She's tougher than Tarzan, meaner than Sheena, and lustier than Gungala.
You can look at this cover and correctly assume that we've shared it because it was painted by Frank Frazetta, considered by many to be the master of sword and sorcery art. It's a beautiful piece, rightly famous. Alan Dean Foster is a master too. He isn't what you'd call a significant author in the sense that he's produced lauded original material, but he may be the king of movie novelizations. Among his output: The Black Hole, Clash of the Titans, Outland, Starman, Pale Rider, and The Chronicles of Riddick, as well as novelized series based on Star Wars, Star Trek, and Alien. We love Foster for his Star Wars sequel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which came out before The Empire Strikes Back (notice we don't bother with that Episode nonsense) and followed Luke and Leia—not siblings in Foster's universe—as they adventured on strange worlds and discovered their love for each other. We still think the film series should have followed Foster's lead, but whatever.
His Luana is a novelization of the 1968 movie of the same name starring Mei Chen Chalais, which we talked about a while back. Sometimes novelizations are published before the film, sometimes after. Foster published Luana six years after the film in 1974 for reasons that are obscure. It was among his first published books. While template for a novelization is provided by the filmmakers, the author is who gives it color and life. Foster fulfills that duty with obvious relish, mining literary and cinematic antecedents like Tarzan, Tarzana, Gungala, Sheena, Shuna, and Ka-Zar for familiar tropes. A kilometer long pit filled with army ants? A lion and panther, both larger than any ever seen before, working in tandem with a huge chimp? A pitched battle between blowgun wielding Tanzanian tribesmen and an expedition of white explorers? A secret city of solid gold buildings? As lost world tales go, by standing on the shoulders of his predecessors, Foster crafts something better than average. And far better than the movie too.
Dobson welcomes a guest to her poster but there's still only one queen.
Above are two gorgeous Italian posters for the blaxploitation classics Cleopatra Jones: licenza di uccidere and Operazione casinò d'oro, better known as Cleopatra Jones and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold. The first poster is obviously a photo-illustration, but the second was painted by Robert Tanenbaum. It's an iteration of his original U.S. poster, which you see here as well, just below.
On the U.S. version star Tamara Dobson stands alone, but for the Italian promo a second figure appears to her right, representing we know not whom. You'll notice the Italy Dobson figure has lighter skin than on the U.S. poster, and lighter skin than her new sidekick. Was this a deliberate switcheroo? Were Italian moviegoers supposed to think the figure on the left, who was Dobson in the U.S., now represented co-star Stella Stevens? They probably did, even though Stella's face is present on both posters at about thigh level to the main figures. But we don't think Tannenbaum had any of that in mind. We think the second figure represents nobody and came out of his fertile imagination.
Something else interesting about these—Tannenbaum had no trouble reproducing Stella's face, but you'll notice none of the figures look like Tamara Dobson. Not unless you squint. Hmm. Well, even if he had trouble with Dobson's likeness, he did an amazing job on these pieces, which is no surprise considering he's a major contributor to cinematic art who painted promos for The Sting, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and other big budget releases. There are no known Italian release dates on these Cleopatra movies, but ballpark, figure summer 1974 and winter 1975. Read about them here and here.
Nichols returns from beyond Antares to grace fans with a few Earthly classics.
Above is a more complete version of an image from our collection of actresses on polar bear rugs—an album sleeve featuring Star Trek icon Nichelle Nichols. The photo we used in the earlier post was just a close-up of this cover. Nichols sings standards on this 1967 platter, making passes at “Feelin' Good,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” and “That's Life,” among other tunes. Yes, we listened to it. We once called her a Renaissance woman in deep space, and she certainly does nothing to harm that reputation here. As she once demonstrated on Star Trek with a rendition of the 23rd century classic “Beyond Antares,” her voice is beautiful. Well, actually it's spectacular, a great instrument with good range and a tone as pristine as a violin. Hers is not the type of muscular singing that has taken over American pop music, a style that uses technique to bludgeon listeners into thinking something substantial is going on. It's a more delicate, more purely heartfelt approach. She's backed by a full orchestra, where we'd prefer to hear her with a jazz trio or quartet, but even so, damn—this woman really had it going on. Check out her version of “Tenderly” here.
You have to know when it's time to branch out.
Andrea Dromm is wearing a jumpsuit, which is fitting because she's going to have to jump if she ever wants to get out of this tree. A model and actress, she had one of the shorter careers, appearing in two movies and one television show. But one of the movies was the hit comedy The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! and the television show was Star Trek, so she's better remembered than someone with such a small filmography normally would be. After acting she went on to devote her time to modeling, and has been stuck in this tree since posing there in 1966.
Nguyen proves to be an Enterprising star.
French born, half Vietnamese actress France Nguyen has had quite a few film and television appearances, but our favorite of her roles—of course—is that of Elaan of Troyius in the original Star Trek series in 1968. That character, a sort of deep space Asian and Egyptian ethnic mash-up who boards the U.S.S. Enterprise as part of a diplomatic mission, had tears laced with a powerful chemical that worked like a love potion. Kirk, of course, touched those and more, and ended up losing his head over her. In our opinion she didn't need magic tears to make that happen—Elaan of Troyius was one of the most mysterious and beautiful in a long line of beautiful and mysterious guest aliens featured on Star Trek. The top photo captures all the qualities that made Nguyen perfect for the role, and in the second shot you see her in costume as Elaan.
Enterprise goes into dry dock for repairs.
The eleven-foot model of the U.S.S. Enterprise used to shoot television's Star Trek that has been housed in Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian Institution since 1974 is receiving an overdue restoration. The Smithsonian requested photos from fans or studio staff who could help them return the metal ship to its exact condition from August 1967, when the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” aired. Why that episode? We don't know. In any case, the Enterprise has been modified eight times over the years, and the museum was looking specifically for interior photos or shots of the ship disassembled so they could see how the interior structure was originally arranged. Photos emerged and the Smithsonian is now busily at work rehabbing the starship to its full luster. Since the original framework was wood, the two engines tend to sag over time, so one change being made is to reinforce the interior with a metal collar designed to keep the engines properly aligned. Repainting the exterior is also on the agenda. When finished the Enterprise will be displayed in the museum's new Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, which opens in July. The timing is of course no coincidence. This year—September 8 to be exact—will mark the 50-year anniversary of the Star Trek's premiere on NBC.
Spock beamed up a year ago today.
Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy died a year ago today, an event we noted at the time with a brief tribute and a photo, though of Nimoy in human form rather than as Spock. Today, for the anniversary, we're going full Spock because we stumbled across this rare promo poster of Nimoy in character holding a model of the Enterprise. While the poster is similar to a widely circulated image available on the Memory Alpha website, as far as we know this particular item has never been posted online without a watermark. So that's our achievement for today.
A Renaissance woman in deep space.
Star Trek featured a range of female personalities, from the innocent Angelique Pettyjohn, to the cerebral Marianna Hill, to the coolly professional Majel Barrett, to the supersexual Yvonne Craig. And of course there’s everyone's favorite yeoman Janice Rand, wilting from Captain Kirk’s lack of attention. And then there’s Lieutenant Nyota Uhura. As played by Nichelle Nichols she was the only fully realized woman on the show, and the most fully realized character after Kirk and Spock. She was African and American, spoke Swahili, was reliable at her job, was self-secure enough to freely express wonder and fear, could fight with deadly ability, could sing and play music, could navigate the ship, make technical repairs, and helm the science station. This is one of the best promo photos of one of television’s most capable characters. It’s post-Star Trek, probably 1974.
The bad news is I was in such a hurry I forgot my dress. The good news is I don’t care!
This fun promo photo with American actress Nancy Kovack was made for her role in the film Sylvia. Kovack appeared in several movies and many television shows, but is mainly remembered for playing Medea in 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts, and for a guest appearance on Star Trek. The image above dates from 1965.
Sci-fi icon Leonard Nimoy dies in Bel-Air, California.
Above is a promo photo of American actor Leonard Nimoy. We’ve been working our way through the original Star Trek and last night just finished the episode “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” Watching the show for the first time since childhood, it’s easy to see now that Nimoy was the best part of it. Shatner is great in that cheesy way of his, but Nimoy is the center of the Trek universe. He was especially good when his purely logical Mr. Spock was allowed to show emotion. In “Is There in Truth No Beauty?” while possessed by a cloud-like alien named Kollos who'd never occupied a physical form before, he waxed, “How compact your bodies are. And what a variety of senses you have. This thing you call language though—most remarkable. You depend on it for so very much. But is any one of you really its master? But most of all, the aloneness. You are so alone. You live out your lives in this shell of flesh. Self-contained. Separate. How lonely you are. How terribly lonely.” Star Trek was greater than the sum of its parts. It was escapism, but it managed stunning insights into the human condition. Leonard Nimoy was often the conduit. He died today in Bel-Air, California of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease aged eighty-three.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions
about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire
in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
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