Vintage Pulp Dec 5 2021
A VIOLENT NATURE
Everything in this jungle bites—including the script.


This poster for White Huntress, aka Golden Ivory, did its job—as soon as we saw it we had to watch the movie. We figured this must be fun. But looks can deceive. Despite the art of a woman in sexy rags fighting a python, what you actually get is a staid period piece set in 1890 in which two brothers venture into the Masai territory of what was then British East Africa in search of Kayanga, the legendary meeting place of the elephants. Their plan is to—wait for it—kill the animals and reap tons of ivory worth a fortune. Owing to its period setting the movie has the feel of a western, and in fact the subplot involves Brits venturing into the wild frontier in covered wagons like Sooners to take over native lands. So what you have here is a hybrid—part western, and part colonials-in-Africa movie. It's cheaply made, poorly written, and overall is a cringeworthy effort, filled with the self serving entitlement of invaders ascribing all sorts of moral and philosophical justifications to their thieving and slaughtering. But let's not get too deeply into it. Films are always of their era, moral flaws and all, and we're able to enjoy ones about colonial Africa as long as they're good, but White Huntress isn't. It premiered in Britain today in 1954.
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Vintage Pulp Dec 1 2021
SMALL POX, BIG CITY
Evelyn Keyes goes from jewel thief to disease vector in The Killer That Stalked New York.


Above are a couple of excellent posters for the drama The Killer That Stalked New York, one of which features Evelyn Keyes on a high ledge. The movie is sometimes classified as a film noir, and we really don't mean to act like pain-in-the-ass purists, but we don't consider it a film noir. Plotwise, it deals with a jewel smuggler who unknowingly brings smallpox from Cuba to New York City. Keyes smuggled the jewels in for her boyfriend, but when she turns them over to him the sneaky fucker absconds. Keyes knows he has to sell them in the city, so she tries to track him down and prevent him from stiffing her, even as doctors notice that people are falling ill, manage to identify the culprit as smallpox, and try to decide how to stop the spread of the virus. Obviously, there are numerous parallels and ironies involved in watching this in the COVID-19 era. Carl Benton Reid as NYC's health commissioner: “Anyone not vaccinated is liable to get the disease. If they still refuse to submit, then tell them what they face.”

Of course, smallpox had a 30% per-case death rate compared to 1.6% in the U.S. for COVID-19, but mention that difference to people who've watched others die and see what reaction you get. What 1.6% represents, aside from a death rate, is a level of suffering at which tens of millions of adults shrug and refuse to take a shot to help save lives—at least 775,000 dead in the U.S. and counting, each of them a real person, not just a statistic. We've lost two friends to this virus, neither in a so-called high risk category, and so has PI-1—whose friend spent weeks on a ventilator only to finally succumb to brain death. She had three children. That kind of disaster kills not just the victim, but quite possibly forever harms families and loved ones.

Keyes reaches the point where her smallpox makes her like a dead woman walking, but she won't drop until she's found that chiseler of a boyfriend and made him pay for crossing her. What The Killer That Stalked New York ends up being is a crime procedural-turned medical thriller-turned double-layered chase movie. Keyes is a great, unsung star, and her willingness to uglify herself shows her commitment to the art of storytelling, but even so, the movie could be better. The two layers of story are required, because it's only Keyes criminal status that causes her to run around dodging the cops—and by accident spreading the virus—however the film maybe should have done away with its framing narration and public service feel. At least it has Keyes. Nothing dims her luster for us—not even a mediocre script, dark rings under her eyes, and a layer of fever sweat. The Killer That Stalked New York premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.

Killer virus? Whatever. I'll take my chances.

Hi, is it too late for big government to save my ass?

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Vintage Pulp Nov 28 2021
DJAM SESSION
Nadia Cassini is just what the witch doctor ordered.


There's no erotica quite like 1970s sexploitation. With a focus on pure pleasure, fanciful plots, and a touristic approach toward lush locations, films from the genre are usually pretty fun to watch. Il dio serpente stars Nadia Cassini as a woman who moves to Colombia with her rich, older husband in order to spice up their relationship. She partakes of the regional beaches, the local shopping, and sights such as Cartagena's Castillo de San Luis de Bocachica, before being told by local friend Beryl Cunningham about the cult of a serpent deity named Djamballà, the god of love.

Cassini has little interest in island religion, but Djamballà has an interest in Cassini—at least that's what Cunningham tells her when Cassini says she was approached by a huge snake while on the beach. She begins to develop an interest in the cult after all, attends a voodoo style ritual presided over a by witch doctor, and ends up the star participant along with Cunningham. Cassini's husband then chooses that moment to fly away on business and leave her alone in paradise, which no right thinking man would do unless compelled by a script, and a lonely Cassini starts to get into those Djamballà rituals—and Djamballà inevitably gets into her.

Cassini is blazing hot and sensual as hell, so you can't blame the snake god for his fascination. The film's director Piero Vivarelli also knows he has someone special on his hands, and spends plenty of time in loving close-ups of his star, but in our opinion his direction is far too chaste for what's basically supposed to be a ninety-minute turn-on. In addition, the film seems padded, with its extended ritual drumming sequences. In the end, what you get is just another movie about island religion and a white girl cutting loose. We've seen versions of it before. If this one is worth watching at all, it's only because Cassini's rare beauty makes it thus. Il dio serpente premiered in Italy today in 1970.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 25 2021
PAST TENSE
Anyone can be calm until the cops start poking around.


Tension, for which you see an excellent promo poster above and two more below, is an unlikely but interesting film noir about a mild mannered pharmacist played by Richard Basehart, who's married to hot-to-trot Audrey Totter and discovers she's cheating on him. When she finally leaves him for an apelike creature played by Lloyd Gough, and the ape issues Basehart a solid beating, he decides he's been pushed too far. You'd think that pharmacists would be among that select group of people you really don't want to anger, but this particular pharmacist has a much more elaborate scheme in mind than just a dose of chemicals, and his determination to commit an untraceable murder leads to him building a very traceable double life. In that second life things get complicated when he meets lovely Cyd Charisse, who he wants to make a permanent addition to his future.

Basehart's plot will not go as intended, of course, but the way in which it fails is a surprise, and the complications keep piling up. Tension has flaws, to be sure. The detective played by Barry Sullivan does things that, as far as we know, would get any murder case tossed out of court, but you have to go with it, since he tells you from the jump he'll do anything to solve a case. The plusses of the movie outweigh any weird bits, and with Totter on board, it's probably a must-see. The sinuous clarinet melody she gets every time she appears onscreen is over-the-top, but she's a major scenery chewer anyway, so it actually fits. We didn't like her in Lady in the Lake, but she's delivered in everything else we've seen—this flick, particularly. And Charisse, by the way, gets one of the better entrances we've seen in vintage cinema, straddling two high railings with a camera in hand. She's as hot as a human being can get. Tension premiered today in 1949.
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Modern Pulp Nov 21 2021
GAMES TEACHERS PLAY
The classes are challenging, but the extracurriculars are really hard.


The high school that looks normal on the surface, but is a nest of sexual perversion underneath. It's a premise Nikkatsu Studios never missed a chance to trundle out for audiences, and here it is again in Kairaku gakuen: Kinjirareta asobi, which is known in English as Pleasure Campus, Secret Games. Yuri Yamashina is a teacher at Tokyo Public High School who has a group of recalcitrant seniors, including the star of this flick, the lovely Ayako Ôta, along with the equally lovely Rie Katihara (left and right on the poster respectively). The plot evolves from teacher-student conflict, to secret chemical formulas, to public hypnosis, with many weird stops between, as befits a roman porno flick.

We can't really describe the bizarro plot, but the feel of the movie can be summed up by one sequence. A disobedient Ôta is restricted to the school's chemistry lab while a group of administrators in a nearby conference room decide whether to expel her. One of the panel slips away on the pretext of using the bathroom, but instead attacks Ôta in the chemlab. Meanwhile, some minutes later, another member of the panel decides he needs to use the bathroom, but instead heads to the chemlab. The previous admin has leapt out the window to avoid being caught, and admin two sees Ôta half naked and continues the assault. A third admin says he needs to use the bathroom, goes to chemlab where admin two has just fled out the window, finds Ôta naked and tied to a table, and continues the assault... and so forth.

All the wrestling and leaping out of windows plays like a Benny Hill sequence on acid, with more spazzing, yelling, and pratfalling than a sane mind can witness. We recognized that this serial sexual assault is supposed to comedic, but the laughs didn't come for us. Possibly that's due to cultural blindness—not being from Japan, the humor doesn't cross over. So for that reason, we'll let a Japanese commenter on Filmarks review this one for us. Translated, he wrote: “If this happens to me, I hate it so much that I want to die, but since it is a movie, I almost laughed to death. That's what absurdity is.”

There you have it. Kairaku gakuen: Kinjirareta asobi is an absurdist comedy based around ideas about sexual desire and authority. We take seriously our efforts to understand the roman porno genre, just as we work to understand all yesteryear's enormously popular genres of international film, from Italian giallo mysteries to Mexican lucha libre actioners, but as far as we're concerned it's time for another break from watching these roman porno flicks. Our stand-in from Japan wrote, in so many words: It's just a movie. We get that, so we'll be back to this genre at some point. Some point months from now, after our heads are clear. Kairaku gakuen: Kinjirareta asobi premiered in Japan today in 1980.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 17 2021
OPEN RELATIONSHIPS
Lindberg and her hair-do spice up otherwise blah Swedish sex drama.


Striking posters are usually the reason we're drawn to watch films, but lacking beautiful promo art or an enticing premise, we watched Sängkamrater, which is known in English as Wide Open, for two reasons: Christina. Lindberg. So what did we get? We got a story about a drunken old man who moves in with his son and his son's girlfriend Solvieg Andersson and disrupts their lives. The subplot is set off when Lindberg flies into town, and her acquaintance Gunilla Larsson's ambitions to make extra cash leads into some dangerous circumstances. There's not much recommendable about the movie at all, aside from the fact that Lindberg has one of her most famous nude scenes, a breast soaping photo session that also showcases her majestic black bush.
 
The sight of Lindberg's girlfur was like watching footage of an exotic animal that once roamed by the millions but is now near extinction. We felt deep sadness, and possibly even cried a little. We were also overcome by the certainty that a world that had let the bush come to near-oblivion is a world gone horribly, horribly wrong. But we digress. Sängkamrater is strictly average, except for Lindberg's majestic black bush, which you see below, because Pulp Intl. is one of the last bastions of beautiful nudity left on the internet, and we take our mandate seriously. Sängkamrater premiered in Sweden today in 1975.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 11 2021
UNDERCURRENT AFFAIRS
Got a secretive husband? Poke around and see what you find. What's the worst that can happen?


Two days ago we discussed Katherine Hepburn's cinematic output and noted that Undercurrent was one of the few movies that qualified as pulp-style. We watched it last night and it falls into the always fun husbands-with-dark-secrets sub-genre. Hepburn marries into a rich San Francisco family and quickly finds that her hubby Robert Taylor is prone to sudden rages whenever he's reminded about aspects of his past. You know the drill: “Who was playing that song! Who's here? Was it you? Where did you learn that song!” Taylor is particularly sensitive with regard to his estranged possibly dead brother, and so are Taylor's employees, his domestic staff, and even his friends. Seems everyone is in on the secret except Hepburn. In typical suspense movie fashion, she decides to solve that problem by digging deeper.

Undercurrent is categorized on many websites as a film noir, because that's where people's minds go if there are any night scenes or shadows in a black and white flick, but you may be disappointed if you have such expectations. It's categorized as suspense drama by the American Film Institute, which we consider correct. You could even categorize it as a romantic suspense drama, one with shades of Alfred Hitchcock's 1940 film Rebecca. But on the other hand, since film noir is more a mood than a genre, there's always room for debate concerning whether a film should or shouldn't be included. For us, Undercurrent shouldn't. Two sequences bear some visual elements of film noir, and there's a brief nightmare interlude, but without the overarching cynicism and desolate central characters, we don't think it's a good fit.

Hepburn, who was probably never cynical or desolate in her entire career, occupies nearly every frame of Undercurrent and gives an emotional, almost melodramatic performance as a wife whose loyalty and belief in her husband are tested. To succeed fully in her role, she'd have needed better chemistry with Taylor, and the script and plot would have needed to be scintillating. None of those things happen, which means Hepburn isn't given the tools required to anchor the film. Even so, she gives it a hell of a go, and her efforts make it watchable. For her fans this one is a no-brainer—queue it up. For more general film buffs, you can probably take a pass. Undercurrent premiered today in 1946.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 10 2021
DON'T WAKE UP LITTLE SUZIE
Her story is more dream than nightmare, but that's why it's fiction.


The World of Suzie Wong was the definition of a polarizing film, generally liked by audiences, but often reviled by social observers. For the former group it was just entertainment, a risqué Cinderella fantasy. For the latter group, it was an exercise in cinematic irresponsibility. Few filmmakers have been interested in exploring the human trafficking, physical and psychological abuse, drugs, and destroyed futures that predominate prostitution, but that's no surprise—filmmaking is about moneymaking, and who'd normally go see a movie that was such a downer? While it's true that 2015's Tangerine was acclaimed, it was also shot on three iPhones. Its director has moved on to bigger budgets because he wants to make money too. So let's first of all accept Suzie Wong for what it is: a mainstream film exploring the idea of a rare type of prostitute—the one clearly destined for a better life.

The idea isn't actually so outlandish. Our personal experience has taught us that there are all kinds of hookers. In Brazil, some do it for two weeks bracketing Carnival and make more money than they do working their regular jobs the rest of the year. They don't consider themselves to be prostitutes. They consider themselves to be modern-minded and smart. When PSGP worked at Playboy he was aware of models (anecdotally) and porn actresses (definitely) who did it when they had money troubles. There are plenty of men who'll pay to sleep with his favorite centerfold or porn star, and the money she earns is all hers—none goes to an agent or grifter boyfriend. Models were occasionally invited to certain Middle Eastern oil states and were paid many thousands of dollars per week just to attend swank social occasions and be friendly. The friendliest—interpret that how you wish—would be welcome to stay for months and earn gifts, while the less friendly ones quickly would be shipped out. The point is there are all types.

So while people who hate Suzie Wong are correct that a depiction of prostitution that doesn't explore the typical reality reinforces a false narrative about what is a dirty and dangerous job, the movie is simply a piece of entertainment—and has the right to be. It's no more about real prostitution than Raiders of the Lost Ark is about real archaeology. You'll have to gloss over its imperialist ethnic snobbery too. But if you choose to cross the disbelief suspension bridge, it's a pretty entertaining flick, a drama about an American artist in Hong Kong played by William Holden who meets a local prostitute played by Nancy Kwan, asks her to model for him, and over the course of their increasingly fruitful artistic collaboration finds himself drawn to her. Kwan makes no secret of the fact that she immediately has feelings for Holden, but he resists—not forever, obviously. At that point the difficult question of whether they can actually make a life together—or should even try—is what the plot explores.

Suzie Wong's gimmick of a hooker's love completing a man who's lonely or adrift has been used in films such as Irma la Douce, Night Shift, and Pretty Woman, and audiences responded favorably because, at their core, all those films are romances. But there's more to Suzie Wong than just its sooty Cinderella aspects. At a time of still-rigid ideas about female purity, it asked male viewers to consider the possibility that the number of men a woman sleeps with is immaterial. So in that sense it's a forward thinking film—something usually forgotten by its critics. The source novel by Richard Mason is probably more nuanced, but we haven't read it. We do know, however, that he wrote it after staying at the Luk Kwok Hotel in Hong Kong, which was a brothel. So maybe he learned a little something that gave his book—and the film—a bit more verité than people generally suspect. When you include its great exteriors and sets, and Kwan herself in a starmaking role, the result is exotic, emotional, and at times uplifting. The World of Suzie Wong premiered in the U.S. today in 1960. See more promo images here and here.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 4 2021
HOUSE BROKEN
Small town jealousy leads to big time problems in Lupino noir classic.


Duh DUH duh duh DUH. He has a degree is philosophy...

Duh DUH duh duh DUH. He's broken over thirty bones...

Wait—wrong movie. That's the 1989 Road House, Patrick Swayze's unimprovable existential pugilistic epic. The movie we mean to discuss is the 1948 Road House, which premiered today and starred Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, Celeste Holm, and Richard Widmark. Nobody destroys an automobile showroom by driving a monster truck through it. Instead Ida Lupino drives her monster truck through a couple of male egos and teaches them lessons about a woman's right to choose her own life—and her own man. This gimmick-free proto-feminist drama is an excellent example from the film noir genre, and it's exhibit A why Lupino is a legend. She's mighty good in this. Mighty mighty good.

Duh DUH duh duh DUH. She has a degree from the school of hard knocks...

Duh DUH duh duh DUH. She's broken over thirty hearts...

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Modern Pulp Nov 2 2021
SEX KITTEN
The black panther returns.


We're back into French sexploitation today with this poster for Baby Cat, which starred Israel born actress Shulamith Lasri, aka Julie Margo. The title, which is what the movie played under in France, is probably meant to be an allusion to the English word “pussy.” If so, the French filmmakers missed their target, since cats of any age can be called pussycats. But we couldn't make an allusion in French under pain of torture, so we'll give them a pass. We watched this only because Margo had aroused our curiosity with her outing in 1976's Emanuelle nera n° 2. She starred in that as Shulamith Lasri, her real name. Most websites haven't made the connection that Lasri and Margo are the same person. IMDB, for instance, has separate profiles for each, and Wikipedia's entry on Emanuelle nera n° 2 (Black Emanuelle 2) expressly states that it was the only film in which Lasri appeared. Well, now the truth is out.

In Baby Cat Lasri/Margo plays a jaded Paris model with two boyfriends—one a hustler, and the other a one percenter. The rich boyfriend won't commit, and we can't imagine why he would, since he's a fashion magazine publisher and hangs out with beautiful women for a living. But this annoys Margo, so she teams up with the hustler to stage a fake kidnapping and try to pry loose a ransom. Unfortunately, her one percenter catches wind of the plot and sticks her in a basement to consider the error of her ways. This accomplished, he flies off for a photo shoot to the French/Dutch island of Saint Martin with a bevy of skinny models (among them Corinne Corson, Eloïse Beaune, and Sylvie Schmidt) who mostly wander around topless in the tropical heat. Having spent some time on Saint Martin, we can tell you that the toplessness brings a touch of reality to the proceedings. We don't see Margo much during this middle stretch of the film, but she'll get loose from that Paris basement soon enough.

Margo isn't classically pretty, but she has a flawless body any woman would sell her soul and everyone else's to have. In Emanuelle nera n° 2 she was referred to as a panther, and amusingly, here four years later a completely different set of filmmakers beat the identical drum with lines like, “Hey, she moves just like a cat. A black panther.” We get it—Margo is exotic as far as European filmmakers are concerned, but any questions about her feline qualities are moot for us, because she can't act. Like, at all. She took a four-year break after Emanuelle nera n° 2, coming back to make three more films, of which Baby Cat is the last. It was probably good she stopped. Hell, it was good this movie stopped. Watching Margo work that body of hers was enjoyable, and the Saint Martin exteriors brought back lovely memories for us, but for you, beloved pulpsters, Baby Cat is a movie you can probably bypass. It premiered in France today in 1983.
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 07
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
December 06
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
December 05
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
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