Anytime is the right time for great cover art.
Above, a cover for K. Beerman's Baarnse Moord (Murder in Baarn), painted by Dutch artist Martin Oortwijn. We said we'd get back to Oortwijn and here we are, three years later. He remains, in our eyes at least, a unique talent. We were reminded of him because he illustrated the cover of a Christine Keeler biography, and Keeler is back in the spotlight thanks to the new BBC series The Trial of Christine Keeler, which we've been watching. So far so good on that, and we'll try to dig up more from Oortwijn.
Lee provides the style, Laffin provides the substance.
We're back to Horwitz Publications and its appropriation of Hollywood stars for its covers. If you haven't seen those they're all worth a look because of their usage of rare images. On the above cover from 1957's Hired To Kill, the face belongs to Belinda Lee, and as always the taste of Horwitz editors is impeccable. But Lee wasn't long for this world. She was just establishing herself as one of Britain's best exports when she became a road casualty during an ill-fated 1961 drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
Moving on to John Laffin, he was one of those authors whose brand was being a real-life adventurer. He was supposedly an ex-commando who was an expert with rifles, martial arts, and throwing knives, and who also spoke five languages. He'd visited thirty-two countries at the time of publication of this novel and was busy adding to the number, according to the rear cover text. And apparently he had been published in fourteen countries and five languages, which makes it a bit embarrassing we'd never heard of him.
We checked out his bibliography and sure enough, the guy wrote a pile of books. Many of them were war biographies and political analyses. He mainly focused on the British experience in World War I, but wrote everything from adventure fiction to an “expert”—i.e white guy's—analysis of the Arab mind. He sounds like an interesting fella, so we may look what's out there that we can acquire for a reasonable price and see what his fiction is like. If we do we'll report back.
Being a badass is tiring. I've earned this little break.
Canadian actress Linda Thorson had a career almost exclusively dedicated to television. Of her scores of tube roles she's probably most beloved for her first—as the hard punching, high kicking secret agent Tara King on the British action serial The Avengers. She debuted on the show in March 1968, taking the place of the iconic Diana Rigg, and appeared in thirty-three episodes. The above photo of her relaxing in a rocking chair is from 1969.
Joan Collins finds herself shipwrecked on Temptation Island.
Our Girl Friday is not by any stretch of the imagination anything close to pulp style, but we stumbled across the film and figured we'd briefly expand our scope. This one premiered in Great Britain today in 1953, and played in the U.S. in 1954 retitled The Adventures of Sadie. In this day and age it's considered uncouth to perv over an actress but we don't care, so here goes: the only reason to watch this is for the all-too-brief moments of Joan Collins in a bikini. She's an absolute goddess, spun from seafoam, illuminated by moonlight, and delivered to Earth by cherubs and songbirds. Otherwise the movie is a waste of time.
Basically, it's about four people who get stranded on a deserted island. You have Joan and three guys of widely varying type—nervous geek/uneducated cad/debonair yuppie—who all want to sample her tropical fruit. There's a moment when it seems she won't choose any of these chumps, and that would have been a nice lesson to impart about never settling for less, but this is the 1950s, which means somebody is going to get her. Who she chooses and why doesn't matter and you won't care. The truth is no mortal human could deserve her anyway.
Joan Collins was defined for us when we were kids by her late-career television roles. Back then we never even had a notion of her as a young woman. Thanks to maintaining Pulp Intl. we've been able to correct that omission, because, while she was pretty hot as a fifty-year-old troublemaker on Dynasty, she's really something as an ingénue. The other thing about this film that's worthwhile is its British promo poster, above, rendered largely in lovely sky blue. The depiction of Collins is nice, as well. We don't know who painted it, but they did a bang-up job.
Murder is in the eye of the beholder.
Above are three beautiful posters for L'occhio che uccide, or “the eye that kills,” which premiered in Italy today in 1961. The movie was originally called Peeping Tom when released in Britain in 1960. The second and third posters are signed by Renato Casaro, while the top one is unsigned. But it resembles his work, so what the heck—let's say he painted all three until someone corrects us. This movie was a career killer, a bizarre and confounding thriller that irreparably damaged the ambitions of director Michael Powell, but which today has ardent advocates. In the mood for a voyeur mass murderer who tries to turn his killings into art? See our write-up here, and check out a Japanese poster for the flick here.
I can see forever from up here. Man, the smog over London is really bad.
Raquel Welch stands tall in this pin-up poster made for her prehistoric adventure One Million Years B.C. This was sold in West Germany, where the movie premiered today in 1966. In fact, it was the film's world premiere. It was made by Associated British-Pathé and Hammer Studios, and partly shot on British sound stages (as well as in the Canary Islands), but for some reason the filmmakers chose West Germany for a testing ground. They needn't have been so cautious—thanks to Welch an otherwise ridiculous b-flick became a worldwide smash.
It's always darkest just before the dawn.
Celia Fremlin's 1958 novel The Hours Before Dawn was lauded by the Mystery Writers of America. You can see that for yourself by looking at the cover of its 1961 Dell paperback edition. You would assume, then, that the book is a murder mystery or thriller. Yes and no—it's really more of a domestic drama about a British woman named Louise who's overwhelmed by her three kids and husband. She's tired, stressed, unhappy, unlaid, and unlikely to find space for a breather or a recharge. Into this mix comes a woman who rents the family's vacant upstairs room and adds to Louise's problems by proving to be one weird bird. Who is this woman, where did she come from, and why does it seem as though her presence is not a random event? Yes, there's a mystery, but the vast bulk of the narrative is about Louise's daily life, her struggles with child rearing, her nosy and obtuse neighbors, and the problems caused by her accumulating lack of sleep.
Even without the mysterious renter angle this would be a good book. We thought we understood, basically, what it meant to be a mid-century housewife, but we were wrong. Fremlin brings Louise to life by dissecting her challenging existence, baring every bit of it for the reader's increasingly sympathetic inspection. Love is not the issue. Nor is desire. The issue is simply time. And rest. And peace. No wonder then that her boarder is able to embark upon an insidious plot without very much worry of close observation, and of course when Louise begins to understand something is truly amiss—and is not just the imaginings of her weary brain—she finds it devilishly difficult to find an ally, within her household or without. A mystery novel? Well, yes, but not of the type that can be puzzled out by readers. A highly effective depiction of all the ways in which a woman can work so hard and so thanklessly? One of the better ones you'll read.
In this week's episode she uses two torpedoes to blow up Monroe and Mansfield.
We've seen our share of torpedo boobs but these take the prize. Norma Ann Sykes, better known as simply Sabrina, makes munitions couture look almost passable in this promo shot made in 1957. The bra gets most of the credit for this physics-defying image, of course, but her reported 41-inch bust had something to do with it too. We recently called Sabrina the one-name star time forgot, but that isn't true. Though she never became the British Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield she was touted as, and her film career was scant, she was an outsize celebrity and tabloid staple who received up to 1,000 fan letters a week.
She used the recognition to tour the world as a cabaret act and, according to reports, on one occasion an adoring crowd of 10,000 caused part of the roof to collapse at Maylands Airport near Perth, Australia. With these and other adventures to her credit, it's fair to say Sabrina is one of the most noteworthy celebrities of her era. There's an extensive website about her that you can access at this link. If you visit, make sure to check the section “Sabrina Incidents,” and you'll see what we mean by other adventures. One thing is clear—Sabrina hasn't been forgotten. Not on that website, not on this one, and probably not anywhere.
Ursula the friendly witch.
Witches are supposed to be scary but Ursula Jeans didn't get the memo, seemingly, as she prepares to take her broom out for a spin while wearing a rather enticing nightgown. On the other hand, maybe the nightgown is just a lure and the basket is to transport your corpse once she kills you and crushes you like an egg carton. You never know when it comes to witches. Jeans was born in 1906 in British India and launched her showbiz career on the London stage in 1922. She naturally made the transition to cinema and her films include The Barton Mystery, Dark Journey, and The Weaker Sex. This shot is identified all over the internet as being from 1965, which would be amazing if true, because she'd be fifty-nine years old in it. So, barring the evil practice of black magic to stay young, and assuming Jeans' broom doesn't have a flux capacitor built into it, let's say this shot is actually from around 1935.
For British movie lovers Continental Film Review was their ticket across the English Channel.
Continental Film Review was first published—as far as we can discern—in November 1952. We decided on that month because we saw a copy from February 1953 numbered Vol. 1 Issue 4, and the masthead said the magazine was published the first week of every month. CFR would go on to become one of Britain's most popular film magazines, exposing English language readers to the wide variety of foreign movies being made across continental Europe. The above issue appeared this month in 1966 with cover star Maria Pia Conte, and numerous film personalities inside, including Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Bates, Rossana Podesta, Evi Marandi, and more. We have other issues we'll get around to sharing at some point. In the meantime see more here, here, here, and here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1924—St. Petersburg is renamed Leningrad
St. Peterburg, the Russian city founded by Peter the Great in 1703, and which was capital of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years, is renamed Leningrad three days after the death of Vladimir Lenin. The city had already been renamed Petrograd in 1914. It was finally given back its original name St. Petersburg in 1991.
1966—Beaumont Children Disappear
In Australia, siblings Jane Nartare Beaumont, Arnna Kathleen Beaumont, and Grant Ellis Beaumont, aged 9, 7, and 4, disappear from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, and are never seen again. Witnesses claim to have spotted them in the company of a tall, blonde man, but over the years, after interviewing many potential suspects, police are unable generate enough solid leads to result in an arrest. The disappearances remain Australia's most infamous cold case.
1949—First Emmy Awards Are Presented
At the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles, California, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents the first Emmy Awards. The name Emmy was chosen as a feminization of "immy", a nickname used for the image orthicon tubes that were common in early television cameras.
1971—Manson Family Found Guilty
Charles Manson and three female members of his "family" are found guilty of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, which Manson orchestrated in hopes of bringing about Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise between blacks and whites.
1961—Plane Carrying Nuclear Bombs Crashes
A B-52 Stratofortress carrying two H-bombs experiences trouble during a refueling operation, and in the midst of an emergency descent breaks up in mid-air over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Five of the six arming devices on one of the bombs somehow activate before it lands via parachute in a wooded region where it is later recovered. The other bomb does not deploy its chute and crashes into muddy ground at 700 mph, disintegrating while driving its radioactive core fifty feet into the earth, where it remains to this day.
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