Femmes Fatales Feb 22 2021
NATURAL BORN KEELER
The calm at the center of the storm.


Christine Keeler, who died several years ago, was born today in 1942. You've seen this image of her before. It shows her in 1963, infamous at the time due to her relationship with the married British Secretary of State for War John Profumo. You know that episode as The Profumo Affair. While we've seen this shot many times, today it really struck us how nice it is—as is its variation below. They were made by Lewis Morley to promote The Keeler Affair, a film that was never released. But Morley's shot was leaked to The Sunday Mirror, and it exploded over the stuffy British public like a bomb and remains one of the most iconic images of the 1960s. Some websites say Keeler is straddling a chair made by famed designer Arne Jacobsen, but it was actually a cheap copy. We've written on Keeler before—as has everyone else—but if you want to see what we did, you can check here, here, here, and here. We also have one more link for you. If you follow it, you'll see that the above shot is the latest in an ongoing series featuring famous women in unusual chairs. Trust us, it's worth a look.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 12 2021
SLIDING DORS
It's a slippery slope down to the gutter—especially when you're getting a push.


This cool British poster was made to promote Passport To Shame, a vice scare flick, a cautionary tale for women about how easy it is to end up a hooker. A number of such films were made back in the day. This one even has some authority figure or other introducing the film in stentorian tones, telling how a dead end life of vice is just one bad decision away. After the oratory, we see how the leaders of a prostitution ring use labyrinthine scams to force women onto the stroll. They frame Odile Versois into debt, lure her from France to London, and convince her she needs a work permit that she can only obtain by marrying a Brit.

The “Brit” is U.S. actor Eddie Constantine, who's being scammed to participate, also by being tricked into debt. We were baffled as to why he needed at all, but hey, it's in the script, so we went with it. The most curious part of the gang's scheme is that they own a boarding house connected to an adjacent boarding house via a secret door. We suppose this portal makes it easy for the ringleaders to get back and forth, but Odile, duly installed in the legit boarding house, finds the secret door to Sodom with the help of her inquisitive kitten, sees all the hookers hooking, and realizes she's been had.

She's going to be had in a different way by multiple men if she can't get out, but it isn't easy. Her keepers threaten her, starve her, and even drug her, which leads to a hallucinatory Spellbound-style sequence in which the addled Odile sees the literal pits of hell filled with half naked guys waiting to ravish her. Yup—she's in deep shit. But somewhere out there Constantine, her sham husband, who agreed to the marriage assuming Odile knew what she was getting into, realizes she's actually a naive young thing in need of help.

Of course the main selling point for film studio United Co-Productions was Diana Dors, an interesting actress, and an outsize personality in real life. Even though she's second billed, and probably third in screen minutes, she gets pole position on the poster because she was who audiences wanted to see. She plays a jaded prostie named Vicki, also in the game against her will, held by the cruelest of means. Her character has a pivotal part in how this drama turns out, but you'll have to watch to movie to find out what that is. We recommend it. Passport To Shame premiered in the UK today in 1959.
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Vintage Pulp Feb 3 2021
WAYS AND MEANS
Can I not die? No? Then I'll take: in bed, very elderly, after earth shattering sex with my 25-year-old boytoy.


This Pocket Books edition of John Ross MacDonald's The Way Some People Die features the first cover we've acquired by British illustrator Charles Binger, and quite a nice one it is. It reminds us of Ernest Chiriaka's work, this one for instance. This is a Lew Archer thriller, third of eighteen, and as we mentioned before, this series is said to improve as it goes. We'll see about that. This one is a standard caper that starts when a mother hires Archer to find her missing daughter, who's gotten mixed up with the proverbial bad crowd. We're talking the worst of the worst—hustlers, gangsters, heroin addicts, and, most terrifying of all, failed actors. Archer beats down a few tough guys, gets hit over the head in classic detective novel fashion, has beautiful women express their romantic interest, and in the end is shotgunned in the face, dismembered, and incinerated in an industrial kiln. Oh, wait—that's not correct. Actually, he comes out on top again, bruised but triumphant. Not bad, but not great yet. Onward to book four.

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Femmes Fatales Jan 24 2021
VENTURA HIGHWAY
It's my way or I'll pump you fulla holes. I know that doesn't rhyme, but you get the idea.


Above, a promo photo of British actress Viviane Ventura, who appeared in such films as Docteur Caraïbes and A High Wind in Jamaica, and television shows such as I Spy and The Man from U.N.CL.E. This shot was made when she was co-starring in Battle Beneath the Earth in 1967.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 26 2020
COPYCAT KILLER
One esoteric murder method begets another. Possibly.


Concepts for thrillers can be hard to come by, so sometimes authors borrow from one another. Not long ago we read John D. MacDonald's The Drowner and shared the cover from the Gold Medal edition. Here you see British author John Creasey's, aka Gordon Ashe's, Death from Below. If you quickly click this link you'll notice the two books have identical art, thematically—a woman being pulled down into the water by an unidentified killer.

We figured Creasy borrowed from MacDonald, but interestingly, both books were originally published in 1963. Assuming months were spent actually writing them, it seems as if both authors simply had the same idea (we don't know if there was an earlier thriller with the same concept, but we wouldn't be surprised). The main difference between the tales is that MacDonald's killer drowns one person, where Creasy's goes full serial and drowns dozens, including children. His story also takes place in France, rather than the U.S., and has a deep—if unlikely—political element.

We know this scenario didn't happen, but we like to imagine both MacDonald and Creasy/Ashe walking into bookstores on opposite sides of the Atlantic sometime soon after both paperback editions had been released, seeing each other's on a shelf, and being mightily perturbed. At that point we like to imagine Creasy, in time-honored British fashion, saying, “MacDonald! That cheeky bugger!” MacDonald on the other hand, being American, probably went, “Creasy! That sneaky motherfucker!” Advantage: yanks.
 
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Vintage Pulp Dec 7 2020
NEEDLE AND DREAD
Medical malpractice reaches epidemic proportions in wartime murder mystery.


This poster for the thriller Green for Danger, which was made in England and premiered there today in 1946, asks about its central syringe image, “Murder weapon or clue?” Psst! It's both. That's not a spoiler. We call attention to it because it's strange that the question even made it onto the poster. It's not as if one answer precludes the other. In any case, there's more than one murder weapon. But the weapon used in the central murder is not a word that rolls off the tongue, so we guess the filmmakers opted to focus on the syringe used in a later murder because it was simple. That isn't a spoiler either.

Green for Danger, which is based on a 1944 novel by Christianna Brand, is set in World War II era London, when the city is being besieged by German V-1 buzz bombs. These bombs, actually more akin to missiles, couldn't be aimed, so instead were designed to run out of fuel over a general area and fall wherever. The point was terror. In the film, when people hear the devices flying somewhere overhead they don't panic, but if the sound of the engine stops, everyone knows death is coming down and runs for cover.

When a victim of one of these bombings dies in surgery in a London hospital, a staff member comes to think it was murder. She voices her suspicions, foolishly as it turns out, and is the next to be dispatched. At that point in comes the shambling detective to solve the crime. He's played by Alistair Sim with considerable humor, which may seem inappropriate in a thriller, but this the movie is also a bit like a wartime soap opera, young doctors in love, that sort of thing, so Sim's wry personality sort of fits.

But it's still mainly a whodunnit, and such movies usually end either with the dick explaining to the assembled suspects who committed the crime, or with him concocting some baroque scheme to cause the killer to unmask himself. This one ends with Sim doing both, which leads to a preposterous set-up for the finale, but we won't spoil that either. In the end Green for Danger—equal parts thriller, melodrama, whodunnit send-up, and comedy—was good fun.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 13 2020
MANCHESTER DISUNITED
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.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 8 2020
KILLING YOU SOFTLY
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.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 22 2020
A LUZ LUZ PROPOSITION
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.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 2 2020
A RESPECTED NAME IN LITERATURE
Hey everyone, I'm looking for a Master H.E. Bates. Is there anyone here who's 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. 
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 28
1953—Watson and Crick Unravel DNA
American biologists James D. Watson and Francis Crick tell their friends that they have determined the chemical structure of DNA. The formal announcement takes place in April following publication in Nature magazine. In 1968, Watson writes The Double Helix, a non-fiction account of not only the discovery of the structure of DNA, but the personalities, conflicts and controversy surrounding the work.
February 27
1922—Challenge to Women's Voting Rights Rebuffed
In the United States, a conservative legal challenge to the nineteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing voting rights for women is rebuffed by the Supreme Court in Leser v. Garnett. The challenge was based partly on the idea of individual "states rights" to self determination. The failure of such reasoning as it applied to basic human rights created a framework for later states rights losses involving the denial of voting rights to African-Americans.
February 26
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
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