Pawn to king's palace—pawn takes queen.
They really don't make many like this anymore. We're talking about high budget adventures in an international setting, combined with romance and a few laughs. Hollywood used to specialize in international glamour, but nowadays in big budget movies Americans go abroad mainly to slaughter or be slaughtered. Gambit, which starred Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine, and opened nationwide in the U.S. today in 1966, falls into the same category as Charade, To Catch a Thief, The Thomas Crown Affair, How To Steal a Million, Bedtime Story, and numerous other immensely pleasing cinematic excursions. Too bad those are far better films.
Michael Caine plays a con man who has found in Shirley MacLaine the physical double of the dead wife of Ahmad Shahbandar, the richest man in the world. Shahbandar's wife was in turn the virtual double of the ancient Burmese queen Li Szu. Shahbandar has an immensely valuable carved bust of this queen, which he bought for its resemblance to his wife. Caine hopes that once Shahbandar gets a look at MacLaine, he'll let his guard down and invite them into his inner circle, setting himself up for a theft of the bust. If this plot premise seems a bit cluttered to you, we thought the same.
But it doesn't matter because it's not really the main gimmick in the flick. That would be Caine's fantasy of his perfect crime, versus its reality. In his imagining, which makes up the first thirty minutes of the film, MacLaine goes through the motions of the heist like a mute automaton. Then the film restarts with the real MacLaine, and this one talks. Worse for Caine, she has questions, doubts, and, most upsetting of all, opinions. If half an hour of Caine imagining the perfect crime—especially when as a viewer you have no idea it's a fantasy—seems overly long, we thought the same. Again. But we mention it specifically to keep you from turning the film off, which is definitely a possibility for any MacLaine fans dismayed that she's trancewalking through her role. Stick with it and you'll get the same lively star from The Apartment, Irma la Douce, and other hits.
Obviously, we wouldn't have placed this movie in the same category as Charade et al unless there's romance, and MacLaine and Caine—whose names, by the way, sound like a country band or a Vegas magic duo—duly fall in love. But you won't buy it. The script says they fall in love, so okay, by the three-quarters mark they adore each other, but the love spark is never there. Luckily there's also a heist, some comedy, and all the other trimmings of the adventure/romance genre, so despite the film's shortcomings you may find it enjoyable. Then after you finish you can watch any of the movies we mentioned at top and note the difference when this formula is well executed.
Hi, I'm not Chinese but I get to pretend I am in this movie. What a coincidence. I get to pretend I'm Arab. Hi, guess what? Ditto!
And me? I basically get to play myself, because, well, I'm Michael frickin' Caine. Plus I can't do accents.
Regarding the above quips about ethnicity, they aren't completely out of the blue. We happen to be doing some work on a television series that's causing consternation online because of its casting of black and latino actors. See, there's a sizable contingent out there that wants an all-white cast in this thing, because the source material (written back when no white authors were putting characters of color in their lightweight adventure novels, because, why hurt your book sales?) is ostensibly all white.
It's a headache, dealing with these folks. Most of the complainers talk about “their” territory being encroached upon, and say idiotic things like, “Why can't blacks and latinos write their own books?” They've invented a term—“blackwashing.” These intellectually deficient people forget—or never bothered to learn—that blacks and others were erased from, let's see, pretty much every Bible movie ever made (since none of the people in the Middle East of that era were white), and pretty much every western ever made (up to 25% of cowboys in the old west were black), and those films alone comprise many thousands of opportunities, both creatively and financially, wiped out by American segregation.
A look around Pulp Intl. will reveal white actors made-up yellow to play Asians and Pacific Islanders, brown to play Native Americans, Indians, Mexicans, Arabs, and so forth. We've written about maybe two dozen such films, but there were literally thousands. Hell, even stage minstrels came about partly because audiences wanted to see comedic black performances but were for the most part not about to watch actual black men do it. So we thought Gambit would be a good moment to point out yet again the century-long erasure of actors of color from lucrative opportunities in cinema, both in front of and behind cameras, and to note that diversity in media is (inadequate) redress of a hundred years of racist exclusion.
Every time someone sees the cast in this tv show we're working on and complains about white culture being encroached upon, if you were to check their music collection you'd probably find such thefts as white guys rapping, white guys playing the blues, white guys playing jazz, and white guys playing rock and roll, from Elvis on down the line. When you include clothing, style, dance, language, and more, pretty much everything people of color have invented in America has been co-opted by white culture and magically transformed into money, while simultaneously all the literature people of color supposedly don't produce was summarily ignored by Hollywood.
Despite all we've written about this today, we're basically pretty dispassionate on the subject. White casts reflected an understanding among filmmakers of the shortest path to making money. Sure, there has long been a tiny percentage of cinema about race that had performers of color, but basically, movies were filled with whites (even if they had to wear shoe polish to play characters of color) because audiences were understood to be white. So why alienate your audience? But the diverse peoples that have always existed in America are today both more numerous and more economically significant—and the younger folks who actually fuel movie industry profits are particularly diverse. Therefore yesteryear's logic still applies for studios: Why alienate your audience?
Hollywood diversity is about making money, just as yesteryear's segregation was. We don't mind that people hate diverse casts. They're racists—duh. No further explanation needed. But what irks us is racists who pretend to be oppressed, conveniently ignoring generations of exclusion perpetrated either directly by them, or on their behalf. Nobody in their family tree was ever denied economic opportunity by nationwide industries because of skin color. People in Hollywood are in essence saying today, "Hmm.. you know, maybe it would be nice for our industry to stop screwing over people of color and actually give them some opportunities here. That's fair, right?" We think it's sad that so many people either don't get that, or pretend not to, but whatever, there's our explanation for why we joked about it above. Because behind every quip there's a story, if not an unsolicited rant.
Bardot joins the Pulp Intl. gymnastics team.
You may remember we've been keeping our eyes open for shots like this one. Here you see Brigitte Bardot hanging from a pair of rings in Louveciennes, a northern suburb of Paris, in 1952. We have eight more examples of vintage actresses getting bendy with their bodies. If we'd suspected we'd eventually find so many we'd have made them a group post. But as it is, you have to visit them individually: Danielle Darrieux, Ellen Drew, Constance Dowling, Sophie Hardy, Joey Heatherton, Gitte Haenning, Rosemary LaPalnche, and Betty Compson. We will surely find more down the line.
I heard you the first time. I'm just choosing to ignore you.
We've been told that this low rent cover for Justin Kent's 1955 fetish cheapie Touch Me Not! is by sleaze art master Eric Stanton. If so, it's a mere sketch compared to his normal style, but we'll accept that it's him. Last time we checked, Touch Me Not! was selling for $155, which is outrageous for something that looks like it was stapled at a Kinko's. But in this case at least, the buyer would get something historically significant. This book was central to an obscenity case brought in 1959 by the state of New York against Times Square bookstore owner Edward Mishkin that after seven years went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1966. Mishkin lost the case, and Touch Me Not!, which had been confiscated with numerous other books, remained under wraps for fifty years. You can see plenty more Eric Stanton art by clicking his keywords below.
If you can't find one you like it's because you aren't trying.
This poster was made to promote the movie Nureta yokujo: Tokudashi nijuichi nin, known in English as Wet Lust: 21 Strippers. With a title like that we of course gave it a watch, and it follows an Osaka vagrant named Hosuke who finds a wallet filled with 60,000 yen, and uses it to remake himself into what he describes as “sort of a pimp.” Really, though, he's more like an aspirant leech, and he soon has a profitable hustle going when he meets Meika Seri (we have a promo image of her below right, squatting in foliage, just because) and shepherds her into earning money for them both as a stripper. Yuko Katagiri soon enters the fold, and she and Meika are shortly having sex at home and doing the same on stage for money. Hosuke, now an unneeded presence, tries to hang onto his meal tickets via guilt and intimidation, but such a state of affairs can only last so long. This is a Nikkatsu Studios movie, though we aren't sure if it qualifies as one of its infamous roman pornos. It resembles one, though, in that it resolves in ironic fashion, as Hosuke's arc ends both fittingly and amusingly. But what you really want in a movie called 21 Strippers is—we're just guessing here—lots of stripping. Lucky you, there's a ton, and from a purely aesthetic perspective, it's interesting to watch the Japanese approach to this art form. Which means in the end, you can pretend the movie is educational. Get out your notepad. We'll be testing you on the material later. Nureta yokujo: Tokudashi nijuichi nin premiered in Japan today in 1974.
Here's some bonus material for you, one promo image each of Yuko Katagiri and Meika Seri. We also, some of you may remember, shared other excellent shots of Meika which you can see here and here. Including the squatting shot above, it all adds up to a nice little collection. In addition, she starred in the 1974 roman porno flick (Maruhi) shikijô mesu ichiba, aka Secret Chronicle: She Beast Market, which we wrote about here.
One motivated American outsmarts an entire cabal of communists in Spillane crime drama.
Mickey Spillane's 1951 red scare caper One Lonely Night is, on one hand, classic Spillane starring his franchise sociopath Mike Hammer, but on the other, silly, polemical, and painfully dated. Mike Hammer the insane killer is kind of likeable, but Mike Hammer the insane killer with a political agenda is a bit tedious. Hammer's anti-commie pronouncements usually come across like set-ups for punchlines, as if he might go, “Just kidding! If we're comparing body counts we capitalists are running neck and neck! Gen-o-cide! Sla-vuh-ree!” But nope—Hammer remains both privileged and aggrieved throughout. In that way he's a very modern character. Since Spillane clearly thought Soviet influence in America was a serious threat he at least should have populated this violent slog through NYC's leftist underground with canny commies. But when they're this sloppy, why worry? Oh well. We'll always have Kiss, Me Deadly.
Don't just turn over a new leaf. Turn over twelve of them.
Let's start the year right. Everyone is hoping for a better 2021 than 2020. That's assuming you adhere to constrained, non-scientific ideas about time—for cynics and realists it's just another day. But in any case, above you see the cover of a 1959 nudie calendar that came inside an issue of the U.S. magazine Cocktail, a creation of Beacon Publications. The interior is below, and those with sharp eyes will spot a few notables—burlesque dancer Candy Barr in June, Shirley Kilpatrick in July and August (her July pose is the same as from the famed promo poster for the sci-fi film The Astounding She-Monster), and Jean Nieto, aka Ramona Rogers, in November. The other models may be well known too, but not by us, at least not today. When the cava hangover wears off, maybe our brains will work better. Then again, maybe the damage is permanent. Only time will tell. Happy New Year.
You really don't want to wake this guy.
Here's an amazing piece of international pulp, a cover in Yiddish from M. Mizrahi Publishing for Robert Bloch's thriller Psycho. We recently posted a collection of Psycho covers, but we held this one back because it deserved its own moment. This was painted by an artist named Arie Moskowitz, sometimes referred to as M. Arie, who produced several more fronts we may share later. We found this one on Israeli Wikipedia, of all places, where it was posted by the National Library of Israel. It's quite a find.
U.S. Adam goes in search of adult entertainment after dark.
We're taking a break from the Australian Adam magazine to remind everyone that the unrelated U.S. men's magazine Adam was also filled with colorful art, fun fiction, weird facts, and beautiful models—in this case Danish pin-up and centerfold Elsa Sorensen, aka Dane Arden, who you see on the cover. We still think the down under Adam is the best, but northern Adam is always worth a look, and this issue published in 1960 is a representative example. Actually, there were two northern Adams. There was a French magazine of that name too, unrelated to the others. We've been meaning to locate one to buy online, but the price hasn't been right yet.
Anyway, this issue of Adam contains the usual fiction and humor, plus features on strip clubs in Paris, Tokyo, and Long Beach, a profile on New Orleans torture mistress Madame Delphine Lelaurie, and other pleasures of the evening. It also highlights the “dirtiest book ever written”—supposedly Il Commandante di Pompeii, which we suppose can keep you company on lonely nights if you don't get to Paris, Tokyo, or Long Beach. We have many scans below, and other issues of U.S. Adam you can find here, here, here, and here. And if you're interested in the Aussie Adam we have scans from almost seventy issues in the website, and you can see them by starting here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—International Opium Convention Signed
The International Opium Convention is signed at The Hague, Netherlands, and is the first international drug control treaty. The agreement was signed by Germany, the U.S., China, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, and Siam.
1946—CIA Forerunner Created
U.S. president Harry S. Truman establishes the Central Intelligence Group or CIG, an interim authority that lasts until the Central Intelligence Agency is established in September of 1947.
1957—George Metesky Is Arrested
The New York City "Mad Bomber," a man named George P. Metesky, is arrested in Waterbury, Connecticut and charged with planting more than 30 bombs. Metesky was angry about events surrounding a workplace injury suffered years earlier. Of the thirty-three known bombs he planted, twenty-two exploded, injuring fifteen people. He was apprehended based on an early use of offender profiling and because of clues given in letters he wrote to a newspaper. At trial he was found legally insane and committed to a state mental hospital.
1950—Alger Hiss Is Convicted of Perjury
American lawyer Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury in connection with an investigation by the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), at which he was questioned about being a Soviet spy. Hiss served forty-four months in prison. Hiss maintained his innocence and fought his perjury conviction until his death in 1996 at age 92.
1977—Carter Pardons War Fugitives
U.S. President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all of the country's Vietnam War draft evaders, many of whom had emigrated to Canada. He had made the pardon pledge during his election campaign, and he fulfilled his promise the day after he took office.
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