As furniture goes they're all upside, no down.
Can furniture change your life? Maybe. This photo caught our eye because we too have a divan, and it's so very useful. One can lounge, read, nap, emphasize points while seated on its edge, get freaky, whatever. U.S. actress Patricia Morrison—performer in such films as Song of the Thin Man, Dressed To Kill, and Tarzan and the Huntress—seems to have discerned the utility of the classic backless divan in this unusual reverse oriented promo photo. It's... divine. We don't have a date on it, but it's probably from around 1945.
Hello? Is anybody there? Santa? Is that you?
Our sprint through movies this December continues today with the Italian Christmas favorite—Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea, for which you see a festive yule themed poster above. It was painted by Mario Piovano and just oozes holiday spirit. Right. Well, obviously not. This couldn't be a Christmas movie unless Christmas makes you want to kill everyone around you. But it qualifies as a gift from us to you, because we're going to save you the time you might have spent watching it.
The title translates as, “extract from the secret police archives of a European capital,” but was shortened to Tragic Ceremony for its English language release. The Italian title would seem to indicate that this is a giallo flick, but it's actually more in the realm of gothic horror. Basically, a quartet of carefree hippies stumble upon and must survive assorted evils, including a black mass, a phantom gas station, and spurts of megaviolence, all loosely related somehow to a string of possibly cursed pearls.
The movie stars Camille Keaton, who's not well known today, but headlined perhaps the most infamous grindhouse offering of the 1970s—Day of the Woman, better known in some quarters as I Spit on Your Grave. Keaton appears here six years earlier, and is stranded with her hippie-hedonist friends in a creepy old manse where she's seized upon by the loony, aristocratic occupants as a potential sacrifice. She escapes, but the aftereffects of her close call are numerous and gory.
Critics hindered by their own knowledge of niche cinema to the extent that they can't see the forest for the trees tend to describe this movie as underrated, but it really isn't, even if you accept it as a sly commentary on the generational clash between the counterculture and the gentry. At one point a distressed Máximo Valverde asks, “What's happening? What's going on?” Well, you've ended up in a below average horror movie, Max. It happens. Revisionist critics can't help you. Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea premiered in Italy today in 1972.
Taylor and Turner make an explosive pairing in hit gangster romance.
MGM produced a beautiful poster for its 1941 melodrama Johnny Eager, which you see here in all its vibrancy and clever design. Starring Robert Taylor and Lana Turner, the unknown creator or creators used the stars' names crossword style to include “TNT” into the text. MGM knew they had something special on their hands in Turner and had been trundling her out for audiences to goggle at in awe and wonder, building up her career in comedy, musicals, straight drama, a western, and even horror in 1941's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Now at age twenty it was time for her to co-anchor a crime melodrama.
Turner is a sociology student who crosses the path of an ex-con named John Eager (Taylor) at his parole office. Turner is smitten, as well as impressed with Taylor's efforts to stay on the straight and narrow by working as a cab driver. The problem is Taylor is actually running an elaborate scam, heading a criminal enterprise in the form of a profitable gambling racket while keeping his parole officer bamboozled, and others either paid off or bedazzled into silence. Such is his charm that even the head secretary at the parole office is helping him.
Turner, as an innocent young student who isn't in on the scam, of course throws a wrench in Taylor's plans by finding out he's lying. But it turns out she's a little more worldly than she at first seemed. When she learns Taylor is still an underworld goon she's fine with it. She's just gotta have the guy. It means jilting her square boyfriend and disappointing her protective dad, plus she's warned that disaster will result, but the heart wants what it wants. Will she be corrupted? Will Taylor become so loopy that he loses control of his empire? Can true love blossom in the barren soil of the organized crime underground?
In the end Johnny Eager is a smart, well-written movie, with memorable lines aplenty and several refreshing plot surprises. Burgeoning superstar Turner does just fine in her key role, and it helps that her surrounding cast are all confident and talented. Van Heflin even won a supporting actor Academy Award for his role as a poetry spouting, alcoholic sidekick to Taylor's smooth gangster, and the accolade was well deserved. Johnny Eager is a movie every vintage film buff should add to their queue. It premiered today in 1941.
Sometimes it's better if you don't go all the way.
Above is another case where the foreign promo material for a film surpasses the domestic version, something that happened increasingly as U.S. studios gave up on painted art, while foreign distributors kept on with the traditional ways. These two Italian promos were made for Quando baci una sconosciuta, which was produced in the U.S. as Once You Kiss a Stranger. The film stars the lovely Carol Lynley, so the odds of ending up with a nice domestic poster were high, but Warner Brothers flubbed it. Have a look at their effort below and we think you'll agree it's almost disgracefully bad. Meanwhile the Italian promos were painted by Tino Avelli, someone whose we've highlighted before, and while these don't rise to the level as some of most magnificent posters from Italy, they're still pretty nice.
Once You Kiss a Stranger is a reworking of Patricia Highsmith's 1950 novel Strangers on a Train, but with a woman in one of the leads. These days many would complain that this is evil “gender swapping,” but dramatic plotlines are finite in number, therefore freshening up old material in this way has always been attractive to Hollywood. They're doing it a bit more of late because today there are fewer new ideas than ever, and because ticket buyers—by which we mean the diverse people under age thirty who actually fuel profits—like it and put down good money to see it.
Lynley plays a deranged woman who intends to exchange murders with a golf pro played by Paul Burke. Lynley is about to be permanently committed to a mental institution, while Burke always finishes second in his tournaments to Phil Carey. Lynley offers to solve that problem by killing Carey, and expects Burke to kill her psychiatrist in exchange. Just as in the novel, as well as Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 cinematic adaptation, the key to making this plot device work is the protagonist not believing what he's being told. Once You Kiss a Stranger makes that part more realistic than either Highsmith or Hitchcock by simply having Burke agree to anything that gets the tanned and toned Lynley into bed. This is where casting a woman pays dividends. The entire entrapment is now in shorthand because everyone in the cinema understands the visceral need to get inside Lynley. Hell, for her we'd promise to rope the moon. We'd swear an oath while covered in goat's blood. We'd swim a lake of fire. Point is, you can understand Burke's attitude being, “Uh huh... I hear you... murder... understood... can you take off your panties real slow?” However, Burke being led by his dick into trouble is the only improvement Once You Kiss a Stranger manages over what came before. The rest is a pale imitation of two scintillating sources, and done on a level dialogue-wise that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would epically mock. We can't recommend it, but speaking only for ourselves, we'll watch anything with Lynley. Full stop. Once You Kiss a Stranger, with her, Burke, Carey, and the lovely Martha Hyer aged forty-five and looking fantastic, premiered today in 1969.
She's so ready even the book cover is moist.
Above: a simple but striking piece of dust jacket art by French illustrator Jef de Wulf we found on an auction site for André Dinar's, aka, Georges-André Delpeuch's 1968 novel Dévergondée, a title that translates literally as “wanton.” Obviously, the paper got damp at some point, and being us, we ran with that idea for our subhead, and being them, the Pulp Intl. girlfriends told us we're gross. But that's the pulp life. You just gotta roll.
Think your marriage is difficult? Think again.
Patricia Highsmith is here to tell you that no matter your perceived problems with your spouse, they're actually a traipse down a flowered path, because Vic and Melinda Van Allen, the two main characters of her 1957 drama Deep Water—they have marital problems. Melinda is a serial cheater, and Vic has become so numb over the years that he can't even be bothered to care. Melinda is so brazen she brings her lovers to the house to stay overnight and shows up with them at neighborhood parties. She even neglects and ignores her young daughter. In a fit of pique one night Vic claims to an acquaintance that he killed one of Melinda's ex-lovers—who in reality had simply drifted away—and the reaction he gets makes him feel excellent. When he murders Melinda's next lover for real, and gets away with it, he feels still better. So he murders her next lover...
Patricia Highsmith was the high mistress of sociopathic characters, and Vic Van Allen, coming a couple of years after her famed psycho Tom Ripley, is an amazing creation. He's kind, urbane, low key, and horribly mistreated—all of which makes him a pressure cooker ready to explode. Deep Water is told entirely from his point of view, and its highly interiorized narrative makes you really feel for the guy—even after he starts killing people. The key to dragging forth the reader's sympathy is Highsmith's portrayal of Melinda, who tortures Vic day in and day out, destroying his peace of mind, his reputation, and his masculinity. This is a highly recommendable book, and if you can get the 1961 Pan edition you see here with Sam Peffer cover art, you'll be that much the happier for it.
They may have been in the winter of their years but their tempers still ran hot.
Courtesy of the University of Southern California's archive of Los Angeles Herald and Los Angeles Examiner photos, above you see the aftermath of yet another violent act. This happened in a boarding house on Second Street today in 1951, and you see prone murder victim Enrico Venencia with neighbor David Dyer in the first shot, the killer James Demarco accompanied by LAPD detectives in frames two and three, and Demarco handcuffed to a bed in frame four, looking every day of his seventy-two years, and a little battered besides. But this is one situation where age prevailed.
There's no information with the photos about what exactly happened. There isn't even a cause of death. The only information, besides the names of those involved, is that Dyer was an intended victim. That's how we were able to discern who was who—Dyer must be the one who isn't dead, and isn't handcuffed. We're not ballistics experts, but these archive images can be blown up to about 9000 pixels, and taking a close look it seems as if Venencia was possibly shot behind his left ear, suffered a gaping exit wound in the front of his skull, and went down hard. What an ugly way to go.
Ouch! Oof! I get it! I get it! You don't want to pick on someone your own size!
Above is another fun cover from Société d'Éditions Générales, or SEG, for its series Service Secret 078. Graine d'espion translates as “spy seed,” another inscrutable title, which by now you know is par for the course when it comes to French paperbacks. Francis Richard was in reality Paul Bérato, who you can learn a little bit more about here. As usual with SEG, the art is uncredited.
So just out of curiosity, why aren't you paddling an Uber? Seems like everyone else is.
This spectacular cover for Thomas Sterling's Murder in Venice was painted by James Hill, an artist of obvious skill but one we rarely encounter. The book was originally published in 1955 as The Evil of the Day, with this beautiful Dell edition coming in 1959. Sterling tells the tale of a man named Cecil Fox who invites three guests from abroad to his Venetian mansion in order to pretend he's near death and tease them with the promise of inheriting his wealth. These three guests are people he's not had much contact with in recent years, which makes the game even more delicious for him, the way the trio feel plucked from their lives of obscurity to possibly be gifted wealth and status. Factions form and subterfuges abound, but everything is thrown into disarray when one of the guests is murdered. Was it to eliminate a possible inheritor? To add intrigue to the game? Or for other, unguessable reasons?
Go with option three. The whole point of murder mysteries is to be unguessable. Murder in Venice is a pretty good puzzler, with a small set of curious characters and a few forays into the Venetian night. Sterling gets inside the head of his protagonist Celia Johns quite effectively. She's the personal assistant to one of the invitees, and thus has no skin in the game. She just wants a fair wage for a fair day's work. At least that what she says. Her host Mr. Fox, on the other hand, seems to think everyone is corruptible, and everyone is money hungry—it's just a matter of baiting the hook in the right way. He thinks he knows most people better than they know themselves, and he doesn't see Celia as any sort of exception.
While Murder in Venice is a mystery, it's also a minor sociological examination of what it means to some people to be rich but face losing their money, and what it means to others to not value money at all. Sterling scored a success, but interestingly, he borrowed the idea from Ben Johnson's play Volpone, which premiered way back in 1606. Sterling was up front about his inspiration, and within his novel the play even makes an appearance on a drawing room shelf. Frederick Knott, who wrote the famed plays Wait Until Dark and Dial M for Murder, later adapted Sterling's novel into a 1959 play called Mr. Fox of Venice. The next year the book was published in France as Le Tricheur de Venise and won Sterling the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière for foreign authors. And finally, Joseph Mankiewicz combined the original play, Sterling's novel, and Knott's play into a 1967 movie called The Honey Pot.
When material gets recycled to that extent, it's usually good, and Sterling does his part. He was a diplomat before becoming an author and lived in Italy for years, so we would have liked more color from someone who obviously knew Venice well, but he's an interesting writer even without the aid of scenery, as in this moment of musing from Celia: She said, “my sleep,” as though it were, “my dress,” or, “my ring.” It belonged to her. Every night had a certain amount, and if she lost it she was frantic. She had forgotten that sleep was not a thing, it was a country. You couldn't get it, you had to go there. And it was never lost. Sometimes you missed a train, but there was always another coming after. In the meantime, neither the green hills nor the nightmare forests ever changed. They stayed where they were and you went to them. And sooner or later you would go and not come back.
It was a place filled with natural wonders.
We found this advertising flyer for Abe Weinstein's famed Dallas burlesque venue the Colony Club floating around online, and we think its lovely model and deliberately skewed text make it interesting enough to share. An image search doesn't reveal where online it originated, but its size (1,600 pixels wide) causes us to suspect it first appeared on someone's blog. Abe Weinstein, along with his brother Barney, was a big player in the Dallas nightclub scene, and dancers that passed through his clubs included Lili St. Cyr and Candy Barr.
As the line-up from May 10th to 23rd 1954 indicates, musical entertainment was part of the draw too, helping to attract not just men, but couples. The lingerie-clad woman, presumably a dancer, gracing the front of this flyer is not known to us. We figure she could be the Joan King mentioned, but there were no images of Joan King online when we searched. We'll keep an eye out. In the meantime, if any of you can identify this person, feel free to get in contact.
The infamous Jack Ruby owned a club called the Carousel on the same street as the Colony. While the Colony worked to cultivate an aura of reputability, Ruby's club was a dive that he opened above a delicatessen two doors away in hopes of capturing Colony's overflow. His musical entertainment was a bump and grind band, he sometimes showed porno reels before the dancers went onstage, and some of the girls were said to moonlight as prostitutes.
Ruby and Weinstein didn't get along. Weinstein even barred Ruby from the Colony for trying to hire away the staff, and, according to Weinstein, Ruby threatened to kill him a week before he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Just another tidbit from the dark annals of American history. But back to the original subject of burlesque, we have dozens of entries about it. We can't find all of them right now because time is short today and there are more than 6,400 posts in the site, but we located some good ones here, here, here, here, here, and here. Abe Weinstein surrounded by some of his dancers. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1920—Royal Canadian Mounted Police Forms
In Canada, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, aka Gendarmerie royale du Canada, begins operations when the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, founded 1873, and the Dominion Police, founded 1868, merge. The force, colloquially known as Mounties, is one of the most recognized law enforcement groups of its kind in the world.
1968—Image of Vietnam Execution Shown in U.S.
The execution of Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem by South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan is videotaped and photographed
by Eddie Adams. This image showed Van Lem being shot in the head, and helped build American public opposition to the Vietnam War.
1928—Soviets Exile Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky, a Bolshevik revolutionary, Marxist theorist, and co-leader of the Russian October Revolution, is exiled to Alma Ata, at the time part of the Soviet Union but now located in Kazakhstan. He is later expelled entirely from the Soviet Union to Turkey, accompanied by his wife Natalia Sedova and his son Lev Sedov.
1933—Hitler Becomes Chancellor
Adolf Hitler is sworn in as Chancellor of Germany in President Paul Von Hindenburg's office, in what observers describe as a brief and simple ceremony. Hitler's first speech as Chancellor takes place on 10 February. The Nazis' seizure of power subsequently becomes known as the Machtergreifung.
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