We're ready to explore the depths of our local convenience store.
We had this contraption sitting around in the wine cellar. Conceived by inventors Alphonse and Theodore Carmagnolle in Marseille, France, it's a deep sea diving suit made around 1878. It's truly amazing—800 pounds, something like 20 little portholes for good vision, and tricked out with more gadgets than Iron Man's suit. But here's the best part—in a lighting stroke of pure genius we realized we could use it as a hazmat suit. So we got it out, oiled its joints, and now the Pulp Intl. girlfriends are going to try and pick up some toilet paper. Yes, both of them. One has to stand on the other's shoulders to make this beast work.
You're asking, why are they going for toilet paper instead of us? Because they use twenty times more than we do. It's incredible. It's like they go into the bathroom and incinerate the stuff, it goes so fast. Now you're asking, why not venture out in their stead as an act of gallantry? We could do that. We really could. In fact, we even kind of want to, just to use that wicked-looking hook on the back of the suit's right paw with ill intent. That will definitely help you keep order in the market: “Line forms after me, virus boy!” But gallantry is so last century. This is 2020, people. We'd get destroyed on social media for it. But we'll be in constant contact with the girls via radio: “Baby, are you receiving? Make sure you get beer. Over.”
On a slightly different note, let's just get this disclaimer out of way: this coronavirus is serious as a heart attack, as far as we're concerned. Where we live a lot of people are dying. We're doing quarantine to the letter of the law. We haven't left the premises in twelve days, but considering how lax people are in this town about behavingsensibly, we aren't 100% confident this thing won't still be rampant months from now. We can see one our of neighbors coming and going like nothing is wrong, and even having friends over. “Baby, still receiving? Hook our neighbor in the neck. Over.” Anyway, while we wait for this to (hopefully) blow over we have to while away these isolated hours some way or other, and this is how—talking shit online. It's the only social life we've got for the time being.
Got the coronavirus blues? We've got just the medicine.
How are you doing out there? We realize some of you aren't quarantined—yet—but give it time. Here at the Pulp Intl. metroplex we've been on lockdown for a while, and we've been spending most of that time in our cavernous wine cellar. Which reminded us we had this old French postcard sitting around that depicts almost exactly what daily life looks like for us now. We don't have a copyright on this item, but we can look at it and guess it's from the mid-1970s. We can't identify the model, but who cares? The point is that big-ass cask of vin de Bordeaux behind her. What we wouldn't give for one of those right now. Not that we're likely to run out of wine. That's the first thing we stocked up on. But it never hurts to have more.
This would be an excellent moment in time for Muddy Waters or maybe even Johnny Cash to rush release a single called the Coronavirus Blues, but alas they're not around. Second choice? Maybe Pulp Intl. We find ourselves with extra time, so we'll be ramping up the frequency of our posts, to make it an even better time eater. Also, we've prided ourselves on always coming up with new content and never reusing what we wrote before, but for a limited time only we're going to repost some of our favorite entries from Pulp history. If you've visited the site often but never wanted to dig through our more than five-thousand individual entries, here's your shot to see some of that old material. Our Pulp Intl. retrospective starts today. We'll position the reused entries beneath our new posts.
We'll have ours with everything, hold the gun.
Well, they say Bergers are bad for you and now we have proof. This photo of Austrian actress Senta Berger was made to promote the French 1967 thriller Diaboliquement vôtre, aka Diabolically Yours, in which she starred with Alain Delon. The movie was a bit of a flop when released, but Berger had numerous hits in her long career, and continues to act, appearing in the television series Under Suspicion through 2019. We last saw her as a Pulp Intl. femme fatale way back in 2013. You can see that shot here, and overindulge on Berger in general by clicking her keywords below.
Who's afraid of him? Nobody anymore.
Isn't this a great poster? It was painted for La femme au gardénia, better known as The Blue Gardenia. Every once in a while you come across an old movie that's so ahead of its time you can't believe what you're seeing. This one is about woman's response to sexual coercion, and law enforcement's reaction to the aftermath. Basically, Anne Baxter, who's five-three and a buck twenty, ends up in the apartment of Raymond Burr, who's six feet and goes at least 230. Burr plies Baxter with booze, and when he later tries to get her horizontal a struggle ensues and he ends up dead. Baxter escapes the apartment, and thanks to the arrival of a very efficient cleaning lady nearly all the evidence of her presence is accidentally erased the next morning before Burr's body is discovered.
So Baxter's scot-free? Well, not quite. There's that whole guilt, edginess, and fear thing, which her roommates notice. And there are a few bits of evidence, which lead to police drawing ever closer. All these are good plot moves. Lacking an identity for the killer, the press begins calling her—the bit of evidence that exists indicates it's a her—the Blue Gardenia, which is a clear Black Dahlia echo. We liked that. And we also liked that, at this point, the film was a thriller built wholly around consent and power. But this was the 1950s. Of course they weren't trying to impart that lesson. What were we thinking? Instead, an ending so pat that it almost ruins the movie comes blundering over the horizon. Is it wrong to suggest watching the first 75 minutes of this and turning it off?
Okay, the movie isn't completely trashed by the ending. It's just that we thought we had something daring on hand, and in reality it's a decent-not-great semi-noir from Fritz Lang that flirts with feminism but decides not to close the deal. However, the story was derived from a novella by author and playwright Vera Caspary, and we can't help wondering if the suits overruled her on a different ending. Probably not, but we'll have to dig that tale up and read it anyway. Regardless, we think the movie is worth watching just for Anne Baxter's bravura performance. And we love the platinum poodle cut she sports too. Plus there's Nat King Cole as, presumably, himself. The Blue Gardenia opened in the U.S. in 1953, and premiered in France today in 1954
Oh, I plan to go for his body, alright. Particularly below the belt. I hope he plans the same for mine.
Ed Lacy is a fascinating writer, a fearless craftsman who sought unique angles for his vivid, often racially charged tales. His 1954 novel Go for the Body is a story of amazing imagination dealing with an ex-boxer and would-be promotor named Ken Francine who runs across a black American boxer in Paris. Francine already knows this other boxer, Bud Stewart, from Stateside. In fact, Stewart was the reason Francine retired, a decision brought on by a brutal ass-whipping that exposed his deficiencies in the ring. Now, years later in Paris, Francine sees an opportunity for profit, and begins pushing Stewart up the ladder in the European fight racket. The text on the cover art is deceptive. The book isn't really about the love story, “DIFFERENT” or otherwise, between Stewart and his beautiful wife. It's about Francine, local politics, the dirty work of promoting boxers, and murder.
In the hands of a brilliant writer this could have been an all-time classic. Don't get us wrong—it's still enjoyable. Lacy evokes the atmosphere of Paris effortlessly by sharing minute details. He never crosses the line into travelogue. A quip about the trendiness and expense of Perrier followed by a local's aside that the pipes in European cities weren't always great is enough to plant the idea in the reader's head that fizzy bottled water became popular because it was known to be clean. Another example is how Lacy doesn't bother to describe any of the geography or people of Champs-Élysées, but simply notes that you see big American cars there. He makes clever choices like these throughout Go for the Body, never taking the obvious route, instead relying on readers' ingrained knowledge of Paris from popular culture to fill in the blanks.
His plot does the same. There are few obvious turns. Guessing which direction the narrative will go will likely prove fruitless. Of course, certain aspects are required, such as the Parisian flavor, the post-war malaise, and the nostalgia for a lost love. And naturally, boxing novels nearly always lead up to a big fight, and this one does too, in Milan, Italy. But there's far more on the line in that final bout than any reader could possibly suspect when the book begins. That's the main reason we give Go for the Body a thumbs up—its scope. Lacy is no Faulkner or Malamud, and his main character Ken Francine is confoundingly slow-witted at times (as an ex-fighter who was literally beaten into retirement it's possible he's not supposed to be very bright), but the tale delivers a solid punch. It may not knock you for a loop, but in the end the decision goes in its favor.
Damn, missed again. Can I try one more time or do you need a paramedic like immediately?
This photo of Danish actress, director, writer, and singer Anna Karina, née Hanne Karin Bayer, was made by Italian photographer Giancarlo Botti, and is one of the most famous images of the famed French New Wave icon. Botti shot this when Karina was filming the musical comedy Anna in 1966 (some sources say 1967). She died a few months ago and many nice tributes appeared online, but the best tribute of all is simply watching one of her highly regarded films. We recommend 1964's Bande à part. See another Karina image here.
No secrets here—de Wulf is de best.
Above is a cover from French publisher Éditions R.R., for Secrets, by author René Roques. Easiest way to get published: own the publishing company. We discuss that and other things about Roques in a bit more detail at this link. The art here is by Jef de Wulf, whose work we've shared numerous times. We love him. There's a lightness and ease to his pieces that few paperback artists achieve. We'll have more from him later.
You try staying calm when there's a killer on the loose.
After several years writing up movies being screened at San Francisco's annual Noir City Film Festival we decided not to do it this year. But we're going to make one exception. The 1946 French drama Panique, for which you see a beautiful promo poster above, is showing at the fest tonight, and since we were able to obtain a copy, we had a look. It isn't a film noir. It's a drama starring Viviane Romance, Max Dalban, and Michel Simon, and it deals with a woman named Alice, her lover Capoulade, and her neighbor Hire, who has a crush on her. The set-up suggests love triangle, but Hire has more than just a romantic interest in Alice. He also believes her boyfriend might be responsible for an unsolved murder. The issue he'll confront is just how strong Alice's loyalties to her boyfriend are.
Every year the Noir City Film Festival draws entries from outside the film noir realm. Panique was probably chosen because its subtext deals with bigotry, an evil that is on the upswing across the globe. The character Hire is Jewish, which leads to serious trouble for him as the film progresses. The powerful screenplay was derived from George Simenon's 1933 novel Les Fiançailles de M. Hire (also the source material for the 1989 film Monsieur Hire), and of course in 1933 in Europe, the flames of anti-semitism were being fanned by demagogic leaders into what would soon be the conflagration of genocide. We can't tell you more about the plot of Panique without giving everything away, but we recommend it. Foreign film buffs will certainly enjoy it.
Something else we recommend is our write-up on Viviane Romance from ten years ago. Many European film performers and artists whose careers spanned World War II either fled the continent, ran afoul of the Nazis, or worked out an accommodation that allowed them to continue in their professions. Romance falls into the third category. The French population was somewhat understanding about stars who decided to keep working even after the Nazis took over the French film industry. They were understanding up to a point, that is. If you're interested in learning more just click this link.
I really like her, but if she lost eighty, maybe ninety pounds, she'd be perfect.
Above is another fun cover from French illustrator Jacques Leclerc, who also signed his art as Jihel, and here works his magic on Roland Patrick's The Lost Nights. We've featured this artist several times. See more here, here, and here.
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