Some love lasts forever. Other times it doesn't survive the wedding night.
Another of the movies we watched recently was Bluebeard, a castle and dungeon-style, quasi gothic horror flick about a folk tale character who murders a series of wives. Its Spanish poster was the best of those we saw, and we chose today to share it because the film premiered in Spain today in 1974, after opening in the U.S. two years earlier. This piece was painted and collaged from photos by Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, also known as Jano, now a regular visitor to Pulp Intl. Just for the sake of it, we've also included the U.S. poster at right (or above if you're on a mobile device). You can see that it's built fully around a photo-illustration, and while it's interesting, we thought Jano's work had a little more merit.
Bluebeard stars Richard Burton, who's supposed to be a great actor, but we have to admit we'd seen exactly zero of his acclaimed movies up to this point. He was a Shakespearean stage guy who transitioned to Hollywood in similar type roles, and being decidedly non-pulp in style, we've highlighted none here. He later made a couple of war movies, though, as well as the overbudget epic Cleopatra, and we might get around to those. Going on the example presented by Bluebeard, however, you'd have to conclude that he's a hack. Those who know more than us say that by the 1970s heavy drinking had impaired both his judgment and skill.
You'd think that a famous folk tale would provide a trove of potential cinematic possibilities to sift through, but Bluebeard is uninspiringly written, and the direction—from film noir vet Edward Dmytryk—presents little evidence of engagement with or inspiration by the material. The women Bluebeard murders are played by Karin Schubert, Nathalie Delon, Virna Lisi, sexy nun Raquel Welch, Marilú Tolo, Agostina Belli, and Joey Heatherton—not neccsarily in that order—plus Sybil Danning makes an appearance. Heatherton has the key role as Anne, the wife who elicits a confession from a psychologically tortured Bluebeard as to why he kills.
And the reason? Dude can't get it up. Therefore, in the era before little blue pills, as a prominent member of Austria's post-World War I patriarchal society, Bluebeard murders to keep his limpness secret. You'd think dying wives would destroy his matrimonial suitability, but ata certain point we suppose money papers over all flaws. Rich or not, though, never marry a guy who sits around with a raptor on his shoulder. And speaking of hunting, we should warn the kind-hearted that there's an extended hunting sequence in Bluebeard, and the animals are killed for real, in detailed action. We're talking several rabbits, a number of birds in flight, a couple of foxes, a boar, and a deer.
Based on what we've written so far, you might think we're not recommending Bluebeard, but not so fast, friends. The female cast—to state the obvious—comprises some of the loveliest actresses of the era, and in diverse ways. Welch is sculpturally flawless, Lisi is ethereally beautiful, Toló is broodingly dark, and Heatherton, whose resting face is ingenuous and slightly open-mouthed as if she's always concentrating on a problem, can only be described as luscious. She also has one of cinema's all-time greatest hairdos. Is it pervy to say you should watch a movie solely for the beauty of its actresses? Probably—but it's the truth. The filmmakers must have agreed, because they published lots of nude production stills, when in fact the film has less skin. See below.
Desire is easy. It's fulfillment that's hard.
This unusual promo pamphlet was made for the Australian release of May Britt's romantic drama The Blue Angel, which opened Down Under today in 1959. 20th Century Fox's publicity department was calling it “one of the great classic films of all times,” though it had only been out a few months. The lesson here is never believe the publicity department. In the film, which is a remake of Marlene Dietrich's 1930 classic of the same name, Swedish bombshell May Britt plays a burlesque performer named Lola-Lola who dances and sings nightly at a smalltown cabaret called the Blue Angel. She draws the romantic attention of a prudish, perhaps even virginal, high school professor, and all kinds of complications follow, ranging from the good (love and romance) to the bad (scorn and unemployment).
It's been said that Britt was chosen over Marilyn Monroe for this role, but if that's true, we're looking at a remarkably different movie than Monroe would have made. For one thing, while financed by 20th Century Fox, the movie is set in Germany and everyone in it hails from somewhere in Europe. We can't imagine that was the plan if Monroe had starred, but as a remake of a German classic, we suppose it's possible. Anotherbig difference is that Britt is not in any way Monroesque. While both are blonde and beautiful, Britt has a knowing, grown-up, real-woman demeanor, her voice a throaty contralto, while Monroe played wiggly-hipped high-pitched kittenish to the hilt. We can only assume the role was intended as a departure for Monroe, and a major departure it would have been.
But this is Britt's film and one thing is sure—she has talent. This isn't a surprise. She had already been in thirteen movies by this point. The Blue Angel came out the year before she met and married Sammy Davis, Jr. She made one more movie then was out of show business until after she and Davis divorced eight years later. These would have been her prime moviemaking years, but she chose to be a wife and mother,and has commented of that period that she chose correctly. Yet The Blue Angel gives a strong indication what sort of star she might have been. 20th Century Fox may have jumped the gun calling the film one of the great classics of all times, but now that it's actually an old film, and it's undoubtedly good thanks to May Britt and the very capable Curd Jürgens, maybe that description isn't so far off after all.
Giving in to the inevitable.
German actress Karin Schubert is an interesting figure in international cinema—she began in mainstream films in the late 1960s, appearing in efforts by acclaimed directors such as Edward Dmytryk and Yves Boisset, then transitioned into adult cinema. Usually actresses attempt to do the reverse. Some of Schubert’s early roles, such 1975’s Black Emmanuelle, were of the sexploitation variety, but it wasn’t until 1985 when she was aged 41 that she starred in her first hardcore film, Double Desire. Some sources say there are rare prints of 1975’s Il Pavone nero, aka Voodoo Sexy that show Schubert in x-rated action, but those sources are wrong—as was common at the time, down and dirty scenes performed by a body double were added later. However, Schubert did shoot fully hardcore magazine spreads earlier than her entry into adult cinema.
She last acted in 1994, and since then has dropped completely out of sight. We got curious what happened to her, and in our wanderings visited a forum where a user claimed he spoke to a former adult film colleague of hers at a porn convention. According to the user, Schubert’s colleague said she died, but we doubt that’s true. Schubert was a significant star. Notices of a woman who had the unusual distinction of working with both film noir icon Edward Dmytryk and porn stallion John C. Holmes would have appeared somewhere in the German—if not global—press. We checked, and there was no word anywhere. As for the supposed info provided by her old colleague, picture this exchange:
“Say, Karin, I’m going to the adult film expo in Hamburg this year. You going?”
“Hell fucking no, and if anyone asks about me please tell them I died.”
The photo at top shows Schubert from around 1975, and below are some of her many covers for the West German magazine Wochenend. You can also see a nice Ciné-Revue cover of her here. We’ll try to get into some of her non-x-rated films later and report back.
Robert Young tries to solve a murder that seems to have no motive.
Above is a Swedish poster for Edward Dmytryk’s Hämnden är rättvis, aka Crossfire, a really interesting film noir about an ex-soldier who is murdered, and his fellow ex-soldiers who are suspects. Police detective Robert Young tries to get to the bottom of the crime, but is increasingly baffled as he realizes the killing did not occur for any of the usual reasons—money, lust, revenge, etc. Different character recollections provide different information about the victim’s last hours, but only serve to underscore the apparent senselesslness of the crime. We can’t reveal the direction Young’s investigation turns without giving away the ending*, but we’ll mention that the movie won an award at Cannes—the Prix du meilleur film social, or Best Social Film.
Though technically and visually brilliant, as a whole we don’t think Crossfire has weathered as well as other noirs (for casual movie watchers it may be too static and talky). But it does have a bravura performance from Robert Ryan, and solid work from both Gloria Grahame and the always excellent Robert Mitchum. As far as the art is concerned, note the strong contrast between the Swedish version and the riotously colorful American ones, which we have below. Swedish film noir posters often de-emphasized color and used long lines to apportion space into several distinct boxes (as seen here, here, here, and here), but the above is one of the most severe examples we’ve found. Crossfire premiered in the U.S. in July 1947, and first played in Stockholm as Hämnden är rättvis today the same year.
*We’ve never worried about giving away endings before. Our capsule reviews are really just excuses to show the poster art and joke around. However, a few recent emails have revealed that some readers actually visit Pulp Intl. for viewing ideas, which just goes to show that after five years online you receive credibility whether you were looking for it or not. So even though recent scientific research shows that people enjoy stories more if they know the endings in advance, we’re going to be better about spoilers in the future. Promise.
When you get on his wrong side, it’s the other side of a marksman’s scope.
A few days ago we mentioned the Noir City Film Festival and waxed nostalgic about San Francisco. The festival schedule reminded us of noirs we haven’t seen in a while, and revealed others we’ve never seen. On the Noir City bill this evening is a film from the latter category, Edward Dmytryk’s 1952 thriller The Sniper. We watched it last night and it more than deserves a slot in a prestigious festival like Noir City. The film was shot in San Francisco, and stars Arthur Franz as a former mental patient named Eddie Miller who is gripped by murderous impulses. Perching in windows and on rooftops, he uses a carbine and scope to target unsuspecting victims. As yet the gun isn’t loaded, but his sexual feelings for a female acquaintance catalyze his urges. The expert marksman begins killing, ultimately slaying four women (that’s not a spoiler, given the four scoped targets on the poster art). Eddie Miller treads similar ground as hundreds of other cinematic lost souls, but film historians say he was first—American film’s first serial killer. This one is worth it both for the movie and for its usage of San Francisco exteriors, which are so expertly and extensively intergrated into the production, we have a feeling Bay Area audiences will marvel over that more than the actual plot. But they should pay close attention to both. Dmytryk is the same director who gave the world Murder, My Sweet and Crossfire. This is top tier filmmaking.
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