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.
Water levels and more rise in Belle/Grier sexploitation romp.
We've had a lot of Pam Grier on this site, and here she is yet again, co-starring with Annie Belle and Anthony Steel in La notte dell'alta marea, aka Twilight of Love, aka Night of the High Tide, an Italo-Canadian sexploitation flick, and probably her most obscure role. An advertising exec played by Steel is looking for the perfect ass for a blue jeans campaign, spots Annie Belle in a sauna, and decides she fits the bill. The funny part of this is he sees her from behind initially and thinks she's male, which tells you quite a bit about Belle's elfish body type. But male or female, her ass will do just fine, and for more than only the ad campaign. She's amenable to Steel's advances, but she has a boyfriend who isn't quite as sharing.
In the midst of this man-against-man for woman's affections melodrama there's still an advertisment to finish, so Steel takes Belle, her boyfriend, a photographer, and a second model played by Grier to Martinique for a photo shoot. This is a pretty sweet spot for location work, and Grier sports a killer afro that looks mighty good with the Caribbean wind blowing through it. Belle, never to be upstaged, has virtually no hair for the wind to play with but wears what must be one of the earliest thong bikinis to appear in cinema, and soon doffs the shoestrings for even less. Strangely, the jeans this entire excursion are supposed to be about never make an appearance.
From Martinique the group ventures to a smaller, uncharted island and promptly get stuck there. With no hope of rescue and tensions rising—like the tide—problems soon occur. Boy problems. Possessiveness problems. Aggression problems. Don't fear though—rescue comes beforeanyone gets seriously hurt, and Belle gets the customary sexploitation send-off, jetting away backed by synth music and a torch singer as a man stares wistfully into the middle distance, wishing he could hold onto her but knowing in his heart he can't. Because she's a free spirit, you see. And free spirits must soar.
Cheesy? Certainly. But this is sexploitation, so we knew the script would be bad. We accepted that, but we wish the beach sequences hadn't been shot through a layer of gauze—though on the whole the film looks great. We also wish Grier's distinctive voice hadn't been dubbed, but as she speaks no Italian, this was unavoidable. Preferences aside, if you like romantic island erotica this one will please you, though we can't go so far as to call it a good film. But with Belle and Grier sharing the same screen and the same beach it's hard to fail completely. La notte dell'alta marea premiered in Italy today in 1977.
If you've got the balls she's got the time.
Which movie star has the most posts ever on Pulp Intl.? Christina Lindberg? Humphrey Bogart? Reiko Ike? Marilyn Monroe? We haven't gone back over the decade of material we've shared and done a count, but blaxploitation star Pam Grier may be leading the pack. This photo of her in a cool tennis outfit is from 1976.
Grier looks great fronting b-movie soundtrack.
Above, the front and rear sleeves for the original soundtrack to Sheba, Baby, with music by Monk Higgins, Alan Brown, and Barbara Mason. The tunes are nice, but we'll admit we're just posting this to be completist about Grier. We already shared the photo used for this cover but we wanted to include the nice shot on the back. Okay, all done. We'll take a Grier break for a bit.
I'm going to be making some changes around here.
Pam Grier wears an outstanding floor length dress in this promo image from her 1974 blaxploitation flick Sheba, Baby. The dress would almost distract you from the fact that she's also heavily armed. But she doesn't need the gun—you'd willingly do whatever she said. Sheba, Baby wasn't her best film, but this photo is tops.
Pam Grier was the undisputed ruler of the blaxploitation realm.
The arc of Pam Grier's blaxploitation career is interesting. To us it seems pretty clear that once her studio American International realized they had a true star on their hands the projects they cultivated for her moved toward the cinematic center and became tame and uninspiring. We noted this when we talked about 1975's Friday Foster a while back. Sheba Baby, which was made the same year and premiered in the U.S. today, suffers from the same problem. It's too cute and too palatable, too eager to please in its attempt to draw in mainstream audiences. Grier loses her grit. She plays Sheba Shayne, whose father is harassed by organized crime hoods and needs help to fight their plot to take over his business. Grier leaves her Chicago detective agency and heads down south to Louisville, Kentucky to kick ass and take names. The hoods are black men from around the way, but the real villain is a white guy on a yacht in the river. He's archetypal. He could just as well be a white guy in a mansion on a hill, or in a penthouse uptown. Whoever and wherever he is, he's going down hard and it's going to hurt.
The importance of blaxploitation is that it centered stories on the black experience—family, neighborhood, crime, racism, and the predations of America's two-tiered policing and court systems. This focus on core black issues existed even in films that represented alternate realities, such as horror and martial arts blaxploitation. The eventual sanitization of the genre was due to pressure from two directions at once: from the mainstream to avoid alienating white audiences, and from the black counterculture to avoid caricatured portrayals of blacks. Caught between these two forces, the center of blaxploitation shifted. Meanwhile, inside the subculture, initial euphoria at seeing black stories onscreen evolved into annoyance that the control and profits belonged almost exclusively to white men. It seemed like a plantation system on celluloid, and helped take the bloom off the rose. 1976 and 1977 would remain strong years for the genre, but by 1978 blaxploitation, as it was generally agreed to exist, would all but disappear. Sheba Baby is an important film in the pantheon, but in watching it you also see the genre losing its bite.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign
comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
1967—Boston Strangler Convicted
Albert DeSalvo, the serial killer who became known as the Boston Strangler, is convicted of murder and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison. He serves initially in Bridgewater State Hospital, but he escapes and is recaptured. Afterward he is transferred to federal prison where six years later he is killed by an inmate or inmates unknown.
1950—The Great Brinks Robbery Occurs
In the U.S., eleven thieves steal more than $2 million from an armored car company's offices in Boston, Massachusetts. The skillful execution of the crime, with only a bare minimum of clues left at the scene, results in the robbery being billed as "the crime of the century." Despite this, all the members of the gang are later arrested.
1977—Gary Gilmore Is Executed
Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by a firing squad in Utah, ending a ten-year moratorium on Capital punishment in the United States. Gilmore's story is later turned into a 1979 novel entitled The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer, and the book wins the Pulitzer Prize for literature.
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