|Vintage Pulp||Nov 13 2020|
United they stand, divided they make plea deals.
Sometimes it's all in the title. Could we possibly resist a movie called Hell is a City? Not a chance. The city in question is industrial Manchester, England, and hell is caused by escaped criminal John Crawford when he sets up a heist that turns to murder, subsequently bringing top cop Stanley Baker along to try to crack the case by turning the four crooks against each other. The movie isn't a procedural, but has a few of the elements, and it has some film noir stylings too, though it isn't a noir. What it is, though, is well acted, well shot in numerous outdoor locations, and believable—not always the case for films from the period. Crawford's villain is an incredibly bad guy. He doesn't blanche at assault, rape, or murder, and holds his scheme together through rank intimidation of his criminal partners. It's all justified, he feels, to enable him to retrieve and sell a cache of stolen jewels and flee to life in some foreign land. But first he needs hard cash, and that's where the heist comes in. It goes pear shaped right away when it turns out the satchel he targets is chained to Lois Daine's wrist. He gives her a love tap and that, as they say, is that—he has a staring corpse on his hands. We won't tell you more, except that Hell Is a City has numerous intertwined characters, all interesting, and has an urban setting that by its very dismal nature makes you understand why Crawford wants so badly to be someplace far away. The movie premiered in England in April 1960 and reached the U.S. today the same year.
BritainManchesterHell Is a CityStanley BakerJohn CrawfordDonald PleasanceBillie WhitelawVal GuestMaurice Procterposter artcinemamovie review
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 8 2020|
Spillane's classic thriller brings death sealed with a kiss.
This is a beautiful paperback edition of Mickey Spillane's Kiss Me, Deadly. We talked about the book way back in 2013. Shorter version: You really think we can tell you something that hasn't already been written about this classic? Kiss Me, Deadly originally appeared in 1952. This version came in 1958 from London based Arthur Barker Limited, no. 42 in its Dragon series, with uncredited cover art. Barker is a pretty obscure publisher that launched in 1938 and was gone by 1969, so this paperback is rare, though less expensive than you'd suspect. Barker also produced a hardback of Kiss Me, Deadly in 1953 that likewise has interesting cover art and a surprisingly low price tag. We'll show you that later.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 22 2020|
It's a marriage that goes from bad to worse.
Ever since the term “gaslighting” became an accepted part of the American lexicon we've been meaning to watch the original version of Gaslight. Finding this Spanish promo poster spurred us to finally screen the film. There are those who think any old black and white mystery or thriller is a film noir, which is why you'll occasionally see Gaslight referred to as part of that genre. But it's actually a melodrama falling into an unofficial category of mid-century films we like to call, “Don't Trust Your Husband.” Other entries in the genre include Rebecca, Dial M for Murder, and Sorry, Wrong Number. Based on a play by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight tells the story of Bella, a woman living in early 1900s London who, because small items in her house are constantly missing or misplaced, thinks she's losing her mind. But it's her creepy spouse Paul who's orchestrating all of this. He intends to have her declared insane, which is part of a larger scheme having to do with—of course—money.
On one level Gaslight is a drama about paranoia and the betrayal of marital trust. On another it's an unintentionally humorous examination of Edwardian values. Humorous because we doubt most women—either when the film was first released or today—would have been successfully manipulated in this way. If it were the Pulp Intl. girlfriends they'd both be like, “Do you think I'm stupid? Stop moving shit around the house.” But poor Bella is little more than a possession during the time in which she lives, and lacking the agency to question her husband she mostly swoons. But help eventually arrives from an unlikely quarter. Gaslight was remade in 1944 with Ingrid Bergman, and the original compares poorly to that excellent version, but it's still a quality film well worth viewing. It premiered in the UK in June 1940, and in Barcelona, Spain as Luz de gas today in 1942.
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 2 2020|
Hey everyone, I'm looking for a Master H.E. Bates. Anyone here, Master Bates?
Author of numerous novels, short story collections, essays, and three—count 'em three—autobiographies, H.E. Bates has been described by numerous critics and peers as a master storyteller. Which makes him master Bates. We know—we're totally juvenile. We blame the booze. Also, he wrote a book called Spella Ho, a tricky grammatical proposition we've discussed in the past. There we go being juvenile again. It's inappropriate, because Bates was an important author who had major literary game and deserves a serious discussion. But not today. It's Friday. We have cava sangria chilling and the PI girls waiting.
We will tell you, though, that Charlotte's Row is an early Bates novel, coming in 1931, and that this Panther Books paperback edition appeared in 1958. The story deals with an alcoholic bootmaker and his daughter, who live in poverty on the eponymous street. It's a detailed chronicle of the soulcrushing conditions in British factory towns around the turn of the last century, which is to say it's Dickensian rather than pulp, but we shared this anyway because we love the cover by Josh Kirby. We may or may not return to master Bates, but we will definitely see Kirby's excellent work again. For now, you can have a look at two more great examples of his genius here and here, and an entire gallery at his website here.
|Vintage Pulp||Sep 17 2020|
In today's forecast there's a thirty percent chance of radioactive rain.
These two covers from Badger Books with art by Henry Fox and uncredited (probably Fox again) serve as an addendum to our collection of covers featuring nuclear explosions. Author Karl Zeigfreid is an interesting figure. He was really British stage, television, and radio actor Lionel Fanthorpe. As Zeigfreid and other personae he wrote more than one hundred paperbacks, and is still churning them out, with his most recent effort hitting shelves (or online sellers) last year. He published both of the above books in 1963, as well as several others that hit on themes of mass death and apocalyptic destruction and searing heat and melty skin and bloody vomiting and burned out eyeballs. Always keeping it light here at Pulp Intl. Still, it's useful to be reminded occasionally that the threat of nuclear conflict remains high, because humans are bad at sharing, particularly when it comes to planetary resources. Despite all the supposedly complex reasons for geopolitical conflict, the reality is the adults of our species are no better than children. Well, let's hope the melty eyes thing never happens. Then you wouldn't be able to see our website.
|Vintage Pulp||Sep 14 2020|
Once upon a time there was nobody hotter than Hemingway.
We'd heard that The Gun Runners, which premiered in Britain today in 1958, is the most faithful of the several film adaptations of Ernest Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not. It isn't that close, actually, but it's Hemingway-hot! according to the promo poster. If we're catching the subtle inference correctly, that must mean it's good. Maybe, but what it really shows is Hemingway was so famous at this time that his mere name was a selling point. Think—how many novelists' names have you seen above the title on a movie poster in recent years? Stephen King comes to mind. Maybe Clive Barker, for a minute there. Michael Crichton? Possibly. After those three we draw a blank.
Well, we like Hemingway, and we love the Bogart/Bacall adaptation of To Have and Have Not, though it has nothing to do with the book. This Hemingway-hot! version stars Audie Murphy—yes, that one, and he's a solid enough actor—as a boat captain working out of Key West who gets ensnared in a dangerous scheme that involves smuggling weapons to Cuba. Eddie Albert as the heavy is as amoral as they come, and in supporting roles you get Patricia Owens, Gita Hall, and Everett Sloane. Sometimes the performances in old movies don't feel quite right to modern sensibilities, but you could transplant Albert's performance note for note into a new movie. Acting that stands the test of time that strongly is rare.
Another thing that stands the test of time are the themes explored here. In the novel, the item some people have that others have not is money and the freedom it brings, but in The Gun Runners what people either have or have not would appear to be scruples. It's no surprise that the structural inequality aspect of Hemingway's text was downplayed—who wanted to hear about that in 1958, when so many Americans could work a simple job yet afford a car, a house, and a family? But people sure have a clear understanding of inequality these days, don't they? For that reason alone, we think this flick will resonate with many. We recommend putting this in your queue. In the end it really is Hemingway-hot!
BritainCubaKey WestThe Gun RunnersTo Have and Have NotAudie MurphyEddie AlbertPatricia OwensGita HallDon SiegelErnest Hemingwayposter artcinemaliteraturemovie review
|Vintage Pulp||Jul 14 2020|
Is it just me or is our fire, like, totally out?
We've mentioned before that when you see the name Charles Williams on a book buy it. Unless it's the wrong Charles WIlliams. Fires of Youth was published by a fly-by-night imprint known as Magnet Books in 1960 and credited to a Charles Williams, but who was actually James Lincoln Collier, who happened to choose for a pseudonym the name of an actual working, thriving thriller author, for reasons we cannot ascertain. Obviously that created confusion and still does, but this is definitely not the Charles Williams who wrote such great thrillers as Hell Hath No Fury and Dead Calm. Magnet Books didn't last long, and in just a year or two was out of business.
In true pulp style, at that point a man named Don Robson, who was languishing in Her Majesty's Prison Dartmoor in Devon, England, found Fires of Youth in the prison library, retyped the entire text, presented it as his own work, and in 1963, with the help of the prison's credulous governor, managed to get his plagiarism published in Britain as Young & Sensitive. The book won the Arthur Koestler Literary Prize, which had been established to recognize creative output by British convicts, but Robson's robbery soon came to light. It's a funny story, and you can read a good account of the tale at this link.
BritainHMP DartmoorMagnet BooksArthur Koestler Literary PrizeCharles WilliamsJames Lincoln CollierDon Robsoncover artliterature
|Vintage Pulp||Jul 7 2020|
British publisher Corgi slips its readers some Mickeys.
A while ago we found a cover of Mickey Spillane's The Deep from Corgi Books and commented that we thought the art was by an Italian illustrator named Renato Fratini. That's now confirmed. Fratini painted covers from British publishers such as Corgi, Coronet, Hodder, and Pan, and was also prolific in the realm of magazine art and movie posters. Above and below we have more of his Corgi-Spillane covers, published during the mid-1960s. Fratini sometimes produced alternate versions of these, and other times Corgi changed the background colors for later editions, which means there are even more Fratini-Spillane pieces out there to be found. We also couldn't find a usable cover for Bloody Sunrise, starring his spy character Tiger Mann. Maybe we'll have better luck with that later. But as it stands, this is a nice little collection showcasing an interesting artist who we think deserves to be more widely known.
|Vintage Pulp||Jul 1 2020|
Girls Come First but Lindberg came last.
Above you see a promo poster for the wacky British sex comedy Girls Come First, which premiered this month in 1975. The movie deals with a rich magazine owner named Hugh Jampton who hires a debt-wracked artist played by hunky ex-physique model John Hamill to paint nude portraits of the hostesses that work at the Swinger Club, which Jampton owns. This is a short film, only about forty-five minutes, so that's the entire plot, other than Hamill getting laid. Our main interest in this was determining whether Christina Lindberg is in it. She's not on any cast lists you find online, but she's right in the middle of the poster. Could she be in the film but be absent from cast lists? Absolutely. Thanks to the dreaded internet replication error, she's listed everywhere as appearing in 1974's Teenage Playmates, which she doesn't, so we wouldn't be surprised if she isn't credited for a movie she's actually in. So we took a detailed look and we can say without doubt that—like technical values, genuine laughs, acting ability, and a sense of shame—Lindberg is nowhere to be found here. The producers obviously figured she'd make a great addition to the poster and borrowed her for that purpose.
After getting over that disappointment, we noticed British-Chinese actor Burt Kwouk playing Jampton's chauffeur. His presence is worth mentioning because, in a way, he's a film icon, a sort of symbolic stand-in for stereotyped Asian characters in cinema. He played the bumbling Cato in four Pink Panther films, and here he plays a bumbler named—wait for it—Sashimi. Can you imagine? Kwouk personified the dilemma confronting all actors, but particularly actors of color, throughout film history. In the real world a paycheck is nothing to sneeze at, but the resulting work survives for future generations to ridicule and/or revile. Kwouk said in 1981 about the parts he played, “If I don’t do it, someone else will. So why don’t I go in, get some money, and try to elevate it a bit, if I can?” If Kwouk's work was the elevated version you'll break into a cold sweat imagining what his roles could have been like. In any case, we've solved the Lindberg mystery, and now we'll move on. Below are a couple of shots of Hamill and Longhurst for your pleasure.
BritainGirls Come FirstThe Pink PantherBill KerrJohn HamillSue LonghurstChristina LindbergBurt Kwoukposter artcinemasexploitationmovie review
|Femmes Fatales||Jun 25 2020|
You think stardom is easy? Try wearing these all day.
British actress Patricia Roc, seen above, is pretty obscure considering her her extensive filmography. That's mostly because despite appearing in movies such as Circle of Danger and L'inconnue de Montréal, aka Fugitive from Montréal, she made only one Hollywood film—1946's Canyon Passage. The photo makes her look like she's regretting having just made that canyon passage on foot, but it's a cool, unusual shot. If you're thinking Roc is a pseudonym, you're right. She was really Felicia Herold. Yes? No? Maybe? Nah—doesn't do it for us either. Yet another good show business name change.
BritainCircle of DangerL'inconnue de MontréalFugitive from MontréalCanyon PassagePatricia RocFelicia Herold