Bogart and Bacall mix love and career.
Above, two Luigi Martinati posters for Il grande sonno, aka The Big Sleep, with stars and spouses Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. These posters are more colorful than the U.S. versions because Warner Brothers had cut back on printing costs due to World War II. But when the film came out in Italy today in 1947 a full palette of color had returned to the mix. See a small collection Martinati's great work here.
The first step in any investigation is to get your translations right.
Dagli archivi della polizia criminale, which premiered in Italy today in 1973, falls into the category of Italian cinema known as poliziottesco. Apparently, this never had a U.S. release, since it lacks an English title, but the Italian title translates as “from the criminal police archives.” Sounds pretty straightforward. We gave it a watch and it's an incredibly cheesy thriller about the chase for microfilm containing information that could smash a Tunisian drug ring. The cops had it at one point, but the chief inspector stored it in the largest but least safe safe in town and it was immediately stolen by an opportunistic officer with predatory capitalist tendencies. Now the police are looking for him, the crooks are looking for him, and both the cops and robbers are taking bullets and beatings all over the place. The movie stars Edmund Purdom, a prolific but somewhat unknown actor, and has a supporting cast featuring Cleofe Del Cile, Sergio Ciani, Miriam Alex as an investigative journalist, bodybuilder Gordon Mitchell, and bodybuilt Zula, who does a nude dance number in what's supposed to be a Tunisian nightclub.
While Zula is a highlight, this production resides squarely in the atrocious category, and that's even without the disastrous English subtitles that were on the version we saw. A digression: back when we lived in Guatemala, Patrick Swayze's Road House would come on television occasionally. No idea why. The movie had been in cinemas more than a decade earlier. We guess Guatemaltecos loved Swayze's balletic moves and winning smile. Anyway, at one point Sam Elliot describes how dumb the clientele at his bar is, and tells Swayze, “This place has a sign hangin' over the urinal that says, 'Don't eat the big white mint.'” But whoever did the subtitles didn't hear “mint.” The translation they decided on was, “No te comas los grandes hombres blancos”—“Don't eat the big white men.” See what a difference that makes? And the movie was broadcast that way over and over, no correction ever made. The point is subtitles really matter. Dagli archivi della polizia criminale had really bad ones. A sampling below:
There's a gym for boxing in the nearby. In order to not get caught our men will wear some sweaters.
Look at him carefully, you have to do an oddjob on the side.
This time it's all my credit. Let me be thanked for compliments.
Don't be scared. I'm the best Teddy Webb's friend.
Miriam Alex: What sort of journalist would I be if I didn't pry into others' business? Ed Purdom: There's nothing to discover inside my business.
We did nothing but breaking his bones. If you resist the worse will happen.
What are we waiting to gun for him?
Maybe they even take offence it.
The seeing this was been the worse ever.*
*Actually, we made that one up. Don't watch this movie. It's really bad.
Demongeot and her chambre of secrets.
Above, a beautiful Belgian poster in French and Dutch for La chambre de Madame, aka Upstairs and Downstairs. We talked about it a while back. Shorter version—Mylène is the pause that refreshes.
Etsuko Shihomi gets her kicks fighting a diamond smuggling syndicate.
You see a poster like this and you know you've got a winner of a film on your hands. Not necessarily a good film, in the conventional sense, but one you know is going to be fun. This long promo, which you'll find nowhere else online, was made for Onna hissatsu ken: Kiki ippatsu, known in English speaking countries as Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread. It premiered in Japan today in 1974 and starred martial arts wizardress Etsuko Shihomi in the sequel to Onna hissatsu ken, aka Sister Street Fighter. This time she heads to Yokohama and battles diamond smugglers who surgically implant their improbably massive contraband stones into the buttocks of Chinese prostitutes. These bad guys are really evil. When a member of their organization screws up she gets her eyes stabbed out. See below. Surely there are better jobs out there, even if one has to sink to temp work or waiting tables at Applebee's. Does Shihomi defeat the mad surgical mafia of Yokohama? Hah. What a question. In terms of karate films, she was just getting started, as the stack of posters we'll be uploading in the future will attest. Speaking of which, we have the standard promo for Kiki ippatsu below, not as rare as the above, but still a nice piece of art.
How many secrets can one man keep?
Charade is one of the great romantic thrillers in cinema history, and is a movie you should definitely see if you haven't. Audrey Hepburn plays a woman whose husband is fatally thrown off a speeding train and Cary Grant is a charming but mysterious stranger willing to render aid in solving the murder. But Grant has ulterior motives, as well as multiple identities. Others are interested in the killing too, and it soon develops that they're after $250,000 worth of missing gold.
The movie is great, as legions of fans and critics have agreed, but in addition to its narrative, directorial, and acting brilliance, what we like about it is that the unlikeliness of the May-December attraction between Grant and Hepburn does not go unaddressed. At one point Grant, 59, quips to Hepburn, 30, that he's afraid he'll be arrested for transporting a minor. We love the tack taken in dealing with the romance because it gives the audience credit for being intelligent enough to appreciate the subtleties of life. That's increasingly rare in popular movies—as well as in popular culture.
For example, these days there's talk of such things as “age appropriate” relationships, the inference being that older men should not be with younger women (and possibly vice versa). Horseshit. We can think of little more sexist than assuming women aren't able to make their own life choices. Consenting adults—older/younger, male/male, female/female, other/other—trying to find love will tend to look anywhere they can, and internet tribunals can take a flying leap. We don't say that merely because neither Pulp Intl. girlfriend is age appropriate. We say it because nothing in this life is more important than finding the right partner.
Interestingly, numerous other mid-century films—among them classics like Sabrina and To Catch a Thief—also addressed the presumed incongruity of older men with younger women, and did it in an empathetic, humanistic way. Charade does it more amusingly than most. Grant is initially embarrassed by Hepburn's attentions, but of course she eventually wears him down. The film mixes comedy, romance, and thrills, plus it was made in beautiful locations around Paris, all of which makes it a total winner. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1963.
Ex-footballer Fred Williamson finds hits in cinema a bit more elusive than hits on a gridiron.
Above is a poster for the blaxploitation movie Mr. Mean, which hit cinemas this month in 1977. First, the title. Mr. Mean. We don't like it. It doesn't project the dignity of Mr. Majestyk, the approachable earthiness of Mr. Ed, the dystopian oppressiveness of Mr. Robot, the humor of Mr. Bean, the cultural examination of Mr. Baseball, the weirdness of Mr. Meaty, the paternalism of Mr. Skeffington, the righteousness of They Call Me Mr. Tibbs!, and, most importantly, the melodic promise of the forgotten ’80s pop band Mr. Mister. In short, Mr. Mean just sounds like a movie about a guy nobody wants to know.
It was written, produced, and directed by ex-NFL bonecrusher Fred Williamson, and long story short, directing a film is just a little more complicated than spearing wide receivers as a defensive back. He should have done better, since this was his fifth go-round of nearly twenty in the director's chair. Possibly the studio messed up his final cut. Or, considerably more likely, it was a disaster from the snap. Problem one: there's an unbelievable number of scenes of Williamson going from point A to B, either by car on on foot. If all the transit scenes were cut the movie would be ten minutes shorter. Problem two: every actor in the film is made of wood.
But we made it through this interminable slog across a fireswamp of first year film student errors for two reasons—Williamson himself, who has charisma and actually does mostly okay in the lead role, and his co-star Crippy Yocard. Both are great looking and many viewers will probably dig him, her, or both. Yocard in particular was one of the more free-spirited Italian stars, which she proved by posing for numerous extremely nude photos, including this one. Back yet? Now just imagine what the others are like. Maybe there's even a third point of interest with the movie—it feels a bit arthouse, which makes it a curiosity within the blaxploitation genre.
Notice we haven't discussed the plot? Fred didn't even know what it was, so how can we? Basically, he plays a fixer living in Rome who takes jobs come what may, but is asked to cross the bright white ethical line and kill a guy. He doesn't want to do it, but he needs the money, the target is supposedly a real asshole, and so forth. Despite the hackneyed premise, a decent movie could have resulted, but it feels as if an investor backed out halfway through and Williamson and crew found themselves stuck up the Tiber River with neither paddles nor budget.
So what's the upshot here? Williamson gets to strut and whip ass, Yocard gets naked, and arrogant white villains get obliterated. All good things. An unexpected aspect is that the legendary funk band Ohio Players get the soundtrack duties and close the movie with “Good Luck Charm,” which is a song so good it almost erases the memory of them opening the movie with a laughably bad theme song called—guess?—“Mr. Mean.” What can be said? Even musical geniuses will fumble when pressured. As for Williamson—he just dropped the ball. Which is why he was a defensive back in the first place.
Looking back at one of the solar system's hottest celestial bodies.
Anita Ekberg's film noir Screaming Mimi opened in West Germany today in 1960. We've had a look at one West German poster, but today we've decided to share another one. This version is similar to the U.S. promo, but the unusual color palette makes it seem like a completely different design. We think's it's really beautiful.
Joan Collins finds herself shipwrecked on Temptation Island.
Our Girl Friday is not by any stretch of the imagination anything close to pulp style, but we stumbled across the film and figured we'd briefly expand our scope. This one premiered in Great Britain today in 1953, and played in the U.S. in 1954 retitled The Adventures of Sadie. In this day and age it's considered uncouth to perv over an actress but we don't care, so here goes: the only reason to watch this is for the all-too-brief moments of Joan Collins in a bikini. She's an absolute goddess, spun from seafoam, illuminated by moonlight, and delivered to Earth by cherubs and songbirds. Otherwise the movie is a waste of time.
Basically, it's about four people who get stranded on a deserted island. You have Joan and three guys of widely varying type—nervous geek/uneducated cad/debonair yuppie—who all want to sample her tropical fruit. There's a moment when it seems she won't choose any of these chumps, and that would have been a nice lesson to impart about never settling for less, but this is the 1950s, which means somebody is going to get her. Who she chooses and why doesn't matter and you won't care. The truth is no mortal human could deserve her anyway.
Joan Collins was defined for us when we were kids by her late-career television roles. Back then we never even had a notion of her as a young woman. Thanks to maintaining Pulp Intl. we've been able to correct that omission, because, while she was pretty hot as a fifty-year-old troublemaker on Dynasty, she's really something as an ingénue. The other thing about this film that's worthwhile is its British promo poster, above, rendered largely in lovely sky blue. The depiction of Collins is nice, as well. We don't know who painted it, but they did a bang-up job.
Murder is in the eye of the beholder.
Above are three beautiful posters for L'occhio che uccide, or “the eye that kills,” which premiered in Italy today in 1961. The movie was originally called Peeping Tom when released in Britain in 1960. The second and third posters are signed by Renato Casaro, while the top one is unsigned. But it resembles his work, so what the heck—let's say he painted all three until someone corrects us. This movie was a career killer, a bizarre and confounding thriller that irreparably damaged the ambitions of director Michael Powell, but which today has ardent advocates. In the mood for a voyeur mass murderer who tries to turn his killings into art? See our write-up here, and check out a Japanese poster for the flick here.
What do the mice do if the cat's never away?
This was an unexpectedly awesome find. It's a Swedish poster for En fasansfull natt, better known as The Cat and the Canary. This promo gave us a laugh, because if you translate the Swedish title it's “a horrible night.” That's so Swedish, so no-nonsense, so to the point. You'd think a direct translation Katten och kanariefågan would have worked, but maybe not—we once chatted with someone from Sweden who said they didn't get bananas until the ’80s, so maybe the title was changed because nobody knew what a canary was. After premiering in the U.S. En fasansfull natt opened in Sweden today in 1939.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—International Opium Convention Signed
The International Opium Convention is signed at The Hague, Netherlands, and is the first international drug control treaty. The agreement was signed by Germany, the U.S., China, France, the UK, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Russia, and Siam.
1946—CIA Forerunner Created
U.S. president Harry S. Truman establishes the Central Intelligence Group or CIG, an interim authority that lasts until the Central Intelligence Agency is established in September of 1947.
1957—George Metesky Is Arrested
The New York City "Mad Bomber," a man named George P. Metesky, is arrested in Waterbury, Connecticut and charged with planting more than 30 bombs. Metesky was angry about events surrounding a workplace injury suffered years earlier. Of the thirty-three known bombs he planted, twenty-two exploded, injuring fifteen people. He was apprehended based on an early use of offender profiling and because of clues given in letters he wrote to a newspaper. At trial he was found legally insane and committed to a state mental hospital.
1950—Alger Hiss Is Convicted of Perjury
American lawyer Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury in connection with an investigation by the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), at which he was questioned about being a Soviet spy. Hiss served forty-four months in prison. Hiss maintained his innocence and fought his perjury conviction until his death in 1996 at age 92.
1977—Carter Pardons War Fugitives
U.S. President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all of the country's Vietnam War draft evaders, many of whom had emigrated to Canada. He had made the pardon pledge during his election campaign, and he fulfilled his promise the day after he took office.
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