Vintage Pulp Sep 14 2021
CLOSING ARGUMENT
They fought the law and the law won.


Indeed guns don't argue. Rarely have truer words screamed from a movie poster, and we've come across few titles more fitting for a crime film. What you get here is a narrated docudrama about how U.S. federal agents began to carry guns, and use them. In the past they hadn't been authorized to do so, but faring poorly against machine gun-toting gangsters like Pretty Boy Floyd, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde changed that. Pretty soon we see g-men picking off criminals like tin ducks in a shooting gallery, and the narrator drones lines such as, “Like flies to a sticky bun the curious clustered at the sound of the excitement.” Mmm... sticky buns.

The movie was edited together from three episodes of the moralizing 1952 television series Gangbusters and released on the national b-circuit in September 1957. It's as slapdash as it sounds, cheap as single-ply toilet paper, clumsily scripted, and hilariously acted by the likes of Jeanne Carmen, Myron Healey, and Lash La Rue. We recommend giving it a pass unless you want to subject it to the Mystery Science Theatre treatment—i.e. watch it with booze and smart-ass friends. But even if the movie purely sucks, we had to show you this poster. It's quite a nice item. We have a zoom on selling point Jeanne Carmen below. Guns Don't Argue premiered in the U.S. this month in 1957.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 8 2021
ONE IN A MILIONI
You can always bank on Andress.


Colpo da 500 milioni alla National Bank was originally made in England as Perfect Friday, and as you can see from the poster, it starred the Swiss vision known as Ursula Andress. That makes it a must watch, and what you get is the type of erotic caper Andress made more than once, as this time she becomes the center of a plot to rob a London bank of £200,000. Her partners are her husband and the deputy bank manager, and she's playing both ends against the middle, so to speak—i.e. doing the nasty with both while telling neither. The heist develops as heists always do, but the real question becomes who she'll choose to run away with in the end.

Andress must have loved making these films. If they weren't the easiest money in cinema history they sure look like it. Every time she got one of these scripts we imagine her going, “Ker-ching.” All she had to do was work in various European capitals, be charming and sophisticated, speak in that impossibly sexy Germanic rasp of hers—and of course strip. In that respect Andress was as reliable as government bonds. Getting naked isn't easy for some, let alone doing it in front of twenty people, but she had a pretty insouciant attitude about it, once saying, “I have no problem with nudity. I can look at myself. I like walking around nude. It doesn't bother me.”

Of course, the anti-nudity set in today's new age of prudishness would claim she said that because it was expected/demanded of her. Well, we have only her words to go by. When a person's own statements are ignored, that makes it mighty easy to turn them into whatever one wishes. There's a lot of that going around today. But we'll show her some respect and assume she said what she she meant. Her face and body got her in the door and kept her at the party, and she was aware of that. While she was a solid actress, she wasn't about to win any awards. At least not with these scripts. Colpo da 500 milioni alla National Bank is a silly little movie but it shows Andress at her best—in every way. For her fans it's mandatory. It had its world premiere in Italy today in 1970.
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Vintage Pulp Sep 7 2021
SPACE CAMP
Zsa Zsa gives Venus va-va-voom in all time sci-fi clunker.


We're back from a spontaneous vacation, and it seems fitting to discuss a movie about the same. We went to Tarifa, but this trip deals with Venus. Once more a cheapie sci-fi flick has brilliant promo posters, as you see above for Queen of Outer Space, which premiered today in 1958 starring Zsa Zsa Gabor, Laurie Mitchell, and Eric Fleming, with a brief appearance from Joi Lansing. Set in the then-distant future of 1985, a group of astronauts are unexpectedly propelled in their rocket millions of miles to a crash landing on our solar system's second planet. This is not the hellhole Venus of scientific reality, but a place with snow, forests, a breathable atmosphere, and intelligent inhabitants—more specifically, babes. In fact, babes in mini skirts and heels, much like Tarifa. And they speak English. And are starved for love because men have been banished from Venus after a revolt by women. Now the world is ruled by a cruel, masked queen. We'll stop there and offer this snippet of dialogue:

“That's incredible. How did she manage to overthrow the men?”

“They didn't take her seriously. [snip] After all, she was only a woman.”

If that gives you an idea the movie is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, you're right. It actually strives to be a sci-fi comedy. In fact, Queen of Outer Space is almost unique in our experience in that it tries to be funny, fails spectacularly on those terms, but is so badly made it's still hilarious. It's the movie equivalent of a stand-up comic slogging his way through a lame routine with no idea he's getting laughs because his fly is open. It's cringingly awful, yet consistently uproarious, as the astronauts come into conflict with the titular space queen while she hides behind her mask and plans to destroy Earth. Actually, we'll give the movie a little credit for humor—there's one instance when this campfest tries to be funny and succeeds. The three astronauts and several horny Venusians are making out in a cave. Someone notices their campfire going out.

One astronaut to another: “Larry, get some more wood, will you?”

Larry: “What do you mean, 'Larry, get some more wood?' What's the matter with, 'Mike, get some more wood?'”

Mike: “This is one time when seniority really pays off. Turner—more wood!”

You're thinking the lines are unintentional, but no—they're deliberately written to be double entendres. Need proof? Look no further than the next line, delivered by a Venusian hottie, between smooches: “We don't really need any more wood.”

So, yes, it's deliberate. Only a muted trumpet going wah wah waaaaah waaah could have made it more clear. Wanna know what accidental looks like? Have a glance here. Whoops. Sadly, because this is the 1950s, none of the Venusians actually get the ole deep space nine, but the wink-wink implications of impending sex are clear, as the astronauts use their sharply honed kissing skills to turn the queen's royal inner circle against her. While her plot to explode Earth was spawned by understandable concerns that men will ruin the galaxy, to that we say, “Stop her! Joi Lansing is down there!” Defeat looms, as does an embarrassing unmasking that reveals— Well, we bet you you can guess. Bad doesn't begin to encompass Queen of Outer Space, but as we've always told the Pulp Intl. girlfriends, if you're going to be bad, at least be fun.
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Modern Pulp Aug 29 2021
SERIOUSLY, GUY?
That sound you hear is a great author spinning in his grave.


Guy de Maupassant? Really? We had no idea the master of the short story form and leader of the Naturalist school also wrote smut. Shows what we know. When we looked around for Folli piaceri delle porno prigioniere we learned it was originally made in West Germany in 1980 as Gefangene Frauen, but known in English as Caged Women. And instead of the highbrow rumination we expected from a movie based on de Maupassant, what we got was director Edwin C. Dietrich pushing the far bounds of sexploitation in ways that are crude, stupid, and unrepentant. Perhaps as compensation or apology, he also offers up more nudity per screen minute than a Jesús Franco film—and that's saying something.

Karine Gambier and Brigitte Lahaie headline a cast of bare blonde women and just-as-bare hairy eurostuds, as plotwise, a tinpot dictator worried about a U.N. sex trafficking investigation into his country's brothels hides his trafficked European prosties in a godforsaken island prison. You get every trope of women in prison flicks, but stretched to the max. There are showers, medical exams, naked whippings, naked manual labor, naked skeet shooting, naked arena wrestling, a naked prison break (but with comfortable shoes), and more. Notice how that went from standard sexploitation fare to waaay out there? Is it satire? Edwin Dietrich doubtless would have claimed it was. But merely turning the volume up to eleven is the dumbest kind of satire.

And as far as Guy de Maupassant goes, it's more like Guy de wishful thinking. We found no evidence the acclaimed author influenced this production in any way, regardless of what its writer (also Edwin Dietrich) said. It wasn't the only time Dietrich claimed he was inspired by classic literature. No surprise—when you make something like forty of these flicks you intellectualize them any way you can. De Maupassant's influence, we suspect, was merely to lend a veneer of credibility to the promo poster. If you watch Folli piaceri delle porno prigioniere, don't be a pretender like Dietrich. Just embrace your inner horndog and admit you're watching it for the skin.
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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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Vintage Pulp Aug 22 2021
CASH AND CARRY
Victor Mature transports hot merchandise.


One good Victor Mature movie deserves another. Mr. M impressed us so much in Kiss of Death we decided to watch another of his early films. The amazing poster above was made to promote his crime thriller The Long Haul, which is set in Britain and concerns an American ex-soldier who takes a trucking job only to run afoul of an organized-crime syndicate that controls the trucking industry. British star Diana Dors plays the glamorous girlfriend of one of the mobsters, and after a couple's spat she ends up in Mature's truck begging him to drive her to safety. This turns out to be a dangerous decision in two areas—his health, and his marriage.

Because The Long Haul was originally made in Britain it's a bit more frank than the typical American film concerning matters of sex and marriage. There's no vagueness about Mature and Dors doing the mattress dance, which we found refreshing. The family drama sections of crime movies are often throw-ins, but here Mature's marital difficulties really help drive the plot. In the end he needs to deal with these issues, but he also, naturally, has to survive crossing the mob boss, who's not sanguine about losing Dors, nor about other transgressions committed by Mature. It's trouble on two fronts, which makes for a pretty good movie. Decent work from Mature. The Long Haul premiered in Britain today in 1957.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 18 2021
SEA YOU SOON
Sometimes just staying afloat takes everything you've got.


Every once in a while Nikkatsu Studios surprises us with a restrained and serious movie, and Jûhassai umi e, for which you see a poster above, falls into that category. In English it was called Eighteen Years to the Sea, and the long and winding plot starts when top science student Aiko Morishita sees fellow student Kaoru Kobayashi win a game of death against the leader of a motorcycle gang. The game is to see who can wade into the ocean farthest weighed down by rocks and not drown. Aiko gets all hot and crazy watching this macho contest, and later tries the same game with her friend Toshiyuki Nagashima. They only look like they're trying to commit suicide.

The weirdness is just beginning. When a student at Aiko's school jumps to his death from a building, she's not horrified, but fascinated. Aiko and Toshiyuki decide to play another game of death, this time with pills, each taking one at a time, not planning to die, but risking overdoses in the pursuit of... we're not sure. Call it the search for some sort of nebulous existential revelation. In any case, they do overdose, but both survive. Those around Aiko come to understand that she has a screw loose. Meanwhile Kaoru, whose macho contest against the gang leader was the trigger for all that has happened, starts dating Aiko's sister.

We'll stop there with the plot description. Suffice it to say that, via the circuitous route director Toshiya Fujita takes to reach his destination, viewers are reminded that life can be hard—apparently even for gorgeous young college students. We don't mean to be glib. It's just that for uncounted millennia someone from both our mother's and father's branches of the ancestral tree had to survive cold, predators, disease, injury, poverty, human malice, and more, generation after generation, just to have their genes culminate in our existence. We would never risk casting all that hard work and luck aside seeking a fleeting insight. But that's just us.
 
Fujita, on the other hand, clearly thought he had something deep to say. The running time alone tells you that—Nikkatsu movies were often just over an hour long, but this one unspools for almost double that length, clocking in at an hour and fifty minutes. That's a lot of ennui. A lot of ennui. But Jûhassai umi e is good. Maybe even very good. It premiered in Japan today in 1979.
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Vintage Pulp Aug 16 2021
STRANGER DANGER
Don't mess with the man upstairs.


Stranger on the Third Floor is sometimes cited as a proto film noir, coming a year before the first official noir, 1941's The Maltese Falcon. In this day and age, any vintage crime film is called a film noir on crowdsourced websites like IMDB, so depending on where you look film noir isn't as pure a cycle as it used to be. But in this case the debate is fair. The film is about newspaper journalist John McGuire, who serves as a witness at a sensational murder trial, while his fiancée Margaret Tallichet frets about the impact of recognition on their lives. The two of them are planning to move out of their boarding houses and find a place together, but McGuire's building has lately been haunted by a mysterious stranger played by Hungarian actor Peter Lorre. Who is he? Why is he hanging around? Is he somehow connected to the murder?

Gene D. Phillips, in his book Out of the Shadows: Expanding the Canon of Film Noir, cites Stranger on the Third Floor as a film that “codified the visual conventions of film noir.” It has flashbacks, a brilliant nightmare sequence, a sense of growing dread, a false accusation (or possibly two), a narration (though not of the hard-boiled variety), and a usage of angles and shadows that is extravagant. Where it differs from film noir is in its general lack of cynicism and world weariness. In fact, it's the opposite. McGuire ponders whether doing his civic duty by testifying will have consequences, but at no point does he feel like a sucker for doing so. He believes in society and its basic functions. The Maltese Falcon, by contrast, offers civic duty as an option, but Sam Spade acts as he does because of his personal code. Duty is secondary, and ultimately, so is love.

Despite these differences between Stranger on the Third Floor and canonical film noir, casting the net wide enough to include this movie makes sense. It definitely gets its influences from the same places as film noir, particularly in German Expressionist cinema of the early 1900s. Interestingly, Lorre would feature prominently in The Maltese Falcon, as would Elisha Cook, Jr., who plays the defendant at the trial. So the connection between Stranger on the Third Floor and film noir is concrete on that level at least. All that said, does our opinion matter? Watch Stranger on the Third Floor and debate whether it's a film noir yourself. You'll see a visual masterwork regardless of which cinematic bin you stick it in. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1940.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 13 2021
SEALED WITH A KISS
Victor Mature gets intimate with mortality in film noir classic.


This poster for the classic crime drama Kiss of Death both catches the eye and captures the mood of what has come to be regarded as a better film noir. The plot deals with a career thief and inveterate tough guy played by Victor Mature who decides to turn narc for the cops and help them gather evidence against numerous criminals. Needless to say, the decision turns out to have more pitfalls than expected, as he ends up in the crosshairs of a psycho hitman.
 
We've never been Mature fans—it's those cheeseball sword and sandal epics he made later in his career—but he's awfully good in this, deftly capturing the essence of a man feeling his way through desperate circumstances. Richard Widmark is also excellent as the hitman. He has a ridiculous but sinister laugh he uses to good effect. And Coleen Gray plays the embodiment of redemption, a standard role in these flicks, but one she manages adroitly. We'll have to rethink our feelings about Mr. Mature. If you haven't seen him before, this is a good place to start. Kiss of Death premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 13 2021
TO LAUGH OR DIE IN L.A.
Blaxploitation flick goes slapstick and the result is bold but bad.


This poster for the blaxploitation flick Darktown Strutters, aka Get Down and Boogie, is a high quality piece of art. The movie it promotes, conversely, is a low quality piece of art, one of those efforts any rational assessment concludes is an utter disaster, but which has advocates, among them Quentin Tarantino. The advocates are wrong. Tarantino—and it pains us to say this—is wrong. This musical-alleged-comedy about a female motorcycle gang in L.A. battling the owner of a fried chicken franchise is about as entertaining as watching a circus clown punch himself repeatedly in the nose. If you watch it with your Vaudevillian cortex activated you might get a few bemused laughs. And if you dig into it with a pickaxe and mining helmet you might find commentary upon cultural appropriation, feminism, capitalism, and law enforcement. But if you examine it from a technical point of view you'll simply cringe, even factoring in its highly limiting three-day shooting schedule. Since when does lofty intent stand in for basic execution? We missed that memo. But we do love the poster (by an artist we were not able to identify), and we like the promo images below. They show Edna Richardson, Bettye Sweet, Shirley Washington and, front and center, Trina Parks, who thankfully had other opportunities to show her actual talent. Darktown Strutters premiered in the U.S. today in 1975.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 17
1908—First Airplane Fatality Occurs
The plane built by Wilbur and Orville Wright, The Wright Flyer, crashes with Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge aboard as a passenger. The accident kills Selfridge, and he becomes the first airplane fatality in history.
1983—First Black Miss America Crowned
Vanessa Williams becomes the first African American Miss America. She later loses her crown when lesbian-themed nude photographs of her are published by Penthouse magazine.
September 16
1920—Terrorists Bomb Wall Street
At 12:01 p.m. a bomb loaded into a horse-drawn wagon explodes in front of the J.P.Morgan building in New York City. 38 people are killed and 400 injured. Italian anarchists are thought to be the perpetrators, but after years of investigation no one is ever brought to justice.
September 15
1959—Khrushchev Visits U.S.
Nikita Khrushchev becomes the first Soviet leader to visit the United States. The two week stay includes talks with U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, as well as a visit to a farm and a Hollywood movie set, and a tour of a "typical" American neighborhood, upper middle class Granada Hills, California.
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