Femmes Fatales Apr 25 2024
Whoever ends up with the most loses.

This Paramount promo image shows Carole Lombard and was made for her 1933 horror drama Supernatural, which was part of a small set of vintage movies concerned with spiritualists and the supposed netherworld. Movies we've discussed that feature (always fake) séances or seers include Bunco Squad, The Amazing Mr. X, Nightmare Alley, and Ministry of Fear. In a career spanning more than seventy films, Supernatural was Lombard's only fright flick. Its rarity requires that we give it a watch, which we'll do pretty soon. 


Vintage Pulp Apr 19 2024
When there's a killer on the loose you'd better sleep with one eye open.

This poster for While the City Sleeps doesn't impress with masterly art the way so many vintage promos do, but its simplicity is, in an oblique sort of way, we think, meant to echo tabloid covers from the era. RKO made a special poster in collaboration with Confidential magazine, which you'll see below. The movie's plot is pure tabloid fodder. A serial killer has slain women in New York City, leaving the cryptic message “Ask mother,” written on the walls of one murder scene. Vincent Price, owner of Kyne News Service, part of a media empire comprising ten newspapers, a wire service, and other interests, offers the position of executive director to three employees in order to draw them into cutthroat competition with each other. Soon it becomes clear that finding the identity of the “lipstick killer” is the winning move. Intrigue and subterfuge take over the office. Everyone gets involved, from senior editors to stringers to gossip columnist Ida Lupino, but the killer is too clever to be caught.

At least until intrepid Pulitzer Prize winning television reporter Dana Andrews airs a scornful and taunting broadcast, deliberately setting up his own fiancée as bait. He doesn't even ask her permission. Well, he does, but only after arranging to publish their engagement announcement in the New York Sentinel right next to a story about the killer. Reckless? Yes. Presumptuous? For sure. There are intertwined plotlines here, but Andrews using his true love as a lure was the most interesting aspect for us. He isn't the only heel on display. The movie is ostensibly about a serial killer, but is really a framework for exposing backbiting and cynical ambition in the big city. Director Fritz Lang, in what was his penultimate U.S. film, explores the cruel banality of what, these days, some call “hustle culture,” and brings the production to a conclusion that's, in the words of Thomas Mitchell's character, “Neat, but nasty.” Our words are: a mandatory watch. While the City Sleeps had a special world premiere today in 1956.
Edit: Vintage movies are excellent windows into bygone customs and practices. There's a great moment in this one. Rhonda Fleming and James Craig are chatting in her apartment late one night when the doorbell unexpectedly buzzes. They look at each other confused for a second, then Fleming says, “It's probably the drugstore. That was the last bottle of Scotch.”

You know, there were a lot of things wrong with the mid-century era. But there were a few things right too. Getting the all-night drugstore to deliver booze has to be one of the most right things we've ever heard of, so we give thanks to While the City Drinks—er Sleeps—for clueing us in, and suggest you call your congressional rep immediately and ask for a law allowing pharmacies to deliver alcohol. If not for yourself, do it for the children. 

Vintage Pulp Apr 16 2024
No appeal, no parole, no mercy, no hope.

Today we continue our journey through ’70s exploitation cinema with Jackson County Jail, churned out of the grindhouse factory known as New World Pictures. Plotwise, Yvette Mimieux plays a Los Angeles advertising exec who leaves her cheating husband and finds herself at loose ends, but manages to score a job from a friend in New York City. She decides to get there by driving cross country, but passes through fictional Jackson County, located somewhere in or around Texas (a geographical fact we learn from a news broadcast that provides a Dallas Cowboys update). She's railroaded into jail and raped by the cop working the graveyard shift. Afterward, Mimieux manages to brain him with a stool and escapes with the help of hardened criminal Tommy Lee Jones, who early in his acting career (and with that monobrow of his) was already capable of making lines like this sing: “There's nothing wrong with being a crook. Everybody's crooked. I never met a straight person in my whole life. Whole goddamn country is a rip-off. And everybody in it.”

Jackson County Jail is sometimes labeled a women-in-prison flick, but it's a bit different for a generally low rent sub-genre because Mimieux was an established star, thirty-four years old with more than twenty movies behind her. The credibility she lends the film changes little about its basic purpose—titillation mixed with violence and an indictment of hick culture. Simultaneously, though, the filmmakers definitely don't go to the extremes of other women-in-prison dramas, in which we've seen women hung up by their hair. There are some viewers, we suspect, who wouldn't consider this movie a women-in-prison flick at all. We're fine leaving it out of the conversation too. The jailbound portion lasts barely twenty minutes of what is perhaps more of an outlaw movie, complete with Jones letting fly with this response to being told the police will kill him: “That don't matter. I was born dead.” Whether women-in-prison, outlaw, or counterculture, that's a damned good line. And Jackson County Jail is a pretty good movie. It premiered today in 1976

Intl. Notebook Apr 5 2024
She's a rare example of prey that's more dangerous than her predators.

Above is a fun pressbook cover for the legendary Pam Grier's classic action movie Foxy Brown, a tangled tale of drug dealers, crooked cops, loan sharks, and narcs, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1974. When pressed against the wall Grier gets just as vicious as her screen foes. She even sets one guy on fire and runs another over—with a plane. There are no holds barred in blaxploitation cinema.

Below we also have various lobby cards from the film. These are interesting because they're made from production photos that you don't typically see online. It's too bad Grier's blaxploitation/action phase was short, because she was good in the films, even when the films weren't good enough for her. But every artist seeks to hone their craft, so we imagine she got tired of such roles. That's okay—her output, though limited, is always fun to re-watch.

As a side note, the hazards of blogging during the unethical digital age are amply illustrated here. Users on both Alamy and Getty attempt to assert copyright on these items, but movie promos are made for non-copyright holders to publicize the works depicted, and despite claims to the contrary individuals can't hold copyright on them. There are probably hundreds or thousands of these reproductions out there, all individually possessed, so a specific person claiming copyright is nonsensical on the face of it. Only the issuing studio holds copyright.

Even so, we occasionally get threatening e-mails from digital photo resellers. They're AI generated and automatically sent, which means they'll only increase in number as time goes by. We have a form e-mail we send back demanding proof of copyright. We never get a reply to it. Shockingly. We'll say this though—one day corporate greed will kill the blogging culture the same way it's killed most everything else. But that day isn't today. Read what we thought about Foxy Brown here. 

Vintage Pulp Mar 25 2024
In the land of the blind the one-eyed woman is queen.

We've done a lot on Sandro Symeoni, which means that just for the sake of completeness we can't overlook these. They're his Italian posters for the Christina Lindberg grindhouse classic Thriller, which was originally made in Sweden as Thriller - en grym film, and in English speaking countries was known as Thriller: A Cruel Picture and They Call Her One Eye. We've already talked about it, and its star.

Femmes Fatales Mar 4 2024
Zip your pants and keep them zipped, Harry. I'm going to bed and you aren't coming with me.

Above is U.S. actress Joan Perry in a promo image made for her 1936 crime drama Shakedown. She appeared in about twenty films beginning in 1935 and was out of acting by 1941, when she married Columbia Pictures co-founder and president Harry Cohn, one of the most hated and feared men in Hollywood. Cohn allegedly attacked actresses, demanded and received sex for film roles, and infamously had mob acquaintances threaten to kill Sammy Davis, Jr. if he kept canoodling with Kim Novak. Perry stayed wedded to the guy for seventeen years, until his death. Afterward, she married twice more, but one union lasted only two years, and the other lasted three. Which goes to show that you never can tell about relationships—or for that matter, people.


Vintage Pulp Feb 18 2024
Caffaro knows how to Handle her business.

Why do we spend our valuable time watching exploitation movies? Well, because we watch all pulp related genres of movies, from film noir to horror. So why discriminate? We also watch such movies (which is a set we figure includes sexploitation, blaxploitation, women-in-prison, and more) because owing to their sexual, racial, and political aspects, their like will probably never be made again. Last month we completed our look at Cheri Caffaro's infamous Ginger McAllister sexploitation-spy trilogy. Now we're moving on to her later work in Too Hot To Handle, which premiered today in 1977.

Set in and around Manila, Caffaro plays an experienced and wealthy assassin named Samantha Fox who takes on a difficult triple-contract. In order to succeed she'll need all her skills of disguise, deception, and sexuality. Meanwhile the cops are on her trail. When one of the investigators gets close—real close—Caffaro takes a liking to him and, passing herself off as her alter ego Melinda Burroughs, tries to navigate sleeping with the enemy while fulfilling her murderous obligations.

All Caffaro movies are low budget, and all are bad. This one is poorly written and acted, and as usual there's a touch of the kinky, both in front of the camera, as well as behind, as Caffaro's husband Don Schain directs her getting her squeezebox fondled by hairy co-star Aharon Ipalé. That's called commitment to the product and your art—or alternatively, finding a way to monetize your spouse-sharing fantasies. It didn't improve the movie.

The only surprise here was that former top European star Corinne Calvet somehow got suckered into playing a brothel owner named Madame Ruanda, later dying as one of Caffaro's targets. Alas, Corinne—sexploitation is a welcoming mistress for those desperate to pay bills, but next time we recommend a loan shark. The vig is a bitch but at least you get to hang onto your dignity. But even if Too Hot To Handle was too bad for Calvet to be in, it isn't too bad for you to watch. Caffaro is weirdly great. In the sexploitation realm nobody did more with less.

Vintage Pulp Dec 21 2023
Rise by the camera, fall by the camera.

Above is a promo poster for the 1950 drama Shakedown made for the Italian market, where it was called Jack il ricattatore, or Jack the blackmailer.” It stars Howard Duff as a photographer whose ambition pushes him across the line into criminality. We talked about it a while back. The poster is signed by an artist we can't identify—it looks like “e-pic.” We've seen other work by this person, but we don't have a real name or any other biographical info. This is a nice effort, so we'll an eye out.


Hollywoodland Dec 10 2023
If you want to be taken seriously bring serious backup.

This promo image, with a Columbia Pictures serial number in the lower lefthand corner, was made for the 1949 crime drama Mary Ryan, Detective, and shows Paul Bryar, Marsha Hunt, Ben Welden, and William Phillips. We love the shot, and because of it we'll watch the movie and report back. 


Femmes Fatales Oct 21 2023
You don't know jack-o'-lantern.

How many people have made jack-o'-lanterns without knowing anything about them? Plenty, we bet. The term comes from an Irish myth about a man named Stingy Jack (sometimes Jack the Smith, Drunk Jack, or Flaky Jack), a folkloric deceiver whose lies and tricks resulted in him having to wander the world after his death, admitted to neither Heaven nor Hell, lighting his way with an ember inside a hollowed out rutabaga. We don't know if rutabagas were ever used for jack-o'-lanterns, but if they were the switch to pumpkins was a good one. Rutabagas aren't scary. Unless you have to eat them.

Posing with en enormous plaster jack-o'-lantern is U.S. actress Anne Nagel, whose Hollywood career spanned about twenty-five years. She acted in (including uncredited appearances) about a hundred films, among them the crime dramas Bungalow 13, Escape by Night, Armed Car Robbery, and The Trap. Nagel is a good femme fatale choice for this time of year because her personal life was even scarier than these photos. Her first husband committed suicide, she allegedly had problems with alcohol, she never accumulated much money despite her many screen performances, and she died of cancer at age fifty.

Here's the most frightening story of all. In 1947 she filed a $350,000 lawsuit against a surgeon who she claimed removed some of her reproductive organs in 1936 without consent when he performed an appendectomy on her. Could you even imagine? Nagel said she had no idea until shortly before filing suit more than a decade later, but the surgeon countered that Nagel knew exactly what he was going to do. We don't know how the case turned out, but given the era we bet she didn't win. These photos, no longer very scary after hearing that story, are from 1940.

Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 27
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
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