James M. Cain spins a tale about an unusual love and an unusual life.
Vintage Ace paperbacks are considered highly collectible for a few reasons, including the fact that the company popularized the double novel. But we like Ace because it often did well with art. This front for James M. Cain's The Moth is about as striking as cover illustration gets. It's uncredited, but we know exactly who it is. It's Sandro Symeoni. How do we know? Because the cover at this link is confirmed to be Symeoni, and there's no doubt the artist is the same as above. Not only is the style a match, but so is the time period. This came in 1958, and Ace used Symeoni's art several times between ’58 and ’60. That makes this paperback a super discovery, because Symeoni, a brilliant Italian artist who specialized in movie posters, rarely painted book covers. It's possible that, as with Arthur Miller's Focus (you clicked the link above, right?) the art was borrowed from one of Symeoni's posters, but if so we don't know which one. Doesn't matter. Sandro kills again.
Moving on to the novel, Cain, one of the towering figures of pulp literature, stretches himself here to tell the life story of a man through his first thirty-five years, spanning the Great Depression, Prohibition, and World War II; his various jobs, schemes, and hustles; and his ups, downs, ups, downs, ups, downs, ups... We're not putting an end on that sentence in order to avoid giving a hint whether he ultimately triumphs or fails. For a time Cain's protagonist works in the oil business. For years he's a hobo riding the rails. For part of his life he's a renowned soprano. But no matter where he goes or what he does, there's a past destined to come full circle to stare him in the face. This is Cain's longest book, but it's pretty involving. Its only flaw—if it can be called that—is that is doesn't surprise. You know which untrustworthy friend will come back to haunt him, and which unlikely love will reappear to offer a chance at redemption. Still, a good read. We recommend it.
When you're rich you're never insane. You're just a little eccentric.
La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba, aka The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, premiered in Italy today in 1971, and is an Italian made, set-in-England, gothic giallo flick for which we shared an unusual Greek poster some years ago. The art on that was retasked from the original poster, which was painted by Sandro Symeoni, a genius we've featured often. If you don't know his work, click his keywords below and have a look. He's worth your time.
In the movie a British lord violently obsessed with his deceased redheaded wife goes nuts and is committed to a mental institution. When he gets out he immediately brings disrepute to the entire psychiatric profession's notion of “cured” by going on a redhead killing spree. While he's busy reducing rural England's carrottop population one pale person at a time, his headshrinker, who knows nothing of the murders, is encouraging him to remarry in order to get over his dead wife.
That doesn't strike us as responsible psychiatric advice, but as we mentioned, there are lousy doctors in this film, so the Lord indeed picks out a suitable spouse, who's blonde, importantly. Things go fine until Mrs. Lord notices a redheaded maid in the manor. This is impossible, you see, because the Lord hates (and kills) redheads. So it goes without saying he'd never hire one. Who was this woman, and why was she there? Soon we're treated to the reliable giallo staples of imposters, unknown people creeping through the woods at night, disappearing corpses, and the question of whether what's happening is real, or is an attempt to induce insanity.
What might induce insanity for you is the screenwriting of the female characters in this flick. They're pure murder magnets. For example, whenever the Lord meets a redhead he yanks painfully on her hair to see if it's real. “Ouch! That hurt!” “Sorry, I thought it might be a wig.” “Oh.” Here's some advice: kick him in the gonads and run like Flo-Jo. Yet the women instead decide painful hair-pulling is just a cute quirk, and later meet their bloody ends.
There's also an incredible scene where the Lord slaps his wife around until she's bloody-mouthed, only to finally be stopped by the appearance of a friend, who asks, “Why were you fighting?” Why were you fighting? A more appropriate line might be, “Why were you beating the fuck out of your beloved?” But with this latter incident there may actually be a plotworthy reason the Lord is forgiven. We could reveal it, but that would be a spoiler. Of course, saying it would be a spoiler is a spoiler too. Oh no! Everything is spoiled! We have to murder a redhead now. Is that a non-sequitur? No, it's just giallo.
Two bunglers cook up a kidnapping scheme that goes disastrously awry.
It's been a couple of years, so today we're getting back to one of Italy's greatest poster artists—the prolific and eclectic Sandro Symeoni. He painted movie posters, book covers, album sleeves, and ads, and was excellent at all of them. He painted the above poster for the comedy Noi gangster, which was originally made and released in France as Le grand chef, but based on the U.S. writer O. Henry's short story “The Ransom of Red Chief.” We took a look at the film and it's a screwball comedy starring Fernandel and Gino Servi as two bumbling gas station workers who concoct a kidnapping plot in hopes of escaping their poverty. Kidnapping schemes never work. Too many variables. They aren't clued in to this fact but quickly learn when they snatch a millionaire's young son and are dismayed to find that the little terror is too much for them to handle. He climbs onto a high rooftop, goes renegade on a hospital trolley, and generally drives them insane with his unpredictable behavior. Think Martin and Lewis in French with one of the Little Rascals on the side and you'll know what to expect.
This was Fernandel's and Cervi's second team-up after 1955's Don Camillo e l'on. Peppone, and this go-round is inferior to the previous film in every way, but even the dumbest screwball comedies have good moments. An extended gag involving a slippery block of ice works—or maybe we liked it because we too live in a building with a spiral staircase and no elevator, and the scene reminded us of the time we dropped a bottle of wine and it bobsledded all the way to the ground floor. The neighbors don't take kindly to that at 1 a.m., but that's the problem with wooden stairs—most anything you drop survives the entire downward journey. Consider Noi gangster a spiral stair—it sort of goes monotonously in a circle but once it ends you'll have a nice sense of accomplishment. It premiered in Italy today in 1959. Incidentally, are you wondering why there's a smiling woman on the poster? We suppose because Symeoni wanted her there. She sure isn't in the movie. You can see plenty more art from him by clicking here.
Focus on both the writing and the art.
Focus was Arthur Miller's first novel, written in 1945, with this Ace Books edition appearing in 1960. If you haven't read it, basically it tells the story of a man who buys a new pair of glasses that alter his appearance to the extent that he is constantly mistaken for being Jewish. From harboring the same prejudices as others, he is suddenly cast as an enemy, as the hatreds around him are revealed. It's a very good, very earnest book. We've actually shared this, though, because the cover was painted by the Italian artist Sandro Symeoni, and it's the first time we've found his work on a paperback. It was originally used on his poster for the 1957 Michelangelo Antonioni film Il Grido, and appears here slightly cropped but pretty much identical in all other respects. It's a very nice piece.
Sandro Symeoni presents an Italian vision of Japan.
We often share Japanese movie posters, but today we thought we’d look at Japan through the eyes of Italian illustration master Sandro Symeoni. This poster is for La strada della vergogna, which was a Japanese movie made by Kenji Mizoguchi entitled Akasen chitai, aka Street of Shame. No shame in this art. 1956 on the original film, 1959 on this poster.
Sandro Symeoni comes down with a case of Vertigo.
After focusing on Italian paperback artists lately, we thought today would be good for getting back to poster artists—namely Sandro Symeoni, who we’ve marveled at before. Symeoni veered from the realistic to abstract in style, and this very graphic poster for Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso, aka Deep Red, sees him working in the latter mode, which we’ve also noted on pieces like the Suono Libero album sleeve, viewable in panel four here. This is also a clear homage to Saul Bass’s famed Vertigo poster. For a look at many more Symeonis, just click his keywords below. Profondo Rosso, by the way, premiered in the U.S. this week in 1976, and is well worth a look for fans of Argento and/or giallo.
Sandro Symeoni proves once again that his poster art is unparalleled.
While we’re aware that web searches generate different results depending on the where and when, we were still a bit thrilled when we did a random search today on Italian poster artist Sandro Symeoni and came up as the number one result. That has to do with having featured his art in three different posts over the last couple of years. Today, we have another rare Symeoni, a piece of production art he painted for the Clint Eastwood western A Fistful of Dollars in 1964. It’s truly brilliant. We also located several more of Symeoni’s posters and uploaded those below. Symeoni died in 2007. There was a posthumous exhibition in Italy last year that raised his profile a bit, and we suspect collectors will focus on his work even more in the coming years. If you want to see a bit more on him, definitely do so at our previous posts here, here, and here.
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