Welch proves indispensable to yet another ’60s caper flick.
Above you see a promo poster for 大泥棒, or “Great Thief,” made for the 1968 Raquel Welch/Robert Wagner caper flick The Biggest Bundle of Them All. The U.S. poster was painted by master illustrator Robert McGinnis, but we decided to show you the Japanese art instead because it's rare. There are two more Japanese promos below that are also rare. We'll get to the McGinnis version later. In the film, Wagner and his henchmen kidnap an elderly Italian gangster played by Vittorio De Sica and hold him for ransom. Problem is he has no money. At first they don't believe him, but when it finally becomes clear he's broke, Wagner and Co. try to cut bait. But De Sica is terrified all Italy will find out he couldn't pay his own ransom. His reputation would be ruined. So he convinces his kidnappers to join him in a swindle that will maintain his reputation, make him rich again, and earn the kidnappers more money than they ever imagined. De Sica becomes the boss of his own abductors.
For a crime-comedy, it's an ingenious premise, which makes it a shame it wasn't original. Another movie with an almost identical plot called The Happening was in production at Columbia, and when the studio got wind of The Biggest Bundle of Them All it threatened to sue. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer agreed to give Columbia a cut of Bundle's profits and a legal bloodbath was avoided, but in the same way De Sica's big caper doesn't exactly play out perfectly, Bundle's profits didn't blow the roof off MGM headquarters as planned. And no wonder. It wasn't just the script that wasn't original—the film falls into the same category as continental crime capers like Charade, To Catch a Thief, and Topkapi, and those make for crowded and treacherous cinematic waters. Bundle isn't sophisticated enough, or exciting enough, or infused with enough sexual chemistry to compete with better films of its ilk.
Speaking of sexual chemistry, Welch is naturally the big attraction of any movie she's in, and we've seen enough of her work now to understand that she was more of a persona than an actress during this mid- to late-’60s period. In film after film she basically played herself. Here she smiles and quips and poses, and it's all very Welchian in that groovy way her fans had come to expect—bikinis, lingerie, go-go dancing and all. The movie would be worth far less without her. There are also supporting appearances by Edward G. Robinson and Femi Benussi, while future blaxploitation icon Godfrey Cambridge is one of the kidnappers, so there's plenty for stargazers to enjoy here, but we can't call the movie a success. If you have nothing to do some evening, it might give you a few smiles, but not a bundle of them. After premiering in the U.S. in 1968, The Biggest Bundle of Them All opened in Japan today in 1968.
The courtship is dangerous, but the engagement is murder.
A Kiss Before Dying should perhaps be titled “A Xanax Before Dying,” because Robert Wagner and co-star Joanne Woodward both perform as if they've gotten into the medicine cabinet. They play a young couple that accidentally conceive. Wagner envisions his life's ambitions going up in a haze of diapering and 6 a.m. feedings, so he decides to get rid of the baby. Abortion is out of the question, of course, so he tries gently nudging Woodward down a set of bleachers at the local university. When her tumble fails to produce the desired miscarriage, Wagner decides to up his game with a pharmacological solution—and murder.
Best exchange of dialogue, as Wagner parts one evening with an unsuspecting Woodward:
Wagner: “Good-bye, baby.”
The attraction in this film is Wagner, who's so smarmy and eely he might make you laugh out loud—at least until you realize how brutal he's prepared to be. Only in a vintage movie can a guy be so obviously evil yet have nobody take notice. A sign around his neck reading, “I think about nothing but homicide 24/7,” would have been ignored. But of course Woodward, while remaining studiously oblivious to her mortal peril, is harder to kill than expected.
Each year the Noir City organizers try to get audiences to take a fresh look at a few non-noir films, but their choices have occasionally been dubious. A Kiss Before Dying is a solidly but unspectacularly directed Deluxe Color production that lacks pretty much any noir iconography, but in terms of script and characterization it's a good fit for the festival. Plus Mary Astor plays Wagner's mom, and she's noir enough to satisfy us any day of the week. Put this in the flawed-but-interesting bin.
Happiness in Hollywood can be hard to hold onto.
Uncensored gives readers the lowdown on all the Hollywood trysts and splits in this issue published this month in 1962. José Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney apparently broke up—after eight years and five children—over Ferrer's insistence on carrying on extramarital affairs, as was his natural right. At least that's what he thought: “Since the beginning of our marriage he has engaged in a series of affairs with other women,” Clooney is quoted. “I discussed this with him prior to our separation, but he said he couldn't change his way of life.” Apparently the Puerto Rican born Ferrer was old school with the whole machismo thing. But all was not lost between him and Clooney. They married again in 1964 and managed to stay together another three years.
Pivoting to the hook-ups, Uncensored explains how Joan Collins stole hotel heir Nicky Hilton from Natalie Wood, but Robert Wagner stole Collins from Hilton, leading to Natalie Wood stealing Wagner from Collins, and Collins falling into the arms of Warren Beatty. Mixed in with those four are James Dean, Tab Hunter, Lance Reventlow, and Elvis Presley. Or so the magazine says. That's a lot of guys and only two women, but the old tabloids loved to slut shame women while either ignoring or approving the antics of men. For example, Beatty was already known in 1962, after some years in television and with two hit movies behind him, as a fuckboy, but that's not mentioned here at all. These days, though, that immunity is largely gone. Although you'd have to have the brain of a fourteen-year-old to believe—as many people do—that he's slept with 12,000 women.
Uncensored next gets to Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. It's since been established that the two hooked up, but at the time this magazine was published the pair were generating mere rumors. Why? Because Monroe was flying to Las Vegas regularly and staying in Sinatra's home there. There's no rationale needed for this pairing—beautiful people tend to get together. But the editors actually offer a rationale for Monroe's interest in Sinatra and it's simply amazing: “Monroe is having all kinds of troubles with her studio and would like a man around the house to fight her battles for her.” Huh? That one makes no sense to us. Let's run it through our trusty Mid-Century Tabloid Filter™: Buzz...whirrrr... clickety click... Aha. What Uncensored means is Monroe was so emotionally fragile she had to have a guy around 24/7 to handle angry phone calls. Interesting, but we're still not buying it. Twenty scans below.
Always wear clean undies in case you end up in the hospital.
Often, early true crime magazines aren't very useful for sharing online due to their tendency to short-shrift the art, but Police Detective is a very visual exception, well worth uploading. Above is the cover of an issue from 1956, and below are assorted scans of the interior photo-illustrations, all eye-catching. Of the stories, probably the most interesting deals with hitchhiking women who are in reality brutal thieves. The magazine makes this sound like an epidemic but we seriously doubt it was ever a problem. According to the editors, men who picked up these highway hooligans were hit over the head with wrenches or tire irons, robbed, stripped down to their size 38 tightie whities and left unconscious or dead in a ditch while the thieves found the nearest pawn shop to sell off whatever they'd acquired. The description of the hapless men's heads being “crushed like eggshells,” according to the magazine, creates a disconcerting visual image, especially after that whole Sunday night Walking Dead baseball bat incident the entire internet is buzzing over. Not a good way to go. We have about thirty images below and many more true crime magazines inside the site.
Look at the state of this guy's underwear. How disgusting.
I don't think he was driving with them that way. I think he crapped himself when you crushed his skull.
You think so? Oh. Still though.
Suppressed was in rare form in November 1955.
Above is the cover of the NYC based tabloid Suppressed from this month in 1955. This issue shows Suppressed in full bloom—bold, brash, fearless. Within the next two years a series of Hollywood lawsuits against scandal magazines would begin to make editors wary of being dragged into court for committing libel and slander, but 1955 was still the heyday for celeb bashing, and Supressed engaged in what might be best described as open warfare against film stars. Here’s a small sampling of some of the gut punches in this magazine:
Marlon Brando: silly.
Anita Ekberg: egocentric, a martyr.
Rita Gam: the all-time fizzle of 1955, a bad actress, with a figure that leaves something to be desired.
Judy Holliday: pudgy.
Marilyn Monroe: childishly immature, with an inferiority complex.
Debbie Reynolds: inane.
Gloria Vanderbilt: unable to think of anyone besides herself; has more neuroses than acting talents.
Robert Wagner: pompous, unintelligent.
We could go on, but you get the point. We’ve written many times on this website that nothing in media is truly new, and this is yet another example. Click over to any muckraking celebrity blog right now and you’d think journalism, as well as simple grammar, went down the toilet around the year 2000. But no, they were always in the toilet. Remember, Suppressed and its brethren Confidential, Whisper, On the QT, Hush-Hush, et.al., were not fringe. By itself Confidential was thebiggest newsstand seller in the U.S. These publications were powerful. Like modern American cable news, they assumed leading roles in making the public swallow false political memes—a commie under every bed, a black man in every bed, and the loose women who made it all possible.
But unlike today’s fawning cable news, Suppressed was generally scornful toward the rich. For instance, this issue discusses millionaires’ secret playgrounds while parking quotation marks around words like “classy,” and “the right people.” The actual playgrounds are described as “last stand” resorts, where the rich can feel safe from the rabble of middle class America. A few pages later the editors decry nepotism in Hollywood, naming a dozen famous actors and actresses who allegedly got their start because of mommy and daddy’s money. All in all, Suppressed is a head spinning mixture, and at the end of each issue a typical reader was probably convinced of one thing—the only good people in the world were those who were exactly like him.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
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