Sheena embarks a day late on a long journey.
This photo shows U.S. actress Tanya Roberts in character as Sheena in her 1984 lost world flick Sheena, riding what we suspect is a white horse dyed to look like a zebra, and we were going to make an excuse to share it eventually because it's an amazing image. Unfortunately, it became relevant because Roberts died last week. Bizarrely, it happened a day after her announced death. Somehow her publicist told the world she had died, then learned in the middle of an interview that her employer was still alive. Then Roberts died the next day. That's a new one as far as we know. In any case, she looks goddesslike in this photo, and will be remembered for her roles in the James Bond film A View to a Kill and the television series Charlie's Angels (third iteration). Fare thee well, Sheena.
Don't just turn over a new leaf. Turn over twelve of them.
Let's start the year right. Everyone is hoping for a better 2021 than 2020. That's assuming you adhere to constrained, non-scientific ideas about time—for cynics and realists it's just another day. But in any case, above you see the cover of a 1959 nudie calendar that came inside an issue of the U.S. magazine Cocktail, a creation of Beacon Publications. The interior is below, and those with sharp eyes will spot a few notables—burlesque dancer Candy Barr in June, Shirley Kilpatrick in July and August (her July pose is the same as from the famed promo poster for the sci-fi film The Astounding She-Monster), and Jean Nieto, aka Ramona Rogers, in November. The other models may be well known too, but not by us, at least not today. When the cava hangover wears off, maybe our brains will work better. Then again, maybe the damage is permanent. Only time will tell. Happy New Year.
One esoteric murder method begets another. Possibly.
Concepts for thrillers can be hard to come by, so sometimes authors borrow from one another. Not long ago we read John D. MacDonald's The Drowner and shared the cover from the Gold Medal edition. Here you see British author John Creasey's, aka Gordon Ashe's, Death from Below. If you quickly click this link you'll notice the two books have identical art, thematically—a woman being pulled down into the water by an unidentified killer.
We figured Creasy borrowed from MacDonald, but interestingly, both books were originally published in 1963. Assuming months were spent actually writing them, it seems as if both authors simply had the same idea (we don't know if there was an earlier thriller with the same concept, but we wouldn't be surprised). The main difference between the tales is that MacDonald's killer drowns one person, where Creasy's goes full serial and drowns dozens, including children. His story also takes place in France, rather than the U.S., and has a deep—if unlikely—political element.
We know this scenario didn't happen, but we like to imagine both MacDonald and Creasy/Ashe walking into bookstores on opposite sides of the Atlantic sometime soon after both paperback editions had been released, seeing each other's on a shelf, and being mightily perturbed. At that point we like to imagine Creasy, in time-honored British fashion, saying, “MacDonald! That cheeky bugger!” MacDonald on the other hand, being American, probably went, “Creasy! That sneaky motherfucker!” Advantage: yanks.
Excellent work! Now make them submit sexually while I get back to those mortgage bankers I'm slow roasting.
We'd been planning to read Satan Was a Lesbian for a while, but because we have plenty of experience with sleaze novels we didn't have high expectations. The good news is those expectations were surpassed. The bad news is the book still isn't good. The title alone makes it sound like a punchline in search of a publisher, but author Fred Haley—actually a pseudonym for Monica Roberts—tries to be serious as she tells the story of Charlene Duval: turned to lesbianism when barely a woman, initiated into rough practices by the violent Billie and her partner Karen, emotionally touched by her innocent young lover Cynthia, eventually case-hardened into a take-no-shit woman of the world. Is she really Satan? Come on, would Satan be named Charlene?
Think of Satan Was a Lesbian as the Thelma and Louise of vintage lesbian fiction, with the added tragedy that the book sometimes sells for as much as $350. Really? Yes. Just because of a catchy title and a piece of lurid Doug Weaver cover art? Yes, and not only that, but even refrigerator magnets and posters of this cover go for fifteen bucks, so to say everything associated with it is inflated in value is an understatement. But if you poke around and show some patience, you might not have to pay a fortune. The thing about these types of books is that eventually someone always sells them without knowing what the market is because they just want to get rid of grandpa's dog-eared old smut. Alternatively, you could buy a refrigerator magnet, stare at it, and make up your own story. It would probably be nearly as good.
If you think being on the wrong side of the tracks is bad, trying being right in the middle of them.
This poster was made for Railroaded!, which is a competent b-noir about a gangster managing to steer cops into arresting a patsy for murder. These cops are damn easy to steer, and later they're really not at all concerned that they might have the wrong man. In fact, they're downright eager to usher this guy into the gas chamber. It's only because Ed Kelly as the innocent man sticks so doggedly to his story that the police start to have doubts. At that point the patsy's sister takes the reins and starts to steer the highly influenceable cops in the right direction, which brings gangster danger to her door. But the benefit of leading cops by the nose is that they tend to linger about.
On the whole, this is a surprisingly tidy little thriller. John Ireland is the gangster/puppetmaster, Hugh Beaumont, later of Leave It to Beaver, is one of the cops, and Sheila Ryan plays the sister of never-wavering faith. All of them are good. Railroaded man Ed Kelly is fine too, but he basically acted in only this movie. True, he appeared uncredited in a film in 1950, and had a bit part in 1970, but those barely count. We don't know why he vanished, but wherever he went we imagine he was pretty satisfied to have starred in what is generally remembered as a pretty good low budget crime thriller. Railroaded! (with an exclamation mark in its official title, though it doesn't appear on this poster) premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse.
When we saw Jean Peters in 1953's Pickup on South Street, it was our first exposure to her, and we immediately knew we'd be seeking out more of her work later. Last night we watched another film of hers from 1953—the mystery Vicki, which is based on Steve Fisher's 1941 novel I Wake Up Screaming. Peters plays an up and coming New York City model and actress who's found murdered. The rest of the film, told partly in flashback, details her rise from obscurity to celebrated It girl, and the investigation that follows her killing. Jeanne Crain plays Peters' sister who's dedicated to finding the truth, and Richard Boone takes on the unusual role of an emotionally unstable lead detective whose assumptions affect his objectivity.
The movie plays like a partial retread of 1946's Laura, and like Gene Tierney's famed character Laura Hunt, Peters' aspiring superstar Vicki Reed has a profound effect on people even after her death, from broken hearts to poisonous resentment. But Vicki doesn't have the same atmosphere and narrative heft as Laura. Even though it's a mystery, there are no real surprises. Still, we've seen far worse films, and Peters' performance is fine, if not quite as enjoyable as her jaded working class beauty from Pickup on South Street. We recommend that film unreservedly, and Vicki cautiously. It premiered in New York City today in 1953 before going into national release on October 5.
Up and coming actress gets weeded out of Hollywood.
It was during wee hours, today in 1948, that fledgeling actress Lila Leeds was arrested, along with Robert Mitchum and two others, for possession of marijuana. The photo above was shot at her Hollywood bungalow a few days later to accompany a Los Angeles Times article about the arrest. Leeds was out on bail, and was given the opportunity to explain the circumstances around that fateful night. Her home had been portrayed in newspaper accounts as a party spot for drug users, a characterization she denied. She explained to Times readers that she'd rentedthe place because it was feminine, and because it had space for her two dogs. She also admitted that she used marijuana, which considering she hadn't gone to trial yet maybe wasn't a great idea. When Leeds had her day in court she was convicted of “conspiring to violate state health laws,” and sentenced to sixty days in jail. Robert Mitchum went to jail too, and fretted that his career had been ruined, but it was Leeds who never got another shot in Hollywood, apart from a role in the 1949 drug scare movie Wild Weed, aka The Devil's Weed, aka She Shoulda Said No. And indeed, she probably shoulda said no, because in 1948 a woman who got out of her lane was always severely punished if caught. But even if the drug conviction cost Leeds her career, she remains part of Hollywood lore, and though that's small consolation, it's still more than most can claim.
You guys hungry? I've got some piping hot human souls here. They're dee-lish.
The lost world adventure She, starring Helen Gahagan and Randolph Scott, was produced by Merian C. Cooper, who made King Kong in 1933. With him involved you know She is a big production. It's also as pure a pulp movie as you'll find. It was based on H. Rider Haggard's pre-pulp tale She: A History of Adventure, which first appeared in 1886.
The story involves a man named Leo following in the footsteps of a distant relative who disappeared five centuries ago searching for a lost land and the secret to immortality. It turns out that secret is real and it's guarded by an ageless goddess, beautiful and cruel, who all those years ago made Leo's distant relative her consort. But he died, which means when the goddess sees Leo she believes he's her dead lover returned from the beyond, and she's determined to possess him again.
Gahagan is the goddess, Scott is Leo the explorer, and Helen Mack is his steadfast love, who takes none-to-kindly to some slutty goddess trying to lay her man. She is cheesy as hell, but it's also a high budget adventure with big sets, elaborate staging, and an insane fire stunt that comes during a chaotic climax. Movies this old always feel a bit alien, but it's still pretty good overall. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1935.
The queen of sexual torture takes her talents to the Middle East.
Today is the day we finally complete the trifecta of Ilsa movies with Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, for which you see two Japanese posters above. The movie premiered in the U.S. in March 1976, and opened in Japan today that same year. The Japanese titles of Western movies are sometimes like lists of ingredients. The translation of アラブ女地獄 悪魔のハーレム is “Arab hell devil harem.” Even with that clear warning, Japanese audiences—who aren't fazed by much—must have said, “These Yank filmmakers are fucking crazy.” Which is to say that the Ilsa trilogy is among the most irredeemable sexploitation cinema ever produced, the type of stuff that will never, ever be made again, at least not in the U.S., where every instance of cinematic nudity is a political event. Generally, we decry that, but only when it keeps realistic and healthy sexual interactions from being shown onscreen. Harem Keeper is not healthy. Not on any level.
But we digress. This was the second installment of the Ilsa trio, and all starred Dyanne Thorne. She reprises her role as the cruel dominatrix Ilsa, and this time she's in charge of a sheik's harem. She rules this desert roost with utter cruelty, indulging in random acts of corporal punishment, and assisting her boss as he derives both income and pleasure from auctioning kidnapped women to wealthy pervs. Ilsa and the sheik discover that their little set-up has been infiltrated when they catch a spy sent by the granite-jawed Max Thayer, who later himself arrives on the scene and is quickly a prized guest in Ilsa's bed. We could get into the major subplot involving war with a rival sheik, but suffice it to say that the entire plot is just an excuse to string together set pieces featuring vile faux-violence and silly faux-sex. How low does the movie sink? At one point Ilsa uses her incomparable creativity to implant a harem girl with an explosive diaphragm that will detonate during intercourse. It's no electrified dildo (see installment one), but it's close. Yes, Ilsa is cruel as hell, but it's nothing excellent sex won't cure. That's right up Thayer the Layer's alley. He works his way to Ilsa's creamy center, at which point she decides to switch allegiances and betray her sheik. Will she get away with this outrage? Well, we've already mentioned there were three Ilsa movies and this was the second, so theoretically, she gets away with it. On the other hand, she died at the end of the first movie, so you never know. Regardless, without putting too fine a point on it, this is a terrible movie. But the participation of porn actress Colleen Brennan, nudie model Uschi Digard, and blaxploitation beauties Tanya Boyd and Marilyn Joi as Ilsa's usually-topless enforcers, make this worth a guilty watch. Just don't let anyone know you did it, or you might lose your job, your friends, your family, and even your cat—and cats generally don't give a fuck. But that's how bad this flick is. We have a ton of promo images below. Some came from an interesting French-Canadian website called Cinepix. You can check it out here.
You never forget the first time.
We recently saw the latest reboot of the classic blaxploitation film Shaft with Samuel L. Jackson, Jesse Usher, et al, and while the parties involved in that effort have their unique charms, this photo pretty much covers what made Richard Roundtree the best. He was, and remains, a bad mother— Shut your mouth! He was born today in 1942, and this photo dates from 1971.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—Apollo Fire Kills Three Astronauts
Astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee are killed in a fire during a test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Although the ignition source of the fire is never conclusively identified, the astronauts' deaths are attributed to a wide range of design hazards in the early Apollo command module, including the use of a high-pressure 100 percent-oxygen atmosphere for the test, wiring and plumbing flaws, flammable materials in the cockpit, an inward-opening hatch, and the flight suits worn by the astronauts.
1924—St. Petersburg is renamed Leningrad
St. Peterburg, the Russian city founded by Peter the Great in 1703, and which was capital of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years, is renamed Leningrad three days after the death of Vladimir Lenin. The city had already been renamed Petrograd in 1914. It was finally given back its original name St. Petersburg in 1991.
1966—Beaumont Children Disappear
In Australia, siblings Jane Nartare Beaumont, Arnna Kathleen Beaumont, and Grant Ellis Beaumont, aged 9, 7, and 4, disappear from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, and are never seen again. Witnesses claim to have spotted them in the company of a tall, blonde man, but over the years, after interviewing many potential suspects, police are unable generate enough solid leads to result in an arrest. The disappearances remain Australia's most infamous cold case.
1949—First Emmy Awards Are Presented
At the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles, California, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents the first Emmy Awards. The name Emmy was chosen as a feminization of "immy", a nickname used for the image orthicon tubes that were common in early television cameras.
1971—Manson Family Found Guilty
Charles Manson and three female members of his "family" are found guilty of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, which Manson orchestrated in hopes of bringing about Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise between blacks and whites.
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