Recent excavation reveals rare and wonderful treasures.
Egypt is a land of ancient artifacts, but it isn't one of pulp or pulp influenced art. Even so, we did some deep digging and found a few items that may fit the bill. These movie posters were painted by artists such as Ahmed Hamed, Hassan Mazhar Gasour, and the tandem of Stamatis Vassiliou & Marcel during the ’50s, ’60s, and ’80s. You see here, top to bottom, Fattouma, 1961, Thawrat el-Madinah, aka A Town's Revolt, 1955, Klatwa doliny wezy, aka Curse of Snakes Valley, 1988, two posters for El gessad, aka Flesh, 1955, two posters for Fi baitina rajul, aka There Is a Man in Our House, 1961, starring Omar Sharif, and finally, Iterafat zauja, aka A Wife's Confession, 1954. These may not be executed as the highest level, but they're quirky and colorful, which is good enough for us. We'd take any of these in a frame and be happy. See another Egyptian poster with Pam Grier—or a reasonable likeness of her—at this link.
Sheba Shayne takes aim at Egypt.
Above is an Egyptian promo poster made for Pam Grier's blaxploitation flick Sheba, Baby, in which she played the title character Sheba Shayne (surely one of the best names for a PI ever). We have no Egyptian premier date for the film, but it probably happened well after its 1975 U.S. opening, maybe even as late as ’77 or ’78. Does the figure on the poster look like Grier? Not as much as it could, but we think it's a fun piece of art anyway.
Plundering priceless cultural treasures can be loads of fun.
We haven't seen many mummy movies but if they're all like this one we'll look for more. The Mummy's Hand is a deft blend of comedy and thrills, with Dick Foran and Wallace Ford playing a pair of goofy archaeologists in Egypt who stumble upon clues that point to the jewel laden tomb of a dynastic princess. They don't have any cash, so they charm Cecil Kellaway, who here is credited as Cecil Kelloway, into financing the expedition. His daughter, the beautiful Peggy Moran, comes along for the ride.
Everyone is good in this, but Kelloway is especially enjoyable. He plays a famous magician, very adept but a bit distracted, which leads to several amusing moments, including one in which he gets locked in his own steamer trunk. There isn't a single Egyptian in this film, just white guys wearing brown shoe polish and scraggly beards, but casual cultural insensitivity is par for the course during this era. Depending on what you're willing to overlook The Mummy's Hand is about as good-natured and fun as a film gets. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1940.
Lady, if you don't stop blocking my view I'm going to strangle you and leave you buried with the pharaohs.
We never go long without sharing art from French illustrator Jef de Wulf, and here he is again doing cover work for publisher Éditions de la Flamme d'Or and author Jacques Destier, whose Egyptian adventure Nioussia l'insaisissable was published in 1954. Destier was a pseudonym used by Jacques Thinus. If your French is rusty, Nioussia, l'insaisissable means “Nioussia, the elusive.” See de Wulf at his best here and here, and we'll have more from him a bit later.
Gemser heats up the deserts of Egypt.
Cinematic sleaze was often fueled, the same as was mainstream filmmaking, by star power, so it was natural to bring two popular erotic performers like Laura Gemser and Annie Belle together. It happened today in 1976 with the Italian premiere of Velluto nero. At some point after its theatrical release it was renamed for English speaking audiences Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle. Gemser was actually Indonesian, born in Surabaya, East Java, however 1976 was the blaxploitation era and everybody wanted a piece of that pie, including, obviously, Gemser's production company Rekord Films. Gemser could have played anything from half black to Persian to southern Italian to Hawaiian to Latina, so it was a canny—if cynical—bit of cultural appropriation. But back then it was seemingly no harm no foul. Audiences wanted to see her naked, and she always delivered.
In Velluto nero Gemser plays a model who vacations in Egypt with her horrible husband and meets the free-spirited Belle, who awakens her to better possibilities in life—ones that don't include her criminally abusive spouse. It's generally agreed that this is one of Gemser's most tepid Emanuelle entries. We have to concur. But Gemser and Annie Belle in the same movie are worth something, at least, and the Egyptian scenery is compelling. We also like that Belle's multi-colored sweater makes another appearance. She must have lifted it from the costume department when she filmed Laure. Velluto nero isn't the last we'll see of her or Gemser, and we'll just have to hope the next encounter is an improvement over this one.
The riddle is this: why didn't Lesley-Anne Down wear that outfit?
We'll admit we watched Lesley-Anne Down's 1981 thriller Sphinx just to see if she ever got into the gauzy number she's wearing in the promo photo above. We thought it unlikely, and we were right. She mostly wore what you see below—no spike heels with asp straps, sorry. But it wasn't the worst expenditure of time, finding this out. Sphinx feels like a television movie by today's standards, but the location shooting is excellent, and some interesting performers pop up—among them Sir John Gielgud and John Rhys-Davies, the latter of whom you may remember as Sallah from another Egyptian themed movie—Raiders of the Lost Ark, which hit cinemas four months after Sphinx. Like Raiders, in Sphinx you get an antiquarian on the trail of a lost tomb while baffled by arcane clues and beset by duplicitous locals. We don't think a single Egyptian had a noteworthy role here, but at least a few of the cultural details are accurate (though perhaps not the most flattering ones). Are we recommending this one? Not without Down wearing that outfit we aren't, but the movie isn't as bad as many would have you believe. It premiered today in 1981, and the awesome poster was painted by Bob Peak.
Hmm… an Englishman to gut with my new blade. And here I was planning to go home and shave my monobrow.
We were talking recently about Harlequin’s early days as a publisher of more than romance fiction. Above is another example—Bats with Baby Faces by W. Stanley Moss, a former British Army officer who wrote such best sellers as Ill Met by Moonlight and A War of Shadows. Bats with Baby Faces, the title of which references bat-like masks rather than actual bats, deals with intrigue and smuggling in the Deir-ez-Zor region of Syria, and in Cairo, where Moss lived in a villa that became a hub for the British social set. The most famous of his numerous real-life adventures occurred during that period, and that time also served as inspiration for much of his fiction. Harlequin’s edition of Bats with Baby Faces was published in 1952, and the cover art, with its mean caricature of an Egyptian who’s so swarthy he’s—bizarrely—purple, is uncredited. More Harlequin here and here.
I can hear you back there, Randy Joe. If you’s pluckin’ your twanger again I’m gonna tell pa.
One of the early cover collections we put together dealt with the theme of women interrupted while skinny-dipping (for our non-U.S. readers that's a term for swimming naked). Above is a fun addition to that group—Hillbilly Nympho, written by Bob Tralins, for Rendezvous Reader books, published 1961.
This was also put out the same year by Tuxedo Books as Naked Hills. Tralins, a few of you may remember, was the man who ghost-wrote Pleasure Was My Business, the infamous tell-all about the South Florida prostitution trade by flesh peddler Madame Sherry, aka Ruth Barnes. The book was banned in Florida and prompted a massive lawsuit from the former king of Egypt, Farouk I, who Madame Sherry had named as one of her best customers. We talked about that way back. See here.
Climb up just a bit higher. The part of you I’m planning to shoot isn’t out of the water yet.
Interesting Charles Copeland cover art for Victor Canning’s 1955 adventure thriller Twist of the Knife, published outside the U.S. as His Bones Are Coral. It’s the story of a drug smuggler flying contraband from Sudan to Egypt who crash lands near the town of Suabar, gets involved in a caper to raise gold from the waters of the Red Sea, and of course beds the only white girl within sight. This was actually made into a really bad Burt Reynolds movie called Shark! in 1970.
The National Police Gazette claims Nasser said yessir to fugitive Nazis.
This month in 1961 The National Police Gazette put Adolf Hitler on its cover yet again. We don’t know how many times he appeared there, but this makes the twentieth issue we’ve found and posted. When last we left der Führer he was hiding out in either Argentina or Antarctica, but according to Gazette scribe Harvey Wilson, Hitler was directing his minions as they launched a new Nazi empire in Egypt. Wilson tells readers that Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s government was populated by ex-SS officers, that the secret police was being run by Joachim Damling, former head of the Gestapo in Düsseldorf, that there were Egyptian versions of the Hitler Youth, that the economy was being reorganized to a Nazi model, and a vast military machine was being built.
So, is any of this true? Well, many Nazis fled to Egypt at the end of World War II, probably many hundreds, including Aribert Heim, who was known as Dr. Death, and Nazi propagandist Johann Von Leers, who converted to Islam and took a high post at Egypt’s foreign ministry. However, fleeing Nazis ended up settling in many countries, including the U.S. Among those were Otto Von Bolschwing, who in Germany had helped develop a blueprint to purge the country of Jews and later worked for the CIA, and Arthur L. Rudolph, who helped the Nazis build the V-2 rocket and other weapons and eventually ended up being honored by NASA—twice.
In any case, this is an example of what makes tabloids so interesting to us. Some stories—like the one about Hitler living in Antarctica—are patently ridiculous, while others have at least a kernel of truth. The thrust of this story is largely true—Nazis did flee to Egypt, and manywere welcomed by the government. As for the rest of the story—Nasser did indeed reorganize Egypt’s economy and reshape its military sector, but we can’t confirm that it was due to Nazi influence. And we also can’t confirm the claims about Egyptian Hitler Youth and Joachim Damling, but even if parts of the story were wrong, a tabloid doesn’t need many victories to establish credibility in the eyes of its readership—it just needs a few big ones. On that score you have to give the Gazette credit—it said there were Nazis in Egypt and it was right.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Archbishop Denounces Dance Music
The Archbishop of Dubuque, Francis J. L. Beckman, makes headlines in the U.S. when he attacks swing music as a degenerated musical system destined to gnaw away at the moral fiber of young people. His denouncement follows on the heels of the music being banned in Germany due to its African and Jewish origins.
1993—Vincent Price Dies
American actor Vincent Price, who had achieved the height of his fame acting in low budget horror movies, and became famous again as the macabre voice in Michael Jackson's song "Thriller," dies at age 82 of complications from emphysema and Pariknson's disease.
1929—Stock Market Crashes
Black Thursday, a catastrophic crash on the New York Stock Exchange, occurs when the value of stocks suddenly declines and continues to decline for a month. The event leads to a subsequent crash in world stock prices and precipitates the Great Depression. This after famous economist Irving Fisher had declared that stock prices had reached a permanently high plateau.
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying
. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
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