Vintage Pulp Sep 20 2019
HANDY DANDY
Plundering priceless cultural treasures can be loads of fun.


We haven't seen many mummy movies but if they're all like this one we'll look for more. The Mummy's Hand is a deft blend of comedy and thrills, with Dick Foran and Wallace Ford playing a pair of goofy archaeologists in Egypt who stumble upon clues that point to the jewel laden tomb of a dynastic princess. They don't have any cash, so they charm Cecil Kellaway, who here is credited as Cecil Kelloway, into financing the expedition. His daughter, the beautiful Peggy Moran, comes along for the ride.
 
Everyone is good in this, but Kelloway is especially enjoyable. He plays a famous magician, very adept but a bit distracted, which leads to several amusing moments, including one in which he gets locked in his own steamer trunk. There isn't a single Egyptian in this film, just white guys wearing brown shoe polish and scraggly beards, but casual cultural insensitivity is par for the course during this era. Depending on what you're willing to overlook The Mummy's Hand is about as good-natured and fun as a film gets. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1940.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 17 2019
ROGUE ONE
To protect and serve—his own self-interest.


As bad cops in mid-century cinema go, Robert Taylor is not close to the worst, but he's pretty bad. Rogue Cop gives its take on an archetypal story—two brothers, played by Taylor and Steve Forrest, end up on opposite sides of the law. Both are cops, but Taylor has been dirty for years, moonlighting for gangsters. When they tell him to make his squeaky clean brother refuse to testify against one of their assets, the brother answers no. This, of course, makes Taylor's gangster pals resolve to plant baby brother under the dirt. Taylor turns against his puppetmasters, instead resolving to bring them down. Or try, anyway.

Taylor and Forrest as the good and bad brothers (complete with black hair on Taylor and golden locks on Forrest) are solid, George Raft co-stars as the mean-ass, woman-beating, head hood, and Anne Francis goes against type to play an (almost) irredeemable drunk. An extra attraction here is a young Janet Leigh, and she's good too, though the script makes her out to be unrealistically weak. Hey, but no film is perfect. Well, actually some might be. Just not this one. But it's good enough. It premiered today in 1954.
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Vintage Pulp Sep 12 2019
SEX AND THE CITYSCAPE
No night is complete until you get your fille.


Above you see a Belgian poster for the 1953 juvie drama Girls in the Night. This is an awesome piece of art. In basic form it isn't that different from the also great U.S. version we showed you at the bottom of this previous post, but here you get a purple and yellow color story, a different face on the femme fatale, and a nice treatment of the cityscape. Those make this piece a big winner.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 31 2019
STREET FIGHTING WOMAN
Etsuko Shihomi looks soft but hits hard.


This rare poster was made to promote Onna hissatsu ken, aka Sister Street Fighter, which premiered in Japan today in 1974. The movie is fourth in the Street Fighter series, after The Street Fighter, The Return of the Street Fighter, and The Street Fighter's Last Revenge. In this one karate master and undercover drug agent Sonny Chiba goes missing in Tokyo, prompting his bosses to recruit his sister Etsuko Shihomi to search for him. Shihomi collects clues, allies, and esoteric enemies, but of course finally learns her brother is exactly where any viewer would expect—in the villain's lair, where he's been forcibly addicted to drugs.
 
Generally, penetrating these evil underground strongholds is perfunctory, but in this film Shihomi has more problems than usual. She'll get there, though—what's a ’70s martial arts film without a subterranean showdown? It's all a bit silly and clunky, if surprisingly gory at the end. Interestingly, the movie tries to be instructive, actually freeze-framing to label certain martial arts techniques, weapons, and important characters. Weird, but okay. In the end Shihomi wins using basic stick-to-itiveness—with nunchakus upside multiple male craniums. Oh, and by the way, there are lots of reversed swastikas in this film. We talked about those, but if you missed that discussion check here.


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Vintage Pulp Aug 28 2019
CACCIA ON THE FLIPSIDE
Big screen Thief gets the job done but isn't quite the perfect crime.


This is a spectacular Italian poster for Caccia al ladro, aka To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The moviemakers opted for a photo-illustration rather than a painting, and it befits the star power of the movie. It was based on David Dodge's best seller of the same name, and in truth it's a pretty simple-minded adaptation of the book. You can just hear the studio execs saying: “We know it's in the novel, but we can't have the star in disguise half the movie, we can't have the romance go unacknowledged until the final reel, and we for damn sure can't have the secondary female lead be more beautiful than Grace Kelly.” Movies are a different medium than books, and changes always happen, but it's just interesting to observe what those changes are. The main change is this: Dodge's novel has suspense, while Hitchcock's adaptation does not. That probably wasn't intentional.

To Catch a Thief is a superstar vehicle, and with Grant and Kelly in the lead roles, and Hitchcock in the director's chair, it's pretty clear the studio considered the hard work done. Extensive French Riviera location shooting and VistaVision widescreen film processing are nice bonuses, but the honchos should have had screenwriter John Michael Hayes hammer the script out a little smoother. We're not being iconoclasts here. The movie received mixed reviews upon release, with some important critics calling it a failure. That's going too far—it isn't a failure. We don't think Grant, Kelly, and Hitchcock would have been capable of making anything but a good movie at this stage. But considering the source material it could have been a perfect movie. To Catch a Thief premiered in the U.S in early August 1955, and in Italy at the Venice Film Festival today the same year.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 27 2019
BADGE OF DISHONOR
Edmond O'Brien tries to shield himself from the truth.


A cop runs across cash at crime scenes quite a bit. Maybe he snags a little here, a little there. Takes the girlfriend to dinner, buys himself a new fishing rod. He gets used to these little bonuses. Then one day there's $25,000 and nobody around to see him take it. Shield for Murder is the story of a dirty cop played by Edmond O'Brien whose theft of said cash leads to him finally becoming suspected of wrongdoing, which in turn causes him to be hunted by the original possessors of the cash, as well as investigated by his protégé. As the vise tightens O'Brien gets more desperate, and more dangerous. Redemption is never an option, but survival might be—with luck. O'Brien is good in every film role, so what you get here is a solid genre entry, enlivened by a drawn out action climax and a shootout at a public pool that's among the best throwdowns to be found in vintage cinema. Marla English co-stars, which helps plenty. Plus check O'Brien's crazy eyes in the production photos below. He gives this role his all. Shield for Murder premiered in the U.S. today in 1954.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 25 2019
THE UNFRESH PRINCE
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.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 23 2019
SWEDE DREAMS
Christina Lindberg flick expounds upon reality, fantasy, and a woman's struggle in a sexualized world.


The sexploitation flick Exponerad, which premiered in Sweden today in 1971 and is known in English as Exposed and Diary of a Rape, is an exceedingly serious movie considering its genre. That would normally be a sin in our book, but this stars Christina Lindberg, so we figured okay, it's worth a gander. Lindberg, in one of her earliest roles, plays Lena, a high school girl torn between her twerp of a boyfriend Jan and an older, depraved sociopath named Helge. She prefers Jan, but Helge has taken nude photos of her and is using them to blackmail her into servicing guests at his wild parties.

When Jan learns that Lena has been sharing her fuzzy favors, his caveman side comes out and he slaps her. Lena promptly runs away to the country. Here we learn that the wall between reality and fantasy is a thin one for her, and she crosses between it multiple times. She's raped by a stranger, tries to seduce a man who picks her up hitchhiking, dies in a fiery automobile crash, and has other imaginings the audience only knows are in her head once the movie leaps back to the point where those scenes began.

If we consider these fantasies closely it's possible Lena is coming to grips with her sexuality and her place in a sexualized world. A particularly insightful review we read suggested that all of these waking dreams represent the male gaze, which is why they're creepy and violent. It's a theory we like, but we aren't sure if it actually holds up—unless daydreams can leave physical artifacts behind. We know we're being vague. This is when that no spoilers promise we made a while back is inconvenient.

In any case, what the filmmakers wanted to do here was make thought-provoking erotica, and they definitely accomplished that. We picture the producer shaking hands with director Gustav Wiklund and saying, “Well done, lad. Despite all the nudity there's no possibility anyone will get a boner.” Whether the film makes any sense is a different issue. We recommend that if you watch Exponerad, you watch with full attention or you'll get lost long before the double twist ending that'll make you say either, “Aha!” or “Huh?” Fans of ambitious sexploitation, this movie is your jam. We have some promo images beow, and you can see more here and here.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 21 2019
CROSSING THE LINE
Gringos take their criminal activities south of the border in Mystery in Mexico.


When a vintage movie is set in Mexico, it's a bonus when it's actually filmed there. Most movies with a Mexican backdrop—even good ones—didn't bother, but Mystery in Mexico goes the extra mile. And not for just a scene or two. There are numerous exteriors in city and countryside. Among the sights sharp-eyed viewers will see are the Monumento a la Revolución, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and the nightclub Ciro's, which had a Mexico City branch famous for a Diego Rivera mural in its Champagne Room. The Mexican authenticity extends to the cast, which features local superstar Ricardo Cortez and numerous bit players. Even some of the dialogue is in Spanish, including bits spoken by lead actor William Lundigan—quite a departure for a star in an old-time thriller.

So we've established that Mystery in Mexico aims for authenticity. But is it any good? Well, what you have here is a story about insurance investigator Lundigan following Jacqueline White around Mexico City hoping she'll lead him to a stash of stolen jewelry. White doesn't know where the loot is, but her brother might. Except he's missing. Also looking for the jewels is a gang of local thieves. For the most part the film plays as a romantic adventure, with love-hate turning into love-love thanks to Lundigan's dubious charm. The mystery aspect is pretty slight by comparison, but with Robert Wise in the director's chair everything looks good and runs smoothly. Mystery in Mexico won't make anyone's top 100 list, but for its novelty factor alone it's worth a look. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1948.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 18 2019
THUS SLAYETH THE LORD
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.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 20
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
September 19
1934—Arrest Made in Lindbergh Baby Case
Bruno Hauptmann is arrested for the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous American aviator. The infant child had been abducted from the Lindbergh home in March 1932, and found decomposed two months later in the woods nearby. He had suffered a fatal skull fracture. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and finally executed by electric chair in April 1936. He proclaimed his innocence to the end
September 18
1919—Pollard Breaks the Color Barrier
Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Pros. Though Pollard is forgotten today, famed sportswriter Walter Camp ranked him as "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen." In another barrier-breaking historical achievement, Pollard later became the co-head coach of the Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back.
1932—Entwistle Leaps from Hollywood Sign
Actress Peg Entwistle commits suicide by jumping from the letter "H" in the Hollywood sign. Her body lay in the ravine below for two days, until it was found by a detective and two radio car officers. She remained unidentified until her uncle connected the description and the initials "P.E." on the suicide note in the newspapers with his niece's two-day absence.
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