Vintage Pulp Jul 3 2024
He's hopelessly outclassed by his prey. And the tiger is a problem too.

Above you see a nice cover by an uncredited illustrator for 1959's Womanhunt, written by Harry Wilcox posing as his alter ego Mark Derby and published in this Ace paperback edition in 1960. This is interesting visual work. You notice that the femme fatale's eyes resemble the tiger's eyes. That comparison is at the crux of the tale Derby tells. In the story a government agent named Dickson (Dix to his friends) is sent upcountry in Malaya to pose as a big game hunter there to kill a deadly tigress, while behind the scenes he's searching out a communist cabal and determining whether an agent already there is doing her job or has turned.

That agent—Anna Swansey—is someone Dix barely knows but is “miserably and hopelessly in love with.” Under the pressure of his mission, his feelings turn into a consuming obsession. As high concept novels go, the idea of trying to stalk an apex predator, arouse love within a woman, and expose a spy ring all at once is as ripe as it gets. There's a lot going on at all times, and Derby keeps multiple plates spinning on sticks while treating readers to some nice passages, like this one:

Before her magnificent body, an electric apparition of charcoal, gold, and white, had passed out of sight, he had a second view of her snarl, the haughty sneer that drew mouth and white whiskers high and quivering on each side, the narrowing of the usually rounded eyes, the flash of the ivory teeth.

At one point Dix is alone in the jungle and hears the tigress's roar. It's a moment when he realizes, terrifyingly, that his hunt of her may have turned into her hunt of him:

He jumped as if a cannon had gone off. He had got it into his head that she was somewhere over on his right, or behind him, and this growl came from directly ahead. It sounded awesomely near, too. [snip] The roar, a sound which perhaps only one in every million human beings ever hears, and only one in ten million ever hears at close quarters, filled the dark jungle with shock. There was a moment, perhaps of one second, during which Dix did nothing but stiffen; then his arms moved and the beam of the flashlight mounted on the rifle barrel cut a cone of light in the dark clearing.

The title of book registers weird in 2024, but it isn't misogynist—or not very. A few web pages say the woman of the hunt is, metaphorically, the tigress. No. It's a metaphor, alright, but not one that simple. The woman of the hunt is actually both the tigress and Anna. That's made clear because Derby flogs the woman-as-tigress metaphor until it's welted from nose to tail. But he's also capable of smirking at it, briefly anyway, such as here:

My grandfather used to say that a tigress was a woman, a woman who did not wish to be caught. She would hide down trails the hunter didn’t know and, just like a woman, her lies would be more clever than his traps. That’s what he used to say.” ’Che Kadan was fond of quoting his grandfather, who’d been one of the Malayan sultans—an old man of character, it seemed, since his quoted remarks were invariably mere clichés or sentimental platitudes which must have been remembered for the authority with which he’d uttered them.

It's a comparison that's probably insulting to most modern women, but don't let it fool you. The tale is steeped in debilitating male emotion, lustful obsession, existential terror, and a desperate loneliness. It reads tragically at times, as Dix tries but fails to keep Anna from slowly taking over his thoughts. And that's another unusual aspect of the book: Dix is increasingly driven by jealousy. At first it's directed only against Anna's boss Charlton Lang, who also wants her badly and uses his authority to constantly keep her near him in a work capacity. Then Anna's ex-lover shows up. Dix is driven near to madness by this event.

Derby deals in high emotion. For example, big cats generally kill humans when they're the only obtainable prey. Usually the animal is hurt, or very old. Dix sympathizes with the tigress, doesn't consider her to be in any way at fault, but people keep getting eaten, so he has no choice about killing her—not merely as matter of his cover, but as a matter of saving lives. His conflict over this is wrenching, symbolic of terrible choices forced on us all. To add an extra ingredient, he isn't an experienced hunter. He can shoot—but he isn't expert. His pursuit of the tigress is ridiculously dangerous.

This is a great book. However, the usual warnings apply to colonial fiction. In addition, within the communist plotlines Dix's quarries are all fools, monsters, or victims of coercion. Capitalism wasn't then—and isn't now—turning the world into a fruit laden banquet table overflowing with goodness for all, and Derby was surely smart enough to understand that. But despite the billions killed to establish and maintain his preferred global order, he never touches the reasons why alternative political philosophies take hold. In his mind, resistance comes from the deluded, from dolts who—for inexplicable reasons—believe colonials have no right to steal foreign lands. That may annoy the more politically objective readers.

But while more character depth on that front would have made Womanhunt perfect, and its total and rather smug one-sidedness means it has to be partly classified as propaganda, Derby can really construct and deliver an adventure. How do you wrap up a communist spy caper, Malayan big game hunt, and heart-hurting love story all at once? Those spinning plates never wobble. The hunt's spectacular end flows immediately into the climax of the spy tale, and within that chaotic resolution the love story concludes with fireworks. We'll be revisiting Derby soon.


Vintage Pulp Jan 3 2022
Sugawara gives the red light to wartime slavery.

This blazingly colorful promo poster was made for the action movie Onna dorei-sen, known in English as Female Slave Ship, which is set during World War II and follows the adventures of a navy lieutenant played by Bunta Sugawara. The tale begins with him sent on a secret mission to obtain radar schematics to help salvage Japan's waning war fortunes, but unfortunately his plane is shot full of holes by a squadron of American F4Fs and he ends up in the drink. He's picked up by a Shanghai bound China boat, or slave ship, carrying twelve women meant to be auctioned to a gathering of Epsteins. Eleven of the women are prostitutes, but Rumiko, played by the lovely Utako Mitsuya, was tricked onto the boat. Naturally, she and Sugawara form an instant connection. Can he save her? You can be sure he'll try his best.

But just when you think Female Slave Ship is a straightforward white-knight-saves-damsel tale, the slave ship is attacked by pirates, and the women and Sugawara are suddenly at the mercy of the most ruthless band of unbathed thugs ever to steam the East China Sea. After some onboard drama the vessel lands, not in Shanghai but on a rocky Chinese coast where traffickers plan to brand and sell the women. This obviously can't stand, which means Buntawara must somehow throw sand in the gears. Why he's even alive at this point is a question. He's been nothing but trouble to the pirates, and the simplest solution would have been to toss him to the sharks. Failing to do that will be a costly and contusion making error.

We wanted to get away from Nikkatsu Studios' misogynistic roman pornos for a while and this effort from Shintoho Film fulfilled the requirement. Well, mostly. While generally tame, you'll rarely see so many women slapped around. But the treatment is meant to outrage. Mission accomplished. You will hate these traffickers. As for the movie overall, we suspect you'll like-not-love it. It's done in broad strokes, but as a sort of surf-to-turf soap opera it mostly works fine. Sugawara, who was soon to become a cinematic icon, has a charisma befitting his burgeoning status. And Yôko Mihara, already a big star at this point, is enjoyable playing a slippery slaver whose allegiances shift with the tides. She and Sugawara are worth seeing. Female Slave Ship premiered in Japan today in 1960.

Vintage Pulp Sep 16 2021
Documentary explores the allure of erotic dance through time.

Here's some random Italian pleasantness today, two posters for the documentary Sexy, which focused on erotic dancers from ancient Egypt through the French Revolution and into the age of modern burlesque. This was soundtracked with music from Ricki (Ricky) Gianco, and some of the dancers include Rita Himalaya, Lin Chen, and the Sexy Twisters, whose act we'd give plenty to see. No such luck, though, because as far as we know the movie isn't available in any format. Too bad. We don't know if it's meant to inform so much as titillate, but we'd love to see what it has about Egypt. Well, we can hope. Obscure movies become accessible all the time. Sexy doesn't have a premiere date, but it came out sometime in 1962. 


Femmes Fatales May 26 2019
I'll give you one more chance to get it right. It's spelled without a “y” but pronounced like there is one.

Bette Davis was born with the first name Ruth, but nicknamed Betty from childhood. As an actress she changed the spelling to Bette after Honoré de Balzac's La Cousine Bette, and people mangled the pronunciation routinely until she became a huge star. Speaking of letters, this promo photo is from her 1940 drama The Letter, based on a play by W. Somerset Maugham. Remember how we talked about how outward looking Hollywood was during its golden period, how it set so many films in exotic corners of the world? The Letter is another prime example. It's set on a rubber plantation in Malaya. Thanks largely to Davis's golden touch the film was nominated for numerous Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Score. It won nothing, but we assume the film is good anyway. We'll watch it and report back. 


Vintage Pulp Jan 8 2019
Around the world in sixty pages.

Exotic Adventures was a men's magazine put out by NYC based Gladiator Publications, Inc. It seems obvious the company had great ambitions, but it managed only six issues before folding. This one came in 1959 with cover art signed “Louis,” whose full identity is not given. In fact, only three people are listed as staff—editor George P. Wallace and two others—so the cover artist wasn't the only hard worker who got short shrift. The individual authors are given bylines, though, as are the men who narrated their "true" tales to biographers.
Exotic Destinations lived up to its name, with pieces set in Kashmir, French Cameroon, Morocco, Honduras, Malaya, and Borneo, and nude models who are supposedly from Japan, Brazil, France, and Germany. It was all printed on glossy paper, which is why you won't see the usual yellowing you get with old magazines, though the printing got a little streaky and inconsistent in the middle pages. Still, taken as a whole Exotic Adventures is a high quality publication, which we snared courtesy of the now idle Darwin's Scans blog. Forty-plus panels below.


Vintage Pulp Jan 13 2018
… two... and three. Wait. I screwed up again. That would've been on three and. I meant to do it on three.

Here's something backwards from what we usually share—a novel adapted from a film instead of vice versa. The Camp on Blood Island is a 1958 British-made World War II film written by J.M. White and Val Guest, and when you learn it was produced by schlockmeisters deluxe Hammer Film you could be forgiven for suspecting it was low rent b-cinema, but this is Hammer trying to be highbrow. Near the end of the Pacific War, a Japanese prison camp commandant decides that if Japan surrenders he'll execute all his prisoners. So the prisoners decide to prevent news of any prospective surrender from reaching the commandant by sabotaging communications, and they also prepare to rebel when the times comes. We may check the film out sometime, but we were mainly drawn by the paperback art. Not only did it remind us that prison camp novels are yet another subset of mid-century literature, but we saw the Josh Kirby signature on this one and realized we haven't featured him near enough. Last time we ran across him was on this excellent piece. We'll dig around for more. And we may also put together a small collection of prisoner-of-war covers later. They range from true stories to blatant sexploitation, and much of the art is worth seeing.


Vintage Pulp Jul 1 2014
Monroe may wobble but she won’t fall down.

Marilyn Monroe shows up just about everywhere, and here she is yet again where we didn’t expect to see her—fronting a Malaysian film publication that appeared today in 1953. The magazine, called Filmalaya, is in English, which marks it as aimed at the British colonial community that occupied the upper stratum of society in Malaysia and Singapore. The cover photo is from a publicity series made when Monroe filmed the movie Niagara in Ontario, Canada in late 1952, and let’s just assume her perch is not as precarious as it seems and there’s a handy ledge or lawn behind her in case she goes heels up. But if she does, there are other stars in the magazine, such as Joan Collins, Betty Grable, Rhonda Fleming, Ava Gardner, and Nat King Cole.

Filmalaya represents an interesting snapshot into colonial society, as in the article about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in London, which describes the thrills and excitement in Malaysia during the event. Doubtless, the mood around the Commonwealth probably seemed festive when viewed from inside the colonial bubble, but we doubt actual Malaysians were particularly moved. Needless to say, this magazine is rare, but luckily items from Asia are often a bargain, so this cost a mere six U.S. dollars. While the inside is nothing special visually speaking, that doesn’t matter when the magazine has this great cover and is such an informative slice of history. We’ve uploaded a few of the best pages below. Enjoy. 


History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 20
1944—Hitler Survives Third Assassination Attempt
Adolf Hitler escapes death after a bomb explodes at his headquarters in Rastenberg, East Prussia. A senior officer, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, is blamed for planting the device at a meeting between Hitler and other senior staff members. Hitler sustains minor burns and a concussion but manages to keep an appointment later in the day with Italian leader Benito Mussolini.
July 19
1966—Sinatra Marries Farrow
Superstar singer and actor Frank Sinatra marries 21-year-old actress Mia Farrow, who is 30 years younger than him. The marriage lasts two years.
July 18
1925—Mein Kampf Published
While serving time in prison for his role in a failed coup, Adolf Hitler dictaes and publishes volume 1 of his manifesto Mein Kampf (in English My Struggle or My Battle), the book that outlines his theories of racial purity, his belief in a Jewish conspiracy to control the world, and his plans to lead Germany to militarily acquire more land at the expense of Russia via eastward expansion.
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