Gladiatorial combat is all fun and games until the gladiators decide you're the one who needs killing.
We've featured master fantasy artist Frank Frazetta a few times, so it seems only fair that we feature the yang to his yin, Peruvian born legend Boris Vallejo. Here you see his art on a promo poster for Naked Warriors, which is better known as The Arena, released this month in 1974 starring another legend, Pam Grier, along with occasional co-star, the lovely Margaret Markov. We've talked about the movie twice, shared its Italian and U.S. promo art, and shared rare promo images of Grier once or twice, or maybe even three or four times, as well as a beautiful centerfold of Markov. All of that imagery is worth a look. Vallejo's art is a nice fit for a tale of enslaved gladiators pitted against each other eventually defying their sadistic masters to fight for freedom. He painted when Corcorde Pictures acquired the rights to the film from MGM/UA for a VHS release in 1988. Concorde/New World was formed and run by schlockmeister Roger Corman, and that explains the black wedges at the top and bottom of the promo. When you do thingson the cheap as a matter of course like Corman did, tilting the art in an inelegant way to make the two figures fit a door panel format seems logical. We can imagine him: “Just lean the fucker left. Who cares about the blank spots?” And indeed, who does, really?
In addition to a great piece of art, as a bonus we've also uploaded some Arena production photos we found scattered around the internet over the years. Most of them were shot by Italian lensman Angelo Frontoni, whose work we've admired often. As it is a lusty sort of movie, some of the shots are a bit lusty too. We had these sitting about and didn't have a real good excuse to share them until today, so from the good old days of ’70s sexploitation behold: Grier, Markov, Lucretia Love, Maria Pia Conte, Rosalba Neri, and others in barely-there gladiatorial gear—and sometimes less. We can't say the film is perfect, but it's definitely worth a watch.
Coffy gets scalding hot in explicit novelization.
A novelization of the blaxploitation classic Coffy? We had to buy it. Paul Fairman was tapped to bring the iconic character of Coffy to literary life, and we were surprised to discover that the result is x-rated. We assume Fairman's marching orders came from Lancer Books or/and American International Pictures, and in a way it's a clever gambit—readers had no choice but to imagine Pam Grier dispensing the blowjobs and sizzling bed sessions described. Unfortunately, the other edge of that sword is Fairman has Coffy raped, which didn't happen in the movie (though she was seriously threatened with such). Except for the kicked up explicitness, the tale hews close to the motion picture, with Coffy seeking bloody revenge against the degenerates who addicted her eleven-year-old sister to heroin.
Fairman writes with as much soul as he can muster, but it's quickly discernible that he doesn't exactly have his finger on the pulse of the black community. Some of his attempts at African American vernacular are cringeworthy, especially the constant interjections of, “Sheeee-it!” We really don't think many black authors would have made that choice, and Fairman, who's not black and is no Toni Morrison, should have rethought it. The book has this and numerous other flaws, and isn't well written overall. We're particularly let down that Fairman never solved the mystery of Coffy's real name. Her last name is Coffin, but we don't learn a first name in the movie, and we don't here either. Her sister calls her Flower Child, but we feel like that's understood to be a nickname.
We managed to get Fairman's Coffy for seven dollars plus shipping. We've seen sellers ask for a lot more, even as much as eighty dollars, but we'd caution against extravagant expenditure. You get less than you expect. The book has extra large type to help pad it into a normal sized paperback. With regular type, leading, and kerning we think it would run maybe 140 pages. Instead of typographic tricks, a more detailed portrayal of No-First-Name Coffin would have been better, but no such luck. Even so, we're glad we bought Fairman's novelizationsploitation. If we hadn't, we would have wondered about its contents forever. The cover art on this is uncredited, but it comes directly from the film poster. That art, in turn, is rarely attributed, but it's by George Akimoto. Excellent work.
You know that fist bump thing? I invented it way back in the ’70s except it was my fist and their faces.
We've commented before about how, generally speaking, actresses from the blaxploitation era don't have much in the way of surviving promotional material. It's possible few promos were ever made. In either case, it means good photos of the genre's stars can be rare. Pam Grier is an exception. She was one of the top performers to come out of blaxploitation, was also an impact presence in the women-in-prison niche, and really, was probably the first woman you could call an action star. We say probably to hedge our bets, but we can't think of a counter example, unless, maybe, we look at Japanese film. But because Grier was an important figure, she was reasonably well photographed. For that reason, previously unseen shots appear regularly. The two images above, which turned up online earlier this year, are excellent additions to her cinematic legacy. They were shot in 1975, and are part of the series that produced the well known image below that appeared inside an issue of New York magazine.
Who do you think you're calling baby, buster?
Any reasonable excuse to feature Pam Grier is one we'll gladly take. We checked out her blaxploitation flick Sheba, Baby a few years ago. We've since found this alternate poster, which is different enough from the one-sheet that we thought it would be a good idea to share it, as well as the promo image, which is a subtle colorization of the black and white original. Sheba, Baby premiered today in 1975, and this is the last we expect to write about it. We'll have plenty more on Grier though.
You probably can't pull this look off but there's no harm in dreaming.
Above you see a photo of U.S. actress Rosalind Cash modeling what we like to think of as the classic afro, an image we've posted today because recently we ran across a story on Simone Williams, official Guinness World Record holder for largest afro in existence. We don't know if hers is actually the largest, regardless of what Guinness says, but it's a majestic 'do, beyond doubt. It got us thinking about the hairstyle, which in our book is the coolest of all time.
There are different types of afros beside just the classic. We wanted to feature all styles, and we also bent the definition a little to include what might be categorized more accurately as large perms. We've labeled all the variations below, which will help when you start on the long, winding, and ultimately fruitless road toward your own blowout. We're aware, of course, that there were many male celebs who had afros, but we're sticking with women today. Your journey begins below.
The pure joy afro, as modeled by Gloria Hendry, who appeared in such films as Live and Let Die and Savage Sisters. The regal, by Diahann Carroll, crown not included The bohemian, by Esther Anderson, who appeared in flims like Genghis Khan and A Warm December. The aquatic, by Camella Donner, who's a true water sprit, as we've shown you before. The iconic, by Pam Grier, who did as much to popularize the afro as any film star in history. The tall and proud afro, worn by trans b-movie actress Ajita Wilson. The wild child, seen here atop Italian actress Iris Peynado. The supreme afro, seen here on Diana Ross. The lovely innocence afro, by Brenda Sykes. The you-could-be-bald-and-still-be-smokin'-hot, demonstrated by Get Christie Love star Teresa Graves. The afro-warrior by Cleopatra Jones star Tamara Dobson. Definitely more in the category of a large perm, but she pioneered the high fashion afro, so she's earned some latitude. The too-cool-for-you afro/perm by Vonetta McGee. The action afro, seen here on Jeannie Bell. This barely qualifies, but she had one of the largest afros in the history of cinema, so we can cut her some slack. Check her screen shot in this post to be amazed. The bright-eyed and bushy, by Carol Speed. The action afro again, this time by Trina Parks, who sported this look in Diamonds Are Forever. Is it technically an afro? Tell her it isn't and see what happens. And lastly, the too-big-to-be-real afro, worn by Azizi Johari, whose actual hair you can see here.
There are numerous other afro shots in our website, but we can't possibly remember where they all are, so you'll just have to find them yourself, maybe by clicking the blaxploitation link below. Besides those, we do recall one more afro you can check out. It's on Desirée West, and you'll need to gird yourself for probably the hottest shot in Pulp Intl. history. Ready? Look here.
Which is louder—his shotgun or his wardrobe?
Above you see two posters for the blaxploitation flick Hit Man, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1972 and stars NFL player-turned-actor Bernie Casey as a man from Oakland who blows into L.A. to investigate his brother's murder. His brother ran a used car lot, but had gotten on the bad side of some local criminals. How he did that, who these bad people are, and what they're up to are the questions at the crux of the narrative, and when Casey finally learns the truth he's horrified and infuriated in equal measure, which turns him into a leisure-suited revenant with murder in his eyes and a gun in his hands.
What is neither horrifying nor infuriating is that Pam Grier is in this, which makes it a must watch in our book, and she holds nothing back, sporting a quantum leap forward in afro science, and proving once again that she was a fearless performer. Nevertheless, she and Casey can't make Hit Man good despite their best efforts. But on the other hand, it isn't awful either, and in the middle isn't a bad place to be in b-cinema, considering how deeply terrible the films can get.
Hit Man has a couple of miscellaneous notes of interest. A bit of filming takes place at Watts Towers, Simon Rodia's italo folk art monument that was designated a historic site in 1990. We've seen the place in person and we loved it because its mosaics reminded us of the type you see on modernist architecture in Barcelona. The production photo of Grier in a long black dress, below, was shot at the site. It's one of the most famous images of her, and one of the most badass too.
Hit Man also makes use of a location called Africa America, an open air animal preserve of the type made famous by Tiger King. We can't find any trace online that it ever existed, so there's no way to know for sure whether it was a real zoo, an MGM set, or something in between, such as a private ranch dressed up for filming. But it plays an important role in the plot, as do its hungry lions. If they'd eaten a few of the worst script pages, and a couple of bad supporting actors, and maybe Casey's purple leisure suit, Hit Man might be better than just okay. But lions are finicky like all cats, and most amateur film critics.
Blacula hopes to get a hard restart.
Every blockbuster deserves—or at least spawns—a sequel, and so it was with 1972's blaxploitation hit Blacula, which American International Pictures followed up with Scream, Blacula, Scream. All it really needed was star William Marshall, who in the first movie showed true professionalism by playing his role of Mamuwalde the cursed vampire to the hilt. He does the same here, and with the addition of Pam Grier the filmmakers had their bases covered. Grier plays a Mamaloa priestess who Mamuwalde asks to use her voodoo judo to turn him into a man again. Presumably at that point he'll start his new life with a romp in bed with Grier. We would.
Grier tries to figure out how to transform Mamuwalde, but in the interim he still occasionally gets hungry, which presents the cops with a series of bizarre murders. You know the drill. Bodies are punctured about the neck and drained of blood, but everyone is skeptical about the vampire thing. In short order they change their minds, generally right before departing for the sweet hereafter. At least part of the fun for audiences would have been seeing cops beaten and maimed, and the climax surely offers plenty of that. Does Mamuwalde's scheme to rejoin humanity work? We'll give you a hint: When the man is on your trail bite more, talk less.
We have some nice promo images below. The two of Grier in a red crop top are usually considered to be from Foxy Brown, but she actually wears the outfit in this film. Maybe she wears it in Foxy Brown too. And why not—it's hot. You can read about Blacula at this link, and see plenty more of Miss Grier by clicking her keywords below. Scream, Blacula, Scream premiered in the U.S. today in 1973.
Sheba Shayne takes aim at Egypt.
Above is an Egyptian promo poster made for Pam Grier's blaxploitation flick Sheba, Baby, in which she played the title character Sheba Shayne (surely one of the best names for a PI ever). We have no Egyptian premier date for the film, but it probably happened well after its 1975 U.S. opening, maybe even as late as ’77 or ’78. Does the figure on the poster look like Grier? Not as much as it could, but we think it's a fun piece of art anyway.
The island of Doctor Morose.
There's cheese and there's Philippine cheese. Cheese is mildly fragrant. Philippine cheese is chase-you-from-the-room stinky. Twilight People, for which you see a promo poster above, was made in the Philippines and it reeks to high heaven. But all is not lost—it's also fantastically funny in parts. The story here is a scientist kidnaps John Ashley to an isolated tropical island with the aim of transplanting his personality into the members of a menagerie of feral semi-humans created as the next step in human evolution.
This scientist is not just mad—he's a total downer. Nuclear war, pollution, overpopulation, the ecological consequences of civilization—he's worried about it all. His ugly quasi-humans are the answer. In our opinion, anything that makes Pam Grier look less like Pam Grier is not an advancement of any kind, but whatever—she's hairy, others are hairy, and they're the next leap up the evolutionary ladder, so sayeth the script.
Ashley can only think of one way to escape this crazy island, which is by using his lips. He works his charms on the sad doc's assistant Pat Woodell, who's the only non-hirsute woman around, and pretty soon her hormones get to simmering and there's trouble in paradise. We really can't blame Ashley for going this route. Woodell is spectacular. Too bad the movie isn't. Think of it as a low budget Island of Doctor Moreau, then watch that film instead. Twilight People premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.
We suspect Le Corbusier would have wanted a model to enhance his furniture, not eclipse it altogether.
This image of Pam Grier, which came from a high-end auction site, is an eight-panel centerfold from an issue of Players magazine originally published in 1974. She's posed on a Le Corbusier lounge. Did you care at all? We have a feeling you didn't. Le Corbusier died in 1965, and if he hadn't, this surely would have made his heart stop. It's one of Grier's most provocative shots, and we can't not have it on the site, a type of imperative we've discussed before. We've also done something special with it, just for you. While it's only 433 pixels wide visually, the file is more than ten times that size digitally. Pull it off the page and you'll have your own 5,000 pixel image of one of U.S. cinema's most iconic stars. Or alternatively, you can just look at the chair.
Note: It turns out Le Corbusier didn't design this lounge after all. He was so famous by 1974 that he employed apprentice designers, tasked them with creating what he deemed minor items, but placed his studio's name on the final results. Though every website we checked gave Corbusier credit, this iconic piece of furniture was actually the work of Charlotte Perriand, who is, all these years later, also considered a grand master of modern design.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1949—First Emmy Awards Are Presented
At the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles, California, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents the first Emmy Awards. The name Emmy was chosen as a feminization of "immy", a nickname used for the image orthicon tubes that were common in early television cameras.
1971—Manson Family Found Guilty
Charles Manson and three female members of his "family" are found guilty of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, which Manson orchestrated in hopes of bringing about Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise between blacks and whites.
1961—Plane Carrying Nuclear Bombs Crashes
A B-52 Stratofortress carrying two H-bombs experiences trouble during a refueling operation, and in the midst of an emergency descent breaks up in mid-air over Goldsboro, North Carolina. Five of the six arming devices on one of the bombs somehow activate before it lands via parachute in a wooded region where it is later recovered. The other bomb does not deploy its chute and crashes into muddy ground at 700 mph, disintegrating while driving its radioactive core fifty feet into the earth, where it remains to this day.
1912—International Opium Convention Signed
The International Opium Convention is signed at The Hague, Netherlands, and is the first international drug control treaty. The agreement was signed by Germany, the U.S., China, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, and Siam.
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