California town develops a colossal problem.
We dipped into our sci-fi backlog last night and watched The Monolith Monsters, which had its world premiere in England today in 1957. The movie, which stars Grant Williams and Lola Albright, is typically half-baked sci-fi from the era. A meteor crashes near a podunk western town and the black fragments react with water and give rise to—well, we aren't sure, so have a look:
They look like basalt formations more than anything else. But they're alive—or we think so—and they suck the silicon out of any humans unlucky enough to pass near. It's fatal, of course, this silicon sucking. After some crackpot pseudo-scientific deductions Williams, Albright, and co. come up with a plan to fight the monsters. Do they prevail? Do b-movie airplanes hang from strings? Low budget efforts like The Monolith Monsters are rarely good, but they're always fun to watch.
It's nobody's business but their own.
Manhandlers, right? It's a good title for a sexploitation movie, and John Solie painted a nice promo poster, but the actual product is a limp drama with dopy comedic episodes about a woman played by Cara Burgess who inherits her mobbed up uncle's L.A. massage parlor and finds that it's a front for a brothel. Her uncle was killed for being uncooperative with the mafia, and now they come after her, trying to intimidate her into signing away half of the place's profits. One the one hand, she'd supposedly net a nice income just for looking the other way and doing nothing. On the other, she'd be giving in to organized crime. The answer? Fill both hands with scented oil, massage the mob into a sense of false security, then make her move. None of it is as interesting as it sounds, at no point are machine guns wielded, and for sexploitation the extracurriculars aren't very erotic, even with Judy Brown and Rosalind Miles in support. You can give this one a pass. The Manhandlers premiered—and went limp at the box office—today in 1974.
Three times the danger, three times the fun.
We talked about Reiko Ike's 1974 pinky violence flick Kyôfu joshi kôkô: Animal dôkyôsei—known in English as Terrifying Girls High School: Animal Courage—a long while ago, but we wanted to highlight this rare promo in tateken format. You can see the original poster and learn a bit about the film here.
He's 111 times better than 007—in the filmmakers' dreams.
Here you see a poster for the Italian spy movie Agente segreto 777 - Operazione Mistero, known in English as Secret Agent 777. This is an alternate promo. Like the first one we showed you, it was painted by Mario de Berardinis. Sadly, the movie is extremely not great, but the other poster is. Check it out here.
Okay, Emanuelle nera, scene seventy, take two. And, guys? Dial it back a little—this is an r-rated movie.
This fun production photo shows Javanese actress Laura Gemser and U.S. actor Don Powell in a grassy swatch somewhere in Kenya about to shoot a scene from their Italian made sexploitation epic Emanuelle nera, or Black Emanuelle, which premiered today in 1976. Feel free to read more about the movie here. Long story short, it's not good, but it's sure fun to watch. In the photo we love how Gemser has her knees fully in Powell's nuts. We imagine director Bitto Albertini: “Closer, Don. Get closer.” Powell: “This is as close as I can get without turning into a soprano.” Gemser: “I know the movie might automatically get an X from the ratings board if I open my legs, but Don and I have already rehearsed it that way a bunch, so why don't we try it?”
And now it's time for another real life Pulp Intl. story. Back when PSGP was working for Playboy he had a film producer friend in the softcore realm who needed extra crew one night for one of his productions. Such films often used porn actresses, and in this case there was a well known Russian performer who was booked to do a love scene. While in softcore films the actors often wore what were essentially tiny nylon hose over their units, and the actresses wore what were basically gigantic band-aids over their tender parts, it was always the performer's choice, and sometimes, for comfort reasons or whatever—with mutual consent—they didn't bother. This was obviously before the era of intimacy coordinators.
Anyway, came time to shoot a fake oral sex scene with the actress on her knees and the actor not wearing a stocking on his dick, and when the camera began rolling the Russian star began working her magic on the actor for real. He was surprised, clearly, but what could he say? He looked around confused, but made no noises about stopping the action. The director, who after about ten seconds realized what was happening, sort of shook his head and said, “Cut. Cut. Uh... [actress name] we won't be needing any of that today.” The entire set broke up in laughter. We're not suggesting anything like that happened between Gemser and Powell. It's just that the photo brought to mind that amusing story. We've got a million of 'em.
Give credit where credit is due—when possible.
Above is an MGM promo handout for the film noir Tension, which starred Audrey Totter and hit cinemas today in 1949. It was painted in ink by the same person who did the poster, one of the greatest artists in cinema poster history—the inimitable uncredited. It's a great piece by a true master. We've shown you a lot of Tension's U.S. promo art, and today's doesn't even empty the well of what's out there, but it's the last time we'll dip into it. So many vintage films, so little time...
Cold War spies make waves in the City of Canals.
The Venetian Affair, which premiered today in 1966, has a rather interesting promo poster. It was painted by U.S. artist Frank McCarthy, who was big in paperback covers early in his career, moved into high-budget movie promos such as James Bond posters, and finally made a mark in realist fine art. We love this piece from him. There's a lot going on. If you check out his effort for You Only Live Twice here you'll see how dense and chaotic his work could be, same as above, where he has people falling off the bridge, off the gondola, and guns being brandished everywhere. In addition, his likenesses of the movie's stars are good. He was a major talent.
The first observation you might make while watching The Venetian Affair is that it would be impossible to make a similar movie in that city today. Nearly four million tourists visited Venice in 2022, making nearly every street—and certainly every site of special historical note—like the mass exodus from a just-completed football game. With that level of humanity about, closing parts of the city or main squares—while maybe possible—would not be practical or economical.
But The Venetian Affair was made back when quiet streets and dark corners existed. Old world architecture always makes for a good spy movie backdrop. That's exactly what you get in this adventure about a mind control drug being used to foment conflict between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. Robert Vaughn stars as a former CIA agent who was fired after he married Elke Sommer, who was suspected of being a double agent. Vaughn never found out whether that was true because he and Sommer were torn apart by turbulent events. But when a bomb blows up a Venice political conference and Sommer is thought to be involved, the CIA drags Vaughn back into its clutches to find Sommer, as well as the crucial clue that might explain the bombing.
Vaughn is a cool and composed actor, any movie with Sommer is one we'll watch, and co-stars Felicia Farr, Luciana Paluzzi, Ed Asner, and the venerable Boris Karloff are all enticements, but we can't say The Venetian Affair is a scintillating example of a Cold War spy flick. It's such a fertile sub-genre, one that produced some of the best movies of 1950s through 1970s. Even against the beautiful Venice backdrop it mostly falls flat due to a screenplay that never hits any highs. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't watch it. Though it lacks highs, it also lack any serious lows. You can spend your time worse ways. Plus—Sommer. What more do you need?
Did somebody order a spaghetti western with extra cheese?
We take every opportunity we can to show you the work of Renato Casaro, even when it's used to promote a movie as bad as Carogne si nasce. Casaro painted a lot of spaghetti western posters but this one is a bit more intense than most. There's a reason for that—the character he painted was intense. The movie is known in English as Cry of Death, and it deals with conflict that erupts between squatters and ranchers in fictional Houstonville, Texas, and the marshal—Glenn Saxson—who first tries to stay out of it, but later chooses a side when he realizes that inside the land rights struggle is a deeper problem regarding someone's secret past and corruption amongst the town bigwigs.
This is one cheap-ass movie. The budget is exemplified by a barroom brawl during which a character is shoved through a cardboard wall. Every castmember is a b-level actor at best. And the script—don't even bring up the script. It's like it was accidentally shot full of holes during one of the gunfights. But we'll give this cheeseball movie one thing—the main bad guy is amazing. He's played by ex-bodybuilder Gordon Mitchell, and he looks like a demon wearing bronzer. Spaghetti western producers were good at casting villains, and Mitchell fits the tradition with a capital V. Otherwise, this flick—even with its final act twist—is nowheresville. Carogne si nasce premiered in Italy today in 1968
That's right. I'm the bad guy. You never guessed, did you? I'm pure evil, but I can smile winningly. See? Though I'm from hell and consume only souls, I can mimic human rituals such as drinking beer. But I don't mimic swallowing it. My master should serve this pisswater to the thirsty wretches in his realm.
When Isabel Sarli enters paradise the snakes come crawling.
We often describe posters in glowing terms but this effort for the Argentinian sexploitation drama La tentación desnuda is a legit stunner. The movie, which starred international sex symbol Isabel Sarli, premiered today in 1966, and in that year we can't imagine where this provocative promo was displayed. If anywhere.
At first we thought it was a recently made fan creation, but we changed our minds. The fold lines look real, and while those can be created in Photoshop, fan art is almost always too lazy for such touches. Sarli's breasts don't look quite like in real life because the designer painted on a pair of weird cherry nipples, but we've seen that happen with posters before. Otherwise the art matches perfectly a promo shot made by photographer Olga Masa for the movie, but at a much higher resolution.
La tentación desnuda delivers in melodramatic but engrossing style exactly what the title suggests, and shows yet again why Sarli was such a massive star. Plotwise she falls off a boat, drags herself from the water, and wanders blindly to hermit Armando Bo's riverside shack, where she's given shelter and food. Bo harvests sugar cane and hangs out playing his harp, trying to find, “freedom, to be absolutely free,” and to “live spiritually, near the river, the trees, the birds,” but Sarli laughingly upsets his singular existence in a big way by questioning his beliefs and showing lots of skin. She sticks around when Bo promises to demonstrate the merits of his ascetic lifestyle, but other men who live and work on the river have different ideas for Sarli—and they don't involve holistic simplicity.
If the plot seems very similar to 1953's La red you'd be right. Femmes fatales bringing chaos to edenic enclaves was a popular theme in Latin American cinema. This iteration, for the year it was released, is very daring, yet another example of what was going on outside the censored environment within the U.S., where motion picture themes were constrained by the Production Code. Meanwhile, in militarily ruled Argentina, Sarli was going fully nude—a few times, in the case of this film. We guess Juan Carlos Onganía and company liked a litle skin. Even dictators get boners.
Sarli may embody tentación, but she doesn't try to tempt the men around her, aside from Bo, who's the only one she wants. But her preferences mean nothing. Soon everyone is fighting over her, hauling her around like hand luggage on a commuter flight. She's even worth torturing and killing over, as things develop. Men, right? But they'll pay for their hubris. And because Biblical metaphor is strong with this film, there's even a bit of mysticism involved. Maybe that's why the dictatorship tolerated it—that type likes hamhanded religious tropes even more than boners. Well, we'll tolerate Sarli anytime too. You'll be seeing her again.
They're going to salvage a lost cargo come hell or Haie water.
We had a foreign double feature last night, following up La tentación desnuda with Haie am Todesriff, which was originally Italian made as Bermude: la fossa maledetta. Known in English as Cave of Sharks, it premiered in Italy in June 1978 and opened in West Germany today the same year. It is, to be succinct, a Jaws knock-off made with less imagination and less budget.
Set on and around the fictive island of San Domingo, which is somewhere near Bermuda, the movie stars Andrés Garcia as a member of an oceanographic expedition who turns up with amnesia six months after his boat goes missing and his colleagues are lost. During those six months that Garcia was presumed dead, his brother tried to move in on his girl Janet Agren—for which he cannot in any be blamed—but with his bro's reappearance there's now a budding love triangle.
Later a plane crashes near San Domingo under strange circumstances with an illegal cargo, sending organized crime figures into to action to recover their loot. Under false pretenses, they hire Garcia, sending him right back into the dread sector of ocean from he'd been fished. He discovers strange, mystical sharks, and thinks they might be the key to getting his memory back. He loses all interest in the crooks' treasure, but they think he's found it and is withholding it. Trouble looms.
Does all this sound dumb? You aren't wrong. And the bad plot isn't helped by bad acting, bad action, and incredibly bad miniature work. This one isn't worth your time, even with Janet Agren in the co-starring role. But to make reading this worthwhile, we've added a nice Agren shot to the promos below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
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