Is there really such a thing as too much?
Elke Sommer front and center on a vintage poster claiming she's “almost too hot”? Sign us up. Sweet Ecstasy was originally made in France as Douce Violence—“sweet violence”—and fits loosely into a cycle of films characterized as nouvelle vague, or the French new wave. Director Max Pécas, however wasn't a new wave director. He was better known for his work at the forefront of the cinéma Z style, also known as the nanar sub-genre, films loosely equivalent, we gather, to eroticized b-movies, meaning sex and stupidity. Pécas is also remembered for a trilogy of 1970s Saint-Tropez erotic comedies. But for Douce Violence he's an art director, trying to make a significant statement in the same broad category as La dolce vita or À bout de souffle, aka Breathless.
To that end, what you get here is a group of idle twenty-somethings for whom entitled boredom is the order of the day, as they rip around the French Riviera near and within Cannes, seeking thrills and not caring about the future. When Olivier (Christian Pezey) finds himself drawn into this clan of troublemakers living on their parents' money, their leader Maddy (Pierre Brice) enlists his own girlfriend to be the soft edge of the wedge in a scheme to corrupt the newcomer. It's for Olivier's own good, you see, because he's too bourgeois.
The girlfriend is Sommer, playing a character also named Elke, and she's in vamp mode here, which means cat-eyed make-up and cumulonimbus hair, as she taunts and teases poor Olivier in her efforts to make him into a fellow disaffected youth. Is she too hot? No. Elke is always just hot enough. She and her pals go water-skiing (really Elke in some of the shots), swimming, boating, driving, and most of all, partying. They question convention, conformity, society, mortality, and all the rest. Like other movies of this type, there isn't much plot. Also as in similar films, an event galvanizes and changes the group—or seems as though it might.
The main attraction in the film is Elke, and she delivers what early ’60s audiences wanted—an envelope pushing performance amidst a growing wave of censorship-destroying movies. Like Bardot and others, Sommer shows a lot of skin, and almost—almost—goes topless. Though it's supposed to be gauche to say so about a woman these days (but we don't care, because sex is why we're all here, and it's ultimately all that matters, despite modern attempts to obfuscate it, hide it, police it, and shame it), Elke's very stimulating. And she doesn't even look her best here, due to the crazy make-up and hair.
As a final note, we suspect the movie was censored in the U.S. to remove some revealing bikini scenes, some shots of Elke's asscrack, a bare breast caress by a male character, and (probably) some or all of a sweaty, open-shirted dance by a black character. The poster certainly was censored—no doubt about that. The word “ecstasy” was placed to cover the word “violence.” You can just see it if you squint. So the movie's title was set to be literally translated, but that was deemed too much for Americans—or at least some Americans (southerners, we suppose). Douce Violence opened in France and Belgium in early 1962, and reached the U.S. today the same year.
I'm an excellent deal. Plus there aren't even 10,000 men on my odometer yet.
Above: the uncredited front cover, plus the rear cover, of the very first issue of Ecstasy Novel Magazine, November 1949, with Trudy Hamilton's A Body To Own inside. We added the rear just to show how digest novels self-promoted their output. Readers typically bought their first in a bus station or drugstore, but thereafter were prodded to buy by mail, discreetly, to get their rocks off. Not that these novels were in any way pornographic. But they did get racy at times, depicting women who definitely weren't waiting for marriage before hitting the sheets. Often, the heroines even bedded two or three men. There was hardcore literary porn around, but it was harder to find and as a rule terribly written. Digest publishers employed competent authors, though they would never be mistaken for masters of the craft. Some, though, such as Jed Anthony, N.R. De Mexico, and Val Munroe, wrote good books. We have plenty of digests sitting around, so you'll continue encountering them on our site. You can see a couple more examples from Ecstasy Novel Magazine here, here, and here.
Why stop at a little pleasure when more is so much better?
This poster is just a quick u-turn back to the landmark Czech movie Extase, which gave the world eternal star and electronics genius Hedy Kiesler, better known as Hedy Lamar, and treated moviegoers to the first orgasm ever put on the big screen. The poster is from Sweden, where the film was called Extas and opened today in 1933, about nine months after the Czech premiere.
Free and easy is the basic package. I'm the VIP package and I cost a bundle.
Above is another great paperback digest cover by Howell Dodd, this time for 1951's Free and Easy by Luther Gordon—no relation to June Wetherell's Free and Easy. Thinking about seeing a book rack with this kind of material for sale can only make you regretful to have missed out on the era. Though to be honest, you couldn't pay us to live in 1951—no offense to those who did. We love the promo art, the fiction, and the movies, but everything that has to do with real life... we wouldn't have done so well with that. So we're happy here in 2021. We'd like to own more of these old digests, but they aren't free or easy either. Our collection grows monthly, though. We have no idea to what end, but it does. But this one did not add to the clutter, because we borrowed it from online. More digests to come.
When you little scamps get together you're worse than a sewing circle.
Sex was her weapon! The line isn't about Uma Thurman. It comes from the cover of Harlot in Her Heart, the Norman Bligh novel she's holding in this promo shot made for her 1994 blockbuster hit Pulp Fiction. An interesting factoid about the movie is that it lost the Academy Award for best picture to a slice of saccharine nothingness called Forrest Gump thanks to a pathologically risk averse voter pool. It's an embarrasing miss for the Academy, because Pulp Fiction ranks as one of the most influential American movies ever. It took the disordered narrative structure that had been established in earlier films and elevated it to a new level. It borrowed the box-of-mystery gimmick that had already been turned on its head in movies like Kiss Me, Deadly and Belle du jour, and turned it on its head again. It incorporated a hip, ethnically mixed cast. It was funny as hell. And it placed Thurman at the center of its hyper-masculine narrative as the femme fatale Mia Wallace—who dug criminals, was tough-minded, graceful, impulsive, and smart. Her line about men being gossipy scamps was one of the best in the film. We can't imagine anyone else playing the role. As for Harlot in Her Heart, we may just buy it despite its exorbitant price. If so we reserve the right to use the cover again in a later post.
If she tries to pressure you into getting a haircut there's an ulterior motive.
In 1933 Austro-Hungarian born actress Hedy Lamarr, née Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler starred in the Czech-Austrian silent film Ecstase, aka Ecstasy, a landmark production notable for its nude scenes. Lamarr was unhappy with the result, but it made her enormously famous and helped pave her way to Hollywood, where she made numerous films, including the cheesy but highly enjoyable swords and sandals epic Samson & Delilah, from which the above image comes. In the Biblical legend, Delilah cuts off Samson's magic hair to weaken him. In real life Lamarr weakened plenty of male fans and didn't have to do anything but appear on a movie screen. This photo shows her circa 1949.
I know it's high. It used to be lower, but I spent a summer in D.C., and lemme tell ya, those guys taught me a lot about whoring.
We featured a Charles Rodewald cover last year and loved it, so we're bringing him back today, this time on the front of Ecstasy Novel Magazine, which is showcasing Paula Has a Price!, written by Perry Lindsay, aka prolific pulp author Peggy Gaddis. There's confusion online about the copyright on this, but it was published in January 1949. Top effort from Rodewald, and you can see another here.
I’ll go through it one more time for you. Mine are b’s, but there are also a’s, c’s, d’s, double-d’s...
Above, an excellent George Gross cover, plus the original art, for Bed-Time Angel written by Norman Bligh, aka William Arthur Neubauer, for Ecstasy Novel Magazine, March 1951.
No helmet, no jacket, no problem.
The above poster is the original promo Kôyû Ohara’s motorcycle gang roman porno Shiroi mesuneko: mahiru no ecstasy, aka White Female Cat: Ecstasy at High Noon, and as you can see star Hitomi Kozue is completely flouting the mandatory helmet ordinance. Well, the point of riding a motorcycle is to feel the wind blow through your… er, hair. We haven’t screened this one, but we love the poster so we thought we’d show it to you anyway on its premiere date, which was today in 1975.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
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