was produced by Warner Brothers and premiered today in 1953, was the first 3D production by any major studio. It's a period piece set in Victorian New York City starring Vincent Price as the creator and half owner of a historical wax museum. Unfortunately, his focus on history leaves the public nonplussed, and his partner Roy Roberts, who needs capital, sets the place aflame for the insurance money. Price is burned and driven insane. Well, actually he was insane before the fire, but in a cute way. He talked to his wax figures and thought they talked back.

But after the fire he's a barking psychopath, running around nighttime Gotham behatted and cloaked like Lamont Cranston. His goal? Revenge, of course, a craving solved early in the proceedings when he pitches Roberts down an elevator shaft with a rope around his neck. But what next? What does one do once vengeance is thine? Well, you build a new wax museum, except this time you surrender to prurient tastes and create displays of modern murder and the macabre. Screw that high-minded history crap.

Everything goes fine until Phyllis Kirk begins to suspect that the extraordinary realism of the wax figures is due to more than just artistic talent. Her suspicion is a screenwriter's concoction—there's no way a person could realistically make the leap Kirk does in believing Price guilty of heinous crimes. The script literally calls it a woman's intuition. Well, okay. But in our experience that's a myth, and it's possibly even insulting when used as substitute for intelligence, so maybe just put a realistic clue in the script and write Kirk's character as very smart instead. In any case, she's definitely nosy as hell, and that's the beginning of the end for vicious Vince.

House of Wax has many things going for it. The sets and costumes are extravagant, the early fire sequence with its melting wax figures is genuinely unsettling, the WarnerColor developing process is attractive, and the acting is uniformly competent, even by that six-foot three-inch Hillshire Farms ham Price. And it's fun to watch Charles Buchinsky, aka Charles Bronson, as the mute assistant Igor. In the end the House of Wax works. Add popcorn, a few friends, and about of case of beer and you'll have a great Saturday night.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 17 2021
DO NOT DIS-TURBIAS
Red eyes at night, Merle take warning.


Above, a great Spanish poster for the Andre de Toth thriller Aguas turbias, better known as Dark Waters, with Merle Oberon as a woman living in a bayou mansion inhabited by dodgy relatives who may want to kill her. The film premiered in the U.S. in 1944 and reached Spain this month in 1946. The poster is similar to the U.S. version, but the predominant color was changed to a bright red-orange, including—weirdly—Oberon's eyes. In our opinion the poster is actually creepier than the movie. You can read about it here

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Vintage Pulp Nov 21 2010
FEAR OF THE WATER
It's sink or swim on the blue bayou.


Dark Waters, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1944, is an interesting movie that hinges on PTSD. They didn't call it that back when the film was made, but what would you call it when someone can't put a traumatic experience behind them, is nervous, prone to panic attacks, and is socially debilitated? The sufferer is Merle Oberon and her trauma is the terrifying experience of being on a boat that was torpedoed by a German submarine. She lost her mother and father in the attack, and barely survived a subsequent ordeal on the water. Take this understandably jittery person with an untreated disorder, stick her in a mansion on the creepy-ass Louisiana bayou, then have someone or someones try to drive her insane. Who's doing the scaring? Well, that's the entire plot, and you'll have to find out for yourself.

We don't think this is a top flick, but it has a pretty cool south Louisiana feel, which is worth something. There's even a fais do-do—a Cajun dance party. It also has Elisha Cook, Jr. as a hopeless suitor and Nina Mae McKinney as a maid, which is way too minimal a role for her, but that's the way it went for women of color in 1944. Dark Waters is fine for fans of gothic creepshows, but film noir fans should temper expectations. The movie is labeled a film noir on some crowdsourced websites like IMDB and Wikipedia, but it isn't really. It has a nice a nighttime swamp climax, but one set piece does not a film noir make. It's more of a gothic thriller on the order of Rebecca. Noir fans take note. Everyone else, enjoy.
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Vintage Pulp May 28 2009
AS GOOD AS IT GEHETZT
Andre de Toth’s Crime Wave is underrated but essential noir.


Today we have a beautiful promo poster for Von der Polizei gehetzt, aka Crime Wave, starring Sterling Hayden, Gene Nelson and Phyllis Kirk. This is truly great ’50s noir for various reasons, not least of which is director Andre de Toth’s extensive usage of L.A. exteriors as backdrops to the action. For that reason, this isn’t just a great movie, but a document of mid-century Los Angeles in which we see places that are gone and a time that has faded into history. We mentioned back in January when we commemorated the U.S. release of this movie how Hayden got caught up in the American commie hunts of the 1950s and capitulated to HUAC investigators, but we didn’t talk about his acting. This is the film to view if you want to see him in full, type-A, supermacho mode. It’s hard to imagine Hayden—a real-life tough guy who parachuted behind enemy lines in WWII—meeting his match in a bunch of oily HUAC politicians, especially after seeing him burn up the screen in this role, but that’s exactly what happened. Just goes to show everyone has a tipping point. Von der Polizei gehetzt was released in West Germany and Austria today in 1954.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 22
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
May 21
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
May 20
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
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