This is one night everybody wants to forget.
The North American poster for the 1980 high school horror flick Prom Night is pretty straightforward—as you see below, it's a masked head and a knife, and was used in Canada, where the film was made, and in the U.S. The Japanese promo, on the other hand, has a beautiful image of Anne-Marie Martin rendered by airbrush artist Harumi Yamaguchi. It's almost like the Japanese distributors took this movie seriously.
Have you ever seen it? It's cheesy as hell and slow to develop, with a cop voiceover, wooden acting from performers who in real life were all in their mid-twenties, and a final unmasking of the killer that's an anti-climax. It's also a sad reminder that high-waisted pants, despite the fact that many women are wearing them again these last few years thanks to the fashion industry championing them, are really fuckin' ugly.
But for all those flaws, the movie is better than it has a right to be. Plus it has Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen, and they make up for a multitude of sins. Prom Night premiered as プロムナイト in Japan today in 1981. That translates directly, but we don't think Japanese schools have proms. Somehow the American concept is known, though, which makes us wonder if they learned it from the movie. If so, proms will not be getting popular in Japan anytime soon.
He's judge, jury, and executioner.
Mickey Spillane's first novel I, The Jury has been reprinted innumerable times since its 1947 debut. Of all the art that fronted the book, the painting on this White Circle Pocket paperback published in Canada by HarperCollins in 1948 is our favorite. It's scarce, and the art is uncredited, unfortunately. As for the story, we won't bother to tell you much about it, since it's been well covered by numerous outlets. We'll just say it introduced Mike Hammer to the world, and though the novel isn't perfect it's more than worth your time.
St. Cyr tells all for the cheapie tabloid Midnight.
This Midnight published today in 1964 has the usual clickbait on the front cover—I Ripped My Baby To Pieces. Why? Because she hated her husband. Very interesting, but today we're drawn to the banner and Lili St. Cyr's “Torrid Life Story,” in which, for the most part, she talks about her sexual attitudes. The interior header screams that she seduced a 14-year-old boy, and that's again the equivalent of today's internet clickbait. St. Cyr was sixteen herself, which is an age difference we'd hardly call scandalous. The clickbait worked, though. It made us quite eager to read the story. It's written in first person and touted as a Midnight exclusive.
Ordinarily we'd be skeptical a cheapie tabloid could score an exclusive with a world famous celebrity, but in this case we think Midnight is telling the truth. We have a few reasons: Midnight was a Canadian rag, headquartered in Montreal; St. Cyr was from Minnesota, but spent her early years dancing in Montreal; and Midnight was too well known a publication to get away with lying about the source of the story. Thus we can be sure St. Cyr wrote the piece. She eventually authored an autobiography in French, which makes us suspect she wrote this article for the Canadian Midnight—which was called Minuit—and it was translated and printed in the U.S. later. Just a guess. It was apparently part of a series, by the way, but we don't have the other issues of Midnight. Now on to the juicy stuff.
On virginity: “When you have it you try like hell to keep it. You lose it with an unconscious sigh of relief, and once you've lost it you wonder why you tried so hard to keep it in the first place.”
On her first: “Right now, as I write these lines, [all I] can recall about him is that he was blonde and his first name began with an R. As a matter of fact, I don't remember any of my first intimate boyfriends.”
On her others: “I've been called a child snatcher dozens of times because that is the way I like my men. I can't help it.”
On Hollywood star Victor Mature: “One bad thing about Vic though. Liquor and sex just don't mix for him. If he makes love, he's got to be cold sober or he can't perform.”
On Las Vegas: “There is something dead and decadent about the town. It builds to nowhere. It accomplishes nothing. And the people in it are infected with this live-for-today attitude.”
Those are the highlights. Except that readers also get three photos with the article. We already shared a much better version of one of those way back in 2009. The other two are in this post—the shot of St. Cyr as a child, when she was still Willis Marie Van Schaack, and the one below of her in goddess mode. Midnight was printed on cheap-ass paper, but the scans still look pretty good. Willis Marie's tale is interesting too. She was ahead of her time. What she writes could have been written by a character on Girls. It's impossible for us to not respect her boldness and determination to have exactly the life she wanted, particularly during the age in which she lived. We have plenty on St. Cyr in the website. Just click her keywords below.
Well, it's not so much a swimsuit as it is a sinksuit, but I love the way it looks.
Not only does this swimsuit probably weigh an uncomfortable amount, but we bet it's cold too. Gotta sacrifice for fashion, though, right? Doing exactly that is Canadian actress Joanna Shimkus, who appeared in about a dozen movies between 1964 and 1971, including The Uninvited and The Virgin and the Gypsy. She later married Sidney Poitier, that lucky devil, and since he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974, Shimkus is actually a Lady—Lady Poitier, in actual fact, but for today we'll go with Lady Shimkus.
What are the odds of a Mayan comet showing up at exactly the worst moment? Pretty good in cheeseball sci-fi.
Caltiki—The Immortal Monster was an Italian production originally titled Caltiki il mostro immortale, but made in English starring Canadian actor John Merivale in a tale revolving around Guatemala's Tikal ruins. We used to live in Guatemala and visited the Mayan ruins at Tikal, so we simply had to watch this movie. But the actual ruins shown are an amalgam of pyramids and what look like buttes and rock spires from the southwest U.S. There's a volcano thrown in there too, though Tikal is flat rain forest and low lying swamps. Creative license, we suppose. It all looks kind of otherworldly, which we guess was the goal, so nice work by the efx department.
The basics of this story are that there's a legendary Mayan monster or goddess in a lake, and when a group of scientists is attacked, one of them returns to Mexico City with a piece attached to his arm. Doctors manage to carve off a sample and learn that radiation makes it grow. They of course keep the piece safely stowed away, but unfortunately a highly radioactive comet spoken of in Mayan lore choses that week to pass close to Earth. It only comes once every 1,352 years, so this is really unfortunate timing on the comet's part, but that's just Maya luck. Celestial bodies are nothing if not implacable and aloof. The lake specimen is irradiated, grows to monstrous size, and oozes terrifyingly across the city.
But the solution to this problem isn't so difficult. Fire kills Caltiki, so it's really just a matter of directing some flames onto the beast. Cue flamethrowers, army guys, and soundtrack tympani. Caltiki turns into a Caltiki torch then goes down like an undercooked soufflé. This is b-sci-fi at its goofiest, but we'll admit the blob effects are actually pretty cool, aided as they are by the fact that all of them take place at night. Mario Bava, who is uncredited but actually did most of directing here, does a decent job and the acting is passable. Recommended? We wouldn't go that far. Caltiki—The Immortal Monster premiered in Italy in 1959 and reached the U.S. today in 1960.
The sun (almost) never set on Short Stories magazine.
We last wrote about Short Stories in December 2008 and said we’d get back to it soon. Seven-plus years? That’s about par for us. That last post was five covers from the British edition of the magazine, which lasted from 1920 to 1959. The covers here, featuring the familiar red sun motif or clever variations thereof, are from British and American editions.
She might be a little overdressed for a Caribbean climate.
Canadian born actress Ann Rutherford is probably best known for playing Scarlett O’Hara’s sister Carreen in Gone with the Wind, but she starred in many films, and acted for more than forty years. The photo above was made to promote her role in Bermuda Mystery, a movie that’s little known today but which we decided we needed to see because: 1—we love the Caribbean; and 2—we love mid-1940s mysteries. It took a while, but we finally managed to find a copy. Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t set in the Caribbean. It takes place in New York City. But at least that makes Rutherford’s wardrobe appropriate. Why is the movie called Bermuda Mystery? We’ll tell you about it a bit later. 1944 on the photo.
She’s finally going to make her mark on Broadway.
The comic book-like art isn’t of good quality, but we had to share this because it fits into the collection of falling covers we put together a while back. The Penthouse Killings was written by Horace Brown for Toronto based Newsstand Library in 1950. If you actually want to know why this ballerina is tossed off a building, check the detailed review here.
Dyanne Thorne and company recreate the horrors of the Third Reich—with nudity
Thanks to having stumbled across this interesting piece of Japanese promo art, we've finally gotten around to watching probably the most notorious naziploitation movie of all time—Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS. How scandalous is this bizarre Canadian produced b-flick? The Independent Film Journal attested that, “Only the most dangerously sadistic mentalities will manage to sit voluntarily through more than ten minutes of [the film], a graphic, stomach-churning catalogue of Nazi medical atrocities that makes Texas Chainsaw Massacre look like a Sunday picnic.” Well, if there's one thing we've learned doing this website it's that people will pronounce you morally deficient for daring to decide for yourself. We watched the film—all of it—and while we didn't feel sadistic or depraved, we did come to the conclusion that it's terrible.
Naziploitation was a subset of women-in-prison flicks that usually purported to educate the public about the horrors of the Nazi regime, but with profuse amounts of nudity and sex included in the telling. Outside the women-in-prison genre, screenwriters had to come up with rationales for having actresses lose their clothes. Thus they'd include skinny-dipping scenes, pillow fights, shower scenes, and whatever else they could squeeze in to augment the sex. But in prison no reasons are needed for nudity. The women are naked because the jailers want them that way. Full stop. Jésus Franco took the women-in-prison concept to its logical extreme when he had the female cast of Frauen für Zellenblock 9 stark naked and mostly sweaty for pretty much the entire second half of the film.
Ilsa doesn't go as far as Jésus Franco did on the nudity, but it certainly pushes the violence envelope. In some ways the movie isn't substantially different from recent hit films like Hostel or Saw, but while transgressive violence in cinema has been perfectly acceptable for at least forty years, sexualized violence has become a serious no-no. It's on this level that Ilsa shocks—literally, in fact, as a wicked looking electrified dildo is used on the female prisoners at one point. There are also naked whippings, naked beatings, rapes, castrations, naked pressure chamber tortures, and more. If you are able to remember that it's just a movie what will strike you is that it's cheap and poorly acted. Lead actress Dyanne Thorne's accent is right out of Hogan's Heroes, which is ironic, because the film was made on the old set of that show.
In the end the question you may have is why make such a movie? Well, it was the ’70s. Thirty years removed from the end of World War II, creators who had never fought in the war were closely examining and re-imagining Nazis not only in film, but in books, tabloids, and even comics. To them it probably seemed a natural progression in shattering old taboos. We imagine the backlash against them must have been terrific. And appropriate too. Yes, Ilsa is bad, bad, bad. But guess what? It's still just a movie—one that spawned two sequels, actually. Which we suppose could be seen as proof of the worth of the first film, or a blanket indictment of the entire ’70s, depending on your point of view. But we won't call you dangerously sadistic for checking the flick out. At worst, if you actually do sit through all of it, we'll call you patient to a fault. Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS premiered in Japan today in 1975.
Edit: We're writing in 2019 now, and we finally checked out one of the sequels. It's unreal, and we mean that in a bad way. You can read about it here.
In tabloid publishing no tragedy is taboo.
The Canadian tabloid Midnight, never what you would call a classy publication, goes beyond the pale with this issue published today in 1969. The child on the cover did not suffer the effects of diet soft drinks, but rather those of the anti-nausea drug thalidomide, which was routinely prescribed to pregnant women during the 1960s to prevent morning sickness. The results for 10,000 or more expectant mothers and their infants were what you see above—or worse. Midnight takes that still raw wound and pretty much rips it open with this cover, but hey—anything for sales, right? When things like this happen, the after-effects echo on endlessly. An $81 million thalidomide lawsuit settled just two years ago, and scores of other filings remain in court systems around the world.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
1995—Mickey Mantle Dies
New York Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle dies of complications from cancer, after receiving a liver transplant. He was one of the greatest baseball players ever, but he was also an alcoholic and played drunk, hungover, and unprepared. He once said about himself, "Sometimes I think if I had the same body and the same natural ability and someone else's brain, who knows how good a player I might have been."
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
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