Nadia Cassini is just what the witch doctor ordered.
There's no erotica quite like 1970s sexploitation. With a focus on pure pleasure, fanciful plots, and a touristic approach toward lush locations, films from the genre are usually pretty fun to watch. Il dio serpente stars Nadia Cassini as a woman who moves to Colombia with her rich, older husband in order to spice up their relationship. She partakes of the regional beaches, the local shopping, and sights such as Cartagena's Castillo de San Luis de Bocachica, before being told by local friend Beryl Cunningham about the cult of a serpent deity named Djamballà, the god of love.
Cassini has little interest in island religion, but Djamballà has an interest in Cassini—at least that's what Cunningham tells her when Cassini says she was approached by a huge snake while on the beach. She begins to develop an interest in the cult after all, attends a voodoo style ritual presided over a by witch doctor, and ends up the star participant along with Cunningham. Cassini's husband then chooses that moment to fly away on business and leave her alone in paradise, which no right thinking man would do unless compelled by a script, and a lonely Cassini starts to get into those Djamballà rituals—and Djamballà inevitably gets into her.
Cassini is blazing hot and sensual as hell, so you can't blame the snake god for his fascination. The film's director Piero Vivarelli also knows he has someone special on his hands, and spends plenty of time in loving close-ups of his star, but in our opinion his direction is far too chaste for what's basically supposed to be a ninety-minute turn-on. In addition, the film seems padded, with its extended ritual drumming sequences. In the end, what you get is just another movie about island religion and a white girl cutting loose. We've seen versions of it before. If this one is worth watching at all, it's only because Cassini's rare beauty makes it thus. Il dio serpente premiered in Italy today in 1970.
Flee for your life like the Romans do.
Carlo Jacono painted this brilliant cover for La ragazza che scappa, or “the girl who runs away,” written by American author Adam Knight, aka Lawrence Lariar, for Ponzoni Editore's series Gialli Canarino, with the translation chores handled by Lydia Lax. We read a Knight book a while back, weren't impressed, and forgot about him, but here he is earning a translation into Italian. Does that mean the book is good? We've always assumed without evidence that translations were an indicator of quality, but now we have doubts. Or maybe that limp Knight yarn we read wasn't typical of his work. La ragazza che scappa was originally published in 1956 in the U.S. as Girl Running. We could probably find it if we wanted to, so we will actually consider picking up a copy if it's out there cheap. We're just curious enough.
Laura Gemser rides Emanuelle to international fame.
We're looping back to Italian promo art today with this poster for Emanuelle nera, known in English as Black Emmanuelle. We already talked about the movie here, but didn't share this particular poster, a nice, understated effort for what is a pretty wild film. This was Gemser's third cinematic outing, but her first as the character of Emanuelle, which she'd reprise multiple times. Notice she's billed on the poster as “Emanuelle.” She acted under that name briefly before appearing under her real name, and the rest is softcore history. We have her entire film output, so you can be sure we'll get back to her later. Emanuelle nera premiered in Italy today in 1975.
How do you spell murder in Italian? H-i-t-c-h-c-o-c-k.
Above is a beautiful Italian poster for Delitto perfetto, better known as Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, a movie we watch every five or seven years and always greatly enjoy. This semi-abstract effort isn't the only Italian poster for the film, but it's the best, in our view. We weren't able to find out who painted it, and considering it sold on a swanky auction site without that info, it seems as if nobody knows. Such good work uncredited, it's a shame. However, below you see another poster for the film, and this one is signed by Angelo Cesselon. Since both have a Hitchcock profile, and there's a stylistic similarity in other areas too, especially if you focus on the women's faces and the males' trench coats, we think it's possible Cesselon painted both pieces. The evidence wouldn't hold up in court, but it's good enough for us. Nice work, Angelo. Delitto perfetto premiered in Italy today in 1954.
David Dodge explains how to travel like a boss even if you aren't.
Is The Poor Man's Guide to Europe pulp? Think of it as pulp adjacent. David Dodge was one of the better crafters of crime and adventure fiction during the mid-century, so when we learned that he had written travel guides we knew they were must-reads. His novels were often outward looking. To Catch a Thief was set on the French Riviera; Plunder of the Sun, Mexico; The Long Escape, several Latin American countries including Chile and Peru. And Dodge's first travel book How Green Was My Father dealt with Mexico and Guatemala.
But Europe is the subject here, and accompanied by Irv Koons illustrations, Dodge mines nuggets of valuable info from his continental experience for Americans who cross the pond. As this is a book about getting by on a budget, much of the info has to do with currency trading, a reduced concern these days, but the ins and outs of swapping cash make for some interesting insights into the various countries involved, and Dodge is clever at weaving travel anecdotes while keeping his narrative money focused. Example:
Night was falling with that dull thudding sound it makes when you don't know where you are going to sleep. By bribing the concierge I got three beds at a “first class” hotel across the street. It was terrible—overcrowded, noisy, and operated according to the old army slogan: Don't you know there's a war on, buddy? I got out early the next morning, walked three blocks to the center of town toward the Via Vittorio Veneto, and landed two bedrooms, a sitting room, a bathroom, and a balcony in a clean, old-fashioned, superbly operated Italian albergo with a wonderful cook and waiters who caught dropped napkins before they hit the floor. The patrono, who spoke six languages, took Elva and me to the opera as his guests three nights later while his wife babysat with Kendal, and the overall charge was 8,500 lira a day, about $13, all meals and table wine included.
And that's pretty much what travel is about for us—seizing victory from the jaws of defeat. Other anecdotes had us searching for confirmation, they were so hard to believe. For example, was it really the trend in 1953 for some women on the Cotê d'Azur to wear a cache-sexe? Dodge says it was. It's central to a tale about his friend crashing a rental car into a palm tree after seeing two cache-sexe clad women on the Croisette in Cannes. In case you don't know, this cache-sexe was a thong bottom and stick-on breast coverings that made women look almost nude when viewed from the rear.
We have topless and occasionally unclothed women on our beach, but still, we'd give a lot to see something like what Dodge describes, considering these women were not on the beach, but ambling down the street. We once saw two women in bikinis who had wandered several blocks from our beach to ponder the outside of the local cathedral, and that visual incongruity stuck with us for weeks. The cache-sexe must have absolutely scandalized people. And thrilled them too. Maybe that's why Dodge wrote a sequel guidebook focused entirely on the south of France with the tongue-in-cheek title The Rich Man's Guide to the Riviera. We bought that one too. Stay tuned.
Italy becomes a rich source of paperback covers painted by moonlighting movie artists.
We recently turned up some paperback covers by famed Italian movie poster artist Sandro Symeoni. He painted those for Ace Books during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The company had many beautiful covers at that time, but not all were by Symeoni.
We got to wondering whether Ace lured other artists who normally didn't paint paperback covers, and located this effort for Vivian Connell's The Golden Sleep. This came from renowned cinematic illustrator Silvano Campeggi, who painted valuable promos for Casablanca and other classic films. Like the Symeonis we've found, this cover was previously unattributed, but unlike those, there was no sleuthing needed—Campeggi signed this as Nano, his usual nom de pinceau.
We're enjoying this digging, especially because it adds new knowledge to what's already out there, but it eats up more time than we want to expend, so we won't keep it up. We have a few more to show you. In the meantime, you can check out Campeggi's Casablanca posters here. Oh, and Vivian Connell was a guy. For years we assumed the opposite, so we figure many other people probably do too. Just a side note.
She was a showgirl, a yellow hat atop her hair, and a pistol out to there...
Lola Falana fronts these collectible posters for the Italian adventure flick Lola Colt, a movie made during the spaghetti western craze of the late sixties, and later re-released in the U.S. during the blaxploitation era as Black Tigress. It tells the classic western story of a town controlled by a ruthless landowner and the town's efforts to topple him. It won't be easy, not least because El Diablo, as they call him, keeps hostages on his ranch. Falana plays a showgirl (with a repertoire of modern musical numbers) who decides to set up El Diablo for a fall. A doctor played by Peter Martell tries to help, but he mostly gets pummeled, which does not set a good example for others concerning potential rewards for bravery. But as always happens in these movies, the townies will be pushed too far eventually, and that happens when the gang shoots a kid. You can guess what happens next—a mass showdown pitting local yokels against evil cowpokes.
But we don't want to dismiss the film. It's not good, but it is significant. We can't think of another western up to this point that has a black woman in the lead (maybe one of you out there in pulpland can correct us). That makes Falana a trailblazer, and while she rewards the filmmakers' risktaking with a game performance, overall we wish the result had been better. Well, at least we have a photo of Falana naked on a horse. If only it had happened in the movie. Lola Colt premiered in Italy today in 1967.
A nocturnal perpetrator is revealed thanks to key evidence.
Above you see a beautiful paperback cover, both front and back, for Gerald Kersh's classic drama Night and the City, basis for the famed 1950 film noir. We have a copy of the book, so we may get back to it later. We're sharing the cover because it was painted by Sandro Symeoni. Back when we first stumbled upon this genius more than a decade ago there was little online about him. Now he has a Twitter page, a dedicated website currently in mid-build, plus a recent Facebook group. All of this means his profile is growing, which in turn means more attributed pieces appearing.
But attribution can be tricky. Symeoni was a chameleonic artist, with a style that evolved so much that even with the presence of his signature removing all doubt as to the provenance of the work, it's still hard to imagination that he painted with such range. And of course, some of his pieces don't have signatures, often because it was covered or cropped, and in those cases a little detective work is needed. The above cover is a good example. It's not signed, and has not been attributed to Symeoni anywhere, but it's him.
Note the background perspective on the left side, the chain of streetlights that draws the eye beyond the female figure. For a while this was Symeoni's thing, and it appeared in much of his work. For example, check this section at right (or above if you're using a mobile device) of his cover for the Peter Cheyney novel He Walked in Her Sleep (full cover here).
And directly below that example you see another, more subtle version of it in a crop we've made of his poster for La strada della vergogna (full poster here). Again you see a pretty chain of light receding from the viewer, plus a few impressionistic dots of nocturnal illumination. We have a few more examples below, but what you've already seen is probably convincing enough. These are all unmistakably by the same hand. Simultaneously, Symeoni used another stylistic trademark on the Kersh cover—flourescent yellow. You see that in the first two posters of this group. Sorry to ask you click over there, but if we added those examples here the post would become a real mess. In any case, you see what we mean about the light. With both the perspective and dayglow yellow characteristics noted, plus the general similarity of style, there's little doubt this is Symeoni's work. The final piece of evidence is simply that he's known to have produced pieces for Ace Books between 1958 and 1960, if not even a year or two later. This is an Ace cover, thus the case becomes open and shut. Well, maybe it wouldn't hold up in court, but it's good enough for here. Verdict reached: Symeoni. Below we've uploaded a few movie posters, confirmed as Symeoni's, in which he uses the perspective technique noted above. They'll help to reinforce our conclusion. Again, stylistically he was wide ranging. In addition to what you see here he painted portraits, delved deeply into color blocking, painted with abstract and blank backgrounds, drew in ink, painted humorous pieces, and created scores of unique fonts. But of all his styles we like these nighttime masterpieces best. More from this virtuoso later.
This frolic has been sponsored by Off! bug repellent and Nasonex hay fever tablets.
In this centerfold image from the Belgian magazine Ciné-Revue published in September 1972, Barbara Bouchet finds herself in a field of wildflowers and high grasses, and does what comes naturally—sneezes like a maniac until the medication kicks in. Then she frolics, and what a lovely frolic it is. We've featured Bouchet before, which means you already know she's a famously beautiful model-turned-actress who appeared in films like Non si sevizia un paperino, aka Don't Torture a Duckling, Gangs of New York, Casino Royale, and television's Star Trek. Also—and we didn't mention this the other times we wrote about her—she's another celeb who benefitted from a name change. She was born in 1943 in Sudentenland, a part of Czechoslovakia that was occupied by Germany at the time, and grew up as Bärbel Gutscher. That name simply doesn't roll off the tongue, so when she went to Hollywood she chose something that sounded French and the rest is history. These days she lives in Rome, where she still occasionally acts, though probably does a bit less frolicking. See a couple more shots of her here and here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
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