One small film for sci-fi, one giant Lepus for bad cinema.
This rare poster was made to promote Night of the Lepus, and those creepy eyes in the dark belong to rabbits. Giant rabbits. Lepus. Makes sense, right? Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun, Janet Leigh, and DeForest Kelly, post-Star Trek, star in what is supposed to be an epically bad film, but to us it was more like standard low level sci-fi or horror (take your pick). The special effects drag down the entire enterprise, but that's almost par for the course when it comes to this genre during the time period. We can imagine the actors signing on and being told the special effects would carry the movie. “Yeah, we've got top people on this giant rabbit thing. They'll look totally convincing!” Well, they don't, but neither do the monsters in 90% of vintage sci-fi.
If we had to guess, we'd say one reason people think this film is so bad is that there are numerous inadvertently funny lines of dialogue, for example when Kelly says, “We've got three holes to blow,” and when Chuck Hayward says, “I'm ready to release the gas as soon as they come out.” But the script is coherent, and the acting is more than adequate, so those two positives alone keep this out of the Plan 9 and Starcrash sub-basement category, as it brings to life the story of scientists and ranchers trying to reduce the number of feral rabbits in Arizona. Researchers Whitman and Leigh turn to hormones to shut off the bunnies' breeding capabilities, but this accidentally causes them to grow to enormous size—and makes them hopping mad too. In short order they overrun the nearby town and all the humans are fleeing for their lives.
Yes, the movie is silly. It's a clinic in the limited utility of forced perspective for trying to make believable monsters, an endeavor additionally undermined by the inconvenient fact that giant bunnies are still cute. But can you really pass up the chance to see Bones from Star Trek ambling around the high desert? And Janet Leigh is always sight to behold, here settling deep into an elegant milfhood, forty five with a cotton candy afroperm that she makes look as regal as a platinum crown. Epically bad? It's bad alright, mainly because it lacks distinction. But maybe you should just watch it and decide for yourself where it ranks. Night of the Lepus premiered today in 1972.
He's not a bad guy. He's just a little conflicted.
Above: a beautiful French language Belgian poster for the suspense/horror film Dr. Jekyll et Mr. Hyde, aka Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner. We love this poster as much as we love the Finnish and West German ones. The art here depicts quite effectively Jekyll's inner battle, with his face half in light and half in shadow. The movie opened in the U.S. in 1941, was delayed from showing in Europe for years due to World War II, but we think it finally premiered in Belgium during the autumn of 1946, a range we extrapolated from the film's premiere in France today the same year.
Marilyn Chambers converts the masses.
Zombie movies go back a long way. All the way to 1932's White Zombie. But David Cronenberg's 1977 horror thriller Rabid, along with The Plague of Zombies, Night of the Living Dead and a few other films, was a precursor to all the zombie apocalypse movies and television shows of today. The bizarre Italian promo poster you see above certainly gets across one element of the movie—its grim violence. As you can see, it was retitled Rabid sete di sangue when it played there. It originally premiered in the U.S. in 1977, but didn't reach Italy until today in 1979.
The concept is weird: a woman played by Marilyn Chambers receives an experimental skin graft and as a side effect develops a stinger in her armpit and an insatiable (see what we just did there?) appetite for human blood. When we later glimpse this stinger, it's ensconced in an anus-like cavity of a type that filmgoers would see again and again in Cronenberg's movies. Yeah, that stinger is freaky, and this flick hits on other levels of horror. There's dread, such as when doctors make ready to slice skin off Chambers' thighs with some sort of electric peeler. There's revulsion, which Cronenberg specializes in with his lingering takes on physical deformities. And there's pure terror when infected victims run amok.
Chambers is pretty good in this, with her acting holding up as well as that of the other performers. She also looks quite beautiful, a requirement for the role, since she's essentially a vampiress, using her looks to attract prey. Of special note is a snippet of her classic disco song, “Benihana,” which has aged well for dance music from that period. We should also mention that though this is a pure horror film, the plot also has a disease vs. vaccine element, perfect for the COVID era. We've written superficially about Rabid a few times in the past, and if you're interested you can see those mentions here, here, and here.
Fulci goes full-on gruesome in Italian zombie epic.
We're still looking toward Italy today, specifically at vintage Italian horror cinema, and simply put, these didn't mess around. Regardless of quality they tended to be unusually foreboding and grim. And that's just the poster art. Above you see a promo for Paura nella città dei morti viventi, which was known in English as City of the Living Dead. Lucio Fulci, who directed and received a story credit for this one, was particularly enamored of zombies, churning out at least five films touching on the theme, including ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà, aka The Beyond, and Quella villa accanto al cimitero, aka The House by the Cemetery. In all of them he used his trademark tricks—extreme close-ups, death-white make-up effects, and gore, gore, gore. Italian genre flicks usually had international casts performing in both English and Italian, with the babel smoothed out later with overdubs. City of the Living Dead follows that template. U.S. born Christopher George and Brit actress Catriona MacColl are in the leads, with support from Italians Carlo de Mejo, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria, the truly lovely Antonella Interlenghi, and Swedish star Janet Agren. The movie is set in New York City and Dunwich, a mythical town conceived by H.P. Lovecraft for his Cthulhu Mythos, where a priest's suicide has somehow opened the gates of hell and allowed the dead to walk the Earth. Obviously, the heroes want to close these gates, but that's pretty difficult when you have to fight through a storm of maggots. Yes, Fulci throws everything into this—the ancient Book of Enoch, the Salem witch trials, seances, drifting fog, people regurgitating their own intestines, and of course head-crushing zombies. The low tech nature of Fulci's obsessive gore-nography just makes it that much more disturbing. On the other claw, the low quality of some of the acting is a definite detriment. Even so, if you can get into a zombie frame of mind, the acting becomes less important than the mood, and in horror, mood is everything. Paura nella città dei morti viventi premiered in Italy today in 1980.
It takes a lot of guts to watch these sometimes.
A long while back we put together a collection of posters for bdsm themed Japanese pinku films. Why? Why not. But we hadn't seen the movies. One was called Shojo no harawata, aka Entrails of Virgin, aka Guts of a Virgin, and we came across it recently and figured let's watch this thing. The story concerns a slimy fashion photographer and his equally slimy buddies who take two models to a secluded cabin with the intent to take advantage of them, but are attacked by a hairy monster from the woods who has a massive boner. The film is part of Kazuo Komizu's, aka Gaira's, “splatter-eros” trilogy along with Bijo no harawata, aka Guts of a Beautiful Woman and Gômon kifujin, aka Female Inquisitor. A few of his other directorial credits include Violence porno: Jôkan and Violence porno: Nawa to bôkô. You get the idea.
We try not to make any cultural judgments when we watch these pinkus. There's a line from James M. Cain (you knew we'd work in a pulp author somehow) where one of his characters says of bullfights, “If it was my own country I'd be against it, but when it's somebody else's, I go.” That's how we feel. When something in a pinku flick confuses us or weirds us out, we generally shrug and go, “Not my place to criticize.” And now, of course, we'll criticize. In terms of Japanese erotica, the actresses make noises of pleasure that are indistinguishable—at least to our ears—from noises of pain. Not cool. It's sort of a whining, like this feels soooo good I'm on the verge of tears. That's one reason we don't generally get turned on by pinku movies. While the women are uniformly fantastic, their erotic acting is way off target for us.
The blurred line between pleasure and pain in this movie is liable to do a number on your head. And if it doesn't, the scene where a model masturbates with a severed arm while blowing the monster certainly will. Hope we didn't give too much away there. As far as the entrails aspect, well, the title is provocative, but while there's a virgin, we see no entrails. Thank fucking God. And because sex in pinku movies is mostly implied due to laws against the showing of pubic hair or sex organs, the sexualized violence is largely implied too. It's cleverly implied though. So be forewarned. We can't recommend this movie, but the poster art is so amazing we had to share it. It's signed—see just below—but we were not able to ascertain by whom. Too bad. There's real talent there. More so than in the film. Shojo no harawata premiered in Japan today in 1986.
It's just the wind. Or possibly the screaming of damned souls in torment. But more likely the wind.
“You dare not even guess the strange story of The Red House,” this promo poster tells us about Edward G. Robinson's 1947 psychological suspense drama, but we dared, and we didn't have any trouble guessing correctly. What you get here is a mystery with a suggestion of the supernatural—always a draw for us. Some sites call this a horror movie. We're okay with that too. Horror, psychological suspense, and mystery walk hand in hand—in this case through the creepy night. Working from a screenplay adapted from George Agnew Chamberlain's 1945 novel, Robinson plays a man living in idyllic simplicity on a farm with his sister and adopted daughter. He hires a helper, a decision that goes awry when the new help develops an interest in the nearby cursed woods, in which there's supposedly a haunted red house, disembodied screaming voices (or maybe just the wind), and other dangers sane people would avoid.
But this new farmhand is filled with the arrogance of youth, isn't superstitious, and resolves to solve the mystery, a decision that threatens to tear Robinson's makeshift family apart and unearth terrors from the past. Edward the G. isn't at his very best working with what is a tricky script, but he gets useful support from young co-stars Lon McCallister, Rory Calhoun, Allene Roberts, and Julie London. Roberts in particular has a crucial role, and in her first film, and aged only nineteen, she manages to keep her head above water—barely. While The Red House isn't top notch, it's enjoyable enough, and if you appreciate vintage creepfests it might give you a chill or two. So what's in the woods? We can't tell you, but you can be sure there's something—and it ain't good. The Red House premiered today in 1947.
You really don't want to wake this guy.
Here's an amazing piece of international pulp, a cover in Yiddish from M. Mizrahi Publishing for Robert Bloch's thriller Psycho. We recently posted a collection of Psycho covers, but we held this one back because it deserved its own moment. This was painted by an artist named Arie Moskowitz, sometimes referred to as M. Arie, who produced several more fronts we may share later. We found this one on Israeli Wikipedia, of all places, where it was posted by the National Library of Israel. It's quite a find.
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.
Some people need a mental health day every day.
We were going to post an assortment of covers we thought were scary, but when we came across these Psycho fronts we realized they were all we needed. The creation of veteran horror author Robert Bloch and originally published in 1959, one of literature's early homicidal psychopaths remains frightening even today. When Bloch wrote Psycho the concept of psychopathy was little known in American culture, but after Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 movie adaptation, as well as the real-world Dahmers and Specks and Bundys, that naïveté evaporated. Now everyone knows psychopaths are real and live among us.
Bloch's man-child Norman Bates, a sadist and misanthrope with lust/hate feelings toward women, was able despite his dysfunctions to operate in society with a veneer of civility, and was capable of love, but only a stunted and twisted variety instilled by an emotionally violent forebear from whose shadow he could never fully escape. Sound like anybody you know? We have mostly front covers below, along with a rear cover and a nice piece of foldout art we found on the blog toomuchhorrorfiction. These are all English editions. We'll show you one or two interesting non-English covers later.
When is a monster not scary? When it's a guy in a latex suit.
Maybe yesterday's Halloween themed post was a bit too grim. After all, it's a kid's holiday. So, continuing along the same lines but with less macabre realism, above and below we have a collection of monsters (full disclosure: some are actually monster-fighting good guys) culled from 1970s Japanese television and shlock cinema. There are hundreds of these from the period, but we restricted ourselves to twenty. You may recognize a few. For example, we tossed Hedorah, aka the Smog Monster, into the mix just for fun. You can definitely impress friends and the general public if you dress up as one of these ferocious entities. That'll have to wait until next year, though. Which is actually good, because it would probably take that long just to put one of these get-ups together. Most of these are a bit ridiculous, so theoretically they shouldn't give anyone nightmares. Then again, that's what they say about clowns.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
1989—Guildford Four Exonerated
The men known as the Guildford Four, who were imprisoned for a series of bombs attacks on British pubs that left five dead and 100 injured, are decreed not guilty after an investigation reveals that police colluded in doctoring statements that appeared to incriminate the defendants.
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