Vintage Pulp Feb 15 2020
SHINE A LIGHT
Landis brings her usual touch of glamour to a not-quite film noir.


Above is a poster for the Carole Landis vehicle Behind Green Lights, a mostly forgotten film that she headlined in 1946. When the body of a shady private dick turns up outside police headquarters, the resulting investigation pulls in a prominent politician's daughter (Landis), and gets the city tabloids scenting scandal. As the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that influential people want Landis arrested so her father's re-election campaign will be derailed, which forces Gargan to fight his way upstream to crack the case. Landis may be top billed and better known than Gargan, but she's criminally underused and her role is one-note all the way. It's Gargan who gets most of the screen time and is tasked with bringing a tough edge to the movie. He mostly succeeds, and Landis is fine too, as far as she's allowed to go, but on the whole Behind Green Lights is nothing special. It's categorized on many websites as a film noir but—and you know what we're going to say next, because we say it all the time—it isn't really. Yes, it's on the borderline, but it's basically a procedural police drama with a few flashbacks shot in film noir style. The American Film Institute agrees—it categorizes the film as a police drama. Noir fans should approach this uncomplicated little thriller with tempered expectations. Behind Green Lights premiered in the U.S. today in 1946.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 8 2020
LAW AND DISORDER
Sondra Currie commits police banality.


The badass on the above promo poster is the prolific and still-working U.S. actress Sondra Currie, whose credits include everything from 1970's Rio Lobo to 2009's The Hangover. Policewomen is actually about just one policewoman with the fun character name Lacy Bond. The action starts with a mass escape at L.A.'s women's jail, which Lacy almost foils singlehandedly using her superior martial arts skills. But two convicts get away, one of whom is Jeannie Bell—the reason we watched this flick in the first place.

After the jailbreak intro come the opening credits, and the first image you see is this:

Which is a pretty nice visual. But lest you think this is a movie dealing solely with serious police work, the next images you see are these:

Then these:

And finally these:

So viewers know going in this is full spectrum ’70s schlock. Lacy is tapped for a dangerous undercover assignment taking down a gang of female drug smugglers. It shouldn't be too difficult. The gang mainly lounges around an L.A. suburb in bikinis and hot pants. Their leader is a septuagenarian career criminal looking for one more big score before cruising into her sunset years. The cops have other ideas, and Lacy infiltrates the group in unlikely fashion in order to take them down from within.

Policewomen actually has a couple of twists we considered to be surprising for a low budget movie, but budget is the crux of it—higher production values might have yielded a passable effort, but there weren't, and it isn't. And sad to say, the movie mostly fails to cross the line into entertainingly bad—except for a rather amusing falling dummy shot—and instead remains a joyless slog for its entire length. Since the field of ’70s girl gang movies is so crowded, there's no way we can recommend this botched entry. But before we sign off, here's a screenshot of Jeannie Bell, whose afro reaches truly epic proportions:
Even with a top heavy hairdo and dead leaves stuck in her curls, Bell looks smashing. She can't act. She and everyone else in the movie seem as if they're searching for their lines on an optometrist's eye chart, but even so, there's nothing we've seen of Bell that does anything but encourage us to see even more. Check out a promo image of this eternal goddess here. Policewomen premiered today in 1974.

Is it weird that with all these women around the only thing that truly turns me on is pumping iron?
 
If only weight training could fix—*sob*—this hideous mug of mine.

Central I'm issuing a POLO alert for the Los Angeles metro area. Repeat—be on the look-out for a missing Polo shirt. Or any shirt from Ralph Lauren.
 
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Modern Pulp Jan 28 2020
THEY STILL LIVE
And at this rate it looks like they'll outlast us all.


Is it one of the greatest allegorical science fiction films ever made? Well, sci-fi is conducive to metaphor, so the list of contenders is long, but certainly John Carpenter's They Live is somewhere in the mix. You see its Japanese poster above. The film invaded Japan today in 1989, after premiering in the U.S. during November of the previous year. We suspect this one falls into the category of movies many have been told they should see, but few have bothered to make the time for. We're here to suggest that you make the time. The premise is ingenious—Earth's ruling class are actually aliens in human form. What do these offworld one-percenters want? Mainly for humans to obliviously embrace behavior that is beneficial to the maintenance of elite power. To that end the everyday world people see is a mere curtain over a deeper reality totally geared toward making humans obey, consume, conform, and reproduce.

Carpenter said about the film, which is based on the 1963 short story, “Eight O'Clock in the Morning,” by Ray Nelson, “The picture's premise is that [our current economic system] is run by aliens from another galaxy. Free enterprisers from outer space have taken over the world, and are exploiting Earth as if it's a third world planet. And as soon as they exhaust all our resources, they'll move on to another world.” The idea is certainly poignant in this age of inequality, low wage employment, population explosion, environmental ruin, and all-powerful international corporate overlords that somehow are regarded by U.S. courts as “people.”
 
The aliens of They Live, not unlike corporations, want to go unchallenged while they suck the planet dry. But Roddy Piper, playing a drifter passing through Los Angeles, happens upon a small resistance who have made special sunglasses that penetrate the disguise laid over the world. When he dons these glasses his mind is simply blown by what they reveal. Even the money people work so hard for is nothing more than plain white paper bearing the message: “This is your god.” Carpenter builds the drama of They Live slowly, and plays it for laughs on multiple occasions, but the sense of dread mounts as Piper and co-star Keith David realize the illusions that maintain order are broadcast from a massive fleet of hovering drones, and if they don't expose the truth perhaps nobody will.

We've seen They Live several times, and loved it more on each occasion. Generally, people who don't like it find it too slow, which is ironic considering it's a film that suggests people are deliberately being prevented from taking the crucial time needed to see what's real and what isn't. They Live makes us imagine what would happen if aliens really did arrive on Earth. Most likely they would be sifting through the ruins of what was once here, and they'd say, “This strange species had diverse art that often discussed hostile alien invasions, but it appears they didn't realize the thing that would destroy them was already here—it was their own economics.”

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Modern Pulp Jan 27 2020
BARRED FOR LIFE
Welcome to Wilson's house of pain and leather.


American actress Ajita Wilson was born in Brooklyn but became a big star in Italian sexploitation and porn movies. She was transsexual, having been born George Wilson, but opting for gender reassignment in the mid-1970s. She launched her career in New York City, making a name for herself in the red light district of the era, which back then was centered around Times Square, these days aka Disneyland east. Not long after she launched her adult career she was seen by a European producer and offered a chance to work across the pond in historic Rome. She jumped at the chance.

Wilson appeared in close to fifty movies, starting with 1976's The Nude Princess. In Perverse oltre le sbarre, which is known in the U.S. as Hell Behind Bars, she plays a killer and jewel thief named Conchita who gets tossed in the prigione and has to negotiate the usual women-in-prison staples—corruption, violence, lesbianism, and a sadistic warden. Oh, and let's not forget screechy girl fights, and sexual harassment showers. Did we leave anything out? Ah, cavity searches. Can't forget those. Torture by high voltage shock. Illicit drugs. Karate chopping double-crossers. Breathy sexploitation soundtrack. Maybe that doesn't count, though, because the prisoners theoretically can't hear it.

Yes, this prison Ajita ends up in is pretty bad, but it could be worse—at least the warden lets the women wear lingerie. Rita Silva and Linda Jones co-star in what becomes a standard WIP escape drama, and of course the escape is more fraught than anyone expected. As prison sexploitation Perverse oltre le sbarre is the same as most others, with the exception that the budget is obviously lower. With nearly fifty films to her credit Wilson almost certainly made something better. We'll take a look and see if we can find which efforts those might be, and you'd be advised to do the same and skip this one. We'll see Wilson again, though. Perverse oltre le sbarre opened in Italy today in 1984.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 24 2020
IN TOO DEEP
Philip Marlowe tries not to go under for the third time in Lady in the Lake.


Lady in the Lake, for which you see a promo poster above, was the first motion picture shot almost entirely from the visual perspective of a single character. That character is Raymond Chandler's iconic private dick Philip Marlowe, played by Robert Montgomery, who also directed. As both a mystery and a seeing-eye curiosity, this is something film buffs should check out. You won't think it's perfect. Montgomery's version of Marlowe regularly crosses the line from hard-boiled to straight-up asshole, but that's the way these film noir sleuths were sometimes written.

Though the bad attitude is tedious at times, the mystery is interesting, there's plenty of directorial prowess on display from Montgomery, and a bit of unintentional comedy occurs when he gets knocked cold twice in that first person p.o.v. Seriously, Marlowe, you couldn't see those punches coming? We were reclined on the sofa with glasses of wine in our hands and we could have dodged them without spilling a drop. It's all in good fun, though. Every shamus gets forcibly put to sleep now and again.

If the movie has a major flaw it's that co-star Audrey Totter gives a clinic in overdone facial expressions before overcoming these bizarre poker tells to finally settle into normal human behavior around the halfway mark. Despite that bit of weirdness, film noir fans will like this. Those new to the genre maybe will find it too strange to fully enjoy. But it's indisputably a landmark, and that's worth something. Lady in the Lake premiered in London in late 1946, and went into general release in the U.S. today in 1947.
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Modern Pulp Jan 20 2020
SLAYED IN TAIWAN
Classic ninja movie Ren zhe da is a kick in the head.

This chaotic poster was made for a 1986 Taiwanese kung fu movie called Ren zhe da, which in English was renamed Ninja: The Final Duel. It stars Wang Chi Chung acting under the name Alexander Lo, along with Alan Lee and Alice Tseng. We gather the film is distilled from an eight hour television series. Cutting all that footage down to a ninety minute adventure makes for a final product that's choppy (see what we did there?), but the basic idea is the Ji Ho Clan wishes to defeat the Shaolin Temple, which is protected by the heroic Lo, two Hare Krishna martial arts experts, a renowned African American monk from Harlem, and others.
 
The film is notable for Alice Tseng's pivotal fight scene, in which—à la Reiko Ike in Sex & Fury—she battles a group of men while naked. If you unrepentantly use the freeze frame feature on your telly the fight is a vulva memorable sequence. Also memorable is the Harlem monk, played by Eugene Thomas acting under the name Eugene T. Trammel. His dialogue is dubbed by a voice actor imitating black vernacular English, but with an appalling Taiwanese accent. As surprising as the explicitness of Tseng's nude sword battle is, the black monk's ghettofied dialogue is, in a way, even crazier. We can't imagine why the filmmakers thought that was a good idea, but as unintentional humor goes, it's top tier.
 
The fighting between Ji Ho Clan and Shaolin Temple builds to a climax, with various good guys making the uiltimate sacrifice, until finally, as in many kung fu movies, the grizzled (but surprisingly spry) Shaolin master shows up to restore order by whipping ass on the best enemy fighter. Why doesn't the old master just fight this guy immediately and save his loyal underlings a lot of effort and pain? The Buddha once famously said, and we're paraphrasing, "Be loathe to pull thine disciples' bacon from the fire, because, after all, there is nothing more replaceable than a loyal follower." Or something like that. In any case, Ren zhe da is a movie kung fu aficionados must see.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 10 2020
TROUBLE IS PARADISE
As far as they're concerned no crime means no fun.


The 1994 romantic action movie I Love Trouble is unrelated to the original from 1948, for which you see a beautiful promo poster above. The first I Love Trouble is a film noir, a neglected one not often mentioned as an entry in the genre. Franchot Tone stars as a detective hired by a politician to look into his wife's background. He's been getting anonymous notes implicating her in some sort of illegality. As Tone chases clues from L.A. to Portland, his investigation uncovers blackmail and hidden identities, and of course a love interest pops up in the form of the wife's sister. With its smug private dick and regular interjections of humor the movie feels derivative of The Maltese Falcon, and its romance angle is incongruous, but Tone is cool in his detective role and carries the weight of the narrative nicely. The cast is a who's-who of stars and soon-to-be stars, including Adele Jergens, John Ireland, Tom Powers, and Raymond Burr. If that doesn't pique your interest you just don't love trouble. I Love Trouble premiered today in 1948 and went into to wide release January 15.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 7 2020
CREATURE FROM THE SHLOCK LAGOON
Swamp monster discovers that it's humans who are the real slime.


Who is truly monstrous—beast or man? That pretty much covers The Creature Walks Among Us front to back. When a group of scientists set out to capture an aquatic humanoid that lives in the Florida Everglades, they clash over whether the mission is one of mere discovery or rather cruel experimentation. To wit, the head of the expedition wants to genetically alter the creature as a step on the ladder toward making humans hardy enough for space travel. No, it doesn't really make sense. And it's hard to care, since with three basically identical looking guys as the three male leads we had a hard time telling them apart. And this in a movie in which they also wear lab coats much of the time, making it even more difficult to distinguish them. Lean and lovely co-star Leigh Snowden, on the other hand, is distinguishable as hell, and the three haircuts are soon vying for her attentions. But there's science that needs to be scienced, so they eventually capture the monster. It's upon returning to dry land that their problems really start. As third in the canon of Creature from the Black Lagoon flicks, The Creature Walks Among Us is worth a gander, but not necessarily a recommendation. It's damned funny in parts, though. Unintentionally. Above you see the movie's Belgian poster, with text in French and Dutch. It's far better than the film itself.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 2 2020
MOLL OR NOTHING AT ALL
When men were men and Mamie was their obsession.


This is an unbeatable poster for Mamie Van Doren's crime thriller Girls Guns and Gangsters. The title is about as descriptive as they come. Van Doren is involved with a bunch of crooks who want to rob an armored car as it motors casino winnings from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. The plan is to shoot its tires—and anyone who gets in their way. While the caper is central, the plot is equally driven by everyone's sexual desire for Van Doren. Gerald Mohr in particular is constantly in her grill, and watching her fend off his persistent advances is squirm inducing. There's a fine line in old movies between desire and violence, so of course he crosses it by slapping her at one point, then trying twenty seconds later to kiss her. And the dude is really surprised to be rebuffed, like, “Huh?”

Put the blame on Mame? No, put the blame on men. They're all bad in this one. Van Doren's husband, Lee Van Cleef, is the worst of them. He breaks out of prison because she's asked him for a divorce. Everyone knows he'll kill anyone who even looks at Van Doren, which is problematic, considering gangster number three Grant Richards has been filling in for Van Cleef, so to speak, for quite a while. What a mess Van Doren is in. The robbery seems easy by comparison, but it wouldn't be a crime thriller if that went off without a hitch. Van Doren doesn't go off without a hitch either, because she isn't an expert actress and she sure as hell doesn't nail her singing numbers. But she's a great presence. That's enough to make an enjoyable movie. Girls Guns and Gangsters premiered in the U.S. this month in 1959.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 18 2019
POLIZIA BE ADVISED
The first step in any investigation is to get your translations right.


Dagli archivi della polizia criminale, which premiered in Italy today in 1973, falls into the category of Italian cinema known as poliziottesco. Apparently, this never had a U.S. release, since it lacks an English title, but the Italian title translates as “from the criminal police archives.” Sounds pretty straightforward. We gave it a watch and it's an incredibly cheesy thriller about the chase for microfilm containing information that could smash a Tunisian drug ring. The cops had it at one point, but the chief inspector stored it in the largest but least safe safe in town and it was immediately stolen by an opportunistic officer with predatory capitalist tendencies. Now the police are looking for him, the crooks are looking for him, and both the cops and robbers are taking bullets and beatings all over the place. The movie stars Edmund Purdom, a prolific but somewhat unknown actor, and has a supporting cast featuring Cleofe Del Cile, Sergio Ciani, Miriam Alex as an investigative journalist, bodybuilder Gordon Mitchell, and bodybuilt Zula, who does a nude dance number in what's supposed to be a Tunisian nightclub.

While Zula is a highlight, this production resides squarely in the atrocious category, and that's even without the disastrous English subtitles that were on the version we saw. A digression: back when we lived in Guatemala, Patrick Swayze's Road House would come on television occasionally. No idea why. The movie had been in cinemas more than a decade earlier. We guess Guatemaltecos loved Swayze's balletic moves and winning smile. Anyway, at one point Sam Elliot describes how dumb the clientele at his bar is, and tells Swayze, “This place has a sign hangin' over the urinal that says, 'Don't eat the big white mint.'” But whoever did the subtitles didn't hear “mint.” The translation they decided on was, “No te comas los grandes hombres blancos”—“Don't eat the big white men.” See what a difference that makes? And the movie was broadcast that way over and over, no correction ever made. The point is subtitles really matter. Dagli archivi della polizia criminale had really bad ones. A sampling below:

There's a gym for boxing in the nearby. In order to not get caught our men will wear some sweaters.

Look at him carefully, you have to do an oddjob on the side.

This time it's all my credit. Let me be thanked for compliments.

Don't be scared. I'm the best Teddy Webb's friend.

Miriam Alex: What sort of journalist would I be if I didn't pry into others' business? Ed Purdom: There's nothing to discover inside my business.

We did nothing but breaking his bones. If you resist the worse will happen.

What are we waiting to gun for him?

Maybe they even take offence it.

The seeing this was been the worse ever.*
 
*Actually, we made that one up. Don't watch this movie. It's really bad.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 20
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
February 19
1976—Gerald Ford Rescinds Executive Order 9066
U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signs Proclamation 4417, which belatedly rescinds Executive Order 9066. That Order, signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established "War Relocation Camps" for Japanese-American citizens living in the U.S. Eventually, 120,000 are locked up without evidence, due process, or the possibility of appeal, for the duration of World War II.
February 18
1954—First Church of Scientology Established
The first Scientology church, based on the writings of science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, is established in Los Angeles, California. Since then, the city has become home to the largest concentration of Scientologists in the world, and its ranks include high-profile adherents such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.
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