He's 111 times better than 007—in the filmmakers' dreams.
Here you see a poster for the Italian spy movie Agente segreto 777 - Operazione Mistero, known in English as Secret Agent 777. This is an alternate promo. Like the first one we showed you, it was painted by Mario de Berardinis. Sadly, the movie is extremely not great, but the other poster is. Check it out here.
Okay, Emanuelle nera, scene seventy, take two. And, guys? Dial it back a little—this is an r-rated movie.
This fun production photo shows Javanese actress Laura Gemser and U.S. actor Don Powell in a grassy swatch somewhere in Kenya about to shoot a scene from their Italian made sexploitation epic Emanuelle nera, or Black Emanuelle, which premiered today in 1976. Feel free to read more about the movie here. Long story short, it's not good, but it's sure fun to watch. In the photo we love how Gemser has her knees fully in Powell's nuts. We imagine director Bitto Albertini: “Closer, Don. Get closer.” Powell: “This is as close as I can get without turning into a soprano.” Gemser: “I know the movie might automatically get an X from the ratings board if I open my legs, but Don and I have already rehearsed it that way a bunch, so why don't we try it?”
And now it's time for another real life Pulp Intl. story. Back when PSGP was working for Playboy he had a film producer friend in the softcore realm who needed extra crew one night for one of his productions. Such films often used porn actresses, and in this case there was a well known Russian performer who was booked to do a love scene. While in softcore films the actors often wore what were essentially tiny nylon hose over their units, and the actresses wore what were basically gigantic band-aids over their tender parts, it was always the performer's choice, and sometimes, for comfort reasons or whatever—with mutual consent—they didn't bother. This was obviously before the era of intimacy coordinators.
Anyway, came time to shoot a fake oral sex scene with the actress on her knees and the actor not wearing a stocking on his dick, and when the camera began rolling the Russian star began working her magic on the actor for real. He was surprised, clearly, but what could he say? He looked around confused, but made no noises about stopping the action. The director, who after about ten seconds realized what was happening, sort of shook his head and said, “Cut. Cut. Uh... [actress name] we won't be needing any of that today.” The entire set broke up in laughter. We're not suggesting anything like that happened between Gemser and Powell. It's just that the photo brought to mind that amusing story. We've got a million of 'em.
Cold War spies make waves in the City of Canals.
The Venetian Affair, which premiered today in 1966, has a rather interesting promo poster. It was painted by U.S. artist Frank McCarthy, who was big in paperback covers early in his career, moved into high-budget movie promos such as James Bond posters, and finally made a mark in realist fine art. We love this piece from him. There's a lot going on. If you check out his effort for You Only Live Twice here you'll see how dense and chaotic his work could be, same as above, where he has people falling off the bridge, off the gondola, and guns being brandished everywhere. In addition, his likenesses of the movie's stars are good. He was a major talent.
The first observation you might make while watching The Venetian Affair is that it would be impossible to make a similar movie in that city today. Nearly four million tourists visited Venice in 2022, making nearly every street—and certainly every site of special historical note—like the mass exodus from a just-completed football game. With that level of humanity about, closing parts of the city or main squares—while maybe possible—would not be practical or economical.
But The Venetian Affair was made back when quiet streets and dark corners existed. Old world architecture always makes for a good spy movie backdrop. That's exactly what you get in this adventure about a mind control drug being used to foment conflict between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Robert Vaughn stars as a former CIA agent who was fired after he married Elke Sommer, who was suspected of being a double agent. Vaughn never found out whether that was true because he and Sommer were torn apart by turbulent events. But when a bomb blows up a Venice political conference and Sommer is thought to be involved, the CIA drags Vaughn back into its clutches to find Sommer, as well as the crucial clue that might explain the bombing.
Vaughn is a cool and composed actor, any movie with Sommer is one we'll watch, and co-stars Felicia Farr, Luciana Paluzzi, Ed Asner, and the venerable Boris Karloff are all enticements, but we can't say The Venetian Affair is a scintillating example of a Cold War spy flick. It's such a fertile sub-genre, one that produced some of the best movies of 1950s through 1970s. Even against the beautiful Venice backdrop it mostly falls flat due to a screenplay that never hits any highs. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't watch it. Though it lacks highs, it also lack any serious lows. You can spend your time worse ways. Plus—Sommer. What more do you need?
Did somebody order a spaghetti western with extra cheese?
We take every opportunity we can to show you the work of Renato Casaro, even when it's used to promote a movie as bad as Carogne si nasce. Casaro painted a lot of spaghetti western posters but this one is a bit more intense than most. There's a reason for that—the character he painted was intense. The movie is known in English as Cry of Death, and it deals with conflict that erupts between squatters and ranchers in fictional Houstonville, Texas, and the marshal—Glenn Saxson—who first tries to stay out of it, but later chooses a side when he realizes that inside the land rights struggle is a deeper problem regarding someone's secret past and corruption amongst the town bigwigs.
This is one cheap-ass movie. The budget is exemplified by a barroom brawl during which a character is shoved through a cardboard wall. Every castmember is a b-level actor at best. And the script—don't even bring up the script. It's like it was accidentally shot full of holes during one of the gunfights. But we'll give this cheeseball movie one thing—the main bad guy is amazing. He's played by ex-bodybuilder Gordon Mitchell, and he looks like a demon wearing bronzer. Spaghetti western producers were good at casting villains, and Mitchell fits the tradition with a capital V. Otherwise, this flick—even with its final act twist—is nowheresville. Carogne si nasce premiered in Italy today in 1968
That's right. I'm the bad guy. You never guessed, did you? I'm pure evil, but I can smile winningly. See? Though I'm from hell and consume only souls, I can mimic human rituals such as drinking beer. But I don't mimic swallowing it. My master should serve this pisswater to the thirsty wretches in his realm.
Friends have told me I need to be more upbeat. So I got new friends.
Alida Valli was born in Pola, Italy, a place that's now part of Croatia, back in 1921, and was acting in Italian movies by 1935. She eventually became a global star and racked up more than one hundred film credits, including in The Paradine Case, The Third Man, Les Yeux san visage, aka Eyes without a Face, and The Cassandra Crossing. The shot you see here was made for her 1950 drama Walk Softly, Stranger.
They're going to salvage a lost cargo come hell or Haie water.
We had a foreign double feature last night, following up La tentación desnuda with Haie am Todesriff, which was originally Italian made as Bermude: la fossa maledetta. Known in English as Cave of Sharks, it premiered in Italy in June 1978 and opened in West Germany today the same year. It is, to be succinct, a Jaws knock-off made with less imagination and less budget.
Set on and around the fictive island of San Domingo, which is somewhere near Bermuda, the movie stars Andrés Garcia as a member of an oceanographic expedition who turns up with amnesia six months after his boat goes missing and his colleagues are lost. During those six months that Garcia was presumed dead, his brother tried to move in on his girl Janet Agren—for which he cannot in any be blamed—but with his bro's reappearance there's now a budding love triangle.
Later a plane crashes near San Domingo under strange circumstances with an illegal cargo, sending organized crime figures into to action to recover their loot. Under false pretenses, they hire Garcia, sending him right back into the dread sector of ocean from he'd been fished. He discovers strange, mystical sharks, and thinks they might be the key to getting his memory back. He loses all interest in the crooks' treasure, but they think he's found it and is withholding it. Trouble looms.
Does all this sound dumb? You aren't wrong. And the bad plot isn't helped by bad acting, bad action, and incredibly bad miniature work. This one isn't worth your time, even with Janet Agren in the co-starring role. But to make reading this worthwhile, we've added a nice Agren shot to the promos below.
There's a new prosecutor in town—and his name is Humphrey.
Above: an Italian poster for La città è salva, better known as The Enforcer, starring Humphrey Bogart as a prosecutor tasked with cleaning up rampant corrutpion in the big city. The movie is middle tier for Bogart, but that means it's still very good. The poster is uncredited, but spectacular, with its abstract skyscraperscape and elongated figures. If we ever find out who painted it we'll updated this post. La città è salva premiered in Italy today in 1951.
Around the world in 180 pages (or thereabouts).
Wouldn't it be great to sail away to an exotic island, live in a hotel, and write novels? Ed Lacy was the archetypal globetrotting author, and 1963's Two Hot To Handle is a product of that lifestyle. It's two novellas joined: “Murder in Paradise,” set in Tahiti, and “The Coin of Adventure,” set on the other side of the planet in Tuscany.
“Murder in Paradise” is the tale of an American named Ray Judson and his local wife Ruita, who live reclusively on a small island, and are hired by a Hollywood studio to help scout locations for an adventure movie. Does this idea sound familiar? It should. We guess this sort of thing happened in real life enough to inspire a few novels.
Anyway, when the leading lady is murdered the police point the finger at Ruita, and Ray desperately undertakes to find the real killer. We're going to start using the shorthand term “find-the-real-killer novels” to refer to these plotlines. By day Ruita eludes the cops by hiding out on a tiny islet, and by night she ventures ashore to assist her husband and sneak in some moonlit lovin. Avoiding prison is important, but you gotta get your freak on too.
“The Coin of Adventure” is about Kent Kelly, an American adventurer in Viareggio, Italy, who learns that fascists fleeing at the end of World War II abandoned a hoard of stolen gold in a cave. He and a partner head after the loot, but death and betrayal are always uninvited passengers on such missions.
Of the two stories we liked “Murder in Paradise” a little better. Lacy, it's clear, strove to correctly portray Tahiti without resorting to travelogue or showy displays of local language. He was interested in the people. To even write a character like Ruita, who decides to work for the moviemakers to ensure that they get the details of her culture correct, shows his empathy for island folk. She's an excellent character—ambitious enough to want to influence how her people are portrayed in Hollywood, naive enough to think she can really do it. With Lacy leading the way we'll go anywhere. Tahiti? Tuscany? You bet.
Dirty mind, clean body.
Above: a poster for the 1972 sexploitation flick I pornogiochi delle femmine svedesi, painted by Italian illustrator Renato Casaro, along with a photo of star Claire Gordon going a rub-a-dub-dub with both hands in a tub, used by Casaro to inspire his creative process. The movie was originally made in England as Suburban Wives. While Gordon is lovely, and the poster is too, the movie is pretty dumb. Many years back we discussed it in a bit more detail and shared another Casaro promo, so if you're inclined to check that out, you can do so here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
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