Twentieth Century Fox chooses goofs over thrills for Blaise adaptation.
After writing about the first four Modesty Blaise novels over the last few years we figured it was time to talk about Twentieth Century Fox's cinematic pass at character. You see a brilliant poster for the movie adaptation above by Bob Peak, who seems to be reminding people that Robert McGinnis wasn't the only painter capable of working in this style. Two more versions of the poster appear below, and you can another example of his work here.
We'd heard for years that Modesty Blaise is a terrible movie, but it isn't—lightweight might be a better description. It's based on the debut novel, and while author Peter O'Donnell plays it straight apart from the affable relationship between Blaise and her partner Willie Garvin, here in the movie Blaise has a space age apartment, a sentient computer, a huge lobster tattoo on her thigh, an adoptive father, and a referential theme song. The villain, meanwhile, drinks goldfish water, wears a chauffeur's cap, and uses a Japanese pai pai fan. At a couple of points Blaise and Garvin burst into song together. All these touches must have baffled fans of the book, and indeed the additions are pointless in our opinion, but that's cinema. Filmmakers are not transcribers—they're translators, and if you know anything about translation you know it's not done literally.
The main question is whether star Monica Vitti does the legendary main character justice. It was a lot to ask, after Modesty became popular thanks to three years of popular daily comic strips followed by a well received novel. We think she manages fine with the material she's given, but there's the rub. While the screenplay follows the basic thread of the novel, the flow is clunky and the dialogue is cluttered with non-sequitur asides and attempts to be cute that make Vitti resemble Emma Peel from The Avengers rather than the lethal woman O'Donnell created. In terms of the actual story, Modesty is tasked with stopping a master criminal from stealing a cache of diamonds meant for her father (we know, we know—she's an orphan in the books, and it defines her character). She's had dealings with this quirky crook before and would like to settle matters between them permanently. That means traveling from London to Amsterdam to his rocky stronghold on Sicily for a final showdown—in good pumps and a diaphanous haute couture a-line dress.
The action, which is central to the books and written with deadly seriousness, is mostly played for laughs. We mean even to the extent of villains crashing into each other to the accompaniment of circus music. We think this is probably the movie's only unforgivable sin. O'Donnell took pride in his action sequences, underpinning them with ingenious forethought by Blaise and Garvin and violent precision in execution. All the humor and cuteness would have been fine if the movie had thrilled where it most needed to, but no such luck. So in the end what you get is a cutesy spy caper of a type that was all too commonplace during the 1960s, but even goofier than most. We think the movie should have been something fresh and surprising, and in ways that go beyond its glossy high fashion aesthetic. Unfortunately, the final result is no better than watchable, though it becomes progressively more enjoyable the more booze that's ingested. Hit the liquor store before screening it and you'll find out for yourself. Modesty Blaise premiered in London today in 1966.
Portrait of the actress as a young woman.
This Warner Brothers promotional portrait of U.S. actress Jane Fonda was painted by Italian master Angelo Cesselon for her 1960 film Tall Story, which premiered today in 1960 and later played in Italy as In punta di piedi. It's an amazing piece, and we especially like the green hair and eyebrows. Cesselon produced an several of these featuring various stars of the period. We may share those later. We've already shown you plenty of his posters and paperback covers. To see those, just click his keywords below.
Gemser always makes sure a fun time is had by all.
Above is another Japanese poster for Laura Gemser's Italian sexploitation flick Emanuelle nera, which premiered in 1975 and reached Japan today in 1976. The art shows Gemser getting frisky poolside with French actress Isabelle Marchall, who made numerous sexploitation and giallo movies. The title of this in Japanese means “love of Emanuelle,” and we echo that sentiment—which is to say, though Gemser's Emanuelle films are abysmally bad, we love them as products of an era of freewheeling, guilt-free erotic cinema.
Watching the films on cable television during our youth, they somewhat affected our views on travel and sex, neither of which we had experienced yet. We explained this influence in our write-up on Mia Nygren's Emmanuelle IV way back. At their best, Gemser's Emanuelle movies (yes, it's spelled differently than Nygren's) were straightforward celebrations of sex, while at their worst they were influenced by horror and action movies, such as the one where she takes on cannibals, and the one where she smashes a ring of snuff filmmakers. Emanuelle nera has few pretensions—Gemser goes to Nairobi and gets laid. You can see everything else we have on the movie here, here, and here. Gemser will be back. Probably sooner than you think.
Most guys would sell their soul for someone this hot.
The 1965 horror novel L'urlo di Satana, the title of which means “the scream of Satan,” is number twenty-five in Rome based publisher Grandi Edizioni Internazionali's series I Capolavori della Serie KKK Classici dell’Orrore. It's credited to René du Car with a translation from French by Renato Carocci, but when GEI made such attributions what it really meant was that the translator wrote the book under a pseudonym. So this was actually written by Carocci, just one of scores of novels he produced under a long list of names. The art on this is another brilliant effort from Benedetto Caroselli, who we've documented extensively over the years. To see everything you can click his keywords below, or, if you're pressed for time, you can skip to our favorites here, here, here, here, and here.
Something in Mimsy Farmer's creepy old apartment building definitely doesn't smell right.
It's been a year, so we're retruring to giallo cinema today with Il profumo della signora in nero, known in English as The Perfume of the Lady in Black. The waifish Mimsy Farmer plays a chemical engineer working in Italy who begins experiencing macabre visions or hallucinations. Are these hauntings due to emerging psychological trauma triggered by the suicide of her mother years earlier? Are they somehow related to her university professor friend Andy, an expert on African religious rituals? Or maybe they're being staged by her pervy neighbor, or dissatisfied boyfriend, or weirdo girlfriend Francesca. An eerie psychic reading set up by her friends certainly doesn't help Farmer's mental stability. Shortly after that fiasco a little girl shows up at her door. Is she a manifestation of Farmer's younger self? What the hell is going on?
Well, it's giallo, so you just can't know. The genre typically involves an intersection of horror and mystery sprinkled with visual non sequiturs, indecipherable clues, and incomprehensible behavior. Mixed in are the usual details: garish lighting, rain and thunder, a disconcerting music box, unexplained disappearances, random cats, bug-eyed strangers, discordant violins, and so forth. In addition, the endings of giallos are usually meant to surprise, and in most cases you'll say to yourself, “Wait—wasn't there an easier way to get all that accomplished?” This one, which has a big reveal in more ways than one, brings up that question. But don't think about it too deeply. It's giallo. We can't say this example is good, but we will say Mimsy Farmer is extremely appealing. You might even call her... appetizing. You'll see what we mean if you watch the film. Il profumo della signora in nero premiered in Italy today in 1974
This is no lie—Gasparri was a unique talent.
This poster for Catherine Spaak's 1965 comedy La bugiarda—which would translate as “the liar” but which was known in English as Six Days a Week—is the excellent work of Italian illustrator Rodolfo Gasparri, who we've featured before. We have to stop there for a second and confess that, though Gasparri is a great talent, we can't help laughing whenever we see his name because it reminds us of the 1990 comedy The Freshman with Matthew Broderick, where's he's greatly dismayed to have the fake identity Rodolfo Lasparri forced upon him. Minor difference in the name, but still. Anyway, we weren't able to track down La bugiarda to watch, but we thought Gasparri's brilliant version of Spaak as a sort of elongated pin-up was worth a share. We liked it so much, in fact, that we wiped off a little text and made a clean zoom below. You can see more from Gasparri here and here. You can also see Spaak in one of the greatest outfits ever at this link.
She's a wolf in psycho's clothing.
The two posters you see above were made for the Italian movie La lupa mannara, known in English variously as Legend of the Wolf Woman, Werewolf Woman, and She-Wolf. You get more or less what you expect here. Annik Borel has nightmares about being a werewolf, which would be pretty random, except it so happens that an ancestor from two centuries ago was burned by villagers who thought she was the real thing. As Borel's werewolf obsession advances she's inhabited or haunted—if perhaps only imaginarily—by the spirit of this allegedly lyncanthropic forebear. She then roams the local landscape killing unsuspecting men, until she meets one who makes her drool—with sexual desire. But is she really a werewolf, or is she just nuts?
Borel really gives this role her all, even channeling Linda Blair's bedbound possession scenes from The Exorcist, but since this is a sexploitation flick more than a horror movie, her body is considered by the filmmakers to be more important than her acting ability. Taking full advantage is director Rino Di Silvestro, who also helmed Women in Cell Block 7 and generally specialized in erotic fare. What he didn't specialize in was pacing, framing, blocking, and the like, and in the end the movie is murky and unterrifying. But it's of a particular era and style that's beloved by schlock aficionados the world over, and will certainly satiate the appetites of such viewers. Because the version of the film we watched didn't look all that great, we decided not to bother with screenshots. Instead we have a few production stills of Borel below being costumed as the werewolf. Seems like the makeup department always has the most fun. We should also note that the film features German b-actress Dagmar Lassander, who we last saw in Le foto proibite di una signora per bene, aka The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, and Maria Renata Franco, who was in Emanuelle in America. Perhaps they'll serve as additional enticements. And lastly, we were not able to identify the poster artist. We've said it before—sign your work, people. La lupa mannara premiered in Italy today in 1976.
It's minimal but I figure when the climate finishes changing this'll qualify as overdressed.
Above you see Sicily born Italian model and actress Pia Giancaro, who won the 1968 Miss Sicily contest, competed for Miss Italy, and parlayed the exposure into a foothold in cinema, where she appeared in such films as Se t'incontro t'ammazzo, aka Finders Killers, and La dama rossa uccide sette volte, aka The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, aka Blood Feast. This futuristic photo was published on the cover of the Belgian film and television magazine Ciné-Revue in 1977. It actually dates from a 1974 photo session, when the magazine used a different shot from the same series. Ciné-Revue gave Giancaro a lot of attention over the years, with multiple covers, and a couple of centerfolds, one of which you can see here.
It's paradise found in cheeseball sexploitation flick.
This poster was painted by Ermanno Iaia for the 1972 sexploitation comedy L'isola dei piaceri proibiti, which was originally West German made as as Robinson und seine wilden Sklavinnen, and known in English as Robinson and His Tempestuous Slaves. We have another poster below, and Magda Konopka stars on it but she isn't in the movie. Don't ask us how that happened. Some mysteries aren't meant to be solved.
So, yes, we watched this, and it's terrible. A schlub pharmacist named Robinson, who's descended from Robinson Crusoe, is trapped in a life of drudgery and domestic strife, but has fantasies of escaping to the tropics. You'd think there would be something in that pharmacy to lift his mood, but instead he actually goes to a jungle island. Since the scantily clad trio of Andrea Rau, Anne Libert, and Ingeborg Steinbach (but not Magda Konopka) are with him everything seems perfect (even with the obnoxious wildlife whose thoughts we get to hear).
By definition, paradise can never last. In this case, sadly, everything goes pear-shaped when cannibals turn up. Did we mention that this is a Jesús Franco movie? But it's Franco trying to be funny, and that isn't pretty. Talking wildlife, remember? Not pretty at all. In that case, why should you watch it? Because you get to see Rau stark raving naked in a waterfall. Boom. Book it. The movie has no official premiere date, but if we ever find one we'll update this post. We have some production photos below, and, as a bonus Rau, Steinbach, and Libert in three nice glamour shots.
Jacopetti and Prosperi go on an African exploitation safari.
This colorful poster is innocuous, but the movie it promotes sure isn't. Africa Addio is known in english as Africa: Blood and Guts, which speaks volumes to the content of the film. Shockumentary filmmakers Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi capture everything from executions to animal cruelty in an in-your-face attack on an entire continent that paints it as a bloodthirsty free-for-all. Is their point that colonialism was good and Africa retreated into savagery without a steadying white hand? Lucky no cameras were around to film Europeans murdering millions in order to steal Africa's human, natural, and mineral wealth. That would have made a hell of a shockumentary. If one were familiar with the evils and terrors of colonialism, that person might see this film as an indictment of the same, but for any who don't know that history, Africa Addio fills a knowledge vacuum with raw content that isn't helpful. Jacopetti and Prosperi were probably opportunists, not ideologues, but in either case Africa Addio is rough stuff. It premiered today in 1966. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—U.S. Congress Passes the Sedition Act
In the U.S., Congress passes a set of amendments to the Espionage Act called the Sedition Act, which makes "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces, as well as language that causes foreigners to view the American government or its institutions with contempt, an imprisonable offense. The Act specifically applies only during times of war, but later is pushed by politicians as a possible peacetime law, specifically to prevent political uprisings in African-American communities. But the Act is never extended and is repealed entirely in 1920.
1905—Las Vegas Is Founded
Las Vegas, Nevada is founded when 110 acres of barren desert land in what had once been part of Mexico are auctioned off to various buyers. The area sold is located in what later would become the downtown section of the city. From these humble beginnings Vegas becomes the most populous city in Nevada, an internationally renowned resort for gambling, shopping, fine dining and sporting events, as well as a symbol of American excess. Today Las Vegas remains one of the fastest growing municipalities in the United States.
1928—Mickey Mouse Premieres
The animated character Mickey Mouse, along with the female mouse Minnie, premiere in the cartoon Plane Crazy, a short co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. This first cartoon was poorly received, however Mickey would eventually go on to become a smash success, as well as the most recognized symbol of the Disney empire.
1939—Five-Year Old Girl Gives Birth
In Peru, five-year old Lina Medina becomes the world's youngest confirmed mother at the age of five when she gives birth to a boy via a caesarean section necessitated by her small pelvis. Six weeks earlier, Medina had been brought to the hospital because her parents were concerned about her increasing abdominal size. Doctors originally thought she had a tumor, but soon determined she was in her seventh month of pregnancy. Her son is born underweight but healthy, however the identity of the father and the circumstances of Medina's impregnation never become public.
1987—Rita Hayworth Dies
American film actress and dancer Margarita Carmen Cansino, aka Rita Hayworth, who became her era's greatest sex symbol and appeared in sixty-one films, including the iconic Gilda
, dies of Alzheimer's disease in her Manhattan apartment. Naturally shy, Hayworth was the antithesis of the characters she played. She married five times, but none lasted. In the end, she lived alone, cared for by her daughter who lived next door.
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