Listen, humans are a delicacy. They don't taste very good, but eating them is about status.
We wanted to revisit Dutch illustrator Piet Marée, whose style is so unusual it's very much worth another look. There's nothing biographical out there about him, as far as we can find. But we love his work. Een boodschap aan Garcia, which means, “a message to Garcia,” was written by Luc Willink, aka Lucas Willink, aka Clifford Semper, and published by Hague based Anker-Boekenclubin in 1950. How it relates to Elbert Hubbard's dramatized 1916 essay of the same name (which resulted in a 1936 Barbara Stanwyck movie) is unknown to us. We can tell you it's the same story—U.S. soldier Andrew S. Rowan carries a secret message from President William McKinley to Calixto García, a rebel hiding in the mountains of Cuba, before the Spanish American War. But the point here is Marée's art. We love it. We'll try to dig up more from him to share later.
Gangster life has great benefits but the retirement plan leaves a lot to be desired.
It seems like the same lesson is imparted by nearly every vintage Mafia photo we run across—ambition is a double-edged sword. Dominick Didato, aka Terry Burns, who you see above in a photo made by Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee, lies dead on a New York City street where he was gunned down today in 1936. He was killed for interfering with rackets run by Lucky Luciano. It was a low percentage play. Luciano was literally the most powerful mobster in the U.S. at the time, and as the saying goes, you come at the king, you best not miss.
Look, I've found something! I bet this advances the plot!
Here's another nice panel length poster for the 1937 mystery comedy Super-Sleuth. The term "door panel," which is a commonly used designation, is a bit deceptive. These are nowhere near the size of a door. The dimensions are twenty by sixty, or sometimes fourteen by thirty-six—in any case around three times taller than wide. The dimensions of this one aren't actually quite there. It's closer to two-point-five-to one. Close enough, as far as we're concerned. Anyway, we've been unearthing a lot of this style of promo lately, and we like them because the arrangement of visual elements and text are pleasing to our amateur eyes.
In the movie, an egotistical actor played by Jack Oakie, whose signature character is a sleuth, criticizes the LAPD and ends up in a press feud with them. He's been critical because he and other Hollywood stars have been receiving threatening letters from “the Poison Pen,” but the cops have no idea who's sending them. Oakie gets his chance to prove whether he can be a real life sleuth when there's a shooting on his movie set. While Super-Sleuth is billed as slapstick mystery, the mystery part is not delivered. There's only ever one true suspect. We suppose it's difficult to write in red herrings and twists when a film is 75 minutes long. Still, having the sinister and secretive weirdo be the murderer is a little too elementary.
Though many of the characters, including Oakie, are buffoons, there's also, it must be noted, a ridiculous black stereotype played by Willie Best, who sometimes acted under the moniker Sleep 'n' Eat. He's often reviled for his portrayals now, but in a 1934 interview he said, “What's an actor going to do? Either you do it or get out.” It's the dilemma of all actors—do your level best with what you're given or end up on the do-not-hire list. Super-Sleuth doesn't give its actors a lot to work with, but Oakie, Best, the beautiful Ann Sothern and the rest put their all into it and the result is a passable slapstick (non) mystery with a handful of genuine laughs. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1937.
*psst* Ever since Claudine got hold of that speargun the look in her eye really worries me.
The James Bond flick Thunderball produced an unusually fertile crop of excellent promo images, owing largely to the three actresses you see above—Claudine Auger, Martine Beswick, and Luciana Paluzzi. It's Auger who's posing with the speargun, and there are other good shots of her wielding it. If Beswick and Paluzzi are worried, it's possibly because they suspect they won't survive the film. In early Bond adventures only one of his many love interests usually survived, and in Thunderball that's Auger. Her reward? A little thunderballing.
Please don't die. I promise from now on instead of going hiking we can sit on the sofa and watch sports.
With winter slipping into spring we thought we'd share the above cover of someone who possibly slipped into the great beyond. The 1951 novel Le forces de l'amour was written for Éditions Mondiales Del Duca's popular Collection Nous Deux by Italian author Lucienne Peverelly, who also published as Luciana Perverelli and Greta Granor. We said a while back we thought she might be Lucienne Royer too, but we found no evidence to confirm that. Peverelly was a prolific writer who churned out more than 300 novels, always of the romantic and adventure type. She also served as editor-in-chief of the Italian weekly Il Monello starting in 1933, wrote for many women's magazines, daily newspapers like Il Tempo, and movie periodicals like Stelle. Del Duca didn't credit this cover, so it goes in the unknown artist bin.
Wake-up calls at the Hiltons' are murder.
We were drawn to Il sesso della strega, aka Sex of the Witch, because of its excellent posters painted by Lamberto Forni, an artist whose work you've seen here before. But as often happens, the movie didn't live up to the promo imagery. The strange tale begins with Sir Thomas Hilton, a wealthy wine grower, who dies of old age. His family gets a surprise when the will is read: all those closest to Hilton, including his secretary, benefit from the profits of his holdings, but nothing can be broken up or sold, his sister gets nothing, some heirs don't benefit immediately, and if anyone dies their share is distributed among the others. Basically, the will is a blueprint for the Hiltons to start murdering each other. When that happens, the spurned sister is suspected of being a witch. But is she?
None of it matters. The movie is an merely excuse for a lot of overlong softcore sex scenes of the worst kind. You know the ones we mean—interminable slow wriggling devoid of even a hint of erotic heat. You have to really drop the ball to make naked people boring—especially naked Italian women from the ’70s, with their enormous bushes*—but director Angelo Pannacciò, aka Elo Pannacciò, accomplishes that here, in his debut. It's impossible to care about the movie's central mystery, and despite Pannacciò somewhat giallo visual stylings there's just nothing to get enthusiastic about. Except those posters. Nice work, Forni. Il sesso della strega premiered in Italy today in 1974.
*We love enormous Italian bushes, both tactilely and visually. This one is large, but not stupendous. You know when a bush is really big? When the moment it's revealed you think there's suddenly been a citywide blackout.
Wherever you look, there it is.
We're back. We said we'd keep an eye out for pulp during our trip to Donostia-San Sebastián, and we did see some, though we couldn't buy it—it was all under glass in a museum. The Tabakalera (above), a cultural space mainly focused on modern art, was staging an exhibit titled, “Evil Eye - The Parallel History of Optics and Ballistics.” A small part of the exhibition was a selection of Editorial Valenciana's Luchadores del Espacio, a series of two-hundred and thirty-four sci-fi novels published from 1953 to 1963.
We snuck a few shots of the novels, which you can see below. Overall, though, what was on offer were photos, short films, political literature, and physical artifacts dealing with war and conflict. Since the participants were all artists, journalists, and witnesses from outside the U.S., everything naturally focused on wars that the U.S. started or sponsored—those ones they don't teach in school. The pulp fit because of its suggestion that human conflict would continue even into outer space.
We also said we'd try to pick up some French pulp, and that side trip happened too. We managed to score several 1970s copies of Ciné-Revue that we'll share a bit later, and those will feature some favorite stars. Though the collecting was fun, we're glad to be back. The birthday party was a success, as always, and now we're down south where the weather is gorgeous and hopes are always high. We'll resume our regular postings tomorrow.
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. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
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