If you were stuck in this movie you'd go mad too.
Today we've uplaoded an uncredited but striking poster—as well as a second one at bottom—for Mania, a low budget Italo horror movie directed by fright specialist Renato Polselli. It starred Eva Spadaro, Brad Euston, and Isarco Ravaioli, with Euston playing the double role of visionary madman Professor Brecht and his (not mad?) identical twin brother Germano. Professor Brecht has developed the ability to control living matter. While he's busy making honeybees stop flying in mid-air, his wife Spadaro is sharing her honey with Brecht 2. The discovery of this affair triggers violence, a murder attempt, and a lab fire that incinerates Brecht and severely burns 2.
Flash forward a year or so and Spadaro is convinced her husband has come back from the grave to haunt her. Her headshrinker recommends that she return to the house where the violence took place as a means of confronting her fears, and she takes this terrible advice and drives out there—harassed and pursued at one point by a driverless car. 2 still lives in the old house with his burns and bitterness, which is surprising considering the place suffers from numerous issues that for sure would kill its value in the Rome real estate market, from weird noises to spectral invaders to eels on the loose.
Whenever a pair of twins occur in an Italian giallo or horror movie, you can confidently assume there's a switcheroo involved, and that's the case here, as it was not Brecht who died in the fire, but 2. Spoiler alert. Damn—we keep reminding ourselves to put the warning before the spoiler but we screw it up every time. Anyway, we learn that Brecht is trying to drive Spadaro mad for cheating on him. You won't care, because the movie is a blisteringly bad, dirt cheap assault against all that is good and admirable about filmmaking.
The only real thrill in this rickety scaffolding of a movie is a nude wrestling match between Mirella Rossi and Ivana Giordan, followed by further gratuities, including multiple scenes of them both running around in only men's dress shirts. We understand that these days we aren't supposed to say nudity is the highlight of a film, but it's the gospel truth, because this shock-horror failure has virtually nothing else to offer—except laughs if you can get past the ineptitude on display. We absolutely, positively, can't recommend a disaster of this magnitude, but we do recommend Rossi and Giordan. Mania premiered today in 1974.
I decided to change my look with this blonde wig. Really brings out the claylike undertones in my skin, don't you think? I dream of having a claylike complexion. Instead I have this terribly painful infected burn. And this crunchy hand! Look at it! Just look!
Mmph... Gasp... Bacony... Mmph...
Aaaaand... casually exit stage right while this lunatic is losing his shit like a howler monkey.
I'm healing nicely, don't you think? Yeah. You look... uh... those skin creams have made you smooth as a baby's bottom. I have a sinking feeling this will be my only film role.
Wait, don't kill me! I can be useful! I can teach you this lindy hop I learned in my dance class!
We said last week we'd get back to British actress Susan George. Above you see her on a poster for Die Screaming Marianne, along with the claim that the movie is the ultimate in suspense. Well, if that's the case, how could we say no? George plays a nightclub dancer hiding out from her father, a former judge who took bribes during his long career. He lives in a villa in Portugal with George's half sister. When George turns twenty-one she'll receive her mother's inheritance, which is in a Swiss bank account along with papers proving her father was a crook. Her half sister wants the money, which amounts to $700,000, and her father wants the documents. Both decide that killing George is the only way to achieve their goals.
The filmmakers, including cult horror director Pete Walker, primarily come at all this via a somewhat elliptical route that brings to mind giallo cinema, where you aren't sure what's significant, or really what's even going on at first. But by halfway through, it all begins to make sense and the story boils down to the very conventional question of whether George's father and half sister can get away with murder. We won't answer that, but we'll tell you we can't fully recommend the movie because of its obtrusively oddball style. George definitely made better films, a few of which we mentioned in our previous post on her. That being the case, we'll see her again. Die Screaming Marianne premiered today in 1971.
Don't lose hope. If we survive this we'll probably both get a chance to act in better movies.
This poster was made for the horror movie The Terror, and we're showing you the Japanese promo art because—as is often the case—it's nicer than the U.S. promo. Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson star, actors passing in the night, Karloff aged seventy-six and on the downward slope of a legendary film career, Nicholson aged twenty-six on the upslope. The latter plays a French army lieutenant named Andre Duvalier who becomes stranded circa 1806 in ye olde creepy-ass castle on the hill, which is occupied by Karloff's rickety Baron Victor von Leppe. Jack sees a mysterious woman wandering around. Karloff explains that she's the ghost of his wife, the Baronness Ilsa von Leppe, who died twenty years ago. Nosy Nicholson doesn't believe that for a millisecond, but the Baron sticks to his story, even admitting he killed the Baronness with his bare hands for the crime of adultery. Nice confession, but the Baron is lying or being duped, as far as Nicholson is concerned. In either case, the question is why?
Director Roger Corman was working from an Edgar Allen Poe template here, and in fact he shot on castle sets originally used for The Raven, which had wrapped earlier in the year. It's always good to save a buck where you can, but any advantage was lost due to Corman working from an unfinished script, which led to reshoots by Francis Ford Coppola, Dennis Jakob, Monte Hellman, and Jack Hill. All that talent wasn't enough to put together a film befitting Nicholson and Karloff, but the two leads do their damndest, and the result, though not good, isn't an embarrassment. Afterward, Karloff continued coasting into the twilight, Nicholson and Coppola moved on to widespread acclaim, Hill helped launch the blaxploitation cycle and make a star of Pam Grier, and Hellman directed the cult masterpiece Two-Lane Blacktop. It's a miracle they all contributed something lasting to cinema, because you'd never suspect it watching The Terror. It premiered in the U.S. in 1963 and reached Japan today in 1964.
Wake-up calls at the Hiltons' are murder.
We were drawn to Il sesso della strega, aka Sex of the Witch, because of its excellent posters painted by Lamberto Forni, an artist whose work you've seen here before. But as often happens, the movie didn't live up to the promo imagery. The strange tale begins with Sir Thomas Hilton, a wealthy wine grower, who dies of old age. His family gets a surprise when the will is read: all those closest to Hilton, including his secretary, benefit from the profits of his holdings, but nothing can be broken up or sold, his sister gets nothing, some heirs don't benefit immediately, and if anyone dies their share is distributed among the others. Basically, the will is a blueprint for the Hiltons to start murdering each other. When that happens, the spurned sister is suspected of being a witch. But is she?
None of it matters. The movie is an merely excuse for a lot of overlong softcore sex scenes of the worst kind. You know the ones we mean—interminable slow wriggling devoid of even a hint of erotic heat. You have to really drop the ball to make naked people boring—especially naked Italian women from the ’70s, with their enormous bushes*—but director Angelo Pannacciò, aka Elo Pannacciò, accomplishes that here, in his debut. It's impossible to care about the movie's central mystery, and despite Pannacciò somewhat giallo visual stylings there's just nothing to get enthusiastic about. Except those posters. Nice work, Forni. Il sesso della strega premiered in Italy today in 1974.
*We love enormous Italian bushes, both tactilely and visually. This one is large, but not stupendous. You know when a bush is really big? When the moment it's revealed you think there's suddenly been a citywide blackout.
Classic horror feature still shocks and thrills.
It was inevitable that we'd get around to this movie. It was only a question of which poster we'd choose. Above you see a bizarre Japanese promo for Stuart Gordon's cult horror epic Re-Animator. In Japan it was titled Zombio – 死霊のしたたり, and the Japanese means “dripping of the dead,” which is pretty weird. But then so is the movie. It's an at times darkly comic splatterfest about a medical student obsessed with life after death, and it starts gory and quickly goes places you can't possibly expect. The source material is H.P. Lovecraft's tale, “Herbert West—Re-Animator,” first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1922.
The plot is only loosely based on what Lovecraft wrote. The movie follows a medical student played by Jeffrey Combs as he tries to defeat death by using a phosphorescent green re-animating agent of his own creation, and in so doing manages to drag promising fellow student Bruce Abbott and his girlfriend Barbara Crampton into a downward spiral of lies, illicit research, corpse abuse, and worse. It's even more catastrophic than it sounds. Meanwhile, a pompous and established physician-instructor played by David Gale becomes simultaneously jealous of Combs and lustful for Crampton, with results that are—in a word—totally insane. Well, two words.
We suspect that Re-Animator is one of those movies many have heard of, but not many have seen. There's more than just gore and that infamous sequence where Crampton is molested by a decapitated head. There are also cross-currents of blind ambition, skewed medical ethics, middle-aged lust for the young, and parental love, as well as overarching questions about human consciousness. It's a movie about obsession, but on multiple levels. Of course, it's also a movie done on the cheap, which leads to a few amusing efx, but overall it transcends its limitations, and for horror fans it's an absolute must. Re-Animator premiered in the U.S. in 1985 and crept into Japan today in 1987.
The artist is actually the one who's out of this world.
Above is the Italian poster for the sci-fi/horror movie La cosa da un altro mondo, which opened in Italy today in 1952 but originally premiered in the U.S. in 1951 as The Thing from Another World. We talked about it several years ago while sharing its Belgian promo. Today's effort is the work of Italian illustrator Sandro Symeoni, a genius who painted in so many modes he can be unrecognizable from piece to piece. See some of his best work here, here, and here.
They're a sight to behold.
This is a cool little item that's been making the rounds on Twitter lately. It's the VHS box cover art for the horror flick Videodrome, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Debbie Harry and James Woods. As you know, we rarely post box art, but this one needed to be seen. The movie needs to be seen too—to be believed. It deals with a Toronto television producer who stumbles upon an illicit snuff channel, but finds that what's going on behind the broadcasts is even worse. It's Cronenberg at his weirdest. The movie premiered today in 1983.
There's something very fishy going on.
This promo poster just screams winner, don't you think? If it isn't a good movie, it's got to be deliciously terrible. It was made for L'isola degli uomini pesce, known in English as The Island of the Fishmen, a movie that starred Richard Johnson, Barbara Bach, and Claudio Cassinelli. No surprise what it's about, thanks to the title, but nothing is spoiled—the fishmen show up within the first few minutes of the film when a group of convicts in a lifeboat are attacked and the five survivors end up stranded on a swampy island. Since the fishmen hunt there, the attrition rate on this parcel of land is a bitch. Two cons are killed almost immediately upon arrival, and a third barely survives a pit trap. They soon learn humans live there too—paranoid misanthrope Richard Johnson, his companion Barbara Bach, their servant Beryl Cunninghman, and others, all residing in and around a baroque slave plantation house.
Johnson, who is a quack scientist, is trying to train the fishmen for what shall here remain undisclosed purposes. It involves going deep underwater where humans can't survive—but strangely, not so deep that Johnson can't simply drop down in his unpressurized wooden submersible and watch them at work. It's all a crock, even for bad sci-fi. But there are three points of note with the film: first, you can actually see that some budget went into creating the fishmen; second, Johnson speaking in a constipated Dick Dastardly voice is flat hilarious; and third, Barbara Bach is Barbara Bach. Or maybe we should have listed her first. The producers at Dania Film, perhaps realizing Fishmen was a total woofer, rode Bach hard, putting out a bunch of skinful promotional photos and getting her a Fishmen-themed nude shoot in Ciné-Revue. There's always a silver lining in 1970s exploitation cinema—and on Pulp Intl. L'isola degli uomini pesce premiered in Italy today in 1979.
Hello? Is anybody there? Santa? Is that you?
Our sprint through movies this December continues today with the Italian Christmas favorite—Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea, for which you see a festive yule themed poster above. It was painted by Mario Piovano and just oozes holiday spirit. Right. Well, obviously not. This couldn't be a Christmas movie unless Christmas makes you want to kill everyone around you. But it qualifies as a gift from us to you, because we're going to save you the time you might have spent watching it.
The title translates as, “extract from the secret police archives of a European capital,” but was shortened to Tragic Ceremony for its English language release. The Italian title would seem to indicate that this is a giallo flick, but it's actually more in the realm of gothic horror. Basically, a quartet of carefree hippies stumble upon and must survive assorted evils, including a black mass, a phantom gas station, and spurts of megaviolence, all loosely related somehow to a string of possibly cursed pearls.
The movie stars Camille Keaton, who's not well known today, but headlined perhaps the most infamous grindhouse offering of the 1970s—Day of the Woman, better known in some quarters as I Spit on Your Grave. Keaton appears here six years earlier, and is stranded with her hippie-hedonist friends in a creepy old manse where she's seized upon by the loony, aristocratic occupants as a potential sacrifice. She escapes, but the aftereffects of her close call are numerous and gory.
Critics hindered by their own knowledge of niche cinema to the extent that they can't see the forest for the trees tend to describe this movie as underrated, but it really isn't, even if you accept it as a sly commentary on the generational clash between the counterculture and the gentry. At one point a distressed Máximo Valverde asks, “What's happening? What's going on?” Well, you've ended up in a below average horror movie, Max. It happens. Revisionist critics can't help you. Estratto dagli archivi segreti della polizia di una capitale europea premiered in Italy today in 1972.
Some love lasts forever. Other times it doesn't survive the wedding night.
Another of the movies we watched recently was Bluebeard, a castle and dungeon-style, quasi gothic horror flick about a folk tale character who murders a series of wives. Its Spanish poster was the best of those we saw, and we chose today to share it because the film premiered in Spain today in 1974, after opening in the U.S. two years earlier. This piece was painted and collaged from photos by Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, also known as Jano, now a regular visitor to Pulp Intl. Just for the sake of it, we've also included the U.S. poster at right (or above if you're on a mobile device). You can see that it's built fully around a photo-illustration, and while it's interesting, we thought Jano's work had a little more merit.
Bluebeard stars Richard Burton, who's supposed to be a great actor, but we have to admit we'd seen exactly zero of his acclaimed movies up to this point. He was a Shakespearean stage guy who transitioned to Hollywood in similar type roles, and being decidedly non-pulp in style, we've highlighted none here. He later made a couple of war movies, though, as well as the overbudget epic Cleopatra, and we might get around to those. Going on the example presented by Bluebeard, however, you'd have to conclude that he's a hack. Those who know more than us say that by the 1970s heavy drinking had impaired both his judgment and skill.
You'd think that a famous folk tale would provide a trove of potential cinematic possibilities to sift through, but Bluebeard is uninspiringly written, and the direction—from film noir vet Edward Dmytryk—presents little evidence of engagement with or inspiration by the material. The women Bluebeard murders are played by Karin Schubert, Nathalie Delon, Virna Lisi, sexy nun Raquel Welch, Marilú Tolo, Agostina Belli, and Joey Heatherton—not neccsarily in that order—plus Sybil Danning makes an appearance. Heatherton has the key role as Anne, the wife who elicits a confession from a psychologically tortured Bluebeard as to why he kills.
And the reason? Dude can't get it up. Therefore, in the era before little blue pills, as a prominent member of Austria's post-World War I patriarchal society, Bluebeard murders to keep his limpness secret. You'd think dying wives would destroy his matrimonial suitability, but ata certain point we suppose money papers over all flaws. Rich or not, though, never marry a guy who sits around with a raptor on his shoulder. And speaking of hunting, we should warn the kind-hearted that there's an extended hunting sequence in Bluebeard, and the animals are killed for real, in detailed action. We're talking several rabbits, a number of birds in flight, a couple of foxes, a boar, and a deer.
Based on what we've written so far, you might think we're not recommending Bluebeard, but not so fast, friends. The female cast—to state the obvious—comprises some of the loveliest actresses of the era, and in diverse ways. Welch is sculpturally flawless, Lisi is ethereally beautiful, Toló is broodingly dark, and Heatherton, whose resting face is ingenuous and slightly open-mouthed as if she's always concentrating on a problem, can only be described as luscious. She also has one of cinema's all-time greatest hairdos. Is it pervy to say you should watch a movie solely for the beauty of its actresses? Probably—but it's the truth. The filmmakers must have agreed, because they published lots of nude production stills, when in fact the film has less skin. See below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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