Justice is served—ice cold.
Above: poster art for the blaxploitation flick Black Belt Jones, starring Jim Kelly as the last man standing between honest folk and a mafia land grab. We talked about it last year, and you can read what we thought and see the Italian promo art by Ermano Iaia at this link. You can also see two nice Kelly promo shots here and here. The movie premiered in the U.S. today in 1974.
Unlike mama's boys, they're fully able to take care of themselves.
Ages ago we shared a Turkish poster for the blaxploitation flick Black Mama, White Mama, with Pam Grier and Margaret Markov. Today we're sharing the U.S. promo, as well as a nice production photo of the stars. The movie, which premiered today in 1972, was a regendering of The Defiant Ones, but done with a lot more skin and a lot less budget. Even so, it was pretty fun, as women-in-prison flicks go—if you start with modest expectations. You can see more promos from the film here.
Trouble comes with two guns blazing.
We'll assume we don't have to define the vernacular term “G” as used in our header, and will merely point out that this is a very nice Italian promo poster for the 1972 blaxploitation movie Trouble Man. In Italy it was titled Detective G., and in Italian the G stands for something non-vernacular—guai: “trouble." There's no release date for Italy, but the movie—which is well worth seeing—probably played there sometime in 1973.
You wouldn't believe the mischief I get up to inside this thing.
This wonderful 1973 promo image of U.S. actress Gloria Hendry demonstrates the adage “less is more,” as in less skin. We've shown you shots of her in a bikini, with her six-pack abs and muscled arms, but this voluminous kaftan does something special for her. It's like she's hiding a secret. We'll have more of Hendry later.
There are only three sure things: taxes, death, and trouble.
Above is a poster for the drama Trouble Man, a well known movie from the blaxploitation cycle, not least because Marvin Gaye wrote the excellent soundtrack. In fact, a line from his theme song provided our subhead about taxes, death, and trouble. Like his music, unusual talent went into the film. That goes for the direction by Ivan Dixon, the writing, and the acting. All of that is pretty well known. The movie usually makes it onto lists of best blaxploitation movies. But it can also hold its own with most detective movies from outside the genre made during the early seventies, and because blaxploitation had so many cheap, fly-by-night productions, the fact that you don't have to squint beyond many shortcomings to see it as a good movie is something to appreciate.
Robert Hooks plays a Los Angeles badass who everyone calls simply Mr. T. He makes his money as a fixer, taking care of people's troubles for payment. That's where the “T” comes from—T for trouble. Two underworld figures who run craps games come to him because their game nights are being robbed by masked men. For $10,000 T agrees to stop the thieves. Unfortunately, the robbery tale is a set-up. The two underworld guys plan to frame T for murder. The how of it is a bit complicated to explain in a short write-up, but the important detail is why—the planned mark is a top henchman of a rival gangster, and his death will make the rival's territory ripe for a takeover. The plan works, as does the frame, but T doesn't end up in jail or dead, which means he's on the loose to dig for answers.
Hooks had already been a working actor for years by the time he took on the role of Mr. T, and the experience shows. He's far better than the music stars and ex-athletes that often headlined blaxploitation productions (though a few of them were good too). An ace cast is needed because this is the type of film where the audience knows exactly what's going on from the beginning, while T and the cops are in the dark. Without a mystery, the tension is provided by filling the movie with numerous tough guys who don't give an inch. Hooks has more than enough presence to hold his own. Thanks to him and his capable co-stars, including the regal Paula Kelly as his girlfriend, Julius Harris as a top criminal figure, and Vince Howard as Harris's main strongman, Trouble Man delivers the goods. It premiered today in 1972.
If you think I look good this way wait until you see me with motion, sound, and character development.
Above: an excellent photo of U.S. actress Tanya Boyd, who rose to fame in ’70s blaxploitation movies, particularly 1976's Black Shampoo and Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, two of the wilder movies of the period. Most of her career afterward consisted of television appearances, including a 650-episode stint on the soap opera Days of Our Lives, but she's always been a favorite of ours for her film work. In terms of blaxploitation performers, she was never as famous as Pam Grier, but she was just as fearless.
The man with the ebony gun.
Above is an Italian poster for the 1972 blaxploitation movie Black Gunn, which starred the one and only Jim Brown, along with Brenda Sykes and Martin Landau. In Italy it was titled Pistola nera spara senza pietà, which translates to, “black gun shoots without pity,” a clumsy phrase, but one that fits the movie. There's no release date for Italy, but it probably played there during the summer of 1973. We talked about it last year and shared a Japanese poster built around a photo-illustration, to which the above hand-painted effort serves as interesting contrast. The artist is uncredited.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a mandatory look at grindhouse moviemaking during the untamed 1970s.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a film we've watched a few times, and whenever a movie racks up multiple viewings we think it needs to be highlighted. It's a fast paced documentary about the wave of low budget exploitation flicks made in the Philippines from the late ’60s through the ’70s. We weren't old enough to see any of them during the actual grindhouse era, but caught them in later years, and one reason we came up with this website was for the opportunity to riff on these types of flicks. Over the last decade-plus we've had the pleasure of writing about entertaining dreck like Savage Sisters, The Big Doll House, Night of the Cobra Woman, and Cleopatra Wong. Built around interviews with stars such as Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Margaret Markov, Gloria Hendry, and directors/producers like Eddie Romero, Jack Hill, Joe Dante, and Roger Corman, Machete Maidens Unleashed! is an insider's look at a unique era in cinema history. It compellingly juxtaposes snippets of cinematic insanity against clips of the performers involved laughing over the craziness of it all. While the moviesdiscussed often fall into the category of sexploitation, at the time they were also considered an adjunct of the women's liberation movement—a point made by a couple of the actresses interviewed. Coming out of the sexually repressive decades of the fifties and early sixties, nudity was seen as a rebuke to patriarchal control. Covering productions ranging from 1964's The Walls of Hell to 1979's big budget war flick Apocalypse Now, this is a wide ranging documentary, and by far the most entertaining one on the subject matter we've seen. What with our website's Philippine provenance, and with PSGP having spent a couple of years in Guatemala, another country where life was cheap but fun was unparalleled, this also hit us directly in the nostalgia gland (PSGP feels like the only reason these films weren't made in Guatemala is because everyone actually would have been murdered, instead of just thinking they would).
All the interviewees seem to understand that they're from an extinct breed of very brave film performers, making entertainment for audiences ready to see absolutely anything happen. It sometimes seems that modern audiences have forgotten that the filmmaker is not the material, and the actor is not his or her character. The message comes through strongly here that movies are simply make believe. The creators maywant to outrage, or teach, or push censorship envelopes, or illuminate themes that leave audiences enriched in some way, but it's still just a job they perform before going home to their real lives. We wouldn't be surprised if some of the interviewees now feel they'd been traumatized, but during this movie, at least, they shrug off the difficulties of filming—ranging from extreme weather to graphic nudity to military revolt—as obstacles true professionals must navigate. The title cards of some of these films should be enough by themselves to intrigue you. We have a set below. We've also mixed in some screenshots. We'd love to have uploaded actual production photos, but the films are so low budget those are close to impossible to find. But why look at photos when you can watch the movies? Give it a shot. Quarts of booze are optional. Machete Maidens Unleashed! had its world premiere in Australia in the summer of 2010, and first hit U.S. shores today the same year at the Philadelphia International Film Festival. We've pointed you toward a few Philippine grindhouse flicks above, and you can read about more—there are so many, so please excuse the avalanche of links—here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
There's only one rule: walk away or be blown away.
Above: an alternate poster for the Jim Brown blaxploitation movie Slaughter, which first hit cinemas today in 1972. We've talked about it twice: here and here. Shorter version: All work and no play makes Jim a dull boy, which is why it's good Stella was totally down for some fun and games.
Sometimes you run out of superlatives.
Recently we mentioned, more or less in passing, that Vonetta McGee was very beautiful. We'd already featured her as a femme fatale years ago, but our recent name drop got us thinking about sharing another image or two. We expected photos to be hard to find. Interest acts as a filtering mechanism, and since there are not many people percentagewise who save African American actresses' old photos and slides, fewer who digitize them, and still fewer who place them on their websites, all these factors converge and the result is lowered representation. We see it every day. There are significant and talented black actresses with extensive filmographies, yet they have only a fraction the number of surviving promo photos of non-black actresses who made only a few movies. For that reason we were pretty happy when we not only found the above shot of McGee during her ingénue period, twenty-three years old, but a marvelous shot. A wonderful shot. It was made when she debuted in the 1968 Italian comedy Faustina, and this is what we meant when we said she was very beautiful. After a successful career appearing in films ranging from trendy blaxploitation such as Blacula to high budget features such as The Eiger Sanction, the magnificent McGee died today in 2010. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1981—Ronnie Biggs Rescued After Kidnapping
Fugitive thief Ronnie Biggs, a British citizen who was a member of the gang that pulled off the Great Train Robbery, is rescued by police in Barbados after being kidnapped. Biggs had been abducted a week earlier from a bar in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by members of a British security firm. Upon release he was returned to Brazil and continued to be a fugitive from British justice.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
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