Vintage Pulp Jun 20 2022
THE HOUSE OF (NOT) WAX
Someone said lucha libre and Santo showed up looking for free food.


The Mexican action movie Santo en el museo de cera, known in English as Santo in the Wax Museum, is the eighth cinematic outing for everyone's favorite crime fighting wrestler Santo el Enmascarado de Plata. He's your favorite too. You just don't know it yet. In this Santo adventure the sinister and obviously mad scientist Dr. Kurt Karol, a horribly burned Auschwitz survivor, has a museum filled with (not) wax figures of historical personages such as Gary Cooper, Gandhi, and Stalin. All well and good, but in the creepy, cavern-like basement section he also has (not) wax representations of terrors such as the Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein's monster, and other, unidentifiable creatures. And even deeper inside the complex? That's where his secret lab lies.

People begin disappearing from the vicinity of the museum, including an intrepid photojournalist played by Roxana Bellini. Her sister Norma Mora raises a fuss with the cops, which prompts Dr. Karol's oblivious colleague Professor Galván to suggest summoning the chunky Santo away from one of his thrice-daily all-you-can-eat buffets to get to the bottom of the mystery. Actually, this being an earlier Santo film, our hero is a bit more traditional luchador than middle-aged lunchador, but not by much. Santo soon realizes that Dr. Karol is assembling an army of half-animal abominations. But there's more. His crowning achievement will be the creation of a savage panther lady. Rowrrrr. How to foil the plan? Get captured as usual, fight a dozen henchmen, smash the lab to matchsticks.

This movie is one of those deals where nobody notices that the (not) wax figures are actually people standing very still. Obviously, it's a hell of a lot cheaper to have a dude in make-up than any sort of sculpture or mannequin, and the Santo movies take cheapness to new lows. But they have a fun spirit that made them huge hits with Mexican filmgoers, and we have to admit they're hard to resist. The bargain basement sets, clunky action, and shoddy direction normally would all be fatal minuses, but the classic boy-saves-world plots are entertaining, and who can resist a man in a gimp mask? We'll follow Santo and his semi-erect nipples wherever they lead. Santo en el museo de (no) cera premiered today in 1963.
Yes, I'd like to order three large deluxe pizzas for delivery. Extra saturated fat, please.

I'll combine your journalistic instincts and photographic eye with your sister's beauty and bouffant hairdo and have— Well, I'm not 100% sure. We'll just have to give it a whirl!
 
I also have some economic ideas. You see, we cut taxes on the rich, and instead of hoarding the extra billions, they let much of it trickle down to the rest of us.

I'm as sane as the next man! Hahahahahaha!

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Vintage Pulp Mar 18 2022
BAD MANNARAS
She's a wolf in psycho's clothing.


The two posters you see above were made for the Italian movie La lupa mannara, known in English variously as Legend of the Wolf Woman, Werewolf Woman, and She-Wolf. You get more or less what you expect here. Annik Borel has nightmares about being a werewolf, which would be pretty random, except it so happens that an ancestor from two centuries ago was burned by villagers who thought she was the real thing. As Borel's werewolf obsession advances she's inhabited or haunted—if perhaps only imaginarily—by the spirit of this allegedly lyncanthropic forebear. She then roams the local landscape killing unsuspecting men, until she meets one who makes her drool—with sexual desire. But is she really a werewolf, or is she just nuts?

Borel really gives this role her all, even channeling Linda Blair's bedbound possession scenes from The Exorcist, but since this is a sexploitation flick more than a horror movie, her body is considered by the filmmakers to be more important than her acting ability. Taking full advantage is director Rino Di Silvestro, who also helmed Women in Cell Block 7 and generally specialized in erotic fare. What he didn't specialize in was pacing, framing, blocking, and the like, and in the end the movie is murky and unterrifying. But it's of a particular era and style that's beloved by schlock aficionados the world over, and will certainly satiate the appetites of such viewers.

Because the version of the film we watched didn't look all that great, we decided not to bother with screenshots. Instead we have a few production stills of Borel below being costumed as the werewolf. Seems like the makeup department always has the most fun. We should also note that the film features German b-actress Dagmar Lassander, who we last saw in Le foto proibite di una signora per bene, aka The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, and Maria Renata Franco, who was in Emanuelle in America. Perhaps they'll serve as additional enticements. And lastly, we were not able to identify the poster artist. We've said it before—sign your work, people. La lupa mannara premiered in Italy today in 1976.
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Femmes Fatales Feb 26 2022
LINE IS DRAWN
Bang bang, lovelies—there's a fab new sheriff in town.


Helga Liné's last name has an accent, which means it's pronounced not “line” but “lee-nay.” She was born in Germany as Helga Stern in 1932, but her family fled nazism and she grew up in Portugal, where her first exposure to show business was as a dancer and circus acrobat. It was after moving to Spain in 1960 that her film career took off. She appeared in many giallo, spaghetti western, and horror films, among them All'ombra di una colt, aka In a Colt's Shadow, Pánico en el Transiberiano, aka Horror Express, and Amanti d’Oltretomba, aka Nightmare Castle. The promo above is not one we can identify as from a particular film, but we do know the date—it was part of a session that produced a cover for the Spanish magazine Dígame in July 1965. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 19 2021
A REAL FIXER UPPER
It doesn't look like much on the outside but it has excellent bones.


Let's revisit Karoly Grosz today, shall we? Above you see his brilliant dust jacket for J.B. Priestley's The Old Dark House, Grosset & Dunlap's 1932 photoplay edition, which is to say it contains production shots from the horror movie it inspired. The book originally came out in 1928 with very different art. Grosz's cover is almost identical to the film poster, but with the colors changed to predominantly lavender instead of black. Both efforts are top notch. If you want to see more from one of the illustration masters of his era, take a look here.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 6 2021
VAMPIRE SLAYER
William Marshall's creature of the night has a killer debut in Paris.


Above: a French poster for Blacula, known in France as Blacula le vampire noir, starring William Marshall as an African prince-turned-vampire awakened in modern Los Angeles. As concepts go, it was pure genius. The final result has its problems, but it was a huge hit in the U.S. and abroad, and for blaxploitation aficionados it will always be a mandatory film. It premiered in Paris and elsewhere in France today in 1972.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 31 2021
NOTHING TO SEE HERE
The artist is almost as mysterious as his posters.


You can see immediately that this Universal Pictures teaser poster for 1933's The Invisible Man is special. You'll find out how special in a minute. It was painted by Hungarian born artist Karoly Grosz, whose work is highly sought after. With this dark portrait he captured the essence of the film's insane central character Dr. Jack Griffin, who accidentally discovers invisibility and decides, what the hell, he'll use it to take over the world. An original of this poster went up for auction a few years back and pulled in $275,000. That's about as special as vintage art gets.

Halloween is today, so we thought we'd share more horror posters. Since Grosz specialized in that genre, we were able to focus solely on him and his work for Universal. Though he's a collectible legend, his bio is a bit sketchy. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1901 as a child, was naturalized as a citizen, and grew up to live and work in New York City. His output came mainly between 1920 and 1938, and he died young sometime after that (nobody is sure when, but most sources say he was in his early forties). At least he left behind these beautiful gifts to cinematic art. You can see another piece from him in this post from a while back, the one with the green-eyed cat.
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Vintage Pulp Oct 4 2021
RABBIT STEW
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.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 25 2021
SPLIT PERSONALITY
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. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 24 2021
RABID FOLLOWING
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 ZombiesNight 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.

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Modern Pulp Aug 11 2021
DEAD MEN WALKING
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.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 26
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
September 25
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
September 24
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
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