Vintage Pulp Nov 25 2020
PIANO SOLO
Songs of sadness, loneliness, and forgetting.


Above is a poster for the French crime drama Tirez sur le pianiste, known in English as Shoot the Piano Player, and based upon the David Goodis novel Down There. We raved about the book. The movie? Well, you're supposed to love it. Make no mistake there. Though it received mixed reviews when released, most critics rhapsodize it now. This isn't unusual. Opinion will shift over time. Since director François Truffaut said he intended to make a film mainly for cinephiles, it makes sense that it eventually won critics over. The question is will it win you over?

Truffaut took a quintessentially American novel and converted it into something quintessentially French. This wasn't his initial intention. He wanted to pay tribute to American films. There are certainly American references, but he couldn't help but let his French nature come through. For example, where the book conjures torch songs and jazz, Truffaut cast singer/songwriter Charles Aznavour in the lead, and the music he plays is mostly folk songs and ditties. It's a major shift in mood. Truffaut also elected to leaven the terminal darkness of the novel with humor.

But you have to judge the product on its own merits, so if you pretend you never opened the book, Tirez sur le pianiste is certainly interesting. Truffaut either wasn't aiming for or didn't have the budget to seek technical perfection. The shadow of his camera pops up. The physical action is disjointed and unconvincing. But the film is also kinetic and beautifully shot. There's a kind of guerrilla style to it, a feel of a director doing anything that comes to mind and the story following along. We were aware of watching something uniquely artful, but not uniquely successful. So again, the question is, will it win you over? We can't say. Try it and see for yourself. Tirez sur le pianiste premiered in France today in 1960.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 21 2020
HOUSE PAINTERS
Two Italian artists created some of the coveted posters for the classic drama Casablanca.


All of these posters are Italian promos for the classic war drama Casablanca, which premiered in Italy today in 1946, four years after it opened in the U.S. An original example of the top poster, which was painted by Luigi Martinati, sold at auction in 2017 for $478,000. The following three posters are also by Martinati. The bottom three efforts, meanwhile, are by Silvano Campeggi, and were painted for the movie's re-release in 1962. Top notch work all of it, for a top notch movie. See more Casablanca promos here and here.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 17 2020
CUT TO THE CHASE
Our best option is to run as fast as we can. You can keep up with me okay in that floor length gown, right?


These two orange promos were made for The Chase, starring Robert Cummings as a down and out war vet and Steve Cochran as a Miami gangster. The film also has Peter Lorre as Cochran's henchman and Michèle Morgan as his wife. The plot set-up is simple. When Cummings finds a wallet packed with cash he returns it, though he's down on his luck. The wallet belongs to shady Cochran, who is impressed by Cummings' honesty and hires him to be a chauffeur. Pretty soon he's driving Morgan around too, which is a nice bonus. When she decides she wants to leave Cochran, she asks Cummings for help and he dreams up a scheme to escape by ship to Havana.

If you watch this you'll notice that Cummings is sedate, almost in a daze, but there are reasons for this that are revealed later. His escape plan does not—of course—come off without a hitch. Lorre figures it out and throws a monkey wrench in the works. That's not a spoiler. This is film noir, which means you know his initial plan won't work. But we won't reveal more. In our opinion, it would have been nice if the filmmakers had at least gotten some second unit shots from Havana to use, just a few street scenes or harbor shots, but no such luck. Though the movie has a backlot feel, some of the sets are pretty nice just the same. In the end it's worth seeing. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1946.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 17 2020
WORKING 69 TO 5
Hitomi Kozue finds herself Onna tough job assignment.


By now you've certainly gotten the feeling that we like Japanese actress Hitomi Kozue. We've featured her often, and above you see her on a poster for Onna hisho no kokuhaku: kaniku no shitatari, which was retitled for its English language release Confessions of a Female Secretary: Juice from the Fruit. You have to take a moment to appreciate the baroque weirdness of that title. Quite evocative, no? In addition to the theatrical promo above, we have the DVD cover below. We never share those, but this one is actually pretty nice and features an image of Kozue we hadn't seen before.

The movie deals with an office worker employed at the most Weinsteinian (or Ailesian, if you prefer) company in Tokyo. Mixed in with unwanted advances from various schlubs are Eyes Wide Shut-style masked orgies, drug induced psychedelia, woodland humping, and other kinks and extracurriculars. The end result is another roman porno effort from Nikkatsu Studios about a woman's sexual exploitation and eventual embrace of her own depravity. Ah, the wet dreams of male screenwriters—so perverted, so consistent. Onna hisho no kokuhaku: kaniku no shitatari premiered in Japan today in 1976.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 15 2020
UGLY, DARK, AND DEEP
They always faint from shock. Then I read them my poetry and they realize they've misjudged me.


The lagoon is lovely, dark, and deep, but I have miles to go before I creep. Frost, in case you didn't know. This is a poster for the Creature from the Black Lagoon from Spain, where it was called La mujer y el monstruo, and premiered today in 1954. See more creature stuff here, here, and here. And something related here.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 13 2020
MANCHESTER DISUNITED
United they stand, divided they make plea deals.


Sometimes it's all in the title. Could we possibly resist a movie called Hell is a City? Not a chance. The city in question is industrial Manchester, England, and hell is caused by escaped criminal John Crawford when he sets up a heist that turns to murder, subsequently bringing top cop Stanley Baker along to try to crack the case by turning the four crooks against each other. The movie isn't a procedural, but has a few of the elements, and it has some film noir stylings too, though it isn't a noir. What it is, though, is well acted, well shot in numerous outdoor locations, and believable—not always the case for films from the period. Crawford's villain is an incredibly bad guy. He doesn't blanche at assault, rape, or murder, and holds his scheme together through rank intimidation of his criminal partners. It's all justified, he feels, to enable him to retrieve and sell a cache of stolen jewels and flee to life in some foreign land. But first he needs hard cash, and that's where the heist comes in. It goes pear shaped right away when it turns out the satchel he targets is chained to Lois Daine's wrist. He gives her a love tap and that, as they say, is that—he has a staring corpse on his hands. We won't tell you more, except that Hell Is a City has numerous intertwined characters, all interesting, and has an urban setting that by its very dismal nature makes you understand why Crawford wants so badly to be someplace far away. The movie premiered in England in April 1960 and reached the U.S. today the same year.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 13 2020
INTERNATIONAL MAIL
Pair of Italian posters show that the postman really does ring twice.


Above you see two beautiful Italian posters—one painted, the other a photo-illustration—for the classic film noir Il postino suona sempre due volte, better known as The Postman Always Rings Twice. It premiered in Italy today in 1947. We couldn't even begin to have enough wall space for all the promos we love, but if we owned the painted piece we might be willing to take down the photos of our families to make room. Hah, just kidding, fam. But could you blame us? The poster was painted by Ercole Brini and we think it's close to his best work. We've talked about the movie before. Shorter version: good sex makes a man's life a wreck.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 10 2020
FEAR OF THE CAT
Don't be scared—I just want you to be absolutely still for the next five hours while I curl up on your lap.


Above, another promo poster for the classic comedy mystery The Cat and the Canary, with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. We showed you a Swedish promo last year but didn't talk about the film. It's based on a 1922 play by John Willard, which makes it old enough that even the cleverest jokes are probably too recognizable for modern viewers to generate legit laughs. A century is a long time in the evolution of humor. Well, except for your embarrassing country grandpa who thinks it's funny to spit chaw on his arthritic old smellin' hound. Time has stopped for him. Did a while ago. Point is, you've seen these gags reused hundreds of times.

But here's what matters. Hope and Goddard have great chemistry and emanate a lot of charm. As films of this sort go, this one has everything: creepy old house in a swamp, a contested inheritance, secret passages, misty gardens, disappearing bodies, a painting with peephole eyes, confounding clues, a love story, and a bang-up climax. It's a great flick. The first version was made in 1927 with Laura La Plante and Creighton Hale, and the latest version was made in 1978 with Honor Blackman and Michael Callan, but this version—the best of the lot we think—premiered in the U.S. today in 1939.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 9 2020
UNDER COVER OF NIGHT
When the sun's away the crooks will slay.


And speaking of the film noir starring Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft, we watched it right after finishing the book, and though the novel was pretty dark, the filmmakers decided a little upbeat mood music was on order, so they got the immortal jazz crooner Al Hibbler to sing a theme song. Everybody knows this one. Join right in: Nightfaaaaaaall... and youuuuuuuuuuu... lovely you... underneath the wreath of heaven's pale blue... you are poetry (possibly haiku)... you are melody (maybe in d minor, the saddest of keys)... You get the idea. Don't let us turn you off this film. The theme song is nothing the mute button won't fix.

As we mentioned in the post above, Nightfall was directed by Jacques Tourneur, the heavyweight talent behind the film noir monument Out of the Past, and he has the kind of skills that make an early shot of co-star James Gregory getting on a bus an artistic achievement. Gregory plays an insurance investigator on the trail of $350,000 of missing heist loot, and, as in the novel, the innocent schmuck who accidentally got stuck with it lost it and doesn't remember how or where. That person is played by Ray, who's great in this, as he relates his dilemma in flashbacks and desperately tries to deal with the two murderous robbers who originally stole the cash.

Nightfall is no Out of the Past, but it's a solid film noir entry, well worth watching. Besides Ray and Gregory, the two robbers Brian Keith and Rudy Bond are good, and honey-voiced Bancroft as the femme fatale handles her pivotal role nicely. Credit here also goes to Burnett Guffey, who photographed the movie, and added to his long list of beautiful film noir achievements—Johnny O'Clock, Night Editor, In a Lonely Place, The Sniper, Private Hell 36, Screaming Mimi, and a portfolio of other films. Put Nightfall in your queue. It'll be worth it—once the theme song is over. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1956

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Vintage Pulp Nov 5 2020
LONG DIVISIONE
The FBI stretches its jurisdiction all the way to Morocco in 1953 thriller.


Above, two beautiful Italian posters for F.B.I. divisione criminale, originally titled La môme vert de gris, but known in the U.S. as Poison Ivy. The film was based on a Peter Cheyney novel also named Poison Ivy, and starred Eddie Constantine as an American G-man in Morocco, and Dominique Wilms as a femme fatale known as—you guessed it—Poison Ivy. We talked about the movie at length in May, so if you're curious have a look here.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 26
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
November 25
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
November 24
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.
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