All other predators pale by comparison.
Belgium usually delivers when it comes to vintage film posters. Above is a Belgian promo in French and Dutch for the iconic chiller The Night of the Hunter, titled in French La nuit du chasseur and in Dutch De jagersnacht. “Jagersnacht” sounds like something weird and wicked, like a monster from Lewis Carroll, but it means the same as the English title—“hunter's night.”
Belgian vintage posters often bear the name of the exhibiting cinema. We've shared examples from Ciné Odeon, Acropole, Varieties, Plaza, and Capitole, twice. The above poster bears the name of Cinemax, which was located at 27 Rue de Malines in Antwerp, and was called at different times the Cineum, Rubens, and Apollo.
Looking more closely at the art, it was printed by L.F. de Vos & Co. S.A. Anvers, also from Antwerp, and the work is signed by “RK”—if we're reading it correctly. We've got nothing on RK, but his or her work is top notch, so we'll keep an eye out for more. Night of the Hunter premiered in the U.S. in 1955 and reached Belgium today in 1956.
Love her and leave her coming after you for revenge.
We didn't know La ragazza con la pistola, aka The Girl with a Pistol, was a comedy. Based on this beautiful poster painted by Giorgio Olivetti we never considered the possibility that it was anything other than a crime thriller. But mere seconds into our screening we realized it was a sort of screwball adventure. Sometimes you get fooled. Basically, Monica Vitti plays a Sicilian woman who is devirginized and abandoned by Carlo Giuffrè, is therefore labeled “dishonored” by her family and everyone in her village, and thus feels compelled to chase Giuffrè all the way to Edinburgh to kill him. Giuffrè manages to evade her, forcing her to follow him to Sheffield, Bath, and beyond (as she's tormented by a Sicilian chorus of wailing villagers during interstitial segments). So what you get here is a sort of wacky fish-out-of-water comedy.
The movie is also a satire of traditional Italian social values. Though Vitti's character was a virgin, because she gave in to Giuffrè he automatically considers her a whore—that old paradox. Other explorations of outdated gender roles occur, including the idea of aggression versus resistance in romance. And it's eyebrow raising how men in this era—or at least in this movie—don't consider women to have possession of their own bodies. Vitti is pawed, harassed, and kidnapped—for comedic purposes, but still. The idea of using violence to retain honor pops up more than once too. All in all, La ragazza con la pistola is fascinating cultural exploration, legitimately funny in parts, headlined by one of Europe's great vintage stars. It's worth a look—even though it isn't a crime thriller. It premiered in Italy today in 1968.
Maybe it's too soon to bring it up, but if you ever remarry maybe choose someone who isn't a Red Sox fan.
Awhile back we put together a small collection of vintage paperback covers featuring hanging figures. The above cover for Joseph Shearing's The Golden Violet is an addition to that group. Shearing was actually Margaret Gabrielle Vere Long, who earned acclaim writing numerous historical and gothic horror novels, with The Golden Violet part of the latter group. The cover on this Dell edition was painted by Barye Phillips. Side note: the Red Sox are going to miss the playoffs again, and they might even finish last. We're devastated—not. That's for you, Dan. With love, of course.
Think your boss is bad? Then you've never dealt with a mob boss.
Falling into the category of pleasant surprises, The Mob, for which you see an evocative promo poster above, stars Broderick Crawford as a cop sent to infiltrate an organized crime syndicate. You've seen the idea before. He works his way up the ladder and brings the bad guys down, but this iteration comes with brisk pacing, a set of unpredictable twists, and a supporting cast that includes Ernest Borgine, Richard Kiley, and Lynn Baggett. If you keep your eyes open you might even spot Charles Bronson.
Crawford had already won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for 1949's All the King's Men, so he unsurprisingly does a bang-up job in this film, instilling his deep cover cop with believable toughness and a gruff but relatable humanity. Crawford would later appear in such excellent films as Scandal Sheet, New York Confidential, Born Yesterday, and Human Desire, but The Mob may be his underrated classic.
The only flaw with this film, in our opinion, is a goofball denouement. We suppose, after ninety minutes of almost nonstop high tension, the filmmakers wanted audiences to leave smiling, and we're sure they did, because the scene, while dumb, is pretty funny. But in any case, we recommend giving The Mob a whirl. You'll enjoy it. It opened nationally in the U.S. in late September, but had its actual debut at special premiere today in Dayton, Ohio (why, we don't know) in 1951.
The most inhospitable season just got worse.
Shelley Winters, née Shirley Schrift, was one of the top actresses in Hollywood for five decades. Her notable films are many, and include A Place in the Sun, Night of the Hunter, Lolita, Alfie, The Poseidon Adventure, and even Cleopatra Jones. The above photo sees her in moll mode and was made for her 1948 crime drama Larceny. It's yet another film we haven't seen, but we'll get to it.
Meet the new fascists, same as the old fascists.
Above is a blazingly colorful poster for Violence, starring Nancy Coleman and Sheldon Leonard, a curious little b-flick about Coleman's reporter character inflitrating a Los Angeles based fascist organization that calls itself United Defenders. The group is a fraud, run by man named True Dawson who uses incendiary populist rhetoric to sign up military veterans, while the organization exploits those same veterans by using their membership dues for secret aims. Coleman has gathered some damning evidence, but when she's tailed by fascist thugs her cab crashes, all her evidence burns up, and she comes out of the fiery accident with amnesia.
To compound the major complication that Coleman has now forgotten she's an undercover operative, United Defender member Michael O'Shea shows up in the hospital the next day and convinces her that he's her fiancée. Yipes. We should mention here that part of Coleman's clandestine work has involved romancing United Defenders' oily number two man Sheldon Leonard, but because the movie was made during the 1940s the directions that sticky subplot could go—esentially she's been passed from one man to another—never really materialize. Maybe it's better that way.
Once out of the hospital Coleman is turned into a spokesperson for United Defenders, but her bruised psyche doesn't take to it smoothly. She faints during a speech and is generally out of sorts. Meanwhile the wheels keep turning. The fascists cultivate dark money—literally dark, as a character promising a boatload of new capital appears only in shadows. It's clear by this point that the purpose of the group is to amass wealth and power. The vets are just window dressing, occasionally to be used as shock troops. Asked how he plans to control these dupes, True Dawson encapsulates his amoral aims with this: “We get 'em young and tough, the kind that's already wearing a chip on its shoulder. And then we'll prime them for the payoff. We'll prime 'em with hate. Hate for labor. Hate for management. Hate for the party that's in. Hate for the party that's out. We'll keep 'em so busy they won't have any time to [uncover the truth].”
Objectively, Violence is cheesy. Hell, even the poster is sort of cheesy, with Coleman, O'Shea, and Leonard looking more like an alternate Three Stooges than intrepid political operatives. But certain aspects of the movie are uncomfortably close to reality: the patriotic rhetoric relied upon by Dawson and his fascist lackeys, the exhortations to manhood designed to inflame the membership, the vocal support for workers while the group's actual aims are pro-corporate, and the harangues about what real America is supposed to be. Overall the movie is too b-level to compare to predictive masterpieces like 1976's Network, but it has its disconcerting flashes of insight just the same.
Obviously, Coleman has to get her memory back at some point, and to make that happen the movie relies upon the old screenwriting chestnut that a second blow on the head can fix amnesia brought on by a first. That second blow comes when Leonard accuses her of being a spy and slaps her around. The first slap is accompanied by the sound of a cymbal crash. Better than a glockenspiel, we guess. Another symphonic slap or two and Coleman goes down hard. When she awakens, her memory is restored and United Defenders again have a spy in their midst. Even so, you figure these badass fascists should be able to handle one nosy reporter.
We'll stop there to avoid more spoilers, but there's one additional minor plot twist we will divulge. Coleman never finds out who the dark money guy is. It seems like a nod to the fact that the string pullers, those corporate quasi-humans with evil aims, are rarely exposed, and certainly never punished. It's a point we liked, but in the end we can't call Violence a good movie—it's too cheap, too shallow, and ultimately minimizes its subject matter. But those few moments when its dialogue sounds like it came directly from 2023 politicians or cable news mouthpieces are highly, highly interesting. Maybe they even make the movie worth watching. Violence premiered today in 1947.
I'd like some alterations to this trenchcoat you made me and I'd like them right now.
This excellent shot shows Nancy Guild from her 1947 film noir The Brasher Doubloon, wearing a very square trench coat. We saw the coat before in a promo we shared several years back, but in this shot we can see how unique it is. It's as if there's an iron bar across the shoulders. And there are no buttons. We really need to get around to seeing The Brasher Doubloon just to see if Guild actually wears this garment. We'll track it down and report back.
Police Gazette was a different shade of tabloid.
Above: scans from an issue of The National Police Gazette published this month in 1942. Back then the magazine averaged sixteen pages, which means you just saw everything except a few pages of advertisements. Gazette would later greatly increase its page count, lose its pink shade, and take on the outward appearance of a standard tabloid, but it always stood apart from Confidential, Whisper and other top scandal sheets because it was less focused on Hollywood. Instead, it saved space for boxing, baseball, horse racing, and burlesque. It was one of the longest lived magazines in the U.S., and you can track its evolution through more than seventy-five issues at our tabloid index at this link. Just click and scroll down to “Police Gazette.”
It was a good thing for its readers Hush-Hush didn't know the meaning of the term.
No, we're not going to get into teen-age rapist story that dominates this cover of Hush-Hush published back in January 1965. Though based on a real occurrence, the article is titillation disguised as crime reporting, written during an era when many men thought of rape in one of three ways: vandalization of personal property if the victim was his wife or girlfriend; an attack on the family castle if she was a relative; and she asked for it, which was reserved for most other women. We stress “many men,” not all. From what we gather the majority properly saw it as a heinous attack on the woman. Of course, the vicious nature of it didn't stop it from being widely used as a cinematic and literary device, but that's another discussion, one we've already had and doubtless will again.
Elsewhere on the cover you get photographic proof that topless bathing suits really did exist during the 1960s. There are only a few photos of the things, but Hush-Hush adds to the library of visual confirmation. Now we need proof of the existence of David Dodge's completely backless cache-sexe that made women look nude when viewed from the rear. He says they were worn on the French Riviera during the 1950s, but we have a feeling proof won't be forthcoming anytime soon, absent a time machine and careful coordinates. Lastly, the cover's bottom banner touts wife swapping. How popular was this practice? We can't know. We suggest asking your grandma. But first compliment her cooking: “This casserole is delicious, gram-gram. Did you and paw-paw ever screw other married couples for kicks? Can I have more peas?”
The next article we want to call attention to is, “How Do Tahitian Beauties Drive Men Wild?” Vintage novels that waxed pornographic about the sexual attitudes of Pacific Islanders were almost an official sub-genre, so this story was a must-read for us. And for you too, which can do below. At least mostly. We couldn't upload the entire thing. It's too long, but there's enough to give you the gist. And the gist is simply that Tahitians apparently had no taboos concerning sex, partners, and privacy. The story is framed around alleged trysts with various Hollywood stars, and how Hush-Hush avoided lawsuits from those stars is really a mystery. You'll be entertained. We will say, though, that it's rather unfortunate that the story is couched in insulting terms toward Tahitian women.
As a final note, Hush-Hush used a cheaper printing process and lower quality paper than other publications from the same rank. Those two aspects of the magazine worsened as time passed. By 1965, it was barely a step above the National Informers of the world in terms of technical values. Because of that our scans aren't great. The cheap printing resulted in a scanner moiré pattern on most of the black and white content (though the color came out fine). It's actually fixable in Photoshop or Gimp, so we hear, and we have both programs, but do we want to do all that work for cheap-ass Hush-Hush? We decided we didn't. Therefore, what you see is what you get—twenty-plus scans below.
It was the Whisper heard from coast to coast.
Above is a cover of the tabloid Whisper from January 1965, with actress Carroll Baker, convicted murderer Winston Moseley, and New York judge J. Irwin Shapiro starring on the front. But before we get into the magazine, we want to share the good news that our longtime scanning problems are fixed. We didn't get a new scanner, though. We got a new computer—a Mac Studio with plenty under the hood. It's quicker than the old Mac, but it also changed the functionality of the scanning interface. The whole process runs differently, and is about three times faster now. So you'll be seeing more magazines in the future.
Turning back to Whisper, Winston Moseley—who editors call William for some reason—was America's villain of the moment for the murder of Catherine Genovese, who he stalked, stabbed with a hunting knife, then found again where she had taken refuge in a building, and finished her off. Additionally, Moseley was a necrophiliac. He raped his victims—of which there were three total—post-mortem. Of the trio of victims Genovese is the one that's remembered today because her murder sparked a national reckoning about the relationship between citizens and the police, as well as life in big cities, because the press reported that thirty-eight people had seen the crime happening but had done nothing.
As it turned out, that number was wildly inaccurate, but never let the truth get in the way of perfectly cooked, juicy tabloid outrage. A quote appeared in nearly every story about the murder: “I didn't want to get involved.” New York City—where the crime occurred—and other metropolitan centers were criticized as uncaring places. Author Harlan Ellison, who at that time was writing urban crime fiction, weighed in, saying, “not one of [the witnesses] made the slightest effort to save her, to scream at the killer, or even to call the police.” Peak outrage was achieved by New York State Supreme Court Justice J. Irwin Shapiro when he expressed a desire to execute Moseley himself. In the end, Moseley wasn't executed at all. He died in prison in 2016 at age eighty-one.
Elsewhere in Whisper, you'll notice that the magazine is—unsurprisingly, given the time period and nature of the publication—antagonistic toward gay men, as demonstrated by the panel with the blaring text: “Who's Queer Asked the Peer?” But what is a surprise is that later in the issue the editors run a detailed piece on transvestites and transsexuals, and the approach is very different than the contempt shown toward homosexuality. As we've pointed out many times before, mid-century tabloids had a deep interest in trans issues. The story is titled, “A Doctor Answers What Everyone Wants To Know About Sex Change Operations.” The tone is as follows:
The condition he referred to was the common plight of all male transsexuals. Physically he was a man, but emotionally and personality-wise he was a woman, a condition that made it difficult to find successful employment, and to live at all happily. Fortunately, in his case, he had a lawyer and a wise judge who were able to help him in his wish to go to Europe for a sex change operation so that his body could be brought into greater harmony with his mind, and enable him to work and live with a degree of happiness he had never known before.
That's respectful—if not even compassionate—for a 1965 publication considered lowbrow by sophisticated readers. Is it a paradox that the magazine could be so evil toward gay men, yet so civil toward transsexuals? We think so, and we'd love to know the thought process behind it. While we're puzzling that out, you may want to move on to Whisper's slate of celebrity news. Everyone from Romy Schneider to Ernest Borgnine get their due exposure. We've uploaded the magazine's “Behind the Whispers” feature, so you can get the dish on a few Hollywood stars. Please enjoy. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
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