Authenticity test on horrifying Ecuadorean artifact reveals that it's a horrifying Ecuadorean artifact.
We ran across a story today that touched on an occasional Pulp Intl. subject—that of shrunken heads, those macabre delights found in the dusty basements of museums and the arcane libraries of mysteriously missing anthropologists. Vintage men's magazines such as this issue of Man to Man often contained features on shrunken heads, usually written by adventurers who claimed to have narrowly escaped losing their own. This occurred mainly in the Amazon regions of Ecuador and Peru where a people called the Jivaro live. When white men weren't available, the Jivaro used the heads of slain enemy warriors, shrinking them via an exacting, multi-step process meant to trap the spirit of the unfortunate victim so that their supernatural power could be utilized. The practice died out decades ago but old shrunken heads are scattered about the world because they were highly sought after curios, a demand that also led to the manufacture of numerous fakes. Researchers at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia had a shrunken head sitting around that had been acquired by a recently deceased university staffer during a 1942 trip to the Ecuadorean Amazon. They announced Monday that the head is indeed the genuine item. They reached this conclusion by subjecting it to numerous tests, among them CT scans, and of course the angry spirit test, which involves ridiculing the head then waiting to see if your hind quarters wither and fall off. This particular head is especially pulpworthy because it has acinema history. It was used as a prop in the 1979 film Wise Blood, John Huston's adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's novel of the same name. In the movie it was placed on a fake body, as you see just above. Mercer University plans to repatriate the head to Ecuador, continuing the recent practice of some museums and universities returning cultural items looted or bought for a pittance by artifact hunters. We agree that stolen artifacts should go back to where they came, assuming the original possessors ask for them, which they increasingly have been doing. This means there will be fewer shrunken heads in circulation, which in turn means the process for making them that we shared a few years ago is more timely than ever. Like a Julia Child recipe for boeuf bourguignon, the classics never go out of style. In fact, we think the horrible shrunken head market is about to blow up like Bitcoin. So if you feel the need to shrink the head of... we don't know, anyone ranging from your current boss to the so-called friend who stole your hopeless crush back in college, feel free to get a sense of the process from our post. It's a bit messy, but satisfying and amazingly empowering. So we hear. Just remember that you can't make a shrunken head without a decapitated head, and that's another messy business entirely.
You're not as clever as you think, Clark. I realized you were muffing your lines on purpose way back on take forty.
Who's that mystery woman kissing Clark Gable? Why it's Marilyn Monroe. Not really a mystery though, as she's instantly recognizable from any angle. There's almost no such thing as a new Monroe photo, but there are some you don't see often. This one and the one below fall into that category. They were made when she was filming The Misfits, which premiered today in 1961. The scene that provided these shots also featured a Monroe nude flash when she gets out of bed to dress. Director John Huston cut those frames, and they were thought lost, but were rediscovered (though not made public) in 2018.
This was Gable's last movie. He had a heart attack in November 1960, possibly in the middle of this kissing scene, and didn't survive. Just kidding. He had his heart attack two days after filming wrapped. But we bet he was thinking about Monroe when it happened. This was also her last movie. She was filming Something Got To Give in 1962 but died of an overdose before finishing it. The Misfits was a box office disappointment when released, but was considered to be Gable's best film performance, and one of Monroe's best, as well. We don't fully agree, but you might. It's certainly worth a viewing.
Humphrey is pitch perfect as always but it's Edward who makes this movie sing.
Above, one of many promo posters for the classic drama Key Largo. This movie, as you doubtless know, is great. It hinges on Edward G. Robinson's bravura performance as a washed up gangster trying to make a comeback, but he gets ample onscreen help from co-stars Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Gomez, Claire Trevor, Dan Seymour, and others. And John Huston in the director's chair is no slouch bringing the foreground drama and hurricane background to life. Key Largo is often called a film noir. Is it though? Hmm... Bogart certainly fits the bill in terms of characterization, but since the movie lacks most other noir elements we're inclined to call it a straight crime drama. But that's just our opinion. It was first seen by the public at a Hollywood preview in mid-July 1948, and went into full national release today.
Bogart finds himself stuck on Key Largo when hurricane Edward blows into town.
Above is a West German poster for Hafen des Lasters, which translates as “port of vice,” but is better known as Key Largo. We love this piece of art. It's imitative of earlier posters, particularly a Belgian promo from 1949. But that one is by Wik. This one is signed by a different artist, but illegibly, so we can't tell you who painted it. We'll work on that. We've uploaded the signature in case you have an idea what this scrawl says. This is simply a great film, a crime drama set in a hurricane. Many books using the same idea were written later, such as Theodore Pratt's Tropical Disturbance and Russell Trainer's No Way Back. Whether they were inspired by Key Largo or earlier works like W. Somerset Maugham's Rain we can't say, but any writer will tell you never let a good gimmick go to waste. In any case, Key Largo premiered in the U.S. in 1948 and reached West Germany today in 1950.
Rat-a-tat-tat, all the men fall flat.
Above is a promo image of the wonderful Jennifer Jones, made for her 1948 Cuba adventure We Were Strangers, in which she played a character with the amazing name China Valdez. Wanna see her use that gun? If you watch the film, which was directed by John Huston, you'll see it happen during one of the most action packed climaxes in ’40s cinema, though the actual movie isn't one of Jones's nor the great Huston's best.
The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world it was an adventure film.
Above, a beautiful poster for John Huston's love-it-or-hate-it comedic African film Beat the Devil, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1954 and starred Humphrey Bogart, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, and Peter Lorre. This poster, while cool, is completely misleading. Beat the Devil is not an adventure. When it was made there was no category for it, but today such movies are called "camp." Only over time have audiences come to understand it. We wrote about it awhile ago and shared a Belgian poster, here.
Post-noir classic's reputation keeps soaring even as its director's keeps falling.
Nearly ten years into this website we've mentioned Chinatown only once—when we wrote a few lines while sharing two Japanese promo posters. The above poster was made for the film's Australian run, which began today in 1975. The film has been discussed everywhere, which means we can't add much, so let's just call it an all-time masterpiece, and one of the most watchable and re-watchable movies ever made, filled with details you notice over time. For example, it didn't strike us until after a few viewings that Jack Nicholson does his own stunt in that culvert scene, the one where the water rushes down the sluiceway and pins him against a chain link fence. You wouldn't see many modern day stars get wet and cold for a moment that lasts five seconds onscreen. We also failed to notice the first few times that the police lieutenant, Escobar, is Mexican-American. It just didn't strike us. But he would have been an extreme rarity in the 1937 L.A. of the film, and the writing and/or casting choice there was certainly deliberate. Other details continue to emerge, and we've seen the movie five or six times.
As far as director Roman Polanski goes, we've talked about him before. But we'll add that art stands on its own, and people stand on their own too. Having created superior art should not absolve someone of crimes; having committed crimes should not serve to denigrate superior art. That's just our opinion. Plus, a director isn't the only one responsible for a film. The hundreds of others involved, including the select group pictured below, and especially the unpictured screenwriter Robert Towne—who is just as responsible for Chinatown as Polanski and won an Oscar for his screenplay—deserve credit. We will always criticize art for being inaccurate when it pretends to be truthful, or for promulgating false or harmful beliefs. Chinatown doesn't do that. Quite the opposite—it offers sharp insights into how and why Los Angeles became what it is. Meanwhile its subplot somewhat foreshadows Polanski's own crime, which makes the film ironic in the extreme. If you haven't seen it you simply must.
Gold may fill the pockets but it can also empty the soul.
We wanted to show you a bit more work from German artist Rolf Goetze. We settled on this West German poster for the quasi-western drama The Treasure of the Sierra Madre because the film premiered in West Germany today in 1949. This is Goetze at his best. For that matter, it's Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, and John Huston at their best too. That isn't just our opinion—Walter Huston won a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance, and John Huston won both Best Director and Best Screenplay. If you're not familiar with the film, we'll just tell you it's a cautionary tale about the lust for riches, and it contains this classic and oft-mangled quote: “Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!” More Goetze poster work to be seen here and here.
It's nobody's Asphalt but their own.
The best poster for the movie The Asphalt Jungle was, beyond doubt, the one we showed you a while back painted by the Italian artist Angelo Cesselon. But that one came a bit later. The above poster was made for the film's initial release in 1950. We think it's very nice as well, if remarkably different from Cesselon's masterpiece. As for the movie, we could tell you it's a top effort, but you already know that. If you haven't seen it, definitely do. It's showing at the Noir City Film Festival tonight, but even at home it's worth a screening.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
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