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.
Demongeot and her chambre of secrets.
Above, a beautiful Belgian poster in French and Dutch for La chambre de Madame, aka Upstairs and Downstairs. We talked about it a while back. Shorter version—Mylène is the pause that refreshes.
Albert Camus' fatal 1960 auto accident may have been a KGB assassination.
Italian author Giovanni Catelli has just published a book that claims French writer Albert Camus was assassinated by the KGB, rather than dying in an auto accident, as largely believed. When you say the words “Cold War intrigue,” we're all in, so the story caught our eye. Catelli's theory, which he first began airing in 2011, is that the KGB silenced Camus because he was a globally famous figure who made a habit of criticizing the Soviet Union. The order was allegedly given by Dmitri Shepilov, the USSR’s minister of internal affairs, after Camus slammed him in the French newspaper Franc-Tireur in March 1957. Camus died in 1960, so the killing took three years to come to fruition, according to Catelli.
His book length argument, La mort de Camus, is getting white hot press right now, however it's very interesting to look back at contemporary articles about the crash. Camus was riding as a passenger in a car driven by his publisher Michel Gallimard, with Gallimard's wife Janine and their daughter Anne in the rear seat. Michel Gallimard died, but his wife and daughter survived to describe the crash. Michel was driving fast and had been told to slow down, and had drunk wine at dinner.
A gander at the wreckage of the heavy Farcel Vega HK500 attests to its speed. We checked the various articles popping up online and found none that mentioned either the velocity of the car or the drinking of the driver, but that's how the internet works—a fantastic claim circles the world five times faster than anything resembling balance or a fact check.
Catelli, though, has an answer for the reckless driving theory—the Soviets had attached a device to the car that would puncture a tire only in the event of sufficient speed. If the Soviets came up with the device described, it would not kick in without the added ingredient of driver haste, which often happens in conjunction with alcohol consumption, which in turn is a near certainty when talking about French people, all of which means the chances of a crash with muddied circumstances were pretty high. The device, if it ever existed, was certainly clever. It would be like a device that tied your shoelaces together, but only if you went downstairs in a rush, and you happened to live in a fourth floor flat with a balky elevator.
Catelli's belief that Camus was disposed of via assassination is bolstered by the fact that the car he was riding in somehow careened off a stretch of straight road thirty feet wide. Nobody described Michel Gallimard trying to dodge a hedgehog or pothole, so despite speed and possible drunkenness, some unforeseen factor seems required to send the vehicle into the weeds. On the other hand, three years is a long time to enact a death plot. We've seen Yankees and Red Sox fans patch their shit up in less time. But let's move this death from the settled bin into the mysterious bin, which is where we like everything to be anyway. Camus, the famed absurdist, once wrote that, “There can be nothing more absurd than to die in a car accident.” And if Catelli is correct, nothing can be more convenient either.
We expected lightweight erotica but got stuck in a quagmire.
“Don't worry, Mom. We've got penicillin...” With a cover blurb like that, we thought Vietnam Underside! might be something along the lines of L.J. Brown's infamous sleaze novel Viet-Nookie, but no. Instead, the book is a deadly serious history of prostitution and sexual practices in Vietnam from the mid-1800s to the date of publication, which is 1966. It's also—and there's no grey area here—virulently racist. Leland Gardner writes reams about the depravity of the Annamites (an 1800s word used to refer to the Vietnamese), disparages in the most detailed terms their hygiene, morality, ethics, customs, religion, history, mentality, intelligence, and more. He accuses them of practicing pederasty, of allowing incest between pre-teens, and of being inherently promiscuous. The diseases they're allegedly rife with include yellow fever, elephantaisis, syphilis, and gonorrhea, all subsequently inflicted upon ivory pure Westerners. When Gardner writes something true—for instance about the deleterious effects of betel nut chewing on the teeth and mouth—he goes on, and on, and on. He describes Vietnamese women as having “black lacquered teeth and blood red mouths” at least fifty times. Interesting, isn't it, that just when your country's overseas invasion is ramping up you find that, basically, your foes don't deserve to live? Gardner actually claims the Vietnamese were well on their way to self-destruction long before the Yanks showed up. He writes about the war: “[these] decadent, deteriorating people have been adopted by a benevolent Uncle Sam.” Right at that instant Vietnam Underside! got to be too much, so we scrambled to the top of the literary embassy and barely got the last helicopter out. When it comes to choosing books based on the cover art, you win some and you lose some.
You haven't gained an ounce, baby. And even if you had, ten years of marriage have taught me to keep my dumb mouth shut.
Random French goodness today, a cover for J. Effeme's romance novel Reine de beauté. This was published by Editions de S.T.A.E.L. in 1950 with Louis Carrière on the art duties. What's the S.T.A.E.L. stand for? Some Toulouse Artfucks Editing Lite-Porn. Well, the company was from Toulouse. The rest, don't quote us on it.
The more it comes into focus the clearer the danger is.
Above, a beautiful promo by Roger Rojac for La femme au portrait, known in English as The Woman in the Window. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1944, but didn't reach France until 1947. We talked about this one a long while ago—Edward G. Robinson is bored with his life, but gets more than he bargained for when he helps a damsel in distress. Solid film noir, disliked by many for its ending, but with a French poster disliked by none.
Oh! Heh heh. You had something on your shirt and I was... er... just going to stab it for you.
It's been a while since we featured Michel Gourdon's work, so above you see a cover for L'évadée de Saint-Lazare by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain, for Paris based publishers Éditions Robert Laffont, number 29 in its series Collection Rex. The book is about a ruthless criminal named Fantômas, who wears a blue mask and black gloves. He was one of the most popular creations in the history of French literature. Souvestre and Allain wrote thirty-two books about him between 1911 and 1913. That's not a typo. They wrote fast, about a book a month, and were greatly helped by the money earned by selling him to the movies, where he became a stalwart of France's early silent cinema. Éditions Robert Laffont republished the books during the 1960s, with Michel Gourdon illustrating all of them, and the above edition coming in 1963. Rear cover below. We'll probably get back to Fantômas later.
Parisian publisher does erotica as only the French can.
Today we have for your enjoyment an issue of Paris Frou Frou, #46, published in 1956. This was the brainchild of S.N.E.T.P., which decoded is Société Nouvelle D'editions Théâtrales Parisiennes. See, the French understood that smut must wear a fig leaf of intellectualism, which is exactly why we write so much on Pulp Intl. rather than just publish reams of nude photos. Hah, just kidding (did we mention the Pulp Intl. girlfriends are out of town?). The eroticism is just a bonus that comes with all the fiction, film, and art. And it's a bonus that helps our traffic.
Anyway, on the cover of this mag is Austrian actress Nadja Tiller, and the rear features a nice shot pairing yanks Lori Nelson and Mamie Van Doren. With a wrapper like that the inside must be nice, and indeed it is. You'll see Sabrina, the one-name star time has forgotten, as well as U.S. nudist model Diane Webber, aka Marguerite Empey. If your memory is very sharp you'll recall one of the same Webber photos appearing in an issue of the U.S. magazine Male from 1958 we shared a while back. Mixed in with the celebs is the usual assortment of Parisian showgirls. We'll revisit Paris Frou Frou later.
Erm... before you shoot... I just want you to know it was all her fault.
Crime en deux temps, or “crime in two stages,” was originally released in 1939 as The Case of the Rolling Bones. For some reason the French publishers of this book, Presses de la Cité, call legendary mystery author Erle Stanley Gardner just Stanley Gardner, which sounds, well, non-legendary. Stanley Gardner is a guy at the office you don't talk to because he's a skin picker. Erle Stanley Gardner is a guy who, if he likes you, can get you into Nobu. So, the Erle is needed.
Plotwise, this revolves around greed, gold, and a group of people who want to prevent their relative from losing his fortune to his prospective wife. In order to stop this imagined horror, they commit the relative to a nuthouse before he can get married. Which backfires when he escapes. As always with Gardner there's a murder, which brings Perry Mason onto the scene to sort everything out.
As you might guess, because Gardner was (and is) an immensely popular author there are several English language paperback covers for this, and they all feature dice in some form. Which makes sense, because the original title came about because there's an actual die maker in the book. He makes crooked dice, and he gets murdered. This uncredited French cover from 1950 caught our eye because of its non-literal approach. No dice, but it's a winner.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1924—St. Petersburg is renamed Leningrad
St. Peterburg, the Russian city founded by Peter the Great in 1703, and which was capital of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years, is renamed Leningrad three days after the death of Vladimir Lenin. The city had already been renamed Petrograd in 1914. It was finally given back its original name St. Petersburg in 1991.
1966—Beaumont Children Disappear
In Australia, siblings Jane Nartare Beaumont, Arnna Kathleen Beaumont, and Grant Ellis Beaumont, aged 9, 7, and 4, disappear from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, and are never seen again. Witnesses claim to have spotted them in the company of a tall, blonde man, but over the years, after interviewing many potential suspects, police are unable generate enough solid leads to result in an arrest. The disappearances remain Australia's most infamous cold case.
1949—First Emmy Awards Are Presented
At the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles, California, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents the first Emmy Awards. The name Emmy was chosen as a feminization of "immy", a nickname used for the image orthicon tubes that were common in early television cameras.
1971—Manson Family Found Guilty
Charles Manson and three female members of his "family" are found guilty of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, which Manson orchestrated in hopes of bringing about Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise between blacks and whites.
1961—Plane Carrying Nuclear Bombs Crashes
A B-52 Stratofortress carrying two H-bombs experiences trouble during a refueling operation, and in the midst of an emergency descent breaks up in mid-air over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Five of the six arming devices on one of the bombs somehow activate before it lands via parachute in a wooded region where it is later recovered. The other bomb does not deploy its chute and crashes into muddy ground at 700 mph, disintegrating while driving its radioactive core fifty feet into the earth, where it remains to this day.
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