Vintage Pulp May 31 2020
GUNGALA DIN
Jungle orphan grows from little duckling into beautiful Swan.


Above are four Italian posters for Gungala la pantera nuda, aka Gungala the Black Panther Girl, starring Swedish actress Kitty Swan, née Kirsten Svanholm. Four posters? This must be a good movie, right? Well, not really. But the lost world concept was incredibly popular in international cinema during the 1960s, and in landing Swan for the title role, Summa Cinematografica and director Roger Rockfeller (Ruggero Deodato) knew they had something special on their hands. Tasked with making the most of an exceptionally beautiful star, they dutifully take care of the nuda aspect in the opening credits, and keep Swan lightly clothed throughout a movie that's basically Tarzan re-gendered—i.e. a young heiress survives a plane crash in the jungle, is taught by tribespeople to survive in a hostile environment, but has her idyllic existence of running hither and yon in slow motion ruined when folk from the civilized world come searching for her. And when these modern interlopers bring greed, guns, interpersonal dysfunction, and inheritance law to Swan's paradise, it looks like perhaps it's they who are uncivilized, not the primitive panther girl... We've seen it all before, but at least this iteration has Swan to keep the yawning at bay. Gungala la pantera nuda premiered today in 1968.

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Modern Pulp May 29 2020
KNOT ENOUGH
Once is bad luck. Twice is a trend. Six times looks more like a career choice.


Yes, Junko's back. Counting this movie—Dan Oniroku onna hisho nawa chyokyo, also known as Secretary Rope Discipline—we've now watched six of Miss Mabuki's roman porno outings, and what can we say? They're all crazy. In fact, sources say she retired because her body couldn't stand up to all the kinbaku in these flicks. This time around she's a worker at a fashion house, mostly filing and typing her days away. But she's also stealing trade secrets. When she's caught, she refuses to reveal who put her up to it, and to make her talk, the company's chairman... well, you can figure out what happens next. It involves ropes, whips, and enemas.

There's a subplot. Does anyone care? Okay, her boyfriend is a cheating dawg. He even does it right in front her because he's a terrible guy. It gets worse and worse for Junko. Later the chairman's son takes a liking to her and assumes the duties of disciplining her, which leads to her being forcibly tattooed—a standard and terribly disturbing motif in these films. The two plot streams intertwine, so to speak, in a final manic orgy. We knew fashion was a tough industry, but we had no idea it was anything like this. Next time you buy a new outfit, try to remember the pain and suffering that went into it. Dan Oniroku onna hisho nawa chyokyo premiered today in 1981.
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Vintage Pulp May 27 2020
SPUR OF THE MOME
French crime drama throws Caution to the wind.


Here you see two posters for the 1953 French crime drama La môme vert de gris, which was called Poison Ivy in the U.S. This was adapted from a 1937 novel by Peter Cheyney that featured his recurring character FBI agent Lemmy Caution, who onscreen is played by Eddie Constantine. When two million dollars worth of gold goes missing Constantine is sent to Casablanca to determine its disposition and identify all malefactors involved. He finds himself pitted against a criminal mastermind of sorts, and a hive of henchmen that occupy a nightclub, a yacht, and a hideout in Casablanca's old quarter. Constantine deals with all comers by applying the time-honored advice: when in doubt, punch them out.

Film buffs the world over associate Casablanca with the Humphrey Bogart film of the same name, but the city you see here is different from the one made famous by Bogart and Co. ten years earlier. The Casablanca of this film is a maze of L.A.-style roads, white skyscrapers, and an industrial port the size of Long Beach. We checked population figures and learned it was already a major city of more than 500,000 people during the early 1940s, which means that Casablanca's village feel is really just a clever cinematic fantasy. Poison Ivy's Casablanca is real, and the many location shots mixed into the movie prove it.

That's Dominique Wilms on the top poster, and she's the reason we watched the movie. In this, her cinematic debut, she plays a femme fatale named Carlotta de la Rue, which of course indicates that she's a woman from the street. If that isn't enough to warn the men away, her friends call her Poison Ivy. Why? Because she burns. Hopefully that's meant figuratively, and above the waist. A character bringing so much heat must of course perform a torch song, which she sings with detachment, while the lyrics—as they usually do—indicate deeper issues: “I wander with my sorrow, along with my memories, looking for my old joys, which I've seen fade and die.” See? She just wants to be loved, assuming a man isn't thwarted by her acid tongue, that ironic right eyebrow, and the barbed wire encircling her heart.

The movie is certainly watchable, though it's nothing special aside from its exotic setting. But you have to appreciate the French love for U.S. crime fiction. In fact, director Bernard Borderie got the band back together and cast Constantine, Wilms, and her prehensile eyebrow in the next Caution movie, 1954's Les femmes s'en balancent. Constantine and Wilms also co-starred in 1957's Le grand bluff, another Caution adaptation, but helmed by Patrice Dally. Constantine went on to make Caution the signature character of his career. Wilms, who at age ninety is still out there somewhere, had about a dozen more roles before leaving cinema behind, but we think she had “it,” and will definitely check out some of her other work.

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Vintage Pulp May 25 2020
A CROOKED FRAME
Glenn Ford gets the picture and it isn't pretty.


This poster for the film noir Framed, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1947, is a bit different in style from what you'd normally see during the 1940s. It was a low budget movie, so we imagine this was the low budget solution to promo art. It's reasonably effective, enough so that we decided to watch the movie, and the premise is that pretty boy Glenn Ford is a down-on-his-luck job seeker who's been unwittingly selected by a couple of shady characters to take the fall for a bank embezzlement. We didn't give anything away there. Viewers know pretty much right away Ford is being set up, who's doing it, and why. It's the complications that make the movie, and those accumulate rather quickly. If being framed is defined as to be on the hook for a crime you didn't commit, then there's more than one framee in this film, which is where clever scripting comes in to rescue a bottom drawer budget. In the end you get a nice b-noir with a title that takes on more significance than you'd at first assume. We recommend it highly.

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Vintage Pulp May 23 2020
FU'S THE BOSS
He didn't become a doctor by quitting when things got tough.


Above is an eye catching Italian poster painted by Ezio Tarantelli for Ik. Dr Fu Manchu, aka The Face of Fu Manchu, part of a series of films based on Chinaphobic novels by Sax Rohmer. According to IMDB and other sources this film played in Italy as Fu Manciù A.S.3: Operazione Tigre, but this poster suggests otherwise, or at least suggests it played there under more than one title. There's no known release date, but it would have shown sometime in 1966.
 
We gave it a look, and plotwise the infamous crime boss Fu Manchu is executed via beheading in the first scene, much to the delight of various police authorities, but they later suspect that a double died—a man with Fu's face, hypnotized into marching to his own death. And of course, they're right. Fu can do most anything he sets his mind to, including setting other people's minds to doing things detrimental to their earthly existence.
 
Christopher Lee, who specialized in movies of this ilk, occupies the starring slot, with his yellow make-up shading toward a grayish brown. Other cast members include Nigel Green, Karin Dor, Joachim Fuckburger—er, we mean Fuchsberger—and several more white folk pretending to be Asian. You'll have to ignore that and other racist aspects of the film. Or not, at your option. Setting that aside, is The Face of Fu Manchu any good? Umm... no, we wouldn't say so. But you might get a laugh or two from it.

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Vintage Pulp May 16 2020
FRENCH UNDRESSING
Everyone in Paris hopes for a glimpse of Nico's velvet underground.


Una ragazza nuda, for which you see two beautiful Angelo Cesselon posters above, was originally released as Strip-Tease, and called in the U.S. Sweet Skin. It was an Italian/French co-production starring Krista Nico, née Christa Päffgen, better known as just Nico, future collaborator with the Velvet Underground. Her supporting cast includes Dany Saval, Jean Sobieski, and American jazz pianist Joe Turner playing a character named Sam (IMDB has him incorrectly listed as playing himself). Basically, the movie is the story of an ambitious dancer who can't catch a break, and takes a job stripping at Le Crazy Horse, the famed Parisian cabaret.

Nico goes through the typical stages of becoming the jaded, empty woman viewers have been taught to expect in movies like these. But what isn't typical is the setting. If you're looking for a film with overwhelming Parisian atmosphere this is the one. Streets, cafés, restaurants, the Seine, the wintry countryside, Hippodrome de Vincennes, and the Crazy Horse (or a fictive stand-in) are all on prominent display, and the stripteaseuses are beautifully showcased. And keep an eye out for cameos from Serge Gainsbourg and Juliette Gréco. We just came back from Paris last year and thanks to this flick we're already trying to figure out how to return.

On a technical level, the direction by Jacques Poitrenaud and cinematography by Raymond Pierre Lemoigne both take advantage of the film's many wonderful settings, but the on-camera performances aren't quite at the same level. Nico is a novice actress at this point and it shows, but her minimal emotional range fits with her character. Joe Turner isn't an actor at all and that shows too, but as the conscience of the film his role also works. Some movies are more than the sum of their parts, and Una ragazza nuda adds up to an excellent ninety-five minutes. It premiered in Italy today in 1963.
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Vintage Pulp May 13 2020
X-RATED ACTION
Who was that masked man?


The COVID-19 epidemic—and particularly a quarantine order that has covered where we live—has forced us to deal with severely diminished social activity, which we've done by placing more content on Pulp. Intl. It's kept us busy, and today marks the sixty-sixth straight day of posts—by far an all-time record. But even boredom has its limits, and after today we're going to ramp back down to a normal posting schedule, which means an occasional day off, including tomorrow. And maybe the next. So we'll have to make sure today is particularly full. To that end, we have three movies to discuss. Read on.

Above you see a beautiful poster for Mister-X, a wannabe high style Italian spy movie along the lines of Diabolik or James Bond. Basically, a legendary retired thief comes out of the woodwork to stop a copycat who's committed a cruel murder. Naturally, his investigation uncovers a much deeper plot. The movie stars Pier Paolo Capponi acting under the pseudonym Norman Clark, with Gaia Germani as his slinky, fashion forward sidekick.

Best line: “I hope you'll accept my apologies for the frisk but there's an ancient proverb that says: the enemies of my enemies are my enemies.”

We've never heard that particular proverb, but there are a lot of things about Mister-X that are off kilter. It's another one of those films that was supposed to be sleek and clever but was upended by a dearth of talent. For us, it was mainly Germani and the pretty Capri setting that sustained our interest long enough to see the villain die screaming like a schoolgirl. But hardcore fans of euro b-cinema will probably find more here to enjoy than we did. Mister-X premiered in Italy today in 1967.
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Vintage Pulp May 13 2020
BRINK OF EXTINCTION
Males top the endangered species list in 1967 spy thriller.


We've shared a lot of art, including a previous Japanese poster, from the James Bond knockoff Deadlier than the Male without ever actually talking about the movie. Today seems like an opportune time, since we're already on the subject of Bond clones. The film, which premiered in Japan today in 1967 after opening in the the UK earlier in the year, starred Richard Johnson, who actually came close to landing the role of Bond thanks to the interest of Dr. No director Terence Young. It didn't happen, though, and Connery as Bond makes more sense when you see Johnson, who's older, skinnier, shorter, and in less pristine shape. But he has panache, and that may be why Young wanted him. Instead he got Connery, and Johnson got the consolation prize of playing Hugh Drummond, a character that originates in H. C. McNeile novels from the 1920s, but who's updated to the ’60s in order to deal with a Cold War plot to steal rockets and divert them for nefarious means.

Like the Bond films, Deadlier than the Male offers a winning combination of action, quips, exotic scenery, and lightweight sexiness, but the film never quite rises to the upper echelons. Without the Bond budget it's hard to bring a truly thrilling vision to life. At least the filmmakers were smart enough to frontload their assets by opening the proceedings with Elke Sommer, who's second billed, but probably more important than Johnson in terms of increasing the film's watchability. She has a physicality that makes her a nice fit playing an assassin in the employ of the film's ultimate villain. Sylva Koscina co-stars as Sommer's klepto sidekick, which doesn't hurt. The pair's nefarious deeds eventually draw Johnson to their mountaintop stronghold, and there viewers are treated to a final throwdown with the evil mastermind involving a mechanized, life-sized chessboard. While Deadlier than the Male doesn't manage to out-Bond Bond, watch it with friends and beers and you'll maximize its potential.
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Vintage Pulp May 13 2020
MEDICAL HISTORY
Filmgoers say yes to No and a franchise is born.


Since we've already talked about two movies inspired by Bond today, why not discuss the landmark that started it all? There had always been spy movies. Even the James Bond films, with their focus on high concept action and fantastical super villains, had predecessors. But United Artists, director Terence Young, Sean Connery, and the rest took the basic notes of those earlier efforts, wove them into a fresh composition, and cranked the volume up to eleven. This Spanish poster painted by Macario Gomez was made for the first Bond film Dr. No, which played in Spain as Agente 007 contra el Dr. No. Ian Fleming's novel had been published in 1958, and the film hit cinemas four years later. Like From Russia with Love, which we watched recently, we've seen it more than once, but not for years, and decided to screen it with fresh eyes.

We imagine audiences had never seen a spy movie quite like this, with its opulent production values and near-seamless construction. Set in Jamaica, the exotic locations are beautifully photographed, and while the filmmakers' portrayal of the island isn't necessarily authentic, it's immersive, and makes the required impression of a land of mystery and danger. An altogether different impression was made by the ravishing Ursula Andress, and we suspect once word got out certain filmgoers bought tickets just to see her. Joseph Wiseman's villainous Julius No, a few hi-budget gadgets, and a secret lair filled with expendable henchmen complete the set-up—and establish the Bond template for the future. Add the unflappable if occasionally imperious spy himself and the fun is complete.

The Bond franchise's success inspired scores of imitators, as discussed in the two posts above, but with a few exceptions those movies usually work today on the level of unintentional comedy or eye-rolling camp. Dr. No, despite Bond's interjections of humor, took itself seriously. Viewers were supposed to believe its most fantastic elements were possible. In addition, they were supposed to see Bond as the uber-male, a man who fights and loves hard, is virtually immune to sentiment, and never mourns losses for long. That notion of ideal manhood has certainly changed—for the better we'd say—but even accounting for the tectonic cultural shifts in the interim Dr. No holds up like the best vintage thrillers. It's stylish, charmingly simple, and—if one assesses it honestly—progressive for its time. It premiered in England in October 1962, and reached Spain today in 1963.

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Vintage Pulp May 3 2020
THE FAST AND THE INFURIATED
If you were framed for murder you'd be pissed too.


These posters for They Made Me a Killer are about as nice as you'll find from the mid-century period. They're both framable classics, so it may come as a surprise to know the film is a bottom budget b-noir, only sixty-four minutes long, and streamlined in plot. Basically, Robert Lowery, who soups up cars for a living, gets suckered by a femme fatale into driving getaway for a bank robbery. He's literally hijacked. Bank guards die, and a witness is shot. When Lowery is eventually left behind, the cops pick him up and he tries to explain that he's a patsy, but they don't believe him. This leads to an astonishing sequence. Lowery convinces the cops to take him to the hospital, where the fact that he had nothing to do with the robbery can be confirmed by a critically wounded witness. But the witness is barely hanging on and is unable to speak at all. Lowery decides to escape and upends the hospital bed onto the cops‚ critically injured occupant and all. He hadn't killed the bank guards, but the guy in the hospital bed surely couldn't have survived being dumped on the floor. It's weird and kind of funny, but the scene does let us know the hero's motivations for finding the robbers may not be as simple as merely clearing his name. You have time to kill? This lightweight thriller is fine. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1946. 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 31
1957—Arthur Miller Convicted of Contempt of Congress
Award-winning American playwright Arthur Miller, the husband of movie star Marilyn Monroe, is convicted of contempt of Congress when he refuses to reveal the names of political associates to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The conviction would later be overturned, but HUAC persecution against American citizens continues until the committee is finally dissolved in 1975.
May 30
1914—Aquitania Sets Sail
The Cunard liner RMS Aquitania, at 45,647 tons, sets sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York City. At the time she is the largest ocean liner on the seas. During a thirty-six year career the ship serves as both a passenger liner and military ship in both World Wars before being retired and scrapped in 1950.
May 29
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
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