Vintage Pulp Feb 26 2024
SAVAGE BY NATURE
He was a good husband at first. Then he turned into a total ape.


This Mexican poster for La novia del gorilla, aka Bride of the Gorilla, is chockful of interesting elements, from the massive simian at top, to the snake hanging in a tree, to star Barbara Payton being borne away by a second gorilla, and co-star Carol Varga in her classic “native” two-piece. There's a line early on: “White people shouldn't live too long in the jungle. It brings out their bad side—jealousies, impatience.” That sums up the thrust of the plot, the subplot, and the underlying themes, because it's a one-note psychological suspense flick about northerners out of place in the humid global south.

In brief, Raymond Burr runs a rubber plantation for colonial boss Paul Cavanaugh, and has the hots for his wife Barbara Payton. He kills Cavanaugh, thanks to a serendipitous lethal snake that's slithering by. He gets away with the murder, but he can't fool the withered old crone who runs the plantation house. She uses the pe de guine—the so-called plant of evil—to place a curse on Burr. It's slow to act, but by the time he marries the widowed Payton he comes to think he's changing into a beast. Is it in his mind? Is he suffering the effects of slow poisoning from the pe de guine? Or is he really a monster?

Bride of the Gorilla, while a middling and basically inconsequential cinematic effort, is well remembered by Hollywood buffs for its extracurriculars. Barbara Payton was being surveilled via detective by her husband Franchot Tone, and passed on the unfortunate news that Payton was enjoying sweaty horizontal interludes with Woody Strode. He was one of the best looking guys you can imagine, so it's no wonder the highly sexed Payton got hot and bothered. It was one in a series of affairs for her, but this one harmed her career because Strode was black. She would later suffer one of the worst downward spirals in celebrity history.

In any case, the question is should whether you give Bride of the Gorilla a screening. Hmm... well, owing to the good cast, we think so. Chaney and Burr are quality talents even when overrmatched by substandard screenwriting. But keep your expectations in check. It's watchable, but it's still pure b-movie schlock. It was originally released in the U.S., and opened in Mexico today in 1951

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Vintage Pulp Apr 13 2022
FORGET ME NOT
The toughest case to solve is a case of amnesia.


The poster above was made to promote the mystery Two O'Clock Courage, an interesting little noir-adjacent obscurity released today in 1945. It was directed by Anthony Mann of T-Men fame, and stars Tom Conway as a hapless everyman and Ann Rutherford as a cabbie who almost runs him over, but instead takes him under her wing. Conway needs help, you see, because he's been bonked over the head, and has no clue by whom or why. In fact, he doesn't remember anything before meeting Rutherford. Everything is a big fat blank. With his brain back to factory reset, he's a nice enough guy, but he soon learns that Rutherford found him near the scene of a murder. Did he have anything to do with it? He fears he might have. He and Rutherford pair up to sleuth their way to a solution, with cops and the press underfoot all the while.

The movie, while a mystery, also aims for laughs in the style of The Thin Man, with quips, wacky secondary characters, Bettejane Greer (Jane Greer) comically overacting the effects of alcohol, and an inspector who's entirely too willing to defer authority to nosy amateurs. Maybe it was uproarious in its day, but in our day it's a bit tedious. The problem is Conway's stumbling, stammering performance. A little more agency and competence would have played better, in our opinion. His all thumbs persona isn't a dealbreaker, though, thanks to Rutherford's presence. The two even manage to generate a few legit chuckles. As for the mystery, they're pretty bad as sleuths, but they eventually solve it, because with respect to cinematic amnesia you can always count on one thing—it's easy come, easy go.

So you really have total and complete amnesia?

I guess you don't remember, but I've let you ride in my cab, like, hundreds of times and you owe me probably three grand. Cash only, please.

Oh, also we've had dozens of wild, carnal nights together. Since you forgot we better do all those again.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 25 2022
WHISTLE IN THE DARK
George Raft and Ava Gardner are lost in tepid 1946 drama.


A whistle stop, for any who don't know, is a term for a small town, a place where a train pulls in for a few minutes before moving on. 1946's Whistle Stop is based on Maritta M. Wolff's acclaimed novel, published when she was just twenty-two. It was not only acclaimed, but controversial, as its frank language scandalized bluenoses of the era.
 
In the film, Ava Gardner returns from Chicago to her whistle stop home town and gets tangled up up with her ex, George Raft, who's a gambler and all around shady guy. Tom Conway has feelings for Gardner and hates Raft, and the rivalry leads to big trouble as both try to win Ava's affections. She doesn't help the situation with her fickleness. Each time Raft makes her mad she turns to Conway. Nothing good can result when hearts are used as toys.
 
This is another one of those old films that, because it has some night scenes and a partial crime focus, is labeled on some sites as a film noir. That's way off and you'll be disappointed if you watch it expecting noir. It's actually a melodrama, with star-crossed lovers, sweet violins, and a dance sequence set to the 1848 folk classic “Oh, Susanna.” Even Variety at the time called it “heavy melodrama.” There's a heist in the film, but heists happened in the movies before, after, and outside film noir. Raft is supposed to take part in the robbery, which as a bonus would result in the death of his rival Conway. Think things work out as planned? Not quite. We wanted to like Whistle Stop, because Gardner is ravishing, but it's not up to the standard of most old films. It premiered today in 1946.
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Vintage Pulp May 22 2017
STUCK ON REPEAT
Destiny is a song that plays over and over.

We were marveling a while back at how the film noir Mildred Pierce begins with a shooting, and wouldn't you know it—the melodrama Repeat Performance uses the same opening. In the first scene Joan Leslie ventilates her husband then heads off in a daze to a New Year's Eve party. She makes a wish as the clock strikes midnight, pleading for a chance to erase the past year's mistakes and alakazam!—she's sent back in time to re-do the previous 365. Once she realizes what's happened, she's practically thrilled enough to do handsprings, and vows to avoid the missteps that led to her shooting her husband. But to quote a poem a friend dedicates to her: “If you would run from destiny, first learn to run through snow leaving no footprints.” Yeah. She's screwed either way. Maybe. Keep an eye out for Natalie Schafer, aka Mrs. Howell from Gilligan's Island as—surprise—a vacuous socialite. Repeat Performance premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 04
1969—The Krays Are Found Guilty of Murder
In England, twins Ronald and Reginald Kray are found guilty of the murder of Jack McVitie. The Kray brothers had been notorious gangsters in London's East End, and for their crimes both were sentenced to life in prison, and both eventually died behind bars. Their story later inspired a 1990 motion picture entitled The Krays.
1975—Charlie Chaplin Is Knighted
British-born comic genius Charlie Chaplin, whose long and turbulent career in the U.S. had been brought to an abrupt end when he was branded a communist and denied a residence visa, is bestowed a knighthood at London's Buckingham Palace. Chaplin died two years later and even then peace eluded him, as his body was stolen from its grave for eleven weeks by men trying to extort money from the Chaplin family.
March 03
1959—Lou Costello Dies
American comedian Lou Costello, of the famous comedy team Abbott & Costello, dies of a heart attack at Doctors' Hospital in Beverly Hills, three days before his 53rd birthday. His career spanned radio and film, silent movies and talkies, vaudeville and cinema, and in his heyday he was, along with partner Abbott, one of the most beloved personalities in Hollywood.
March 02
1933—King Kong Opens
The first version of King Kong, starring Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, and with the giant ape Kong brought to life with stop-action photography, opens at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The film goes on to play worldwide to good reviews and huge crowds, and spawns numerous sequels and reworkings over the next eighty years.
1949—James Gallagher Completes Round-the-World Flight
Captain James Gallagher and a crew of fourteen land their B-50 Superfortress named Lucky Lady II in Fort Worth, Texas, thus completing the first non-stop around-the-world airplane flight. The entire trip from takeoff to touchdown took ninety-four hours and one minute.
1953—Oscars Are Shown on Television
The 26th Academy Awards are broadcast on television by NBC, the first time the awards have been shown on television. Audiences watch live as From Here to Eternity wins for Best Picture, and William Holden and Audrey Hepburn earn statues in the best acting categories for Stalag 17 and Roman Holiday.
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