|Vintage Pulp||Mar 28 2022|
He's got one million reasons to keep his hands off the boss's girlfriend. But he's never been good with numbers.
The crime drama The Big Caper, which premiered today in 1957 and for which you see a promo poster above, was adapted from a 1955 novel by Lionel White. The movie is different from the book, which is something that usually happens, but the basics of White's tale remain. A career robber played by Rory Calhoun is sent to the town of San Felipe, California along with a crime kingpin's girlfriend played by Mary Costa to act as the advance team for a million dollar heist. Posing as a married couple, they're to spend a few months in town surveilling the local bank, gathering intel, and laying the groundwork for a team yet to arrive. In the course of playing house Calhoun and Costa fall for each other, putting the entire plan at risk. But that's only part of the problem.
Matters are also complicated by the aforementioned heist team. One is a drunken pyromaniac, one is a woman-hating sadomasochist, and one is a womanizing bigmouth. All are played to the thinnest edge of believability by the actors in those roles. The movie never explains why the team is so flawed and self-destructive, and we can't remember the reason given in the book, if any. But if this is your crack squad it would probably be a good idea to abort mission. That doesn't happen, of course, so the question is only whether Calhoun and Costa can survive these psychos to ride off into the sunset together. All indications are no, but unliklier things have happened. For a b-movie The Big Caper is pretty good, providing enough tension to keep your interest, and enough visual style to please your eyes. It premiered today in 1957.
The Big CaperRory CalhounMary CostaJames GregoryLionel WhiteRoxanne Arlenposter artcinemamovie review
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 4 2021|
One small film for sci-fi, one giant Lepus for bad cinema.
This rare poster was made to promote Night of the Lepus, and those creepy eyes in the dark belong to rabbits. Giant rabbits. Lepus. Makes sense, right? Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun, Janet Leigh, and DeForest Kelly, post-Star Trek, star in what is supposed to be an epically bad film, but to us it was more like standard low level sci-fi or horror (take your pick). The special effects drag down the entire enterprise, but that's almost par for the course when it comes to this genre during the time period. We can imagine the actors signing on and being told the special effects would carry the movie. “Yeah, we've got top people on this giant rabbit thing. They'll look totally convincing!” Well, they don't, but neither do the monsters in 90% of vintage sci-fi.
If we had to guess, we'd say one reason people think this film is so bad is that there are numerous inadvertently funny lines of dialogue, for example when Kelly says, “We've got three holes to blow,” and when Chuck Hayward says, “I'm ready to release the gas as soon as they come out.” But the script is coherent, and the acting is more than adequate, so those two positives alone keep this out of the Plan 9 and Starcrash sub-basement category, as it brings to life the story of scientists and ranchers trying to reduce the number of feral rabbits in Arizona. Researchers Whitman and Leigh turn to hormones to shut off the bunnies' breeding capabilities, but this accidentally causes them to grow to enormous size—and makes them hopping mad too. In short order they overrun the nearby town and all the humans are fleeing for their lives.
Yes, the movie is silly. It's a clinic in the limited utility of forced perspective for trying to make believable monsters, an endeavor additionally undermined by the inconvenient fact that giant bunnies are still cute. But can you really pass up the chance to see Bones from Star Trek ambling around the high desert? And Janet Leigh is always sight to behold, here settling deep into an elegant milfhood, forty five with a cotton candy afroperm that she makes look as regal as a platinum crown. Epically bad? It's bad alright, mainly because it lacks distinction. But maybe you should just watch it and decide for yourself where it ranks. Night of the Lepus premiered today in 1972.
ArizonaNight of the LepusStuart WhitmanRory CalhounJanet LeighDeForest KellyChuck Haywardposter artcinemasci-fihorrormovie review
|Vintage Pulp||Mar 16 2021|
It's just the wind. Or possibly the screaming of damned souls in torment. But more likely the wind.
“You dare not even guess the strange story of The Red House,” this promo poster tells us about Edward G. Robinson's 1947 psychological suspense drama, but we dared, and we didn't have any trouble guessing correctly. What you get here is a mystery with a suggestion of the supernatural—always a draw for us. Some sites call this a horror movie. We're okay with that too. Horror, psychological suspense, and mystery walk hand in hand—in this case through the creepy night. Working from a screenplay adapted from George Agnew Chamberlain's 1945 novel, Robinson plays a man living in idyllic simplicity on a farm with his sister and adopted daughter. He hires a helper, a decision that goes awry when the new help develops an interest in the nearby cursed woods, in which there's supposedly a haunted red house, disembodied screaming voices (or maybe just the wind), and other dangers sane people would avoid.
But this new farmhand is filled with the arrogance of youth, isn't superstitious, and resolves to solve the mystery, a decision that threatens to tear Robinson's makeshift family apart and unearth terrors from the past. Edward the G. isn't at his very best working with what is a tricky script, but he gets useful support from young co-stars Lon McCallister, Rory Calhoun, Allene Roberts, and Julie London. Roberts in particular has a crucial role, and in her first film, and aged only nineteen, she manages to keep her head above water—barely. While The Red House isn't top notch, it's enjoyable enough, and if you appreciate vintage creepfests it might give you a chill or two. So what's in the woods? We can't tell you, but you can be sure there's something—and it ain't good. The Red House premiered today in 1947.
The Red HouseEdward G. RobinsonLon McCallisterRory CalhounAllene RobertsJulie LondonGeorge Agnew Chamberlainposter artcinemahorrormovie review
|Hollywoodland||Dec 25 2018|
Kenneth Anger explores Hollywood's darkest recesses in his landmark tell-all.
Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon is the grandaddy of all Tinseltown exposés. It was published in 1965, banned ten days later, and shelved until 1975. It's exactly as advertised, outing everybody that was anybody for everything. Entire chunks are devoted to Charlie Chaplain, Lana Turner, Errol Flynn, Fatty Arbuckle and other cinematic luminaries. Some of its claims have been proved false—for instance the assertion that Lupe Velez died with her head in a toilet, and that Clara Bow screwed the USC football team (we doubt anyone really believed that one, even back then). But other tales are basically true, including accounts of various legal run-ins and feuds.
Anger's writing is uneven, but at its most effective mirrors the type of pure tabloid style that influenced the likes of James Ellroy and others. Besides the salacious gossip the book has a ton of rare celeb photos, and those are of real worth. We've uploaded a bunch below. They came from a digital edition because our little paperback was too fragile to get on a scanner. By the way, don't feel as if we're working overtime on our website this Christmas morning—we uploaded everything in advance and are actually nowhere near a computer today. We're glad you took a minute to drop by. Copious vintage Hollywood below.
Hollywood BabylonKenneth AngerJayne MansfieldCharlie ChaplainGloria SwansonMarion DaviesClara BowFrances FarmerOlive ThomasPaul BernDavid MdvaniMae MurrayPrincess MdvaniFatty ArbuckleJean HarlowLana TurnerJohnny StompanatoGinger RogersLewis StoneRobert MitchumBugsy SiegelBenjamin SiegelBarbara La MarrErrol FlynnMae WestSalvador DaliRudolph ValentinoElsa MaxwellLinda DarnellGwili AndreJohn GilbertLupe VelezJanet GaynorMarlene DietrichRory Calhounsuicidemurder
|Vintage Pulp||Nov 21 2018|
Rural heist goes way south.
The Big Caper by Lionel White is a bank robbery thriller written in multi-p.o.v. style, with more than a dozen characters ranging from compassionate to psychopathic all getting to describe the action. It's a good book. The crux of it is that a career bank robber sends his girlfriend and an associate to act as the advance team for the robbery. They go to the Florida town where the bank is located, set up as husband and wife, and spend six months gathering intelligence for the operation—from pacing out bank dimensions and vault location, to befriending local cops, uncovering data on important people and town operations, to renting a big house and hosting other members of the crew as they trickle into town. The boss has told his vanguard that their husband and wife act is just that—an act. Do they pay attention? No. And it's from there that complications begin to arise. The plot is carefully structured and the writing is a cut above the usual genre fare, but the ending is a bit pat. Still, it's basically a winner. Gold Medal published this edition in 1955 with cover art by Barye Phillips, and the book became a 1957 film of the same name starring Rory Calhoun and Mary Costa. We may check that out later.
FloridaGold Medal BooksThe Big CaperLionel WhiteBarye PhillipsRory CalhounMary Costacover artliteraturefilm noir