Just call him the noble formerly known as Dracula.
We don't have to tell you what Blacula is. It's clear from the poster alone that it's a retelling of the Dracula legend. It's also an early high point for blaxploitation cinema. It isn't perfectly made, but as an allegory it's on the nose: centuries ago an African prince named Mamuwalde was transformed into a vampire out of sheer racist spite, cursed to eternal hunger, taken as cargo to a strange foreign land, and now fights to survive there, far from his home. William Marshall in the lead role is doubtless the sweatiest vampire in movie history, but he's good in what is by definition a patently absurd role. In supporting parts are Thalmus Rasulala, Denise Nicholas, and the ravishing Vonetta McGee, who Mamuwalde thinks is his long lost wife Luva and treats to some sweet vampire love. As pure horror Blacula is middling, and it's homophobic in parts, but audiences liked the film and made it one of the top grossers of the year. Despite its flaws the undead Prince Mamuwalde embodied a fresh approach to black themed cinema, and it's certainly fun to watch. It opened in the U.S. today in 1972.
When you're rich you're never insane. You're just a little eccentric.
La notte che Evelyn uscì dalla tomba, aka The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, premiered in Italy today in 1971, and is an Italian made, set-in-England, gothic giallo flick for which we shared an unusual Greek poster some years ago. The art on that was retasked from the original poster, which was painted by Sandro Symeoni, a genius we've featured often. If you don't know his work, click his keywords below and have a look. He's worth your time.
In the movie a British lord violently obsessed with his deceased redheaded wife goes nuts and is committed to a mental institution. When he gets out he immediately brings disrepute to the entire psychiatric profession's notion of “cured” by going on a redhead killing spree. While he's busy reducing rural England's carrottop population one pale person at a time, his headshrinker, who knows nothing of the murders, is encouraging him to remarry in order to get over his dead wife.
That doesn't strike us as responsible psychiatric advice, but as we mentioned, there are lousy doctors in this film, so the Lord indeed picks out a suitable spouse, who's blonde, importantly. Things go fine until Mrs. Lord notices a redheaded maid in the manor. This is impossible, you see, because the Lord hates (and kills) redheads. So it goes without saying he'd never hire one. Who was this woman, and why was she there? Soon we're treated to the reliable giallo staples of imposters, unknown people creeping through the woods at night, disappearing corpses, and the question of whether what's happening is real, or is an attempt to induce insanity.
What might induce insanity for you is the screenwriting of the female characters in this flick. They're pure murder magnets. For example, whenever the Lord meets a redhead he yanks painfully on her hair to see if it's real. “Ouch! That hurt!” “Sorry, I thought it might be a wig.” “Oh.” Here's some advice: kick him in the gonads and run like Flo-Jo. Yet the women instead decide painful hair-pulling is just a cute quirk, and later meet their bloody ends.
There's also an incredible scene where the Lord slaps his wife around until she's bloody-mouthed, only to finally be stopped by the appearance of a friend, who asks, “Why were you fighting?” Why were you fighting? A more appropriate line might be, “Why were you beating the fuck out of your beloved?” But with this latter incident there may actually be a plotworthy reason the Lord is forgiven. We could reveal it, but that would be a spoiler. Of course, saying it would be a spoiler is a spoiler too. Oh no! Everything is spoiled! We have to murder a redhead now. Is that a non-sequitur? No, it's just giallo.
You know what vampires really like? Making more vampires.
When it comes to Japanese film, we tend to stick to crime and pinku productions, but a change of pace is often nice. Chi o suu bara, which is known in English as Evil of Dracula, or sometimes Bloodsucking Rose, is straight horror about a teacher who takes a job at a women's school which he soon comes to suspect is plagued by a vampire. For those who like turn-of-the-millennium horror movies such as 2002's Ju-on or 1998's Ringu, this will seem like a precursor in terms of how the monster effects are achieved by using makeup and lighting. The movie is a bit funny at times, too, because these makeup effects are perfectly obvious to the viewer, but for the most part nobody within the film notices:
“Teacher, I would like to talk to you more seriously, but not in here. Please, will you follow me (into the creepy-ass woods that surround the school)?
“Sure (because I don't notice your ghastly blue face or the way you keep staring at my neck).”
But the movie is pretty good. Its weird, cyanotic vampires are menacing enough to put the mood across, and Shin Kishida as the main bloodsucker projects a physical power and savage hunger we totally bought. At one point the hero Toshio Kurosawa is asked, “Are you seriously expecting that people will believe such a lurid tale?” Well, vampire movies are all about building a framework of believability despite the subject matter's innate impossibility. Chi o suu bara might make you believe vampires can really fry. It premiered in Japan today in 1974.
Shit. I think I left my lesson plan at home. Oh well. Guess I'll just wing it.
Thanks to my rigorous teacher training I desire none of you nubile young women sexually.
This old thing? It's been out here for as long as I can remember. I've never once been curious what's in it.
Centuries of *grunt* consuming blood have done nothing *gurgle* good for your breath!
That's so rude! Just for that comment I'm gonna suck you extra slow!
Teacher, can I talk to you about my mid-term? You gave me an a-minus and I think I deserve an a-positive—er, I mean an a-plus.
Master, check out this mask I got. This Halloween I'm going out dressed as a vampire. Totally meta, right?
I think I lost him. That soulless demon. That total asshole.
The doctor is out—of his freaking mind.
Above, a poster for Arzt und Dämon, aka Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which premiered in West Germany today in 1949. The art here is by Heinz Schulz-Neudamm, whose most famous piece is the poster he designed for the expressionist sci-fi movie Metropolis. It once sold for $1.2 million, which made it the most valuable movie promo in existence at the time, but this Hyde effort shows Schulz-Neudamm's skills in a totally different light. We think it's top shelf work for a top shelf flick.
There's a severe Price to pay for being a bad wife.
This French poster was painted by Roger Soubie for the cheeseball horror flick La nuit de tous les mystères, which was better known as House on Haunted Hill. Basically, Vincent Price offers $10,000 to anyone who can spend the night in a scary house, but in the meantime he hopes to get rid of his not-so-loving wife Carol Ohmart. That's not a spoiler—in the first few minutes of the film he tells her he wants her dead. And she him. The question is will he do it? Will she kill him? Or will they kiss and make up? You could watch and learn the answers, but in our opinion, considering how much more sophisticated horror became, this one is little more than an amusing cinematic curiosity, not worth watching, though it's notable for its exteriors of the iconic Ennis House in Los Angeles (see below). House on Haunted Hill opened in the U.S. in 1960 and reached France today in 1961.
You might as well spawn with me. I'm going to tell all my friends we did anyway.
We just learned about French artist Constantin Belinsky, and here he's painted a promo for L'étrange créature du lac noir, better known as Creature from the Black Lagoon. This film is an all-time classic so you don't need us to tell you anything about it. It premiered in the U.S. in 1954 and swam into France today in 1955. See another poster for the film in the collection of aquatic monster promos we put together ten years ago. Yes, ten. Hard to believe. Look here.
The town's not big enough for the both of them.
We just wrote about a French werewolf novel—The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore—and now we've come across Les loups de la violence by Michael Shiofy. Some sources claim this was written by Belgian author Guy de Wargny under a pseudonym, but it's actually a 1966 reprint of a 1965 Italian novel called La dama dei lupi, which was written by Harry Small, a pseudonym used by Mario Penzauti. Yes, it's always complicated with these European books. It was published in France by Éditions Bel Air and was part of its Les Adventures de Dracula line, a twelve book series that featured all kinds of monsters, but not Dracula, strangely. However a vampire did star in entry nine, Frank Graegorius's Le vampire de la pleine lune, so that counts, we guess. We haven't read this. If it's as good as The Werewolf of Paris we'd be shocked. But the cover is comparable, we think. It was painted by James Hodges, whose artistic virtues we've extolled before. To see him at his best we suggest you check here and here.
Mercedes Molina bends over backward to please her daddy.
Thanks to The Exorcist a wave of possession films flooded cinemas during the mid-1970s. Above you see posters for one of them—Le notti di Satana, which was originally released in Spain as Exorcismo. Basically, it's about a young woman whose behavior radically changes, causing friends and family to conclude that she's possessed by the spirit of her recently dead father. But the priest knows better. It's just Satan, up to his usual tricks. Mercedes Molina stars as the possessed, performing under the name Grace Mills, for some reason, almost as if she didn't want to be associated with the movie. Though it isn't terrible. Just uninspired. Check this dialogue exchange:
At times I'm certain my sister is possessed.
Yes. How can I say it? Like something has taken possession of her.
That's bad. On the plus side, Molina/Mills manages some good contortions and screams, until the exorcism brings the expected climax. Also, the lovely Maria Perschy co-stars as Molina's flummoxed mother, so there's that. And there's some nude ceremonial cavorting that'll catch your eye, so there's that too. Otherwise, not a top effort. But all these posters are fun, if of varying quality. Only one is signed—the last one, by Italian artist Angelo Cesselon, whose work we've shown you here and here. We have a few screenshots below that capture the essence of the movie. Now you don't even have to watch it. Le notti di Satana premiered today in 1975.
“This place is amazing. Nice bay windows, original wood floors—” Booooo.... get ooout! “Too bad we can't stay.”
French illustrator Roger Soubie has a long and impressive résumé. He painted more than 2,000 posters during a career spanning four decades, and produced iconic promos such as those for Lolita and The Unholy Wife. The above effort is for The Haunting, called in France La Maison du diable. Based on Shirley Jackson's classic novel The Haunting of Hill House, it's about an anthropologist who rents a creepy old mansion in order to determine whether it's haunted. Of course it is—and it proceeds to seriously flip out the anthropologist and the witnesses he's brought along to verify his findings.
Jackson wrote her chiller in 1959, and it's considered by many to be the greatest haunted house tale of all time. Director Robert Wise uses zooms and odd angles to jar the audience but follows the novel's plot closely, which was a good decision. Today his movie is likewise considered to be one of the finest in the horror genre. Horror has really improved with time, but The Haunting holds up nicely. If you haven't seen it, know going in it's fueled by atmosphere rather than events, but we think it's worth a gander. After its 1963 Stateside premiere it opened in France today in 1964.
Spencer Tracy unleashes the beast on Bergman and Turner.
We don't feature a lot of material from Finland* but this poster for Tri Jekyll ja Mr. Hyde, aka Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, caught our eye. The movie was based on the gothic horror novella by Robert Louis Stevenson, and was the third attempt Hollywood had made at the story, this time with Spencer Tracy as Jekyll/Hyde and Ingrid Bergman as Ivy Peterson. We gather Tracy thought his performance had ruined his career. Talk about being hard on yourself. He's perfectly decent in the role, even if he's a bit unconvincing as an English gentleman, and doesn't even bother tackling the accent. Bergman is decent too, and she does wrestle the accent, and loses, but since she's Swedish you have to forgive her. She'd soon be acknowledged as one of the greatest actresses in cinema. The film also features a pre-superstardom Lana Turner. She would develop a tendency to chew the scenery after she became a global celebrity, but here, in a supporting role under established stars, she's good, and hot as hell to boot—not that Bergman is anything other than dreamy herself.
Do we digress? Not in the least. Their beauty is pivotal to the plot. The two sides of Tracy's personality, the loving and lustful sides, posited as good and evil, are preoccupied by these basically opposite women. This is demonstrated during a nightmare sequence in which Tracy uses a whip to drive a pair of horses, a dark one and a light one, that transform into Bergman and Turner, side by side, windblown, sweaty, and implied as nude. It's a surprising sequence, hotly erotic, and all too brief if you ask us. We could have watched those two all wet and thrashing for a long while. But maybe that's our own Mr. Hyde speaking. In any case, the sequence serves to demonstrate that Dr. Jekyll's beastly Hyde is loose and isn't going back in his cage anytime soon. A career ruining performance from Tracy? On the contrary. His star continued to shine brightly after this highly effective piece of gaslamp horror, and his co-stars' ascents were just beginning. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde premiered in the U.S. in 1941 and reached Finland today in, apparently, 1943. How that happened in the middle of World War II is a mystery to us, but maybe it just shows how pushy Mr. Hyde was.
*While the poster is supposed to be Finnish, it actually seems to contain both Finnish and Swedish lettering. For example "Tri" in Finnish means "doctor," but "Dr.," which is common in Swedish, appears too, Likewise the word "and" is repreated. In Swedish it's "och" but in Finnish it's "ja." We guess the poster was used in both countries.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
1962—Cuban Missile Crisis Begins
A U-2 spy plane flight over the island of Cuba produces photographs of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed. Though American missiles have been installed near Russia, the U.S. decides that no such weapons will be tolerated in Cuba. The resultant standoff brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. The crisis finally ends with a secret deal in which the U.S. removes its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing the Cuban weapons.
1970—Angela Davis Arrested
After two months of evading police and federal authorities, Angela Davis is arrested in New York City by the FBI. She had been sought in connection with a kidnapping and murder because one of the guns used in the crime had been bought under her name. But after a trial a jury agreed that owning the weapon did not automatically make her complicit in the crimes.
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