Vintage Pulp Apr 23 2024
DEATH RATTLES
We recommend that you keep your distance—from the movie.


Japanese posters for U.S. film productions are sometimes so good we forget that the movies might not be. Case in point: the above poster was painted by the famed Japanese artist Seito, who was behind promos for films like Star Wars and Flesh Gordon. He produced this for the horror movie Rattlers, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1976 and reached Japan on an indeterminate date sometime afterward. The Japanese title is to the point:恐怖!蛇地獄means “Horror! Snake Hell.” The movie is its own special hell. It's about a bunch of rattlesnakes that run wild, and it's sssssssssssssssso bad. University of California herpetologist Sam Chew figures out how to deal with the offending reptiles, with the help of intrepid reporter Elisabet Chauvet, but nobody figured out how to deal with a bad script, a weak director, and a zero-charisma lead. You can let this one slide.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 9 2024
WORTH THE PRICE
Vince waxes philosophical and discovers the secret of life—death.


House of Wax, which was produced by Warner Brothers and premiered today in 1953, was the first 3D production by any major studio. It's a period piece set in Victorian New York City starring Vincent Price as the creator and half owner of a historical wax museum. Unfortunately, his focus on history leaves the public nonplussed, and his partner Roy Roberts, who needs capital, sets the place aflame for the insurance money. Price is burned and driven insane. Well, actually he was insane before the fire, but in a cute way. He talked to his wax figures and thought they talked back.

But after the fire he's a barking psychopath, running around nighttime Gotham behatted and cloaked like Lamont Cranston. His goal? Revenge, of course, a craving solved early in the proceedings when he pitches Roberts down an elevator shaft with a rope around his neck. But what next? What does one do once vengeance is thine? Well, you build a new wax museum, except this time you surrender to prurient tastes and create displays of modern murder and the macabre. Screw that high-minded history crap.

Everything goes fine until Phyllis Kirk begins to suspect that the extraordinary realism of the wax figures is due to more than just artistic talent. Her suspicion is a screenwriter's concoction—there's no way a person could realistically make the leap Kirk does in believing Price guilty of heinous crimes. The script literally calls it a woman's intuition. Well, okay. But in our experience that's a myth, and it's possibly even insulting when used as substitute for intelligence, so maybe just put a realistic clue in the script and write Kirk's character as very smart instead. In any case, she's definitely nosy as hell, and that's the beginning of the end for vicious Vince.

House of Wax has many things going for it. The sets and costumes are extravagant, the early fire sequence with its melting wax figures is genuinely unsettling, the WarnerColor developing process is attractive, and the acting is uniformly competent, even by that six-foot three-inch Hillshire Farms ham Price. And it's fun to watch Charles Buchinsky, aka Charles Bronson, as the mute assistant Igor. In the end the House of Wax works. Add popcorn, a few friends, and about of case of beer and you'll have a great Saturday night.

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Femmes Fatales Jan 22 2024
CLARK CAN'T
I give up. Short of developing superpowers I'll never get this hair under control.


This unusual image of U.S. actress Marlene Clark was made for her 1974 movie The Beast Must Die, which is not to be confused with the 1952 Argentinian thriller released in the U.S. under the same name. The ’74 movie isn't a remake. It's a blaxploitation horror flick. We won't say much about it since we're planning to discuss it in detail. We'll just note that even seeming like she just rolled out of her lair—uh, we mean bed—Clark looks great. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 16 2023
THE DEAD ZONE
When people say the town is dying they mean it literally.


Oliver Brabbins teamed with Graphic Books to provide beautiful cover art once again, this time for The Corpse Next Door by John Farris. Before we get into the fiction let's take a few moments to appreciate how good this art is. Brabbins has created multiple levels of perception in this piece. The cop outside on the street at a call box sees the woman in the foreground, and via her direct gaze, she sees you. Whatever nefarious deed she's up to, you're in it as well. Brabbins nailed the close-up perspective of the blinds, where the angle becomes edge-on in the middle of the scene, allowing the cop to be visible. Assorted impressionistic street details form the background, and daubs of gold at the woman's ears and neck complete this top tier effort. With art like this, the book better be good.

This was the debut novel from Farris and came in 1956. In the story, Bill Randall, cop in the town of Cheyney, suspects murder and a frame-up in what had been officially closed as a jailhouse suicide. His belief that the official determination is wrong pits him against his own department, specifically his chief Sam Gulliver, who's stubborn, angry, physically imposing, and dangerous. As Randall digs, the murder seems connected to past crimes and the future political career of local chosen boy Nathan Fisher, who has a raft of problems that threaten to derail his lofty ambitions.

The narrative is gritty and the action is a cut above, particularly in a scene during a shootout where a character shoves a refrigerator down a flight of stairs at two gunmen. On the minus side there's an unlikely plot device in which a woman who's shot in the woods removes her bra before dying in order to impart to the police that they should seek a clue at a pawn shop called Brassier's. We let that bit pass and were rewarded with a stimulating climax, so on the whole the novel was a plus. Farris would go on to success in horror fiction, including with his 1976 novel The Fury, made into a 1978 film starring Kirk Douglas. The talent is clear in this first book. We'll keep a watch for more of him on the auction sites, and certainly for more of Brabbins.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 17 2023
GLI ULTIMI GEMSER
You don't have to be a cannibal for her to make you hungry.


Sticking with Italy today, the poster above is not one you'll see often. It was made for Emanuelle e gli ultimi cannibali, an entry in star Laura's Gemser's expansive Emanuelle series. In English this was called Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, and you really don't need to know more to figure out what's in the movie. The shot used by Fulvia Film for this poster is from a scene in which Gemser paints herself with a glyph before pretending to be the reincarnation of a cannibal goddess and attempting to rescue a friend who's slated to become dinner. On the poster her lower regions are covered by a painted-on loincloth, but we don't have to do that here, so you also see two uncensored production photos of her as she actually appeared during the scene. We watched and wrote about the film ten years ago, and it was one wild trip. You can read what we wrote about it here, and see a crazy piece of Japanese promo art for the movie here. It premiered in Italy today in 1977.

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Modern Pulp Oct 1 2023
SYSTEM TERROR
Erin Moran and co-stars have some unhappy days in outer space.


Galaxy of Terror, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1981, was produced by New World Pictures and Roger Corman, and you know what that means—no budget. Corman must have really licked his chops when he heard this pitch. In his genius, he probably realized immediately that he could avoid millions of dollars in costs by making his sets extra cheap and simply bathing them in darkness in order to save on production design. He also went cheap on script, direction, sound, music, special effects, and costuming. The result was one of many terrible outer space movies to hit multiplexes in the wake of Star Wars and Alien. This one is distinct in being influenced by both of those classics while sharing none of their advantages.

The plot deals with an intrepid crew of nine who embark on a military style rescue mission, seeking a ship lost in a distant star system on a planet called Organthus. After various travails, they land on the accursed world, find the lost ship, and make the mistake of entering it. Giant leeches, deadly shuriken, and other horrors bloodily whittle the crew down to an unfortunate few, at which point comes the infamous moment—which may be the only reason Galaxy of Terror is remembered—when poor Taaffe O'Connell is raped and killed by a giant maggot. The mission only goes farther downhill from there as Corman digs deep into the New World prop department for a couple of mothballed monsters to terrorize the survivors.

The thing about science fiction movies back then is that it was impossible to have an inkling of what the end result might be. Basically, the producers said, “Trust us, it'll look good.” The cast of Stars Wars took a leap of faith and were rewarded. The casts of imitator movies hoped to capture the same magic and failed over and over. Galaxy of Terror's budget of five million dollars probably sounded okay, considering Stars Wars cost eleven. The heady desire to roll the dice and hope for the best is probably what enticed co-star Erin Moran into taking a little moonlight ride from her hit television show Happy Days to appear in this turkey. Afterward, she may have considered a lobotomy to help her forget the entire ordeal.

There are, however, a few plusses to Galaxy of Terror. First, young production designer James Cameron probably learned that in sci-fi there's a budgetary floor beneath which disaster is assured, and would later make three of the best and most successful science fiction movies of all time (no, we're not counting Avatar). Second, co-star Zalman King probably realized sci-fi was for suckers, went softcore as a producer and director, and churned out such memorable (and now anachronistic) erotica as Red Shoe Diaries, Two Moon Junction, and Wild Orchid. And third, the poster art by Charo (not the singer) is nice. Also, the movie brought our special consulting critic Angela the Sunbear out of her cave. Watching Galaxy of Terror with her was really fun.

I think the crew should have stayed in hibernation.

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Intl. Notebook Sep 26 2023
KEEP SHINING
Dick Halloran and his late night guests.


We're revisiting the art of headshop posters with this image of an unidentified afro-topped beauty shot in 1979 by famed German lensman Cheyco Leidmann. This particular piece may look familiar to cinema fans. It's the poster that was over Scatman Crothers' bed in the 1981 scarefest The Shining. His character Dick Halloran was about as single as a man could be in that movie—living alone, hanging in his jammies, watching television late at night, with naked art looking down on him. Getting axed in the sternum was really a case of putting the poor guy out of his misery.

Halloran didn't have just one guardian angel on his walls. The reverse shot from that same sequence shows another poster, located over the television. That model we can identify. She's actress and centerfold Azizi Johari, who's made a few appearances here on the website. We even shared the very same poster a couple of years ago. But we decided to bring her back today so our visit to Halloran's bachelor pad would be complete. See more Johari here and here. She's well worth it.
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Vintage Pulp Aug 25 2023
A MANIA AND A WOMAN
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.
 
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Vintage Pulp Aug 13 2023
SCREAM BLOODY MURDER
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.
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Vintage Pulp May 16 2023
MARGIN OF TERROR
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.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
May 23
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
May 22
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
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