Sommer and Koscina add up to one great day.
We've looked at the output of Italian illustrator Jean Mascii a few times. Above you see his work again, this time on a poster for the James Bond-style adventure Plus féroces que les mâles, which first showed in France today in 1967 but had its global premiere months earlier in England as Deadlier Than the Male. Over four decades, working from the early ’50s until the late ’80s, Mascii painted almost 1,500 movie posters, hundreds of book covers, and a copious amount of print advertising. You can click his keywords at bottom to see a few more posters we've shared on our site, or click here to take the express lane to one of his very best. The “deadlier” in Deadlier Than the Male refers to co-stars Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina, two of the more beautiful products of the mid-century era, who play assassins. We've shared posters for the film from Japan—twice—and the former Yugoslavia. Returning to it yet again is mainly an excuse to share some of the many production photos we've found—to go along with this one, this one, and this one. Today we're restricting ourselves to only Sommer and Koscina's bikini shots, because the skin and smiles say summertime to us. There are drawbacks to movie stardom, so we hear, but some days surely must be just fine.
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 Sweet Ecstasy was originally made in France as Douce Violence—“sweet violence”—and fits loosely into a cycle of films characterized as nouvelle vague, or the French new wave.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.
Sommer photos paint a portrait of relaxation.
These photos show German actress Elke Sommer painting in the yard of her Los Angeles home. They're obviously staged, because we don't think she'd choose a hard tile surface to sit on while doing her work, but the shots are nice. We don't have a date on them, but if we had to guess we'd say they're from the late 1960s. Sommer began painting when she was young, and continued throughout her film career and afterward. She once told an interviewer, “I am really closest to me being myself with paint. I paint anyplace. When I am at home I paint outside, in the nude, for up to eight hours at a stretch. I paint with acrylics, so when I'm finished I just jump in the pool.” In 1984 Sommer published a book titled Painting with Elke Sommer, and had a television show of the same title during the 1980s, on which she wore clothes, sadly. So, what does Elke paint? See an example below.
Voulez vous Rendez-Vous avec moi ce soir?
We have a new Canadian tabloid for you, an issue of Le Rendez-Vous published today in 1968 with a cover shot of Austrian star Marisa Mell, and in the centerfold a brilliant photo of German actress Elke Sommer we're pretty sure has never been seen online before. We had to scan that in four pieces and merge the quadrants, which is time consuming, but in this case worth it, because—as you know if you visit the site often—we think Sommer is one of the all-time vintage goddesses. And speaking from a graphic design perspective, we think we did a pretty good job of assembling her, if we may say so. Fellow German actress Babsi Zimmermann also makes an appearance, and we thought we'd never see her again, but 1968 seems to have been a very visible year for her—particularly in Canadian tabloids.
In typical cheapie scandal sheet style, Le Rendez-Vous is filled with ridiculous material on subjects ranging from crime to medicine. You'll see a photo below of a human brain. The text there says, unsurprisingly, “Finally the secret of immortality... We can keep the brain alive separated from a dead body!” A Doctor Jacobsen claims brain transplants will become as popular as heart transplants. Okay, but heart transplants aren't popular—they're necessary. Big difference. However, if brain transplants were ever to become routine, we'd take one. Sure why not? It would be the ultimate mind altering experience, and we've never been against those. Twenty-plus scans below.
Cancans de Paris is always uncanny.
Above: a few pages from the French burlesque publication Cancans de Paris, the seventh time we've taken a look at this mag, with this example dating from September 1965. As always there are mainstream celebrities mixed in with the peelers, including Carroll Baker, Brigitte Bardot, Elke Sommer, Kim Novak, Sean Connery, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, and French born ballerina Ludmilla Tchérina. At the top of panel two there's also a minor Raymond Brenot illustration. See some major ones here, and just click the Cancans keywords below if you want to see more issues.
Where Elke is concerned a cigar is never just a cigar.
You know the famous quote attributed to Sigmund Freud, right? He's sometimes criticized for having seen phallic symbols and sexual subtext where they didn't exist, but apparently he once said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But not in this case. In 1967's Deadlier Than the Male, Elke Sommer's cigar is an explosive she uses to assassinate someone, blowing his airplane out of the sky as she parachutes safely to the ground. It's a cheeseball movie, but her turn as the ultimate femme fatale makes it worth watching. You can read more about it here, and see plenty more Elke here, there, and everywhere.
Hi, this is Elke calling from Down Under. Can I speak to my agent? There's been a trademark infringement.
As usual the Aussie publishing company Horwitz has used a film star on one of its book covers—this time German goddess Elke Sommer on the front of 1959's Terror Comes Creeping. She was a favorite of theirs—we've seen her on four covers, including this one, and we've speculated that they're all unlicensed, for reasons discussed here.
This one stars Carter Brown's, aka Alan G. Yates's franchise sleuth Danny Boyd, who's hired by a woman named Martha Hazelton who thinks her father is killing off his children—with her next in line—in order to avoid losing his dead wife's inheritance. The father, when confronted by Boyd, says that insanity runs in the family and his daughter is paranoid and probably nuts. It certainly seems that way when Boyd meets his client's loopy, danger obsessed little sister, but of course matters soon begin to look far more complicated than they seemed at first.
On one level it's amazing Carter Brown sold something like 120,000,000 books, because his work is not special. But on the other hand it's fast, sometimes funny, and hits the right notes for detective novels. So maybe his success isn't so strange after all. We'll probably read another, because we have a few.
All the best people showed up.
The West German pop culture and celeb magazine Party, which was produced in Hannover by Lehning Press, is an obscure publication. It's very vivid, with bright color, many full page photos, and many film celebrities represented. Equal time is given to unknowns too, for example, the cover features Annelies Niessner, who was... we have no idea, and inside a color page is given to Cornelie, identified only as a “millionärstochter geht eigene wege,” a millionaire's daughter who goes her own way.
In terms of celebs you get Carol Lynley, Jane Russell, Sandra Dee, Stella Stevens, Laya Raki, a beautiful portrait of Jane Fonda, numerous shots of Ursula Andress, and many others. This publication didn't waste words, even on the copyright date. The cover tells us this is issue eight, so we're going to say it came in August, and we're thinking it's from 1967. Though it may be short on info, Party is an appropriate name, because it's a very fun magazine. We have several more issues, so look for those later.
We should emphasize our best features. On me that's everything, but I can show this without getting arrested.
Our regularly scheduled tributes to German actress Elke Sommer continue with these two images of her taking bare midriff fashion to its furthest limits. As nice as her stomach looks, a rear angle of this would be worth a lot to us. We suspect butt cleavage big time. And that's always a good thing.
No dream involving Elke Sommer can be bad.
This Japanese poster features the German perfection known by the earthly name Elke Sommer, and it was made to promote her Cold War adventure The Wicked Dreams of Paula Schultz. Generally, long foreign titles were shortened, so in Japan this was called simply “Her Immoral Dream.” It isn't a great film, but it may cause you to have immoral dreams about Sommer. We have some promo photos below showing her in all her incomparable beauty. There's no Japanese premiere date for the movie, but it opened worldwide in 1968. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Warren Commission Issues Report
The Warren Commission, which had been convened to examine the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's assassination, releases its final report, which concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. Today, up to 81% of Americans are troubled
by the official account of the assassination.
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.
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