Vintage Pulp Oct 24 2020
WHAT THE PLUCK
It's just another case of Bardot being Bardot.


We don't know why, but Japanese posters of Brigitte Bardot movies are always beautiful. We've shared them from four films: Cette sacrée gamine, Une parisienne, La bride sur le cou, and Manina la fille sans voile. All are frameworthy. But today's poster for En effeuillant la marguerite might be the best so far. If you frame this one you'll need a transparent wall, because the rear is interesting too, as you see below. In Japan the movie was called 裸で御免なさい, which means something like “sorry for being naked,” but its English title was Plucking the Daisy. This led to us discovering that the French name Marguerite means daisy. You learn something new every day. The film was also called Mademoiselle Striptease, but we prefer the former, because Bardot always shows plenty of pluck.

Here she plays a rebellious young daisy who secretly publishes racy writing, but is outed to her authoritarian father, runs away to Paris, ends up in dire straits, and tries to make ends meet by winning an amateur striptease contest. Does she manage to generate the funds? Well, you can be sure she generates the fun. She does the sex kitten thing with a breezy verve matched only by Marilyn Monroe, the men stumble-swoon-fall over themselves with lust, and it's all pretty cute. Could the movie headline a film seminar on the objectification of women in mid-century media? Absolutely. But even in that seminar En effeuillant la marguerite would generate a few smiles. It premiered in France in 1956, and reached Japan today in 1959.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 23 2020
SWAMPED AT WORK
A trapper's job turns into a battle of wits and a test of survival.


The movie Swamp Water is based on Vereen Bell's 1941 novel of the same name. We read the book a while back and loved it, so having a look at the movie adaptation was mandatory. Jean Renoir directs a heavyweight cast: Walter Brennan, Walter Huston, Dana Andrews, an eighteen-year old Anne Baxter, and even John Carradine. Brennan is the key character, playing a murder suspect hiding in the Okefenokee Swamp. He's considered an all-time great actor, and here he plays a backwoods good ole boy, mouthing dialogue like, “I bet I been cottonmouth bit a dozen times.” When we heard that line we had to laugh, because it prefigures his famous soliloquy from 1946's To Have and Have Not about being “bit by a dead bee.”

There's more excellent dialogue in this. Our favorite line: “It's gettin' so I don't expect nothin' from you 'cept a bossified tongue and a cussin' out.”

While the script is fun, we didn't think Bell's book would be easily adaptable and we were right. One of the pleasures of the novel is its extensive focus on the geography of the swamp, but there was no way that could fit into the film. The air of deep foreboding and mystery is also missing. For those and other reasons what you end up with is a so-so old movie made from an excellent old book. The script closely follows the source material, so if you want to know a bit more about the plot, we posted a short write-up on the novel here. Swamp Water opened across the U.S. in November 1941, but before its national debut had a special premiere in the town of Waycross, Georgia, where much of the movie was made. That was today, 1941.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 22 2020
A LUZ LUZ PROPOSITION
It's a marriage that goes from bad to worse.

Ever since the term “gaslighting” became an accepted part of the American lexicon we've been meaning to watch the original version of Gaslight. Finding this Spanish promo poster spurred us to finally screen the film. There are those who think any old black and white mystery or thriller is a film noir, which is why you'll occasionally see Gaslight referred to as part of that genre. But it's actually a melodrama falling into an unofficial category of mid-century films we like to call, “Don't Trust Your Husband.” Other entries in the genre include Rebecca, Dial M for Murder, and Sorry, Wrong Number. Based on a play by Patrick Hamilton, Gaslight tells the story of Bella, a woman living in early 1900s London who, because small items in her house are constantly missing or misplaced, thinks she's losing her mind. But it's her creepy spouse Paul who's orchestrating all of this. He intends to have her declared insane, which is part of a larger scheme having to do with—of course—money.
 
On one level Gaslight is a drama about paranoia and the betrayal of marital trust. On another it's an unintentionally humorous examination of Edwardian values. Humorous because we doubt most women—either when the film was first released or today—would have been successfully manipulated in this way. If it were the Pulp Intl. girlfriends they'd both be like, “Do you think I'm stupid? Stop moving shit around the house.” But poor Bella is little more than a possession during the time in which she lives, and lacking the agency to question her husband she mostly swoons. But help eventually arrives from an unlikely quarter. Gaslight was remade in 1944 with Ingrid Bergman, and the original compares poorly to that excellent version, but it's still a quality film well worth viewing. It premiered in the UK in June 1940, and in Barcelona, Spain as Luz de gas today in 1942.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 20 2020
HARD TIME
Alexandra Hay gives convicted criminals much needed re-entry assistance.


What happens when a prison warden's nympho daughter goes to live with her father at a progressively managed correctional institute where the inmates are allowed to roam free over the grounds? You can probably guess. 1,000 Convicts and a Woman has a cartoonishly low rent poster, which is appropriate, because the movie is cartoonishly low rent too. Alexandra Hay stars as Angela, the constantly giggling, hot-blooded daughter who uses her feminine wiles to get some jailhouse lovin' under her father's too-trusting nose. This is often classified as a sexploitation movie, and that's technically true, but it's lightweight, and not very racy. In fact, it was originally released under the innocuous title Fun and Games. Only for its U.S. run was it called 1,000 Convicts and Woman, as well as Story of a Nympho. Both those titles are false advertising, but the movie is probably still worth a glance. It premiered today in 1971.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 16 2020
BRUTE'S FORCE
The best-laid plans of mice and miscreants often go awry.


This is a striking poster. It was made for the 1970 West German movie Mädchen mit Gewalt, which in Japan was called Shiki-jou Gunrentai, and in English was called The Brutes, among other titles. Basically it's about two sexual predators who meet Helga Anders at a go-kart track and manage to maneuver her to a remote quarry, where they intend to have their way with her. It's an indication of how strange the movie is that its remainder, all seventy minutes of it, takes place in that quarry. Without getting into too much detail, cooperation between the two guys devolves into a deadly enmity, leading to an ending that will provoke comment. It all sounds pretty dodgy, we know, but it's a serious movie, not any sort of nudie flick meant to appeal to your mini-brain. In fact, the most titillating moment you'll get is when you see Astrid Boner's name in the credits. This is real cinema, with a real attempt at a message. Successful? Well... Mädchen mit Gewalt premiered in Germany in 1970, and reached Japan today in 1971.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 8 2020
DARK HORSE
Robert Montgomery rides into town and trouble soon follows.


We'd seen the movie adaptation of Dorothy B. Hughes' novel Ride the Pink Horse before, more than once, but decided to watch it again because its premiere date was today in 1947. It differs from the book, of course—it's more streamlined, the real life town of Santa Fe becomes fictional San Pablo, the villains are more proactive, the heartless anti-hero Sailor becomes the not-so-bad Lucky Gagin, and the Mexican girl Pila is an adult instead of a fourteen-year-old. All these changes work fine. The most striking addition is the movie's use of Spanish dialogue, five or six lines worth, untranslated and unsubtitled. It adds authenticity, plus a touch of bonus material for Spanish speakers. Robert Montgomery directs and stars, handling the dual chores solidly. In the end Ride the Pink Horse is a good film noir that has increased in stature over the years. It's always been one of our favorites, but we admit that after seeing so many rote entries it's the quirky ones that tend to stand out. We wouldn't recommend this to novices as their first noir, but if you've seen many and are looking for something that surprises, Ride the Pink Horse will do the job. You can learn more about the movie by reading our detailed write-up about the novel here.
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Vintage Pulp Oct 1 2020
BRAIN DAMAGE
Disembodied alien has a mind to destroy the Earth.


Incredibly, the sci-fi flick The Brain from Planet Arous, which premiered today in 1957, was never featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. We scanned the episode list three times just to make sure, and we still can't fathom the omission, because the film is rife with set-up lines, humorous plot holes, and improbable leaps of logic that make it a natural for a send-up. Storywise, a hyper-intelligent floating brain comes to Earth, takes over the body of affable scientist John Agar, and transforms him into an egomaniacal sociopath right out of Ayn Rand. This alien's plan? Subjugation of the Earth or destruction. It/he also seems strangely interested in money, fame, and sex with Agar's girlfriend Joyce Meadows.

Subsequently a second floating brain arrives and reveals to Meadows that it's/he's a cosmic cop come to take brain uno back home to be punished for being such an asshole. Brain two decides it needs a perfect cover, a body to hide inside until it's time to pounce, and promptly selects the family dog. We're not kidding. We could tell you more but why bother? This is a real stinker by today's standards, but objectively speaking it's a viable sci-fi effort for the 1950s, a time when adequate budget, excellent actors, and behind-the-camera technical prowess were not generally reserved for genre pix such as these. The best thing we can say about The Brain from Planet Arous is that there's a certain comfort in its retro simplicity. Find evil, expose evil, bury axe in evil. If only real life worked that way.
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Vintage Pulp Sep 30 2020
DIAL H FOR HELP
Hello? Is this the Screen Writers Guild? We need a script doctor, and fast.


Calling Homicide, which premiered today in 1956, is a little known procedural crime drama about two cops who try to solve a Tinseltown murder and stumble upon other heinous crimes. It starred Bill Elliot, and was one of four movies in which he played the same character—Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department homicide detective Andy Doyle. In true b-movie fashion, these four films hit cinemas in a rush—between December 1955 and April 1957—and as you might guess, when you churn flicks out that quickly things like deep characterization and plot complexity take a back seat. But Calling Homicide isn't bad. It just lacks distinction.

The truth is, we watched this solely because of Kathleen Case, who we think is real purty. But her role, while pivotal, is also minimal, despite her second billing. For an actress with numerous credits there isn't a ton about her online. She's probably best known for an automobile accident. On February 5, 1967, six years after her most recent acting job, she crashed her car into actor Dirk Rambo's, and he burned up in the fire that resulted. She was charged with felony drunk driving and manslaughter, but at trial she was found not at fault. She wasn't at fault in Calling Homicide either. Like her co-stars, she did her best. But you can only overcome so much.
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Vintage Pulp Sep 25 2020
THE DEATH ROW EXPRESS
If you think being on the wrong side of the tracks is bad, trying being right in the middle of them.


This poster was made for Railroaded!, which is a competent b-noir about a gangster managing to steer cops into arresting a patsy for murder. These cops are damn easy to steer, and later they're really not at all concerned that they might have the wrong man. In fact, they're downright eager to usher this guy into the gas chamber. It's only because Ed Kelly as the innocent man sticks so doggedly to his story that the police start to have doubts. At that point the patsy's sister takes the reins and starts to steer the highly influenceable cops in the right direction, which brings gangster danger to her door. But the benefit of leading cops by the nose is that they tend to linger about.

On the whole, this is a surprisingly tidy little thriller. John Ireland is the gangster/puppetmaster, Hugh Beaumont, later of Leave It to Beaver, is one of the cops, and Sheila Ryan plays the sister of never-wavering faith. All of them are good. Railroaded man Ed Kelly is fine too, but he basically acted in only this movie. True, he appeared uncredited in a film in 1950, and had a bit part in 1970, but those barely count. We don't know why he vanished, but wherever he went we imagine he was pretty satisfied to have starred in what is generally remembered as a pretty good low budget crime thriller. Railroaded! (with an exclamation mark in its official title, though it doesn't appear on this poster) premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
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Vintage Pulp Sep 14 2020
THEY CAN RUN BUT THEY CAN'T HIDE
Once upon a time there was nobody hotter than Hemingway.


We'd heard that The Gun Runners, which premiered in Britain today in 1958, is the most faithful of the several film adaptations of Ernest Hemingway's novel To Have and Have Not. It isn't that close, actually, but it's Hemingway-hot! according to the promo poster. If we're catching the subtle inference correctly, that must mean it's good. Maybe, but what it really shows is Hemingway was so famous at this time that his mere name was a selling point. Think—how many novelists' names have you seen above the title on a movie poster in recent years? Stephen King comes to mind. Maybe Clive Barker, for a minute there. Michael Crichton? Possibly. After those three we draw a blank.

Well, we like Hemingway, and we love the Bogart/Bacall adaptation of To Have and Have Not, though it has nothing to do with the book. This Hemingway-hot! version stars Audie Murphy—yes, that one, and he's a solid enough actor—as a boat captain working out of Key West who gets ensnared in a dangerous scheme that involves smuggling weapons to Cuba. Eddie Albert as the heavy is as amoral as they come, and in supporting roles you get Patricia Owens, Gita Hall, and Everett Sloane. Sometimes the performances in old movies don't feel quite right to modern sensibilities, but you could transplant Albert's performance note for note into a new movie. Acting that stands the test of time that strongly is rare.

Another thing that stands the test of time are the themes explored here. In the novel, the item some people have that others have not is money and the freedom it brings, but in The Gun Runners what people either have or have not would appear to be scruples. It's no surprise that the structural inequality aspect of Hemingway's text was downplayed—who wanted to hear about that in 1958, when so many Americans could work a simple job yet afford a car, a house, and a family? But people sure have a clear understanding of inequality these days, don't they? For that reason alone, we think this flick will resonate with many. We recommend putting this in your queue. In the end it really is Hemingway-hot!

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 27
1994—U.S. Prison Population Reaches Milestone
The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history. By 2008 the U.S. Justice Department pegs the number of imprisoned at 2.3 million, and the overall U.S. correctional population, i.e. those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, at 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults.
October 26
1951—Churchill Becomes Prime Minster Again
The Conservative Party wins the British general election, making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time. Churchill is nearly 76 at the time, making him the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone. Churchill remains PM until 1955, when he steps down at 81 due to ill health.
1964—The Night Caller Is Executed
In Australia, Eric Edgar Cooke, who had earned the nickname Night Caller, is hanged after being convicted of murder. He had terrorized Perth for four years, committing 22 violent crimes, eight of which resulted in deaths. He becomes the last person to be executed in Western Australia.
October 25
1938—Archbishop Denounces Dance Music
The Archbishop of Dubuque, Francis J. L. Beckman, makes headlines in the U.S. when he attacks swing music as a degenerated musical system destined to gnaw away at the moral fiber of young people. His denouncement follows on the heels of the music being banned in Germany due to its African and Jewish origins.
1993—Vincent Price Dies
American actor Vincent Price, who had achieved the height of his fame acting in low budget horror movies, and became famous again as the macabre voice in Michael Jackson's song "Thriller," dies at age 82 of complications from emphysema and Pariknson's disease.
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