Vintage Pulp Jul 21 2022
A KNIFE IN THE ART
For a fulfilling killing nothing beats a blade.


Today we have for your pleasure a collection of vintage paperback covers featuring characters on both the giving and receiving ends of knives—or knifelike tools such as icepicks. Above you see Harry Bennett art of a poor fella getting a knife from nowhere. Maybe Damocles did it. It's a funny cover because we don't think we'd grab our throats if we got stabbed in the spine, but let's hope we never find out. Below, in addition to numerous U.S. and British offerings, you'll see covers from France, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands. There are many, many paperback fronts featuring knives—we mean hundreds—but we decided to stop ourselves at thirty-two today. These do not represent the best (as if we could decide something like that), or our favorites, but merely some interesting ones we've come across of late. If you're super interested in this particular motif we have plenty more examples in the archives. They'd be hard to find, because we don't keyword for knives, so here are some links to get you there: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2022
PHANTOM OF THE OPERATION
Everyone says she isn't real but could a figment of his imagination cause this many problems?


Secretaries make a habit of saving the boss's ass. It's in the job description. In Phantom Lady, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1944, the ass saving is literal, as Ella Raines finds herself the only person who believes her employer Alan Curtis didn't kill his wife. Curtis's alibi is as weak as they come—he spent the evening with a woman he never met before, whose name he never got, who he can only describe as wearing a strange hat, and who nobody can find to confirm his story. She's the phantom lady of the title—doesn't exist, at least as far as everyone besides Curtis is concerned. So after a quick trial, off to the death house he goes, where he sinks into a state of dismal acceptance of his own oblivion. That's when Raines decides to work her secretarial krav maga and crack the case. You think shorthand is hard? Try unraveling a vast conspiracy.

Phantom Lady also stars the great Franchot Tone, Elisha Cook, Jr., and one-ethnicity-fits-all character actor Thomas Gomez. As performers, the top end of the cast ranges from good to great, but the script isn't the best clay with which to mold. There are positives, though. The direction by Robert Siodmak is interesting, the set design is eye-catching in places, particularly in Tone's wacky bachelor pad with its odd concrete bed, and there's a great bit set in a jazz cellar that plays like something out of Reefer Madness without the drugs. It'll teach you that jazz music is crazy enough to bend reality all by itself. You'll also learn that in case of murder it's good to have someone in your corner. Preferably someone with a winning smile, a nice figure, and excellent investigative skills.

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Intl. Notebook Aug 26 2021
GRACE UNDER PRESSURE
She didn't make it to the top of Hollywood just to accept being second banana in Monaco.


Yes, people were stupidly fawning over the rich long before 2021, as this issue of the tabloid Exposed published this month in 1957 proves. There are stories on one percenters ranging from Princess Grace of Monaco on down. Of course, there's an aspirational innocence to these old stories, because very few people, if any, begrudged the rich anything in this era. Those times have gone. Companies make hundreds of billions now and pay zero taxes. The rich have a thousand ways to hide their income, to the tune of 40 trillion dollars in cash hidden in tax havens around the world.

Something else different about the rich of yesterday—they didn't have dick-shaped rocket ships. Instead they had dick shaped yachts. And that's what the feud hinted at on the cover between Grace Kelly and Tina Onassis was about—in part at least. It was also about who threw the best parties, who had the richest and most influential friends, who had the best designer clothes, and who was the greatest beauty. Of course, Kelly was legendarily lovely, but because beauty marries money even when the money is as butt-ugly as Aristotle Onassis, Tina was no slouch.

Exposed tells us of one competitive episode the night Kelly was celebrating the birth of her daughter Caroline, which had happened a day earlier. Kelly lived in Grimaldi Palace, overlooking Monaco harbor, where Aristotle Onassis lived on an 1,800 ton former Canadian navy destroyer retrofitted as a luxury yacht. The night of Kelly's celebration Onassis left his boat totally dark in the harbor, then at one point flipped a switch that illuminated hundreds of light bulbs strung from prow to stern. Kelly's clan took it as an attempt to show her up. Sounds petty, right? Well, Exposed was a tabloid, and its readers absolutely devoured stories showing that they and the next door neighbor they hated weren't so very different from the one percent.

After that boat episode, according to Exposed, Kelly and Onassis barely saw each other in tiny Monaco, such was their determination to avoid each other. Again, the half-century old public obsession with these two seems quaint compared to people's interest in the Musks and Bransons of today. There are opinions and facts, and here is a fact—the U.S. is falling apart and miniscule taxes on the rich and corporations are the reason. During the year this issue of Exposed was published, a year many people now cast their misty eyes toward with longing and nostalgia, the tax rate for top income earners was 91%. No wonder things functioned so well, eh? High taxes kept the government flush and the rich weak.

But the highlight of the issue as far as we're concerned is Vikki Dougan, who we told you would return to Pulp Intl. soon, and who shows up at a party thrown by Hollywood astrologer Carroll Righter wearing one of her infamous buttcrack baring backless dresses. Exposed indeed. Since this is about as low as her gowns went, we zoomed in a bit so you can get a good look at the San Fernando Valley. Dougan by the way, is still around at age 92. Elsewhere in Exposed you get Joan Collins and her romances, restaurateur Mike Romanoff and his legal troubles, Paulette Goddard and her love of money, and vice in New York City. Thirty scans below.
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Vintage Pulp Aug 16 2021
STRANGER DANGER
Don't mess with the man upstairs.


Stranger on the Third Floor is sometimes cited as a proto film noir, coming a year before the first official noir, 1941's The Maltese Falcon. In this day and age, any vintage crime film is called a film noir on crowdsourced websites like IMDB, so depending on where you look film noir isn't as pure a cycle as it used to be. But in this case the debate is fair. The film is about newspaper journalist John McGuire, who serves as a witness at a sensational murder trial, while his fiancée Margaret Tallichet frets about the impact of recognition on their lives. The two of them are planning to move out of their boarding houses and find a place together, but McGuire's building has lately been haunted by a mysterious stranger played by Hungarian actor Peter Lorre. Who is he? Why is he hanging around? Is he somehow connected to the murder?

Gene D. Phillips, in his book Out of the Shadows: Expanding the Canon of Film Noir, cites Stranger on the Third Floor as a film that “codified the visual conventions of film noir.” It has flashbacks, a brilliant nightmare sequence, a sense of growing dread, a false accusation (or possibly two), a narration (though not of the hard-boiled variety), and a usage of angles and shadows that is extravagant. Where it differs from film noir is in its general lack of cynicism and world weariness. In fact, it's the opposite. McGuire ponders whether doing his civic duty by testifying will have consequences, but at no point does he feel like a sucker for doing so. He believes in society and its basic functions. The Maltese Falcon, by contrast, offers civic duty as an option, but Sam Spade acts as he does because of his personal code. Duty is secondary, and ultimately, so is love.

Despite these differences between Stranger on the Third Floor and canonical film noir, casting the net wide enough to include this movie makes sense. It definitely gets its influences from the same places as film noir, particularly in German Expressionist cinema of the early 1900s. Interestingly, Lorre would feature prominently in The Maltese Falcon, as would Elisha Cook, Jr., who plays the defendant at the trial. So the connection between Stranger on the Third Floor and film noir is concrete on that level at least. All that said, does our opinion matter? Watch Stranger on the Third Floor and debate whether it's a film noir yourself. You'll see a visual masterwork regardless of which cinematic bin you stick it in. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1940.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 18 2021
THE WOMAN IN 809
Monroe finds herself in a room with no space to maneuver.


It says plenty about Don't Bother To Knock that we queued it up last night, popcorn and adult beverages in hand, having forgotten that we already watched it several years ago. That has less to do with the overall film than with Marilyn Monroe, but we'll get to that in a minute. The film was based on Charlotte Armstrong's Mischief, which was serialized in 1950 in Good Housekeeping magazine, and deals with a mentally disturbed babysitter watching over a child in a fancy New York City hotel suite. Along with Monroe it stars Richard Widmark and Anne Bancroft, with their three characters suffering respectively from derangement, detachment, and disillusionment—three ailments suggested to be caused or exacerbated by life in the big city. Widmark as a cynical single looking for easy action and Bancroft as a world weary torch singer working the hotel lounge don't have any problems a change in luck wouldn't solve, but the movie revolves around Monroe, who, thirteen credited roles into her career at this point, gets a chance to stretch her range as a nutty nanny in need of a lot more than just kind words to get back on the beam.

Monroe's performance in this heavy drama is tough to judge. To us it feels a bit flat, but contemporary reviewers generally liked it, and it's fair to say it helped her climb that last rung to the superstardom she'd reach a year later with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Watch that film and you'll see that, while Don't Bother To Knock asked her to stretch, it did so by requiring that she suppress her natural charisma. That's no easy trick for an actor, let alone someone as incandescent as her, and that, in short, is probably why we forgot we'd already watched the movie. Monroe was so big in her other performances that this flick went down the memory hole. Her iconic movies feel as if they could only have starred her. This one feels like it could have starred anyone. Monroe just isn't Monroe in it. But that probably means her performance is a success. Watching it afresh, we can tell you it's certainly a must for Marilyn fans, and will probably work for vintage film fans of all types. But those unschooled in the oldies might walk away from this effort thinking, Meh, I don't get all the Monroe fuss. But the fuss was appropriate and deserved. Don't Bother To Knock—not a film noir as labeled on many sites, by the way—premiered today in 1953.

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Intl. Notebook Jul 6 2021
ORANGE APPEAL
She could have simply gone to the grocery store to get them, but where would be the fun in that?


Back in 1924 the Florida Citrus Growers industry group decided they needed to do more to promote the Florida citrus industry. Getting people to drink more orange juice obviously meant more profit, so they created a goodwill ambassador known as the Florida Citrus Queen, who extolled the virtues of Florida citrus products nationwide. She was always beautiful and young, often a show business hopeful, and appeared at trade shows and fairs, hobnobbed with celebrities and politicians, and ruled over the annual Citrus Expo & Florida Citrus Festival. Above is a photo of Francis Layton, the 1957 Florida Citrus Queen, acrobatically reaching for an orange while speeding along on waterskis.

This photo is so strange. In fact, we aren't even sure how it was made. Did Layton actually waterski while reaching for low hanging fruit? It seems unlikely. How many attempts would that have taken? How many wipeouts? For that reason, we suspect the orange branch was held by someone standing on the same platform as the photographer, and the perspective sells the illusion. Or maybe the oranges were superimposed later. What's doubly interesting, Layton went on to marry champion water skier Dick Pope, Jr., a pioneer of barefoot skiing. Notice Layton is barefoot here. Was Pope somehow associated with this photo session? Possibly, but there's no info to that effect, so we'll have to mark this as another minor vintage mystery. What a cool shot.

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Hollywoodland Mar 25 2021
WHISPERS ABOUT SAMMY
Want to keep a secret? Don't try it in Hollywood.


We wonder if any modern celebrity romances will be talked about half a century from now the way the old romances were. The way the Taylor/Burtons and Monroe/DiMaggios were talked about. We doubt it. Mid-century Hollywood and public romance seemed go hand in hand, and near the top of the legendary romance pyramid perches Sammy Davis, Jr.'s and Kim Novak's doomed love. Why doomed? Not to put too fine a point on it, but a 1958 Gallup poll showed that a mere 4% of Americans approved of interracial marriage. Four percent! There has never been a scientific study that showed anything other than deeply entrenched racial inequality and animosity in the U.S., and that includes today. But four percent? That's the dark ages.

We've marveled over Kim Novak before, but in case you need a visual reminder look here. Yeah. So Sammy was smitten, and so was all of America. And Novak? She saw in Sammy... charisma maybe? It wasn't devastating looks. Even Davis spoke of himself disparagingly in terms of physical appeal. But he had it. Everyone said so. His it and Novak's it were magnetically attracted and led to a relationship they tried and failed to keep relatively quiet. It's here, though, where we must note that the many Hollywood insiders who say Davis and Novak were knocking boots don't include Novak. She claims they were never more than friends. But when two megastars continually show up—however discreetly—in public together, people will talk. More importantly, tabloids will talk. And perhaps most concerning of all, Whisper will talk.

The above issue published this month in 1960 purports to have new info about the maybe-affair that shook Hollywood to its foundations, and also claims to have the scoop on Sammy's post-Kim fling Joan Stuart. We've seen many stories about his Swedish wife Mai Britt—also called a Kim copy by tabloids—but this is the first we've seen about Stuart. She wasn't Davis's first post-Novak partner. He married actress Loray White in 1958, but divorced her in 1960. Rumor is he married her under duress, having been told by certain Mafia figures to marry a black woman or else lose another eye. Whisper says that story isn't true.

Stuart was a Canadian actress, just starting out in show business. Whisper gets quotes from her parents about their daughter's relationship with Davis, and they aren't supportive. Shocking as that may be. The magazine's final take is this: “Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy meets another girl just like the girl he had before. Boy gets girl. And boy seems to be going to keep girl.” Davis did want to keep her, telling friends and reporters he wanted to marry her, but their pairing didn't last. Stuart went on to appear in some television shows and one movie—1978's In Praise of Older Women—but did not have a notable career. Did romance with Sammy Davis, Jr. hurt her? You'd have to think so—with about 96% of the public. We have some scans below, and more from Whisper to come.
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Vintage Pulp Mar 3 2021
PRISONER OF CIRCUMSTANCE
Stuck between the cops and a hard place.


This poster was made to promote the drama Big House, U.S.A., which premiered today in 1955, and starred Ralph Meeker, who later headlined the classic film noir Kiss Me Deadly. He also starred in one of our favorite unknown films of all time, the television production Birds of Prey, which we may talk about at a later date. Big House is basically a procedural crime drama about how the cops try to break down a kidnapper and suspected murderer played by Meeker. His character is nicknamed Ice Man because he's cool under pressure. True to form the cops can't wring a confession from him, so he's sent to prison for lesser crimes and will be released in a short while.

Ice Man thinks he's got it made. Serve easy time, earn a quick parole, then quietly retrieve the heist loot waiting for him on the outside. But cons read the news too, and several decide they want his cash. They plan an escape, and they're going to drag Ice Man along against his will or kill him for refusing. And naturally, they have no intention of letting him survive handing over the money. What a pickle. Die now or die later. But once he's on the outside maybe—just maybe—there's a chance he can turn the tables on these con-conspirators.

Big House, U.S.A. is set in Denver and the surrounding Colorado countryside, and features some nice exteriors, but it's strictly a b-movie—poorly staged, cheesily scripted, and stuck together with baling wire and chewing gum. We mentioned Meeker's starring role in Kiss Me Deadly. That came out only a month after this movie, so it was a nice recovery for him. A couple of other notes of interest in Big House are that you get to see a young and fit Charles Bronson flashing his biceps—certainly a draw for some—and the legendary Lon Chaney, Jr. gets a role as a grizzled prison inmate. The overall result is certainly watchable, but there are better prison dramas out there, and hundreds of better vintage crime flicks.

After we bust outta this joint, what do you say we form a boy band? Charles knows three guitar chords and I can sing.

What are you mad at me for? Is it my fault the babes like singers best?

Fuck this. Between Meeker and Bronson I'm getting no action at all. I'm starting a solo career. I heard there's a thing called Auto-Tune that'll keep even my singing voice in pitch.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 17 2021
ENERGY CRISIS
This comes as a surprise to me, but I think I'm too wiped out to have sex again today.


There's so much sleaze out there. We continue to be amazed at the sheer volume of it. Above is a cover for Ralph Whitmore Jr.'s 1965 sleazer Passions Unlimited, from All Star Books. We would give a lot to know how much all these smut books sold compared to regular fiction, but that info is not available to us. Considering the sheer number of these we run across, though, the profits must have been considerable. We have several sleaze novels lined up for reading, so we'll be back on this subject soon.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 20 2020
SWEET MUSIC
The truth is I only listen to classical, but all the guys at those concerts are too old and frail to risk taking to bed.


Last stop for the scum of humanity on the road to hell? Sign us up! But 1953's Honky Tonk Girl isn't the throwaway novel you'd expect. The premise is unique—a Dixieland jazz musician named Johnny Nickles fears he's recorded a haunted album. The platter, The Ghost Album, is so titled because it's a tribute to dead jazz kingpins, and seems to have heralded a series of misfortunes: the band's arranger dropped dead of a heart attack; Johnny's girlfriend stole his money and car; his band lost the cushy house gig they'd been promised; and now, playing nightly in a dive bar in nowheresville, the band's drummer has been murdered. Nickles decides to solve the case and gets help from a hooker, a chanteuse, a cop, and some obvious clues. We thought the idea of a haunted album would be the launch pad for a memorable book, but Beckman doesn't quite get this one airborne because—despite his extensive pulp pedigree—he's middling as a writer. But what does come through is his musical knowledge and familiarity with the hand-to-mouth existence of ambitious young jazzmen. We give it a 5 for prose and an 8 for atmosphere. The cover art, on the other hand, is a solid 10. It's by the always amazing Howell Dodd.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 18
1920—U.S. Women Gain Right To Vote
The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified despite heavy conservative opposition. It states that no U.S. citizen can be denied the right to vote because of their gender.
1958—Lolita is Published in the U.S.
Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita, about a man's sexual obsession with a pre-pubescent girl, is published in the United States. It had been originally published in Paris three years earlier.
August 17
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
August 16
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
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