Stanwyck and MacMurray make a dangerous bet
There are still, after all these years, important classic films we've never discussed in detail. We can now cross Double Indemnity off the list. The movie starred Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, and we've looked at its West German poster, had fun with one of its promo images, and talked about its ingenious quasi-remake, but never actually gotten to the movie itself. Well, here we are, and now the question is can we tell you anything you don't already know? Possibly not, but let's start with the Australian daybill, which you see above. It isn't the usual poster you find online, so that's something, anyway.
The movie begins with MacMurray making a confession, then slides into flashback to explain his crime. He plays an insurance salesman for Pacific All Risk who quickly realizes that Stanwyck's interest in secretly purchasing a life insurance policy on her husband is for the purposes of murder and claims fraud. He resists the scheme at first but Stanwyck convinces him. How? All we see are a few kisses but the answer has to be sex. McMurray is a guy who has experience with women and is so confident with them he's almost glib. He wouldn't agree to murder a guy just because someone is a good kisser.
Thus, temptation nudges him, unseen sex tips him over the edge, and from there he and Stanwyck are off and running with their murder plot. Eventually Stanwyck's husband is found dead on a train track, presumably after falling off the observation car of the Los Angeles-Santa Barbara express, and the crime seems perfect, except the insurance policy that will pay $100,000 brings a tenacious investigator into the picture. That would be Edward G. Robinson in another great performance, and he immediately latches onto an anomaly—Stanwyck's husband didn't file an insurance claim when he broke his leg weeks earlier. Why would a guy who had accident insurance not make a claim? Maybe he didn't know he had accident insurance.
Robinson's role and performance make the movie. He pulls on the single hanging thread that unravels the entire murder plot, and when it starts to come apart it does so almost too fast to believe. There's revelation upon revelation, even reaching years back to the time that Stanwyck's husband was married to another woman, and Stanwyck was that woman's nurse. It's this latter half that makes Double Indemnity a top classic—though make no mistake, it's a film noir clinic even from its first frames, in terms of visuals, structure, music, and direction from Billy Wilder. But when MacMurray's situation deteriorates so quickly and so uncontrollably in the last half, you almost experience the same vertigo and helplessness his character must feel.
Double Indemnity was nominated for seven Academy Awards, and as usual for the Oscars, was beaten in most of its categories by a film that ended up having far less influence—the Bing Crosby musical Going My Way. But time tells the tale. Nobody is calling Going My Way one of the best films ever made, but Double Indemnity was certainly a top ten film noir, and was influential far beyond its niche. The movie opened in the U.S. in the late spring of 1944 and finally reached Australia to dazzle and dismay audiences today, December 1, that same year.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a mandatory look at grindhouse moviemaking during the untamed 1970s.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a film we've watched a few times, and whenever a movie racks up multiple viewings we think it needs to be highlighted. It's a fast paced documentary about the wave of low budget exploitation flicks made in the Philippines from the late ’60s through the ’70s. We weren't old enough to see any of them during the actual grindhouse era, but caught them in later years, and one reason we came up with this website was for the opportunity to riff on these types of flicks. Over the last decade-plus we've had the pleasure of writing about entertaining dreck like Savage Sisters, The Big Doll House, Night of the Cobra Woman, and Cleopatra Wong. Built around interviews with stars such as Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Margaret Markov, Gloria Hendry, and directors/producers like Eddie Romero, Jack Hill, Joe Dante, and Roger Corman, Machete Maidens Unleashed! is an insider's look at a unique era in cinema history. It compellingly juxtaposes snippets of cinematic insanity against clips of the performers involved laughing over the craziness of it all. While the moviesdiscussed often fall into the category of sexploitation, at the time they were also considered an adjunct of the women's liberation movement—a point made by a couple of the actresses interviewed. Coming out of the sexually repressive decades of the fifties and early sixties, nudity was seen as a rebuke to patriarchal control. Covering productions ranging from 1964's The Walls of Hell to 1979's big budget war flick Apocalypse Now, this is a wide ranging documentary, and by far the most entertaining one on the subject matter we've seen. What with our website's Philippine provenance, and with PSGP having spent a couple of years in Guatemala, another country where life was cheap but fun was unparalleled, this also hit us directly in the nostalgia gland (PSGP feels like the only reason these films weren't made in Guatemala is because everyone actually would have been murdered, instead of just thinking they would).
All the interviewees seem to understand that they're from an extinct breed of very brave film performers, making entertainment for audiences ready to see absolutely anything happen. It sometimes seems that modern audiences have forgotten that the filmmaker is not the material, and the actor is not his or her character. The message comes through strongly here that movies are simply make believe. The creators maywant to outrage, or teach, or push censorship envelopes, or illuminate themes that leave audiences enriched in some way, but it's still just a job they perform before going home to their real lives. We wouldn't be surprised if some of the interviewees now feel they'd been traumatized, but during this movie, at least, they shrug off the difficulties of filming—ranging from extreme weather to graphic nudity to military revolt—as obstacles true professionals must navigate. The title cards of some of these films should be enough by themselves to intrigue you. We have a set below. We've also mixed in some screenshots. We'd love to have uploaded actual production photos, but the films are so low budget those are close to impossible to find. But why look at photos when you can watch the movies? Give it a shot. Quarts of booze are optional. Machete Maidens Unleashed! had its world premiere in Australia in the summer of 2010, and first hit U.S. shores today the same year at the Philadelphia International Film Festival. We've pointed you toward a few Philippine grindhouse flicks above, and you can read about more—there are so many, so please excuse the avalanche of links—here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
If anyone's going to impress her by magnanimously paying an exorbitant restaurant bill it's me!
This issue of Adam magazine hit newsstands in July of 1968, and our header refers not only to the two brawlers on the cover, but to the fact that this issue bore the smashing weight of something heavy for years, a fact made clear by the six rusty pressure dents that go clean through the magazine. Maybe the owner used it to level a work table in his garage, which we can't approve of as proper usage for the greatest men's magazine in Australian history, but even so, the scans mostly came out okay. Adam covers, which were usually painted by Jack Waugh or Phil Belbin, are always nice, but of special note in this issue is interior work from an excellent artist who signed only as Cameron. You'll find two efforts below. The editors didn't see fit to (and rarely did) credit artists in a masthead, so Cameron's full identity will remain a mystery. At least for now.
The cover illustrates Roderic J. Fittoc's “Gentleman's Agreement,” about rivarly and adultery among the smart set, but the more interesting tale is Victor Blake's “Dead Girls Can't Run.” The cool title gets an opening reference in the story, and a callback. First, concerning a tragedy in the main character's recent past, Blake writes, “But now Zelda is dead and Bertie is blind. He lost his eyes and lost his girl—but don't go thinking she came running back back to me. Dead girls can't run.” As the story devlops, the narrator is betrayed into prison by woman named Nikki. Though there's nothing good about being locked up, he figures at least he can enjoy picturing how graceful and athletic Nikki is, espeically when she runs. That pleasure would be ruined if he were free, because he'd have to kill her, and dead girls can't run. Double duty for the title phrase. We liked that. Twenty-nine scans below.
Stop resisting us! We're politicians! We know what's best for women!
Above is a July 1977 issue of Adam magazine with cover art illustrating Alex Tait's short story “Sweet Revenge.” Tait was popular with the editors. We've run into him previously here and here, and both times he got the cover. This one deals with a man who's nearly killed by a jealous husband and subsequently learns that he'd been chosen by the cheating wife with that exact outcome in mind. She'd been having a longtime affair with an acquaintance of her husband, but had no way to get free from her marriage and maintain her financial security. So she chose the protagonist for a little nookie because he resembled her lover, and she figured if she engineered it so he was caught in bed with her and killed, her husband would go to prison and she'd retain his fortune and be free to continue her affair with lover number 1 in peace. It's a clever plot idea, but it's actually a near-direct copy of the central twist in Day Keene's 1954 novel Joy House. The plan in “Sweet Revenge” fails because Tait's protagonist isn't killed. Once he realizes what was behind his terrifying fight for survival he takes revenge on the femme fatale. The payback is nothing too awful—after trapping her and her lover in her bedroom, he rigs her house to billow smoke so the fire brigade shows up and catches her en flagranti, the point being to expose her to her stuffy neighbors and ruin her reputation. The whole time the cheated-upon husband has been lurking, watching, and afterward approaches the protagonist, and it's seemingly the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Tait's fiction is a bit better than most you find in Adam, in our opinion. It's very visual, anyway. Elsewhere among the issue's one-hundred pages is a factual story about something called the Green Goddess. The name intrigued us. What in the world could the Green Goddess be? Why, it's Cannabis sativa/ruderalis/indica, maryjane, chronic, weed, smoke, indo, dope, etc. We should have guessed. The story is mainly an informative overview of the plant's origins, uses, and references in ancient literature. It made us want to get high. Adam later offers up popular glamour model Nicki Debuse in four photo pages, and Swedish beauty Anita Hemmings, aka Annika Salomonsson, in one. The Hemmings/Salomonsson shot is unrecognizable facially, but we knew it was her just from the shape of her lovely body. Note to Adam editors: smoke less, print better. Thirty-eight scans below.
The only thing that can stop her is a good guy with some gumption.
This issue of Adam magazine hit newsstands this month in 1973. The cover illustrates John P.Gilders' unusual story, “The Seventeenth Shot,” and the male character isn't really a good guy with gumption, but a meathead with entitlement. It's the type of story that could serve as an example in a women's studies class in order to show how only fifty years ago—and today, often—women were not presumed to have ownership of their bodies. One afternoon ambling around a Gold Coast beach town the main character Ral sees a woman in a fourth floor hotel window aiming a rifle toward a crowd on a boardwalk. She's cute, so he gets interested. He goes up to her room and shoves his way inside when she tries to keep him out. Importantly, he doesn't care about the gun. He cares about her beauty. He doesn't think the gun is real even for a moment, so he's not trying to be a hero—he's trying to get laid. Once inside the room he forcibly kisses the woman, and makes her submit to him sexually in that no-means-yes way familiar from so much old fiction and cinema.
Afterward, he learns that the woman, named Eva, is dry-shooting a man she claims had her family executed back in her home country. When she's mock-shot him sixteen times she plans to shoot him for real. The seventeenth shot, for seventeen dead relatives. Ral doesn't believe her for an instant, though he notes that the rifle is real. He eventually leaves, but returns the next day around the same time. He barges in again, gropes and sexually takes her again. This happens day after day, and at no point is it suggested to be rape. At no moment is Ral hinted to be a bad guy. Eva practices her shot, and Ral comes each day for some action, having convinced himself she likes him, rather than is tolerating humilation so that a plan she's had since she was a little girl won't be ruined.
Finally, on day seventeen, the day she claims she'll shoot the man for real, Ral decides to be proactive about Eva's presumed delusion, and instead of going to see her, intercepts the man she plans to kill. Ultimately his moronic meddling gets Eva killed, because Ral assumed there was no way, simply no way, she could be right about her target being a mass murderer. Gilders wrote the story unironically, an archetypal dismissal of a woman's words, with tragic results. It boils down to: Well, your so-called genocidal maniac seems like a regular guy to me, so you must be crazy. Ral is not portrayed as bad, only a little dense. His forcing himself upon Eva is just him being a normal, red-blooded male. This is another reason we enjoy mid-century fiction—because as times change, meanings often change too. “The Seventeenth Shot” is rife with meaning it was never intended to have, exemplifying on multiple levels why so many women are pretty well fed up with male attitudes.
There's another story, an excellent one, that touches on sexism and male attitudes, and does it deliberately. It's J. Edward Brown's, “Thunder Maid,” and it deals with a highly competitive golfer whose private club takes in its first woman member—who later ends up matched against him in the final of the yearly club championship. He so hates the woman for her alleged intrusion into male territory that he plots to have her killed during the competition. He can't count on mundane means, because he might get caught, so he resorts to Polynesian magic—the intervention of the titular Thunder Maid, as summoned by a local shaman. Yeah, it's a bizarre story premise, but it works. Brown tells the tale hole by hole, all eighteen of them, building suspense as the weather turns, rain comes, and bizarre occurrences tilt the match this way and that. His opponent Anita is Polynesian. Was our sexist narrator the only one who resorted to magic? It sure seems at times like Anita has a little something extra in her bag too.
All in all, we'd say this issue is one of the more successful examples of Adam we've acquired. The art was nice, the fiction was fun for differing reasons, and most of the factual stories were legitimately interesting. We did a fast count and it seems like this is the seventy-fifth issue we've uploaded into our website. We also have thirty-nine more we haven't scanned yet. Oh yes, we've been busy little pulpsters. And we almost scored six more issues, but the guy selling them didn't want to be bothered with shipping internationally, so he took far less money—less than half what he'd have gotten from us—to sell his stack locally. We really wanted those, but that's life. Will we ever get our stack completely uploaded? It's not a question that needs an answer. We'll upload as many as we can. The same goes for our books and all the rest. There's no goal. The end is however far we happen to get. We have thirty-one scans below, and those other seventy-four issues of Adam in the website for you to enjoy. The greatest men's magazine in the history of Australia will return.
Bad news, I lost the key. But before I was a kidnapper I was an orthopedic surgeon, so foot reattachment is no problem.
Above is another vibrant cover for Adam magazine, this one from May 1968, uncredited as always but painted by Phil Belbin or Jack Waugh. The pair did the bulk of the illustrations for the magazine, but it's not possible—for us, at least—to determine who was responsible for which pieces, because they worked in a similar style. On the occasions Belbin bothered signed something it wasn't only as himself—sometimes he signed as Duke, Pittsburgh, Humph, or Fillini. Waugh, as far as we know, was always Waugh. We've now uploaded more than seventy issues of Adam (we haven't done an actual count for a couple of years) and we'd say signatures appear on maybe one of every ten illustrations. Waugh's scrawl pops up here in the art for the H.M. Tolcher story, “Prize Sucker.”
The cover illustrates the Joachim Heinrich Woos story, “The Danger Behind,” which is is about a man walking through the woods at the exact moment some rural cops and a heavily armed posse are looking for men who robbed a bank. The robbers shot the guards and several police. Blinded by a lust for revenge, the mob mistakes the innocent hiker for one of the killers and chases him over hill and dale with the intent to end his life. He escapes by rowboat only to drift downriver and run into one of the real crooks, who's chained up a hostage and has bad ideas as well as an evil temperament. It's a decent story from Woos, who also wrote for Pocket Man, Argosy, Off Beat Detective Stories, Adventure, and Manhunt. We have thirty-three scans below.
Looks like neither of us values tidiness or organization, so that's cool.
Ben Ostrick, who signed his work J. Oval, painted this 1963 Pan Books cover for Sloan Wilson's 1960 novel A Sense of Values. Ostrick was an amazing artist, with a colorful and harmonious style that Pan used to good effect on scores of covers. We wrote way back that he was British, but a few online sources say he was actually Australian. We'll dig into that at some point and see if we can figure it out. In the meantime, we have two small collections of his work, here and here. You should have a look.
No one's gonna save you from the beast about to strike.
Burt Lancaster as a doomed boxer named Ole Anderson, shot dead one night by a couple of hit men, is a seminal character in film noir. He epitomizes the major characteristic of the genre, that of a person caught in dangerous circumstances beyond their control. He's so caught he never tries to run or defend himself. He lets the killers shoot him. We didn't spoil anything by telling you that—Anderson is dead ten minutes after the movie opens. Using Ernest Hemingway's short story of the same name as a starting place, The Killers takes a typical endpoint for a film noir and flips the timeline around so that the drama becomes finding out why Anderson suffered such a hopeless demise. Sunset Boulevard would pull the same trick later in visionary fashion by having the dead character actually narrate the movie. We've shown you several posters for The Killers, but this one made for the Australian market is, well, killer. Compare it to the U.S. promo here. The movie premiered in Australia today in 1947.
It's always fun to take a trip with Adam magazine.
This issue of our favorite men's magazine Adam was published this month in 1977 with a cover illustrating J. Edward Brown's story, “Tramway to Nowhere.” This is an interesting tale. It's about a smalltown trolley line that runs out to a secluded beach. People won't ride the train after dark because it's supposedly haunted by dead soldiers. We've never encountered a supernatural story in Adam, and this isn't one either. Cleverly, it turns out that the trolley is being used by criminals who dress as soldiers to keep the legend alive and scare folks away. They're searching the beach each night for a lost treasure. Our hapless protagonist stumbles upon the plot, and that's the very night the local police decide to raid the train. When the gunfire starts our guy almost loses his shit thinking he's being attacked by ghosts, but he soon sees that it's a regular old shootout, cops against robbers. Fun concept, and a pretty good story.
There's more in Adam, as always. We were drawn by the story about old cruise liners. The author talks about various decommissioned or lost ships such as the French behemoth the SS Normandie, and laments the fact that the age of luxury ship travel has passed, but we see cruise ships chugging past our balconies most days of the week, some of them incredibly large. In fact, the world's largest, the Symphony of the Seas, was in dry dock here last year. While the Normandie was three-hundred thirteen meters long and had twelve decks, the Symphony is three-hundred sixty-one meters long, with seventeen decks holding twenty-restaurants, twenty-six bars, nineteen pools, two rock climbing walls, a nine-deck high zip line, and a helipad. So from our point of view, the age of luxury morphed into the age of ridiculous excess. Seriously, you need to see some of these ships to believe them. Most are far bigger than any hotel in town. We don't imagine traveling on one would be fun aside from the drinking, though we've never taken a cruise, so we don't really know. But generally, the idea of being with a thousand people whose idea of luxury is flashing lights, ringing bells, mass-cooked food, and pool water tainted with toddler pee scares us. We know—that makes us sound like snobs, but we're not. If we were snobs we wouldn't be collecting all these rare mags and sharing them with you. We're more-the-merrier type people. Except when todder pee is involved. We have forty-plus scans below.
Man Junior rings in the new year Down Under style.
We've shared a few issues of Australia's Man and Man Junior magazines. Like all men's publications they featured the combination of fact and fiction, sport and adventure, humor, and alluring women. And like many men's magazines, they published annuals—year-end or year-beginning collections of the best of the previous 365 days. That's what we have for you today—Man Junior's annual for 1965. It avoids any possibility of intellectual enrichment by focusing only on the primal—lust and laughs. Stripped down to nothing but glamour photos and cartoons, the magazine lays bare the fact that text is mere legitimization, a means of de-perving the visual content. Who'd buy an annual if it contained only dubious reporting and short stories? Not many people, we'd wager. These mags were all about the id. We have plenty of that below, with thirty scans. They comprise lovely women such as Betty Brosmer, Christine Aarons, and, in the final panel, June Wilkinson. The cartoons are beautifully colorful, if only occasionally successful as humor. We have more coming from Man and Man Junior in the future.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
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