Femmes Fatales Jan 6 2024
WAVE ACTION
Elke snags seashells by the seashore.


German star Elke Sommer shows her beach bum in this shot made during a photo session in Haiti in 1978, and first published in the the U.S. magazine Eros. Sommer is another of those performers who was huge during her time, but doesn't have what today most film buffs consider many quality efforts among her nearly one hundred movies. A Shot in the Dark and The Prize are probably the best remembered from her mainstream output, while cult fans tend to gravitate toward Lisa and the Devil, The Wrecking Crew, and of course Deadlier Than the Male, which we've seen and written about more than once (feel free to click its keywords just below). We're going to explore a few more of those hundred movies of hers, so maybe we'll uncover a treasure the way Sommer has uncovered the giant conch shell she's hanging onto.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 6 2023
VOODOOS AND VOO-DON'TS
Except for a few quaint customs she clings to, she's a typical conservative society lady.


Love at first sight, and marriage on first night. At least a few mid-century writers worked this theme, and readers seemed to buy it. A few descriptions of how beautiful the woman was and voilà—hearts and wedding bells. But whether it actually worked as a device depended upon plot and writing skill. Eric Hatch, in his 1952 novel The Golden Woman, uses the exotic surroundings of Port-au-Prince, Haiti to weave the spell needed to make readers believe a fantastically rich young virgin named Yvette du Chambrigne and a naval officer named Walter Moore meet, fall in love, and marry over the course of a night and day. The romantic but reckless decision brings them into conflict with the Haitian elite, as Yvette has defied her powerful father's wishes to marry her off for political gain to a cruel army general named La Borde.

Yvette is Haitian, but she's also white. Well, near enough to count, though as Hatch writes the character, her smidge of African blood makes her—in some mysterious way that must have made sense to readers back in the day—primitive. We know, we know. We didn't write the thing. We just work here. Hatch's protagonist Walter Moore says he wouldn't care if Yvette were fully and visibly black, but since she's by any realistic measure fully and visibly white, he would say that, wouldn't he? Whether the young lovers are culturally compatible becomes a key question of the story, and this brackets a central plotline in which Moore becomes swept up in—you guessed it—revolution. We've read a few books now that have used the same idea. In this case, Moore basically leads the revolution. While riding a horse. And carrying a sword. While under the protection of the voodoo god Mala. Sounds silly, right? It is. But we have to admit it's also fun.

Eric Hatch is remembered today for his books 1101 Park Avenue (filmed in 1936 as My Man Godfrey) and The Year of the Horse (filmed as The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit). With The Golden Girl he reminds readers that if you got one drop of ink in the milk, the milk was perceived to be fully ink. Even today, someone who is three quarters white and one quarter black is going to be seen as black. The Golden Woman is, in the Year of Our Division 2023, a reminder that ideas around "purity" still predominate—even if unconsciously—for many people. But leaving that fraught discussion aside and judging the book solely as a thriller, it's worth a read, absurd though the story may be. If you're interested in island adventures in general, or Haiti in particular, we say go for it. The art on this Gold Medal edition is by Barye Phillips, influenced by a Life magazine photo from 1948, which you see below.
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Vintage Pulp Jan 23 2023
DESTINY CALLS
Why yes, thank you, ma'am. I'd very much enjoy a dance with you. Do you suppose the band could play a waltz?

We've seen a lot of whites-in-the-tropics covers, but this 1958 Popular Library paperback effort for Peter Bourne's 1947 Haitian drama Drums of Destiny gets across the essential dilemma better than most. Such books always suggest there's something deadening and restrictive about modern civilization, but always come to the eventual conclusion that if life at home sucks, total freedom overseas sucks worse. We've read no books in the sub-genre where the main character stays in tropical lands happy, but surely they exist. They must. We'll dig around. One of those would be an interesting read. As for the tropical culture clash books we've already read, if you're interested we can point to several (but by no means all): here, here, herehere, here, here, and here.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 30 2016
LOVE HAITI RELATIONSHIP
Tropical storm Anita blows into Port-au-Prince.


Set in Haiti, the Italian thriller Al tropico del cancro follows the story of a doctor who invents a powerful hallucinogenic drug that interests various parties who believe it to be priceless. In addition to being a giallo, some people consider this film a classic of—what would you call it?—not blaxploitation, but that unofficial sub-genre of movies (which we also wrote about yesterday in assessing Emmanuelle IV) in which white women go to the tropics and jettison their inhibitions. Though the promise of Renato Casaro's brilliant poster art undoubtedly draws many viewers to the film, star Anita Strindberg's interracial coupling is a highly stylized hallucination or dream, ancillary to the plot. She gives it her theatrical best, though, gangbangy subtext and all. The scene was bold in 1972's racial landscape—and still is today, which shows you how little progress we've made in half a century.

Strindberg is a favorite around Pulp Intl. She was one of our early femmes fatales—in fact the one that made us decide to feature the occasional frontal nude on the site. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to share this shot. Under a ridiculous crown of sculptural ’70s hair, she's all high cheekbones, icy eyes, and a recurved mouth. Everything below her neck looks good too, although she sports a pair of early breast implants, but hey—her body her choice. Her nordic looks juxtapose nicely against Haiti's tropical setting. She's a gleaming alien there, which is important for the sense of disconnection her character feels as the various male cast members busy themselves trying to outsmart each other to acquire the drug formula.

Al tropico del cancro features awesome location shooting in Port-au-Prince, not only in the streets and estates, but in unlikely locales like a functioning abattoir where island beef production is depicted in full gore. Cows aren't the only animals that fare poorly, so be forewarned. The movie eventually ends in foot chases and gunshots, as greed for the formula triggers a spate of violence. Reaching this climax isn't the most gripping ride, but we've been on worse. We recommend the movie for fans of Strindberg, as well as for people interested in historic Port-au-Prince, much of which—the prized Cathédrale de Port-au-Prince, the capital building, the parliament, et al—was destroyed in a 2010 earthquake. Al tropico del cancro premiered in Italy today in 1972.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 17 2014
SPYING ITALIAN STYLE
When in Rome do as the Romans do.

We’ve been enamored of Italian cover art of late, so here are more examples, Complotto ad Haiti, Quinta Colonna, and Operazione Antidroga, all of which are entries in EPI’s very popular Agente Segreto (Secret Agent) series. The series was published during the 1960s and comprised at least 80 separate novels, All three of these were written by Bill Colby (almost certainly a pseudonym), and all seem to have had the same cover artist, possibly Benedetto Caroselli, though we aren’t sure on that. In any case, it’s great work. 
 
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Vintage Pulp Sep 30 2013
SLAVES OF THE REALM
Addio Zio Tom takes on difficult subject matter but doesn't flinch.


Have you ever seen anything quite like this? The temptation to watermark this piece of art was unbelievably strong, but we couldn’t splash lettering across something so unique. You’re probably thinking to yourself that this poster, which as you can see is for a movie entitled Good Bye Uncle Tom, is some obscure episode of 1970s blaxploitation, and you’d be right—in a sense. The movie was originally an Italian production made by directors Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, and was released in Italy as Addio Zio Tom. Here’s the premise: two contemporary documentary filmmakers go back in time to film the American slave trade in person. Here’s the result: one of the most important motion pictures ever made about that period of history. 

We live in strange times. Today, there are influential slavery apologists, and many people are perfectly content to believe them. Addio Zio Tom represents an inconvenient truth, because slave-era documents were culled for the first person writings of various prominent slavers. What the filmmakers end up with is essentially a step-by-step manual on the practice of slavery. And in an audacious screenwriting maneuver, snippets of those historical documents are converted directly into dialogue, so what you hear the slave owning characters say in Addio Zio Tom is exactly what real life slavers, pro-slavery politicians, slave owning Southerners, and slavery apologists actually thought.
 
In Addio Zio Tom we are shown how men and women were chained in the hulls of ships, where they lay in their own vomit and diarrhea for the weeks or months of the middle passage across the Atlantic. We are shown slaves literally tossed down chutes from the ship decks into holding pens once they arrived in America. We see depictions of the mass rape that slaves experienced. In one scene, white men too poor to own slaves of their own raid a slave plantation for the specific purpose of rape. We see torture, castrations, murders, and fugitives hunted down in the woods by vicious dogs. It’s an interminable and mindbending tableau of horrors, shot unflinchingly, indeed voyeuristically. Some say what Jacopetti and Prosperi depict is false. Those people don’t generally have any intelligent reason other than their personal conviction that slavery can’t have been that bad, or their “free”-market dogma that slaves were treated well because they were valuable cargo.
 
Actual history tells us different. Slaves were insured, as long as their deaths took place at sea, but that practice had little mitigating effect. The most commonly cited mortality figure for the middle passage is 2.5 to 4 million deaths. For a sense of the range of debate, though, consider that there are estimates as low as one million (still horrific), but conversely, as high as ten million if  you include those who died during forced marches to African slave ports. But even without exhaustive research, it isn'tdifficult to understand that Addio Zio Tom’s depictions are broadly accurate. Consider rape. Today, in maximum-security prisons, between ten and twenty percent of men report being raped. The actual number is far, far higher. In the armed forces about 20% of women report being sexually assaulted. The point is, more than four hundred years after the beginning of the Atlantic slave trade this is how men in positions of partial or total authority treat those within their power. How did they behave centuries ago, when their victims were literally their property?
 
Addio Zio Tom will make you think about things like that, but only if you’re willing. Of course, being a thought-provoking or important movie (which is the phrase we used at top), is very different from being a good movie. And here we get to the crux of it. We wouldn’t describe Addio Zio Tom as good. Audacious, yes. Technically impressive, certainly. A bold satire, perhaps. And beyond a doubt it’s complex—we can’t even get into the film’s contemporary framing device without writing three more paragraphs, so we won’t bother. But good? Hard to say. It’s a very difficult film to judge on its merits because of the subject matter. It was disastrously reviewed—that much is indisputable. Roger Ebert called it a contemptuous insult to decency.
 
In many of those reviews, Jacopetti’s and Prosperi’s motives came into question. It’s easy to understand why. For example, can you guess how the movie was even logistically possible? Because Jacopetti and Prosperi filmed in Haiti, where the genocidal dictator François Duvalier rounded up thousands of Haitian extras to be subjected to Addio Zio Tom’s degrading recreations of slave trade practices for mere pennies a day, orsometimes just a meal. Did Jacopetti and Prosperi believe they were serving a higher cause, and make a painful decision that dealing with Duvalier was a necessary evil? Or did they simply see it economically and decide the way to bring their vision to life was to depend upon someone who could treat humans as property?
 
In any case, getting back to the art, if you look closely you’ll notice this is actually a Japanese poster (one of two that were made), though nearly all the text is English. But we shared it today because the movie opened in Italy today in 1971. Also, though it took a while for the idea to sink in, the mole made the difference—it's possible that Radiah Frye is the model on the poster. Not 100%. But maybe. We featured her as one of our earliest femmes fatales, so if it's her it's a pleasant surprise to see her again. In summation, watch Addio Zio Tom if you dare.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 20 2011
WEEKEND PASS
Do that voodoo that you do so well.

Published today in 1974, Weekender was a low rent, digest-sized tabloid from Australia. This is not an especially wonderful pulp find—we bought three of them for an Aussie dollar apiece and the price pretty much tells the tale. However, it does have a nice photo of Pulp Intl. favorite Edy Williams in panel eight. And you also get Frank Sinatra and Mick Jagger, which seems like a passing of the torch of sorts. Probably the highlight of the issue is a New Zealand girl’s tale of Haitian voodoo possession, in which she includes as many times as possible the phrases “my white flesh” and “their black bodies.” We could spend hours discussing the use of racial stereotypes in the exploration of repressed interracial desire, but since voodoo articles abound in seventies tabloids, we’ll leave it for another occasion. Lastly, in panel fourteen we have a bit of eye candy for our female readers—to wit, some beefcake featuring a model whose ass is so taut it looks like he’s trying to turn a lump of coal into a 100-carat diamond. We’re not jealous, though. Our asses produce diamonds set in platinum bands with engravings inside that read: We are the shit. We’ll get to our other issues of Weekender a little later.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
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