Vintage Pulp Apr 14 2021
UNSTOPPABLE ENFORCER
Humphrey Bogart meets an immoveable object.


If you haven't seen Mord for betaling, better known as The Enforcer, you may want to add it to your queue. In addition to featuring yet another excellent Humphrey Bogart performance, it's a historical curiosity. Central to its plot is Murder, Inc., a group of killers-for-hire used by organized crime gangs. Murder, Inc. contracted anonymous killers for mob hits, leaving police with bodies but no motives and no suspects. In fact, the terms “contract” and “hit” were invented by Murder, Inc. The Enforcer is also of historical significance because showings featured a foreword in which Senator Estes Kefauver, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee to Investigate Organized Crime, talked to the audience about the mafia, which the general public was just learning about at the time.

In the film Bogart plays a prosecutor who has been trying for years to bring down a crime boss named Albert Mendoza. When a witness dies, Bogart becomes aware of the existence of Murder, Inc. (though they aren't named that in the film), which to him seems like an impossibly bizarre idea. But he keeps uncovering more traces of the group until he finally believes. The rest of the film deals with his efforts to convince (or coerce) one of the cartel's members into being a witness in order to fry Mendoza. There are some twists and turns that force Bogart to shift gears more than once, and all of this is told in flashback, after the death of his stool pigeon, which happens in the first reel to set up the plot.

As we said, Bogart is solid as always, and he's helped greatly by Zero Mostel, who's quite good as a shaky potential witness. As far as the film as a whole goes, most vintage cinema fans consider it middling Bogart, but that's plenty good enough to warrant a look. The poster you see above, which we absolutely love, was made for Denmark, where the movie's title means, appropriately, “murder for payment.” We have several other posters for the film you can see at this link, and a cool Bogart promo photo that mirrors the above image, viewable at this link. The Enforcer premiered in the U.S. in 1951 and opened in Denmark today in 1952.

But I distinctly remember being told this was a bow tie-only affair.

I guess not.
 
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Vintage Pulp Apr 14 2021
JOB FROM HELL
She's overworked, underpaid, unappreciated, and has no backup plan. Also there's that whole curse thing.


Can a working girl find happiness à la Pretty Woman? That's the eternal question asked by (Maruhi) jorô seme jigoku, aka The Hell-Fated Courtesan. An Edo-era geisha-turned-prostitute played by Rie Nakagawa is believed by superstitious locals to be cursed because some of those who've had sex with her died. Her only sort-of-friend in this dark existence is a perverted artist, and her pimp is of course cruel and untrustworthy. But eventually she meets a puppeteer to whom she offers herself romantically only to be rebuffed. Surprised, she intones, “This is not an ordinary guy.” She's right. He refused her because he thinks he can only be turned on if a woman looks like one of his puppets, but when he finally samples some of that sweet Nakagawa he changes his mind about that and offers to take her with him to Osaka, where her problems and alleged curse will be behind her. Will she go? Will she be allowed to go? Will fate cut her a break? Pertinent questions all.

In 1973 Nikkatsu Studios' roman porno line had not yet jumped the shark, which means (Maruhi) jorô seme jigoku resembles a normal film in most ways. Its plot is basically linear, though it contains one framing segment; its sexual content is perverse, though not pointlessly misogynistic; and its humor generally works. In fact, there are some truly funny moments in this, such as when Nakagawa lets a carp suck her nipples. We won't even bother to describe what direction that scene goes. Later she slices off a dead man's finger and masturbates with it. Afterward she tells the finger that, though its former owner was a scoundrel and a snake, he will now go to heaven. That's some magical pussy. Maybe Nakagawa isn't cursed after all. Maybe she just embodies male insecurities and fears and they punish her as a result. And if that's true, maybe there is a Pretty Woman ending for her. But you never know. One character observes that a woman's heart is unpredictable and terrifying. (Maruhi) jorô seme jigoku tries to prove that adage true. It premiered in Japan today in 1973

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Vintage Pulp Apr 9 2021
CLOCK WATCHING
Time keeps on ticking ticking ticking into the future.


Above is a poster for the film noir The Big Clock, based on Kenneth Fearing's 1946 novel, with Ray Milland playing a journalist at fictional Crimeways magazine who finds himself entangled with the boss's girlfriend, then in murder when she turns up dead. He had nothing to do with it, but had been seen all over Manhattan with her the night of her death, and is presumed to be the killer though nobody has identified him yet. In classic film noir fashion, Milland's boss sets him to solving the case. But how can he, when he's actually looking for himself? And how can he throw his numerous staffers off the scent while appearing to conduct a legit investigation, yet somehow find the real killer? It's quite a mess.

For casual movie fans, distinguishing film noir from vintage drama can be difficult, but of its many defining characteristics, flag this one: the man who finds himself in a vise that slowly tightens due to what had seemed at first to be inconsequential or random acts. The panting Milland bought in an art shop becomes a potential piece of evidence against him. The cheap sundial he acquired in a bar does the same. The random man he exchanged a few words with becomes a potential witness. And so on. He's the subject of a puzzle that has his face in the center. Other characters are slowly assembling pieces from the edges inward. If Milland doesn't outwit them before they find the piece with his face on it, he's screwed.

In addition to an involving plot, nice technical values, Ray Milland, and a large clock, The Big Clock brings the legendary Charles Laughton to the party, along with Maureen O'Sullivan, a decade removed from her ingenue period playing Jane in Johnny Weissmuller's Tarzan movies, all grown up here as the smart, loyal, beautiful wife willing to come to Milland's aid when the chips are down. The film is unique, as well, for its interwoven comedy, unusual in films from this genre. These moments come often, and may seem obtrusive to some, but we thought they fit fine. And that's a good way to sum up The Big Clock. If you're a film noir fan, it'll fit you just fine. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1948.
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Vintage Pulp Apr 9 2021
MAEDE THE GRADE
When they say high school is torture usually they're kidding.


The beautiful Rushia Santô made only a few films during her brief career. One of them was the Nikkatsu Studios roman porno flick Onna kyôshi: Seito no me no maede, aka Female Teacher: In Front of the Students. Santô plays a high school teacher, and since her school looks like a prison it's no surprise she experiences a prison style shower rape. The student she eventually accuses of attacking her—Tôru Nakane, who the audience knows is innocent—retaliates by grabbing her and keeping her prisoner over spring break. This being a Nikkatsu film, that imprisonment naturally involves making Santô realize she's a sex maniac, and by the end of the break Santó, the studly Nakane, and his girlfriend Rina Oka are humping like rabbits.

The mystery that isn't a mystery is finally solved in the last part of this 70-minute sprint. There are some weak attempts at humor here and there, such as during a sex scene between Nakane and Oka when he's simultaneously eating a sticky bun and she's eating a banana, but the moment for cinematic discussions of whether some women like to be submissive—still ongoing as recently as in 2015's Fifty Shades of Grey—has definitively passed. As far as we're concerned anything done between consenting adults is fine, but consenting is the operative word. Nikkatsu films often play around with that concept, but these days such explorations are discordant, to say the least. Like all the obscure movies we watch, we're looking for forgotten gems. This is no gem, and maybe just needs to be forgotten. Onna kyôshi: Seito no me no maede premiered in Japan today in 1982.
Yay! Recess is over! Back to our soul sucking penitentiary of a high school!

I have a very bad feeling about this movie.
 
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Vintage Pulp Apr 6 2021
THE PRICE OF ADMISSION
They say the truth will set you free, but it'll send her to prison.


Written, directed, produced by, and co-starring Hugo Haas, One Girl's Confession is a morality play that ponders the role of fate in people's lives. Imagine a man leaving his house and stopping for a few moments to help a boy retrieve a ball. Ten minutes later a flower pot falls from a highrise balcony and crushes his skull. If he hadn't stopped to help the boy the pot would have missed him by ten feet. Terrible luck. But at his work that day there's a natural gas explosion, which would have killed him anyway.

That's the type of idea Haas plays with. He has Cleo Moore in the lead role as a woman who steals $25,000, wants to use the money to get ahead, but various metaphorical flower pots keep landing on her head. Maybe wealth just isn't in the cards. On the other hand, it's possible the fault, as they say, is not in her stars, but in her self. Helene Stanton plays a crucial support role, tipping the balance of fate at just the right moment, and Glenn Langan plays Moore's love interest.

One Girl's Confession is just a b-movie, but it manages to elevate itself above its ilk thanks to a charismatic lead performer. A seventy-four minute running time doesn't hurt either, as the curtain falls just before as central idea begins to wears thin. You probably have worse movies in your queue, so adding this one can't hurt. Maybe it'll help you avoid a flower pot. One Girl's Confession premiered in the U.S. today in 1953.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 2 2021
TOP SIR LOINCLOTH
Weissmuller's jungle classic continues to look weirder as time goes by.


Above is a beautiful poster for Tarzan the Ape Man, which starred Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan and twenty-one year old Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane Parker. The plot here is simple. White explorers are desperate to find a million pounds of ivory they believe lies hidden in an elephant graveyard somewhere in the African interior. After scaling a massive escarpment (and losing a native bearer over the side), and traversing a river (and losing native bearers to rubber hippos and crocs), and stumbling across a tribe of dwarfs (and losing a native bearer to an arrow), they finally reach the right area—and promptly lose Jane to Tarzan. Although he's carried her away against her will, she and Sir Loincloth eventually establish a rapport. And no wonder—this particular Tarzan is handsome, has good hair, and a physique in top maintenance.

Tarzan the Ape Man was made way back in 1932, but it isn't the first Tarzan film, or even the fifth or the eighth. But this effort from MGM, with its somewhat detailed sets, scanty costuming, and numerous animal co-stars, was the first that was a big hit. The shooting took place in various locations around Southern California and Florida, although there is some legit African stock footage used in spots, and, according to some sources, some second unit stuff from Mexico. For the era it must have been pretty convincing, rubber hippos and all. Needless to say, this flick is not flattering to Africans, African Americans, or African anyones. As for what the little person community thinks about fifty of their number covered in shoe polish, you'd have to ask a little person. We don't know any. But we seriously doubt they like it.

As we are all part of the same human family, we all should feel empathy as we would if a brother or beloved cousin were insulted. Seems to us we've made halting progress on that front. What hasn't progressed at all is agreement about how to deal with literally trillions of dollars of stolen labor, goods, economic potential, and lives. If no recompense is to be offered, then at least we should be able to talk honestly about what happened. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas recently admitted that his country's possession of some of the priceless Benin Bronzes amounted to harboring stolen goods. The U.S. and Britain, meanwhile, refuse even to entertain conversations about their share of these looted pieces. It's the same with people: some admit to crimes of the past, while others say there were no crimes, and even if there were, they don't matter anymore.

Tarzan the Ape Man presents a fictionalized version of the real-world history of capitalists strip-mining Africa. Without an iota of reflection, the characters here plan to steal local wealth, described by head bwana C. Aubrey Smith as, “Enough ivory for the entire world.” But what he really means is, “Enough ivory for the entire world to buy from me.” Of course, colonials didn't think they were looters. But then, colonials wrote the rules. So Tarzan the Ape Man scratches the surface of a contentious history, but here's the thing: it's still just a movie, and it's possible to watch it, be aware of what it portrays, yet have a laugh. It's a 100-minute over-the-top burlesque of historical wrongs, from colonialism to segregation in moviemaking. To enshrine so many bad practices in one film is a hell of a feat. Yet within its narrative universe it's still very entertaining. Is that a paradox? Maybe. But that's art for you. Tarzan the Ape Man premiered in the U.S. today in 1932.
Pick man up. Put man down. Pick man up. Let man pose on my head. I'm about to stomp this fool.

Tarzan invent shaving armpits. Tarzan smooth like eel.

Great pose, Johnny! Just great. And your nuts didn't fall out this time. Excellent!

Jane feet funky. Also, Jane need pedicure.

OooOOOoo... what's this here, Johnny? Is that a rock hard chest? I think it is. Who's got a rock hard chest? Johnny's got a rock hard chest...

AHHHH-AHAHAHAH-AHAHAHAHA! Can Maureen and I get some goddamned lunch over here!
 
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Vintage Pulp Mar 18 2021
AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL
The things she can teach can't be learned from books.


Falling squarely into the could-not-be-made-today category, the roman porno flick Kyōshi mejika, which in English was titled Teacher Deer, or sometimes Teacher Doe, stars Hitomi Sakae and premiered in Japan today in 1978. When we first meet Sakae, she beats the shit out of three guys who are committing a sexual assault. Soon afterward we learn she's a biology teacher at a stuffy learning institution called Hakuho High School. Thus we've seen her tough side, and her brainy side. There's one more side, which she shows when she explains anatomy to her class by, well, have a look below:

 
You'd think this would make her classes pretty popular, at least with the boys, but the students boycott her and the faculty is scandalized. Things get a little blurry here, because her character is supposed to be mixed race. This actually may have been true of Sakae in real life too, though we can't confirm that. In any case, it may contribute to her outsider status at the school, though we can't confirm that either, because some subtleties in Japanese films are beyond us. But we've learned what her character is—tough, smart, and highly sexual.

After she gets chewed out by the school principal for her unusual teaching methods, she and math teacher Izumi Shima go out to commiserate. They pick up a photographer and have a threesome with him, after which Sakae leaves Shima in his company. Shima then turns up missing. The investigation into her disappearance uncovers some naughty photos from threesome night, and from that point things go in directions nobody could have guessed. Suffice it to say that teacher deer's presence at Hakuho High is more than it seems.

We said this movie couldn't be made today, but not because it's racy. It's the high school sex angle. High school implies non-adults, and that's obviously a cinematic no-no—for good reason. In terms of actual visible sexual content, though, Kyōshi mejika is mild for the genre. On one level we're thankful for that, because these flicks can get purely crazy. But on another level, the film isn't terribly creative in terms of plot. We consider it a non-representative example of Nikkatsu Studios' roman porno output, but that makes it one you can come away from feeling relatively okay about yourself.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 16 2021
HOUSE IN THE WOODS
It's just the wind. Or possibly the screaming of damned souls in torment. But more likely the wind.


“You dare not even guess the strange story of The Red House,” this promo poster tells us about Edward G. Robinson's 1947 psychological suspense drama, but we dared, and we didn't have any trouble guessing correctly. What you get here is a mystery with a suggestion of the supernatural—always a draw for us. Some sites call this a horror movie. We're okay with that too. Horror, psychological suspense, and mystery walk hand in hand—in this case through the creepy night. Working from a screenplay adapted from George Agnew Chamberlain's 1945 novel, Robinson plays a man living in idyllic simplicity on a farm with his sister and adopted daughter. He hires a helper, a decision that goes awry when the new help develops an interest in the nearby cursed woods, in which there's supposedly a haunted red house, disembodied screaming voices (or maybe just the wind), and other dangers sane people would avoid.

But this new farmhand is filled with the arrogance of youth, isn't superstitious, and resolves to solve the mystery, a decision that threatens to tear Robinson's makeshift family apart and unearth terrors from the past. Edward the G. isn't at his very best working with what is a tricky script, but he gets useful support from young co-stars Lon McCallister, Rory Calhoun, Allene Roberts, and Julie London. Roberts in particular has a crucial role, and in her first film, and aged only nineteen, she manages to keep her head above water—barely. While The Red House isn't top notch, it's enjoyable enough, and if you appreciate vintage creepfests it might give you a chill or two. So what's in the woods? We can't tell you, but you can be sure there's something—and it ain't good. The Red House premiered today in 1947.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 13 2021
TRUCK YOU VERY MUCH
Jennings goes after big game in mid-1970s schlockfest.


Incredible though it seems to us, Truck Stop Women will be the 745th movie we've reviewed on Pulp Intl. And we never meant to do any. But writing reviews, commentaries, et al, gives us more latitude, legally speaking, to use all the imagery we upload. Tumblr doesn't have to worry about that. It's too sprawling, too decentralized, and ostensibly protected by a user agreement (which everyone ignores anyway). But as a dedicated website we don't have that luxury. So here we are with review 745, Truck Stop Women, which we watched solely owing to the participation of cult star Claudia Jennings.

Jennings was entertaining in efforts ranging from the swamp rat adventure 'Gator Bait to the futuristic dystopian thriller Death Race 2000. Here she's placed into another b-movie sub-genre—the hi-octane road adventure, which would beget such Americana as Smoky and The Bandit and The Dukes of Hazzard. She plays a New Mexico truck hijackerworking for her criminal mom, whose operation is coveted by two mafia goons. The titular truck stop women, along with a few of their truck stop men, decide to resist this attempted takeover. The wonderfully named Lieux Dressler is one tough mother—unsentimental, opportunistic, and willing to battle to keep what's hers and her daughter's.

If the movie were a pure actioner, and Dressler and Jennings had been given 70% of the lines, the filmmakers might have had something good here. But with bluegrass backed sexual interludes and comedy riffs that mostly fall flat, this is not a movie we imagine Jennings was proud of. In fact, she's probably too good an actress to be subjected to its low grade parade of campy trucker tropes, but you take the work when it comes.

The good news is threefold—the movie improves as it veers farther away from its initial slapstick tone, the sexual vignettes, while dumb, do include Jennings, as well as the uber-stacked Uschi Digard, and the action scenes throughout are well staged. If you're a Jennings fan, her presence will suffice to get you to the end, but you'll certainly be thinking how much better this could have been. Truck Stop Women premiered today in 1974.
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Vintage Pulp Mar 10 2021
DRIVEN TO EXTREMES
I stole a fortune, shot a guy, pushed an old lady, and jaywalked—all to impress you. Now will you go out with me?


This poster was made to promote the thriller Drive a Crooked Road, which premiered today in 1954, and starred Mickey Rooney as a shy runt who finally meets the woman of his dreams in the form of Dianne Foster. Though this is classified as a film noir on some sites, that's off the mark. We call it a straight drama, and the experts at the American Film Institute agree. Rooney works in an auto garage and wants to be a racer. He's known around town to be a very good driver and an excellent mechanic. Through his new crush he meets Kevin McCarthy, who offers a deal—one-time use of Rooney's driving skills in exchange for $15,000 that will allow him to get into the racing game. What could McCarthy need Rooney behind the wheel for? Take a guess. But the scheme is trickier than it at first seems. For that matter, so is Dianne Foster, but no shock there—it's a given that the only way she could be interested in a lonely twerp like Rooney is if she were a honeytrap.

Of course, the funny part is that in real life Rooney was a legendary carouser. As a credited actor from age six, and a huge star during his teens, desirability was never an issue for him, which means he certainly must have thought he was playing against type here. We can picture him, all five-two of him, standing on a footstool and staring into his bathroom mirror asking himself, “How in the hell am I going to convincingly play this unattractive little geek when I am, in reality, such a strapping stud and masculine deity? I mean, geez—I've already been married to Ava Gardner and Martha Vickers. I mean, Liz Taylor blew me when she was fourteen for God's sake! I imagine in the future that will be a serious stain on my legacy, but I'll worry about that later. The question now is how will I manage to play this timid little wallflower?”

Well, that's why they call it acting. Rooney adopts a tentative voice and an unsteady gaze, and you really feel for the guy. His character is definitely in over his head. With a little nudge from femme fatale Foster he finally agrees to lend his skills to McCarthy as—you probably guessed—getaway driver for a bank robbery. $15,000 back then would be about $145,000 in today's money. Many people would kill for far less, so in a way you can't blame Rooney for taking the risk. But movie robberies rarely go off without a hitch, if not during the actual commission, then certainly afterward, and movie honeytraps are often all trap and no honey. Watching Rooney work his way through this maze is the attraction here, and he carries off his role flawlessly. Nice work, from starting gun to finish line.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 12
1957—Von Stroheim Dies
German film director and actor Erich von Stroheim, who as an actor was noted for his arrogant Teutonic character parts which led him to become a renowned cinematic villain with the nickname "The Man You Love to Hate", dies in Maurepas, France at the age of 71.
May 11
1960—Adolf Eichmann Is Captured
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, four Israeli Mossad agents abduct fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who had been living under the assumed name and working for Mercedes-Benz. Eichman is taken to Israel to face trial on 15 criminal charges, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. He is found guilty and executed by hanging in 1962, and is the only person to have been executed in Israel on conviction by a civilian court.
2010—Last Ziegfeld Follies Girl Dies
Doris Eaton Travis, who was the last surviving Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl, dies at age 106. The Ziegfeld Follies were a series of elaborate theatrical productions on Broadway in New York City from 1907 through 1931. Inspired by the Folies Bergères of Paris, they enjoyed a successful run on Broadway, became a radio program in 1932 and 1936, and were adapted into a musical motion picture in 1946 starring Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, and Lena Horne.
May 10
1924—Hoover Becomes FBI Director
In the U.S., J. Edgar Hoover is appointed director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a position he retains until his death in 1972. Hoover is credited with building the FBI into a large and efficient crime-fighting agency, and with instituting a number of modern innovations to police technology, such as a centralized fingerprint file and forensic laboratories. But he also used the agency to grind a number of personal axes and far exceeded its legal mandate to amass secret files on political and civil rights leaders. Because of his abuses, FBI directors are now limited to 10-year terms.
1977—Joan Crawford Dies
American actress Joan Crawford, who began her show business career as a dancer in traveling theatrical companies, but soon became one of Hollywood's most prominent movie stars and one of the highest paid women in the United States, dies of a heart attack at her New York City apartment while ill with pancreatic cancer.
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