Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin, and Gloria Grahame raise the temperature in Italy.
Above, three Italian posters for Il grande caldo, better known as The Big Heat. The top piece was painted by Ezio Tarantelli, and middle one is by by Anselmo Ballester, both of whom we featured a while back, here and here. We already talked about the film. If you haven't watched it, try to make the time. It's good.
Hi, I'm Sophia Loren, here to tell you that when I eat eels, I eat Comacchio eels.
We live in a community of old fishermen. We've learned some things. Sophia Loren, we can declare without much doubt, is an old fisherman's dream. Hairy armpits, safety pin holding her shirt closed, mismatched buttons, rope for a belt. All of that indicates an uncomplicated attitude, which old fishermen appreciate. And, most importantly, Loren apparently loves eels. This photo shows her holding aloft a tin of Comacchio canned eels, and before you judge, let us just say that eels taste great. We've never eaten the Italian variety, but we suspect one canned eel tastes very much like another. Please don't send emails telling us how wrong we are and that eels vary greatly depending on which waters they slither through. They're eels. How different can they really be?
Let's focus on Loren. This is one of her most famous photos, and the reason she looks this way is because she's in costume as her character Nives Mongolini from the 1954 film La donna del fiume, aka The River Girl, which was shot in Comacchio, a town famous for its tinned eels. The photo was made by Federico Patallani, and while we've heard it was used for an advertisement, we've never seen the ad, so we're dubious on that. We think it's just a film promo designed to call attention to the fact that Loren filmed in Italy's most famous eel town. But even if it isn't an ad, we bet it caused a spike in eel sales, and possibly caused bald-pitted women to consider ditching the razor. If you can make it look as good as Loren (or Eleonora Giorgi or Kuroki Kaoru) why not? We have another Loren image below from the same session, with her pits covered, for you hair haters.
Welcome to Wilson's house of pain and leather.
American actress Ajita Wilson was born in Brooklyn but became a big star in Italian sexploitation and porn movies. She was transsexual, having been born George Wilson, but opting for gender reassignment in the mid-1970s. She launched her career in New York City, making a name for herself in the red light district of the era, which back then was centered around Times Square, these days aka Disneyland east. Not long after she launched her adult career she was seen by a European producer and offered a chance to work across the pond in historic Rome. She jumped at the chance.
Wilson appeared in close to fifty movies, starting with 1976's The Nude Princess. In Perverse oltre le sbarre, which is known in the U.S. as Hell Behind Bars, she plays a killer and jewel thief named Conchita who gets tossed in the prigione and has to negotiate the usual women-in-prison staples—corruption, violence, lesbianism, and a sadistic warden. Oh, and let's not forget screechy girl fights, and sexual harassment showers. Did we leave anything out? Ah, cavity searches. Can't forget those. Torture by high voltage shock. Illicit drugs. Karate chopping double-crossers. Breathy sexploitation soundtrack. Maybe that doesn't count, though, because the prisoners theoretically can't hear it.
Yes, this prison Ajita ends up in is pretty bad, but it could be worse—at least the warden lets the women wear lingerie. Rita Silva and Linda Jones co-star in what becomes a standard WIP escape drama, and of course the escape is more fraught than anyone expected. As prison sexploitation Perverse oltre le sbarre is the same as most others, with the exception that the budget is obviously lower. With nearly fifty films to her credit Wilson almost certainly made something better. We'll take a look and see if we can find which efforts those might be, and you'd be advised to do the same and skip this one. We'll see Wilson again, though. Perverse oltre le sbarre opened in Italy today in 1984.
The mile high club and beyond.
Stefani Casini has appeared in dozens of films, playing notable roles in Suspiria, Blood of Dracula, and Andy Warhol's Bad. None of those parts are as notable, in our opinion, as these photos of her playing around on an old Itavia Aerolinee DC-9. Itavia went out of business in the early 1980s, but Casini kept right on going and she's still acting today, with a headlining role in the well reviewed 2019 drama Dafne. We couldn't locate an actual date on these pix, but they're probably from around 1978.
Bogart and Bacall mix love and career.
Above, two Luigi Martinati posters for Il grande sonno, aka The Big Sleep, with stars and spouses Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. These posters are more colorful than the U.S. versions because Warner Brothers had cut back on printing costs due to World War II. But when the film came out in Italy today in 1947 a full palette of color had returned to the mix. See a small collection Martinati's great work here.
Hi everyone. Meet my personal trainer and role model.
There's nothing like a perfect butt, and you certainly see a prime example in the above photo. And as a bonus, Raquel Welch's isn't bad either. This image was shot at Villa Adriana, aka Hadrian's Villa, in Rome in 1966.
The first step in any investigation is to get your translations right.
Dagli archivi della polizia criminale, which premiered in Italy today in 1973, falls into the category of Italian cinema known as poliziottesco. Apparently, this never had a U.S. release, since it lacks an English title, but the Italian title translates as “from the criminal police archives.” Sounds pretty straightforward. We gave it a watch and it's an incredibly cheesy thriller about the chase for microfilm containing information that could smash a Tunisian drug ring. The cops had it at one point, but the chief inspector stored it in the largest but least safe safe in town and it was immediately stolen by an opportunistic officer with predatory capitalist tendencies. Now the police are looking for him, the crooks are looking for him, and both the cops and robbers are taking bullets and beatings all over the place. The movie stars Edmund Purdom, a prolific but somewhat unknown actor, and has a supporting cast featuring Cleofe Del Cile, Sergio Ciani, Miriam Alex as an investigative journalist, bodybuilder Gordon Mitchell, and bodybuilt Zula, who does a nude dance number in what's supposed to be a Tunisian nightclub.
While Zula is a highlight, this production resides squarely in the atrocious category, and that's even without the disastrous English subtitles that were on the version we saw. A digression: back when we lived in Guatemala, Patrick Swayze's Road House would come on television occasionally. No idea why. The movie had been in cinemas more than a decade earlier. We guess Guatemaltecos loved Swayze's balletic moves and winning smile. Anyway, at one point Sam Elliot describes how dumb the clientele at his bar is, and tells Swayze, “This place has a sign hangin' over the urinal that says, 'Don't eat the big white mint.'” But whoever did the subtitles didn't hear “mint.” The translation they decided on was, “No te comas los grandes hombres blancos”—“Don't eat the big white men.” See what a difference that makes? And the movie was broadcast that way over and over, no correction ever made. The point is subtitles really matter. Dagli archivi della polizia criminale had really bad ones. A sampling below:
There's a gym for boxing in the nearby. In order to not get caught our men will wear some sweaters.
Look at him carefully, you have to do an oddjob on the side.
This time it's all my credit. Let me be thanked for compliments.
Don't be scared. I'm the best Teddy Webb's friend.
Miriam Alex: What sort of journalist would I be if I didn't pry into others' business? Ed Purdom: There's nothing to discover inside my business.
We did nothing but breaking his bones. If you resist the worse will happen.
What are we waiting to gun for him?
Maybe they even take offence it.
The seeing this was been the worse ever.*
*Actually, we made that one up. Don't watch this movie. It's really bad.
Ex-footballer Fred Williamson finds hits in cinema a bit more elusive than hits on a gridiron.
Above is a poster for the blaxploitation movie Mr. Mean, which hit cinemas this month in 1977. First, the title. Mr. Mean. We don't like it. It doesn't project the dignity of Mr. Majestyk, the approachable earthiness of Mr. Ed, the dystopian oppressiveness of Mr. Robot, the humor of Mr. Bean, the cultural examination of Mr. Baseball, the weirdness of Mr. Meaty, the paternalism of Mr. Skeffington, the righteousness of They Call Me Mr. Tibbs!, and, most importantly, the melodic promise of the forgotten ’80s pop band Mr. Mister. In short, Mr. Mean just sounds like a movie about a guy nobody wants to know.
It was written, produced, and directed by ex-NFL bonecrusher Fred Williamson, and long story short, directing a film is just a little more complicated than spearing wide receivers as a defensive back. He should have done better, since this was his fifth go-round of nearly twenty in the director's chair. Possibly the studio messed up his final cut. Or, considerably more likely, it was a disaster from the snap. Problem one: there's an unbelievable number of scenes of Williamson going from point A to B, either by car on on foot. If all the transit scenes were cut the movie would be ten minutes shorter. Problem two: every actor in the film is made of wood.
But we made it through this interminable slog across a fireswamp of first year film student errors for two reasons—Williamson himself, who has charisma and actually does mostly okay in the lead role, and his co-star Crippy Yocard. Both are great looking and many viewers will probably dig him, her, or both. Yocard in particular was one of the more free-spirited Italian stars, which she proved by posing for numerous extremely nude photos, including this one. Back yet? Now just imagine what the others are like. Maybe there's even a third point of interest with the movie—it feels a bit arthouse, which makes it a curiosity within the blaxploitation genre.
Notice we haven't discussed the plot? Fred didn't even know what it was, so how can we? Basically, he plays a fixer living in Rome who takes jobs come what may, but is asked to cross the bright white ethical line and kill a guy. He doesn't want to do it, but he needs the money, the target is supposedly a real asshole, and so forth. Despite the hackneyed premise, a decent movie could have resulted, but it feels as if an investor backed out halfway through and Williamson and crew found themselves stuck up the Tiber River with neither paddles nor budget.
So what's the upshot here? Williamson gets to strut and whip ass, Yocard gets naked, and arrogant white villains get obliterated. All good things. An unexpected aspect is that the legendary funk band Ohio Players get the soundtrack duties and close the movie with “Good Luck Charm,” which is a song so good it almost erases the memory of them opening the movie with a laughably bad theme song called—guess?—“Mr. Mean.” What can be said? Even musical geniuses will fumble when pressured. As for Williamson—he just dropped the ball. Which is why he was a defensive back in the first place.
Murder is in the eye of the beholder.
Above are three beautiful posters for L'occhio che uccide, or “the eye that kills,” which premiered in Italy today in 1961. The movie was originally called Peeping Tom when released in Britain in 1960. The second and third posters are signed by Renato Casaro, while the top one is unsigned. But it resembles his work, so what the heck—let's say he painted all three until someone corrects us. This movie was a career killer, a bizarre and confounding thriller that irreparably damaged the ambitions of director Michael Powell, but which today has ardent advocates. In the mood for a voyeur mass murderer who tries to turn his killings into art? See our write-up here, and check out a Japanese poster for the flick here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1917—First Jazz Record Is Made
In New Orleans, The Original Dixieland Jass Band records the first ever jazz record for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band was frequently billed as the "Creators of Jazz", but in reality all the members had previously played in the Papa Jack Laine bands, a group of racially mixed performers who helped form the basis of Dixieland while playing under bandleader George Laine.
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
1920—The Nazi Party Is Founded
The small German Workers' Party, or DAP, which was under the direction of Adolf Hitler, changes its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Though Hitler adopted the socialist label to attract working class Germans, his party in fact embraced mainly anti-socialist ideas. The group became known in English as the Nazi Party, and within the next fifteen years expanded to become the most powerful force in German politics.
1942—Battle of Los Angeles Takes Place
A object flying over wartime Los Angeles triggers a massive anti-aircraft barrage
, ultimately killing 3 civilians. Initially the target of the aerial barrage is thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but it is later suggested to be imaginary and a case of "war nerves", a lost weather balloon, a blimp, a Japanese fire balloon, or even an extraterrestrial craft. The true nature of the object or objects remains unknown to this day, but the event is known as the Battle of Los Angeles.
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