Vintage Pulp Sep 2 2019
'KAPI CATS
Schell, Mercouri, and Ustinov plan a field trip to the local museum.


This French promo poster was made for the big screen Technicolor thriller Topkapi, which was based on a novel by Eric Ambler, who was such a popular author that the book was optioned before it even hit bookstores. The sedateness of the poster, which was painted by Yves Thos and René Ferracci, belies how outlandish the movie is at points. It starred Greek actress Melina Mercouri, British actor Peter Ustinov, and Austrian actor Maximilian Schell, with American Jules Dassin in the director's chair, filming mainly in Istanbul and using the location to voyeuristic effect as he documents exotic aspects of Turkish life. Inside all the window dressing is a heist flick about a group intent on stealing a priceless jewel encrusted dagger from the Topkapi Palace Museum. Aspects of this will look familiar to fans of the Mission: Impossible films, but Dassin adds extravagances such as direct-to-audience narration by Mercouri, a touch of Hitchcockian vertigo, and some overly broad comedic digressions that make the final result thrilling and bizarre in equal parts. While we had issues with the movie, who are we to argue with the top critics of the day? They mostly liked it and audiences did too. Topkapi had its world premiere in France today in 1965.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 15 2018
DEATH MASK
A stranger in strange lands comes to know pure evil.


Because Eric Ambler's 1939 thriller The Mask of Dimitrios is the source of the classic 1944 film noir of the same name starring Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, we should have read it long ago, but better late than never. The book tells the story of a writer in Istanbul who becomes interested in a killer, smuggler, slaver, and political agitator known as Dimitrios Makropoulos. In hopes of finding inspiration the writer begins to piece together the life of this mystery man.

The investigation carries him from Istanbul to Sofia to Geneva and beyond. That sounds exotic, but the story is almost entirely driven by external and internal dialogues, with little effort spent bringing alive its far flung locales. While we see that as a missed opportunity, and the book could be shorter considering so much of the aforementioned dialogue fails to further illuminate matters, it's fascinating how Dimitrios is slowly pieced together. Here's a line to remember, as the main character Latimer reflects upon the modern age and what the world is becoming:

“The logic of Michelangelo's David and Beethoven's quartets and Einstein's physics had been replaced by that of The Stock Exchange Yearbook and Hitler's Mein Kampf.”

That isn't one you'd soon forget. Ambler sees casino capitalism and Nazism as twin signposts on a road to perdition built by people like Dimitrios. We can't even imagine that being written by a popular author today without controversy, but Ambler, writing in England during the late 1930s, had zero trouble identifying exactly what he was looking at. This Great Pan edition of The Mask of Dimitrios appeared many years later in 1961, and it has unusual but effective cover art from S. R. Boldero. 

 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 09
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
December 08
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
December 07
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
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