Vintage Pulp Aug 26 2020
PYRAMID SCHEME
Ancient Zapotec treasures bring out the tomb raider in everyone.


This poster was made for the 1953 adventure Plunder of the Sun, a title which may sound familiar from David Dodge's 1951 novel. The movie starred Glenn Ford, Patricia Medina, and Diana Lynn, and follows the basic gold hunting theme of the book, but with numerous plot details altered, and the exotic locations around Latin America—particularly Peru—condensed to only Havana and the province of Oaxaca, Mexico. The Havana scenes were shot in Mexico, but the Oaxaca scenes were indeed shot in southeastern Mexico, with location work at the Zapotec ruins in Monte Alban. You can practically hear the head honcho at Wayne-Fellows Productions saying, “I love this book, but we've got to make it cheaper. Why go all the way to Peru when there are perfectly good ruins in Mexico?” The Oaxaca locations are great, though, and extensively used, which really helps the film. Are we saying Plunder of the Sun is good? Well, no we aren't. It doesn't have the depth needed to earn a place in the top ranks of vintage cinema, but it's well shot, and its proto-Indiana Jones feel is interesting enough to keep you watching. We have a few promo images below, and you can learn more about the plot by checking our write-up on the novel here.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 15 2020
TWO OF A KIND
You know what I love about you, Jane? You're as hot as me. It's like I switched my gender with FaceApp.


The promo poster for the classic film noir His Kind of Woman declares Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum the hottest combination ever to hit the screen. The windscreen? The screen door? We'll assume it means the silver screen. The movie was made by RKO Radio Pictures when it was run by Howard Hughes, so if you know anything about vintage cinema you already know this production was a mess. Hughes' micromanaging, meddling, and firings of actors led to heavy cost overruns and more than an hour of retakes. Despite these issues Mitchum and Russell do fine as the romantic leads, and support from Vincent Price, Jim Backus, and Raymond Burr helps them immensely. Are they the hottest whatever to hit the whatever? Well, of course. They'd be the hottest pushing a stalled car up a hill, or flossing their rearmost molars, or yakking in the toilet after an all night tequila binge. When you're hot, you're hot. We know quite well because—not to boast—people have said the same about us.

Anyway, Mitchum plays a classic film noir patsy who accepts a pile of money to go to Mexico for unknown purposes, only to discover that the sweet deal he thought he was getting isn't so sweet after all. Russell plays a rich girl idling down south with her lover, a famous actor, but when she gets a gander of Mitchum she starts rethinking her romantic priorities. Any smart woman would. We won't reveal the plot other than to say it's adequate, though not awe inspiring. The last few reels make a hard right turn into comedy, which some viewers hate, but the major problem for us is that the ineptness of the villains during the extended climax strains credulity. In the end His Kind of Woman may not be your kind of movie, but guys (or girls) get to see Russell dress slinkily and sing a couple of songs, and girls (or guys) get to see Mitchum go about twenty minutes with no shirt, so there's a silver lining for everyone here. The film premiered in the U.S. today in 1951.
Do you have someplace I can store this suitcase filled with my excess masculine heat?
 
Sure, you can sit next to me. But first you have to sign a liability waiver in case you get scorched.
 
You'll love this next trick. I put my finger in this cognac and it catches fire.
 
Hot as this guy is, I don't know whether to keep beating on him or start beating on me.
 
And once I take your face off I'll be the hot one. I'll have it all! Respect, envy, women, excellent service wherever I go! The world will be mine! Mwahh hah hah! Haaaaaaaah haha hahah!
 
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Vintage Pulp Aug 5 2020
GIRLS JUST JUANA HAVE FUN
Seems naive now, but when I heard it was a recreational drug I thought it would make me spend more time outside.


Amazingly, if you go shopping for a copy of N. R. de Mexico's, aka Robert Campbell Bragg's 1951 novel Marijuana Girl, some vendors will try to charge you $200 or more. That's quite an ask for a flimsy old digest novel, but people must pay it, we guess. It certainly isn't the cover art of a hapless model that makes the book valuable. Is it the prose? Well, the book was good, in fact far better than we expected. It sets up as a drug scare novel. The main character, Joyce, goes through the full progression—i.e. youthful smalltown rebelliousness leads to a permissive lifestyle leads to the big city leads to drugs leads to harder drugs leads to prostitution and so forth. We didn't give anything away there—the rear cover provides all that information and more. We're even told Joyce hangs with jazz musicians (which you understand to mean non-whites) and trades “her very soul” for drugs, so you know where this all goes before you even reach the title page.

But Marijuana Girl also defies conventions of drug scare books. For example, it portrays nearly all the drug users as regular folks well in control of their intake. In fact, the two characters responsible for introducing Joyce to drugs are the same two who work hardest to get her off them. Other easy plot choices are avoided as well, which is rarely the case in 1950s novels with numerous non-white characters. But here's really why the book is unique—it goes into amazing detail about the process of consuming drugs. De Mexico zooms close during those moments, sharing the proper technique for smoking joints, clinically explaining how to use a needle, and how to pull blood back into the syringe to rinse out every last molecule of heroin. It's all there. This had to be shocking for 1951 readers, which we suppose is what boosts the book's value for modern collectors. Still, $200? We don't think Marijuana Girl, or any paperback, is worth that much, but it's definitely worth reading.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 18 2020
SQUEAKY CLEAN
Welch makes world's most unwieldy laundry technique look like a good idea.


This piece of art has two things going for it—it was painted by Italian genius Enzo Nistri, and his painting is of Raquel Welch. We know—we had you already at Enzo. Consider Welch a bonus. El Verdugo is Spanish for “the executioner,” and this is a Spanish poster, despite the artist being Italian. The film is better known as 100 Rifles, a 1969 western about a revolutionary who knocks off a bank to fund the purchase of guns. It's counterculture all the way—Burt Reynolds plays a half-Native American named Yaqui Joe, Jim Brown co-stars as a lawman sent to recover the cash, Welch is also supposed to be Indian, and the subtext of revolution was meant to mirror the social unrest in the U.S. We wrote about it in detail here.

Welch takes a shower in the middle of the film, and you see below we have some promo images of that. A clothed shower? It's silly. Welch did not do nudity*, so the filmmakers should have simply left the scene out. Within the script the shower is an ambush so she can get some Mexican soldiers' guards down then ventilate them, but just set up the ambush a different way. Don't know about you, but if we came across someone showering clothed, whatever the circumstances, we'd immediately start looking over our shoulders because it's strange. That said, the photos are fun. They show what a huge sex symbol Welch was. Douse her with water and men got hot and bothered seeing hardly any skin at all. El Verdugo opened in Spain today in 1969.
*Regarding Welch nude scenes, there's a nude photo of a woman who resembles Welch and is believed by some to have been taken on a movie set. It's plausible in the sense that back then actors got naked for scenes that were nude in scripts but not meant to be shown nude or fully nude onscreen—such as here and here—but we doubt Welch did it.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 29 2020
A SHERRY ON TOP
You can't keep a good woman down south.


Another day, another bit of light sleaze. Sherry, written by Hodge Evens and published by Beacon Signal in 1961, tells the story of a naive young woman who takes a trip south of the border to Mexico with her boyfriend, loses him, loses her money, and loses reasonable options for getting back to the U.S. after she's mistaken for a prostitute, accused of murder, and pursued by heroin smugglers. She must somehow make it home before she ends up in an Ensenada prison or enslaved, but how, when she's broke and hunted? With the only currency she has, of course. That sounds positively sleaze-packed, doesn't it? But considering the premise, Sherry is pretty chaste. We'll give Evens credit, though—he gets you rooting for his heroine. His name was a pseudonym, it seems, though nobody can say with certainty what his real identity was. It'll probably turn up eventually, though. They usually do. The cover art on this is uncredited.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 25 2020
A CHILE RECEPTION
No, it's not a Halloween costume, gringo. We don't have that here. We have Day of the Dead. Wanna find out how it works?


The Long Escape was originally published 1948, and was the first of a trio of books written by David Dodge starring his investigator character Al Colby. The cover art by Robert Stanley depicts a scene that actually occurs in the narrative, but the book is not a western style adventure. It's a missing person mystery that starts in California, passes through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, and finally settles in Chile. The man under the poncho is a sort of Chilean vaquero who loves horses and guns, and is a generally hostile guy. But Colby is not one to be easily bested. He may be a gringo, but he's fluent in Spanish, as well as the ways and means of Latin America. The Long Escape is a good book. Everything we've read by Dodge so far is good. In our opinion the second Colby outing, Plunder of the Sun, is even a bit better, but you can't go wrong with this particular author. We'll continue making our way through his catalog and report back.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 10 2020
THE KIDS ARE ALL REICH
Troublesome Nazis bring bad intentions to Mexico City.


The much beloved Santo movies may not be good, but you certainly can't complain about the promo posters. This winner was made for Santo en Anónimo mortal, aka Santo in Anonymous Death Threat, and it finds everyone's favorite luchador once again battling the forces of evil. This time he's called upon to help the latest in a line of men who've been sent anonymous notes informing them of the dates of their deaths. The previous recipients met nasty ends. The newest prospective victim doesn't trust the police to keep him alive, so he appeals to the only man that can truly do the job—Santo el enmascarado de plata. Santo rightly wonders what the connection is between all these men. But viewers don't have to wonder—it's right there on the poster.

Yes, Nazis have made their sneaky way to Mexico. And just to ram the point home fully, Santo coincidentally has a match against a wrestler named El Nazi, who mid-round is shot dead, becoming yet another victim. Santo soon learns that all the departed—even El Nazi, who must have adopted his moniker due to a keen sense of irony—were witnesses at the war crimes trial of a Third Reich death merchant named Paul Von Struber. This von Struber was sentenced to hang, but escaped to Mexico City, where he took an assumed identity. Now he wants revenge on everyone who testified against him because— Well, that's hard to figure out. He really should just lay low, having evaded the hangman. But he's a Nazi. They specialize in terrible ideas.

By the time this film appeared Santo had already battled vampires, zombies, and witches. The producers of these potboilers went big early. Overloaded with crazy concepts, they even had Santo go up against a carnivorous blob. Nazis, then, aren't that big a deal. Santo doesn't even have to cut his wrestling schedule short. When the evil von Struber captures him and locks him away in the secret Nazi lair, he quickly manages to break his ropes, beat the shit out of the flunkies guarding him, and bring down El Cuarto Reich before it even has a chance to stick its head out of its bunker. It's good that Santo's triumph is so perfunctory, because this was his forty-somethingth adventure and his knees had to be getting balky. Santo en Anónimo mortal premiered in Mexico today in 1975.
Wow, you're a big'un, aren't you? Ever considered pro wrestling? If you wanna meet up later I can teach you some submission holds.

Obergruppenführer! I have a question!
 
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Vintage Pulp Mar 28 2020
BAT CLEANUP
Acapulco's toughest crimefighter is throwing out the trash.


There's a new flying mammal in town, and her name is la Mujer Murciélago—the Bat Woman. Maybe that's more of a title than a name, but you get the idea. Who exactly is this caped crusader? Well, she's—and this is verbatim from the film—“a wonderful and very rich lady who lives in the capital city, and uses her vast fortune to fight against the forces of evil.” Generally rich people are the forces of evil, so we greatly respect her for going against type, but as a crimefighter she has a real headscratcher on her hands. Luchadores are being murdered and the juices of their pineal glands extracted. Clearly these are not crimes with an ordinary motive. Who'd want the brain juices of wrestlers? Gourmet cannibals? Cthulhu cultists?

Cut to the villain in his secret lair. He goes by the sinister name of Eric Williams, and he's stealing wrestler juice because athletes of that type are perfect physical specimens for his scheme to create a race of powerful fish men. We're not sure if we ever understood why he wants to create fish men, but whatever, Bat Woman pretty much immediately suspects this Eric guy, not least because he lives on Acapulco Bay in a big houseboat called Reptilicus—a name that's a strong indicator of villainy. He should have just gone all the way and called the boat My Evil Lair.
 
Does crazy doc Eric make a fish man? Hah. It'd hardly be worth watching the movie if he didn't. Cue guy in a lobster red costume with scuba fins for feet. Having fulfilled his ambition, doc Eric's plan is to now create another horrible hybrid—a fish woman. Guess who he wants captured for that project? But when you step up to Bat Woman you better bring your a-game, because she throws some killer curves.
 
We won't tell you more about the plot, but we will tell you this about the movie as a whole: it's a disaster. We could enumerate some of its merits, like its interesting shots of an Acapulco that's long gone, and we could add that it's also funny as hell at times, partly owing to its terrible English subtitles, but fish starts to stink pretty easily, and this movie gives off a horrific stench. If you find yourself enticed to watch it, definitely alter your brain chemistry with booze or stronger substances before immersing yourself in its epic incompetence. La Mujer Murciélago premiered in Mexico today in 1968.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 11 2020
A POISONED WELLES
Famed director ends up with too many cooks in his kitchen.


The film noir The Lady from Shanghai, starring Hollywood icons Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles, and directed by Welles, premiered in 1947 but reached Australia today in 1948, with this stunning promo poster having been distributed Down Under to help attract audiences. This film had amazing promos in many countries, some of which we'll show you later, and they all spelled Welles' last name correctly, which this one didn't. All the brilliant poster work around this movie is ironic, because Harry Cohn, who was the shot-caller at Columbia Pictures, hated it. He even shelved the flick for a year while he waited for what he deemed to be the best date to release it. When he finally did, what audiences saw was a radically altered version of Welles' original edit.

What did Cohn specifically hate about the film? Foremost there was its length, which was 155 minutes, and which Cohn ordered condensed, with the final running time coming to a mere 88 minutes. He also felt Hayworth didn't have enough close-ups, so he had those shot during extensive re-takes. Hayworth also didn't have a song, which was standard for film noir leading ladies, so Cohn had a number added and had Hayworth's voice dubbed. He hated the lighting, which he felt was a negative result of Welles choosing location work over controlled studio conditions. And he especially hated that Hayworth had agreed to chop off her auburn hair and dye it platinum. The list goes on but you get the point—clashing creative visions. Nothing new in Hollywood.

The Lady from Shanghai finds Welles playing a typical film noir schmo who falls in love with a femme fatale and is drawn into a murder plot. Other familiar film noir tropes include a trip to Mexico (not in the original novel by Sherwood King) and a tense court showdown. But what's decidedly uncommon here is Welles' visual mastery of the cinematic form. His abilities there have been exhaustively discussed and are in no way overrated, but visuals are only part of the filmic equation. There's also narrative pace and story cohesion and emotional tone, and those are areas where the movie runs into a bit of trouble. Since Welles' cut was so much longer (and presumably better) than what has ever been seen by the public, many of those problems were probably introduced by clumsy third parties.

But we can only judge what we see. Since all that missing footage is thought to have been destroyed, it takes a major leap of faith to see a masterpiece in what Welles himself thought was a diced up travesty of his original vision. We don't understand how anyone can truly revere him, yet disregard his artistic opinion. But that's exactly what some contemporary film writers do. We recently read a review that discussed how well the visuals and music work together, but Welles hated the score, which he had no control over and which lacked the subtlety he wanted it to have. We suggest that a critic is trying way too hard when they lavish praise upon a director for something he didn't even do. Welles was a genius—agreement on that point is universal. But even geniuses are not so magical that their abilities can overcome the artistic myopia and careless scissors of studio heads.

The Lady from Shanghai received mixed reviews when released, and ultimately, those reviews strike us as fair. There's plenty here worth seeing, particularly the ravishing Hayworth and nice location work in Acapulco and Sausalito, and of course Welles makes shots like Steph Curry makes 3s. But even so, the final result is good but not great. Not a failure, but not a top notch film noir. Calling The Lady from Shanghai one of the best of the genre is just unfair to the many, many great noirs that were made. Still, if you're a noir fan you should see it. And we're confident you'll enjoy it like we did. On the other hand, if you've never watched a film noir and this happens to be first one you see, we can easily picture you giving a shrug and drifting away from the genre, never to return.

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Femmes Fatales | Musiquarium Feb 28 2020
SWEET JANE
Sugar and spice and everything nice.


Above is shot of cinematic girl-next-door Jane Powell, who rose to fame in Hollywood musicals such as Holiday in Mexico, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Royal Wedding. While Powell is fondly remembered for those and similar roles, she found it ridiculous that she played teenagers into her mid-twenties even though she had children of her own by that point. Under the studio system she had little choice, but later she did manage to expand her repertoire, co-starring in the Hedy Lamarr melodrama The Female Animal. Afterward she turned her attentions mainly to television, with guest slots on everything from Goodyear Theatre to Fantasy Island. She also had stage and singing careers, and scored a top 20 hit with 1956's “True Love.” The photo you see here was made to promote her 1957 musical The Girl Most Likely, and a shot from the same session appeared on the cover of the soundtrack album, which you see below. We don't generally do musicals here, but we will certainly check out her dramatic turn in The Female Animal. Meanwhile you may want to check out this rare photo we shared a couple of years ago.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 27
1964—Warren Commission Issues Report
The Warren Commission, which had been convened to examine the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's assassination, releases its final report, which concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. Today, up to 81% of Americans are troubled by the official account of the assassination.
September 26
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
September 25
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
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