Vintage Pulp Jul 25 2021
SYRIA'S CONDITION
Whatever the problem is Bogart will solve it.


Above are two Italian posters for the Humphrey Bogart film Damasco '25, which is better known as Sirocco, and is yet another Casablanca clone. The U.S. poster even promises flat-out that the movie, an adventure about Syrian freedom fighters and French colonials in Damascus circa 1925, is “beyond Casablanca.” We'll see about that a bit later. These pieces were painted by the great illustrator Anselmo Ballester, whose work we've highlighted here. We'll get back to him later too. Sirocco opened in the U.S. in 1951, and premiered in Italy today in 1952.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 24 2021
ON THE WRONG TRACK
Commuters run to work after latest round of NYC budget cuts eliminates subway cars.


Andrew L. Stone may be unique in the realm of vintage literature. His 1958 thriller Cry Terror is a novelization of the film of the same name, which he wrote, directed, and co-produced. Cry Terror wasn't the first time Stone wore multiple hats. Two years earlier he had written and directed the thriller Julie, and written the novelization too. The screenplay earned him an Academy Award nomination. He racked up thirty-seven directorial credits during his career, and among his output was Stormy Weather, The Hard-Boiled Canary, Highway 301, Confidence Girl, and A Blueprint for Murder. He ended up with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Another reason we wanted to highlight Cry Terror today is because of the excellent cover art by Robert Maguire. It was modeled after a promo shot from the film of lead actress Inger Stevens. You see that below. We were thinking about buying the book, but digging up all this info has revealed the entire plot to us, so we won't bother. Also, the copies that are currently out there are going for fifty dollars and up. As we mentioned before, we don't go that high for anything we'd be tempted to swat flies with. Plus we have a ton of books piled up. We may watch the movie, though. Less time, less expense. If we do we'll report back.
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Vintage Pulp Jul 23 2021
DRIVE YOU CRAZY
A group of reckless truckers gear up for trouble.


Above is a beautiful poster for Hell Drivers, a working class thriller set in England dealing with an ex-convict who takes a trucking job for a gravel company and begins risking life and limb trying to break another driver's speed record. It has something of the feel of 1947's They Drive By Night mixed with a British road rally. It also has film noir legend Peggy Cummins in a co-starring role, along with Herbert Lom from the Pink Panther movies, and lead actor Stanley Baker. Oh, and a guy named Sean Connery. And there's a truck crash with a brutal body ejection. But it's this amazing purple promo that prompted us to talk about the movie. We love this art. The manhandling moment depicted, by the way, precedes a kiss, as the thin narrative line between masculine anger and lust is crossed yet again in a mid-century film. Hell Drivers premiered in London today in 1957.
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Vintage Pulp Jul 23 2021
PERIOD DRAMA
Red tide brings a flood of problems to a coastal community.


If you've been to our site often you can look at the above poster and immediately know it was made to promote an ama movie. This niche of Japanese vintage cinema, like the tides, just keeps coming. This film was called Yobai ama and was known in English as Nasty Diver. Sounded promising, so we watched it and it deals with assorted marital problems in a fishing village. Yôko Azusa plays an ama working days diving in the bay, working nights as a bar hostess, and working as a part-time domestic for a local geisha, while her husband does who-knows-what.
 
Trouble starts when Yôko's husband refuses to have sex during her period. He makes numerous excuses, including that it's bad for her health, but she isn't fooled for a second. She walks out on him and of course this is big news in this fishing village, which brings an opportunist out of the woodwork eager to take advantage of Yôko's separation. He's the local pimp, Yoto, glib and persuasive as movie pimps tend to be. Will Yôko end up on the game? Will she get back together with her period-squeamish hubby? You won't find out from us. This is lightweight stuff from Nikkatsu, but certainly we've done worse with sixty-nine minutes of spare time. Yobai ama premiered in Japan today in 1977.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 18 2021
THE WOMAN IN 809
Monroe finds herself in a room with no space to maneuver.


It says plenty about Don't Bother To Knock that we queued it up last night, popcorn and adult beverages in hand, having forgotten that we already watched it several years ago. That has less to do with the overall film than with Marilyn Monroe, but we'll get to that in a minute. The film was based on Charlotte Armstrong's Mischief, which was serialized in 1950 in Good Housekeeping magazine, and deals with a mentally disturbed babysitter watching over a child in a fancy New York City hotel suite. Along with Monroe it stars Richard Widmark and Anne Bancroft, with their three characters suffering respectively from derangement, detachment, and disillusionment—three ailments suggested to be caused or exacerbated by life in the big city. Widmark as a cynical single looking for easy action and Bancroft as a world weary torch singer working the hotel lounge don't have any problems a change in luck wouldn't solve, but the movie revolves around Monroe, who, thirteen credited roles into her career at this point, gets a chance to stretch her range as a nutty nanny in need of a lot more than just kind words to get back on the beam.

Monroe's performance in this heavy drama is tough to judge. To us it feels a bit flat, but contemporary reviewers generally liked it, and it's fair to say it helped her climb that last rung to the superstardom she'd reach a year later with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Watch that film and you'll see that, while Don't Bother To Knock asked her to stretch, it did so by requiring that she suppress her natural charisma. That's no easy trick for an actor, let alone someone as incandescent as her, and that, in short, is probably why we forgot we'd already watched the movie. Monroe was so big in her other performances that this flick went down the memory hole. Her iconic movies feel as if they could only have starred her. This one feels like it could have starred anyone. Monroe just isn't Monroe in it. But that probably means her performance is a success. Watching it afresh, we can tell you it's certainly a must for Marilyn fans, and will probably work for vintage film fans of all types. But those unschooled in the oldies might walk away from this effort thinking, Meh, I don't get all the Monroe fuss. But the fuss was appropriate and deserved. Don't Bother To Knock—not a film noir as labeled on many sites, by the way—premiered today in 1953.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 13 2021
RIVER US FROM EVIL
Bogart shows the way for the makers of Congo Crossing.


This poster for Congo Crossing has all the elements—firearms, some romantic nuzzling, and a huge crocodile. The trifecta. So we watched it, and what you get here is a Technicolor adventure set in the fictive West African land of Kongotanga, which sits geographically on the border of Belgian Congo, and is a stand-in thematically for Casablanca. Which is to say Congo Crossing uses the basic set-up of Casablanca—transitory expats and shady types in an ass-end outpost riven by local political tensions and power struggles. Virginia Mayo plays a wanted woman fleeing a murder charge she picked up on the French Riviera, George Nader plays the rakish stud who you aren't sure whether to like at first, and in the supporting cast are corrupt local kingpin Tonio Selwart, killer for hire Michael Pate, and Peter Lorre as the local chief of police. Here are some Casablanca similarities:

Expats desperate to catch the next day's plane to anywhere.

A climactic airport shootout.

A woman greatly desired by two men.

Lots of gun toting guys in tropical suits.

A comedic police official whose loyalties shift where the wind blows.

A moment when one man tells a rival it looks like the beginning of a friendship.

We mention Casablanca as shorthand to give you an idea of the set-up, and now we'll mention The African Queen—another Humphrey Bogart classic—as shorthand to tell you what the middle of the movie becomes. Mayo, Nader, and a few others embark on a boat trip upriver to a jungle hospital. There Mayo realizes she's the target of a killer, and flees farther along the river with Nader, dealing with an ambush, a sexual predator, a swarm of terrible tse-tse flies, a sneaky croc, and a deadly illness. You've seen The African Queen, right? A couple of strong similarities there. The group faces these problems and, unlike their African helpers, come away more or less intact, then the movie disembarks from the river—and The African Queen—to shift back to Kongoblanca, er, we mean Kongotanga, where everything began.

So does a movie that starts and ends kind of like Casablanca and has something kind of like The African Queen stitched into the middle work? Not with this script and budget it doesn't. And though the cast is game and experienced, the material doesn't give them much of a chance to sparkle. We can't call the movie bad, but we certainly can't describe it as recommendable either. And going back to the jungle segment for a moment, why is it that in such films the people born and raised in Africa always get eaten while white folks like Mayo and Nader can snog in the bush and be just fine? That's a rhetorical question of course. Congo Crossing premiered today in 1956.
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Vintage Pulp Jul 12 2021
URSULA ON THE MENU
They may be cannibals but you have to credit their exquisite culinary taste.


The above poster for was made to promote Sergio Martino's La montagne du dieu cannibale, which was originally filmed in Italy as La montagna del dio cannibale, and in English was known as Slave of the Cannibal God and The Mountain of the Cannibal God. Basically, Ursula Andress ventures into the New Guinean jungle to find her husband, who disappeared during an expedition to Ra Ra Me Mountain, considered by native tribes to be cursed. The movie was actually shot in Sri Lanka, but details, details. Andress is accompanied on her quest by her brother, played by Antonio Marsina, a professor, played by Stacy Keach, and some unlucky locals. Their jungle trek brings on interpersonal strife, native attacks, gruesome murders, eventual capture, and additional gruesome murders, all to the accompaniment of creepy drum and synth music.

You'll sometimes see this movie classified as horror, but it's really a mondo revulsion flick, padded with real animal deaths that most people will find unwatchable. These gross-outs are somewhat balanced by the imminently watchable Ursula Andress, who's forty-two here and looking just fine. We don't mention that in passing. The entire point of this gorefest is to get her tied to a stake, stripped, and caressed by hot native girls. The plot about her missing husband—which morphs into a scheme to get rich with uranium—is just a fig leaf. We don't recommend the movie even with Andress undressed in it, but if you watch it maybe don't eat lunch beforehand. After originally premiering in West Germany, La montagne du dieu cannibale opened in France today in 1978.

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Intl. Notebook Jul 8 2021
FAN THE FLAMME
Demongeot heats up and cools down.


There are Bardot people and there are Demongeot people. We're Demongeot people. Well, not really, because there's no need to make a choice. But we like French actress Mylène Demongeot quite a bit. Like Bardot, she made many romantic comedies, but also succeeded in dramas and was nominated for a BAFTA in 1957 and two César awards in 2005 and 2007. What's more she's still working. Her latest film is this year's Maison de retraite. The above issue of the French pop culture magazine Cinémonde features Demongeot on the cover keeping cool with a Spanish fan. She's one of the hottest stars in French cinema at this stage, in July 1960, with hits like 1961's Les trois mousquetaires and 1962's Copacabana Palace just around the corner.

The magazine also offers four pages of Demongeot inside, including a photo with the interesting caption, “Mylène Demongeot – une flamme pure de l'enfer,” which means “a pure flame of hell.” We assume that's a compliment. Another of the photos is our favorite of Demongeot. It shows her in some sandy niche of Torremolinos, Spain playing guitar (or seeming to) during the filming of The Singer Not the Song. Are you feeling a sense of déjà vú with her and this magazine? That may because we've featured her in two other issues. You can see those here and here. If you aren't Demongeot aficionados we recommend watching Bonjour Tristesse or Upstairs and Downstairs. Also, for those of an aesthetic mindset, you can see her at her most beautiful here and here.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 5 2021
AIN'T THAT A KICK IN THE HEAD
She likes to fly by the seat of her panties.


Just when you think you've seen every mini-trend in Japanese film posters, from sexy nuns to topless pearl divers to dirty teachers, you stumble upon another. Women high kicking with their panties showing seems to have been a thing. Mere high kicking posters, we already knew about. Like here, here, and here. But we'd seen only one previous panty-exposing high kicking poster, here. Now the tally is up to two. Where will it end? No way to know. This was made for Document porno: Shin sukeban, aka Semi Documentary: Truly High School Girl Boss, with Kenji Miyako, who was featured in seven Document porno flicks in 1973 and 1974. It premiered in Japan yesterday in 1973.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 4 2021
SWEET AND SOUR
Money is always greener from a distance.


Sweet Smell of Success was a mandatory watch for us. It's considered by many to be a top film noir but we'd never seen it. Well, that's been rectified now, and what a good expenditure of time it was. Tony Curtis plays a New York City publicity agent whose business is falling apart because he's been blacklisted by the most important newspaper columnist in the country, played by Burt Lancaster. Why the rough treatment? Lancaster's sister is dating a jazz musician and he wants the relationship ended. He's trying to force Curtis to do the dirty work—smear the guy, frame him, whatever, just get him out of the picture. Curtis's desperation to climb to the top ranks of agents leads him to try breaking up the pair, but in film noir sleazy decisions have a way of pushing goals farther away rather than drawing them nearer.

Sweet Smell of Success, which had a special premiere in New York City in June 1957, and went into national release a week later, which was today, has a feel similar to another Big Apple drama—the excellent 2019 movie Uncut Gems. Both movies are very fast paced, even borderline chaotic, as desperate bottom-dwellers try to climb to the top of a dog-eat-dog industry while keeping one step ahead of karmic fate. Sweet Smell of Success is the better film largely thanks to Lancaster in one of the all-time heel roles. You'll want to punch his character J.J. Hunsecker—nice, right?—directly in the middle of his face. And you'll want to give Curtis a shaking fit to rattle his teeth. Anything to wake him up to the fact that in a cutthroat game, the most important thing isn't having a razor but lacking a conscience. Noir fans should push this one to the head of the queue.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 25
1943—Mussolini Calls It Quits
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini steps down as head of the armed forces and the government. It soon becomes clear that Il Duce did not relinquish power voluntarily, but was forced to resign after former Fascist colleagues turned against him. He is later installed by Germany as leader of the Italian Social Republic in the north of the country, but is killed by partisans in 1945.
July 24
1915—Ship Capsizes on Lake Michigan
During an outing arranged by Western Electric Co. for its employees and their families, the passenger ship Eastland capsizes in Lake Michigan due to unequal weight distribution. 844 people die, including all the members of 22 different families.
1980—Peter Sellers Dies
British movie star Peter Sellers, whose roles in Dr. Strangelove, Being There and the Pink Panther films established him as the greatest comedic actor of his generation, dies of a heart attack at age fifty-four.
July 23
1984—Miss America Resigns
Vanessa Williams, who had been crowned Miss America and was the first African American woman to win the prize, resigns her title after Penthouse magazine purchases and slates for publication a series of lesbian-themed nudes Williams had posed for when she was younger. After resigning she files a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione but later drops the suit.
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