Modern Pulp Aug 29 2021
SERIOUSLY, GUY?
That sound you hear is a great author spinning in his grave.


Guy de Maupassant? Really? We had no idea the master of the short story form and leader of the Naturalist school also wrote smut. Shows what we know. When we looked around for Folli piaceri delle porno prigioniere we learned it was originally made in West Germany in 1980 as Gefangene Frauen, but known in English as Caged Women. And instead of the highbrow rumination we expected from a movie based on de Maupassant, what we got was director Edwin C. Dietrich pushing the far bounds of sexploitation in ways that are crude, stupid, and unrepentant. Perhaps as compensation or apology, he also offers up more nudity per screen minute than a Jesús Franco film—and that's saying something.

Karine Gambier and Brigitte Lahaie headline a cast of bare blonde women and just-as-bare hairy eurostuds, as plotwise, a tinpot dictator worried about a U.N. sex trafficking investigation into his country's brothels hides his trafficked European prosties in a godforsaken island prison. You get every trope of women in prison flicks, but stretched to the max. There are showers, medical exams, naked whippings, naked manual labor, naked skeet shooting, naked arena wrestling, a naked prison break (but with comfortable shoes), and more. Notice how that went from standard sexploitation fare to waaay out there? Is it satire? Edwin Dietrich doubtless would have claimed it was. But merely turning the volume up to eleven is the dumbest kind of satire.

And as far as Guy de Maupassant goes, it's more like Guy de wishful thinking. We found no evidence the acclaimed author influenced this production in any way, regardless of what its writer (also Edwin Dietrich) said. It wasn't the only time Dietrich claimed he was inspired by classic literature. No surprise—when you make something like forty of these flicks you intellectualize them any way you can. De Maupassant's influence, we suspect, was merely to lend a veneer of credibility to the promo poster. If you watch Folli piaceri delle porno prigioniere, don't be a pretender like Dietrich. Just embrace your inner horndog and admit you're watching it for the skin.
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Vintage Pulp Aug 24 2021
RABID FOLLOWING
Marilyn Chambers converts the masses.


Zombie movies go back a long way. All the way to 1932's White Zombie. But David Cronenberg's 1977 horror thriller Rabid, along with The Plague of ZombiesNight of the Living Dead and a few other films, was a precursor to all the zombie apocalypse movies and television shows of today. The bizarre Italian promo poster you see above certainly gets across one element of the movie—its grim violence. As you can see, it was retitled Rabid sete di sangue when it played there. It originally premiered in the U.S. in 1977, but didn't reach Italy until today in 1979.

The concept is weird: a woman played by Marilyn Chambers receives an experimental skin graft and as a side effect develops a stinger in her armpit and an insatiable (see what we just did there?) appetite for human blood. When we later glimpse this stinger, it's ensconced in an anus-like cavity of a type that filmgoers would see again and again in Cronenberg's movies. Yeah, that stinger is freaky, and this flick hits on other levels of horror. There's dread, such as when doctors make ready to slice skin off Chambers' thighs with some sort of electric peeler. There's revulsion, which Cronenberg specializes in with his lingering takes on physical deformities. And there's pure terror when infected victims run amok.

Chambers is pretty good in this, with her acting holding up as well as that of the other performers. She also looks quite beautiful, a requirement for the role, since she's essentially a vampiress, using her looks to attract prey. Of special note is a snippet of her classic disco song, “Benihana,” which has aged well for dance music from that period. We should also mention that though this is a pure horror film, the plot also has a disease vs. vaccine element, perfect for the COVID era. We've written superficially about Rabid a few times in the past, and if you're interested you can see those mentions here, here, and here.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 22 2021
CASH AND CARRY
Victor Mature transports hot merchandise.


One good Victor Mature movie deserves another. Mr. M impressed us so much in Kiss of Death we decided to watch another of his early films. The amazing poster above was made to promote his crime thriller The Long Haul, which is set in Britain and concerns an American ex-soldier who takes a trucking job only to run afoul of an organized-crime syndicate that controls the trucking industry. British star Diana Dors plays the glamorous girlfriend of one of the mobsters, and after a couple's spat she ends up in Mature's truck begging him to drive her to safety. This turns out to be a dangerous decision in two areas—his health, and his marriage.

Because The Long Haul was originally made in Britain it's a bit more frank than the typical American film concerning matters of sex and marriage. There's no vagueness about Mature and Dors doing the mattress dance, which we found refreshing. The family drama sections of crime movies are often throw-ins, but here Mature's marital difficulties really help drive the plot. In the end he needs to deal with these issues, but he also, naturally, has to survive crossing the mob boss, who's not sanguine about losing Dors, nor about other transgressions committed by Mature. It's trouble on two fronts, which makes for a pretty good movie. Decent work from Mature. The Long Haul premiered in Britain today in 1957.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 18 2021
SEA YOU SOON
Sometimes just staying afloat takes everything you've got.


Every once in a while Nikkatsu Studios surprises us with a restrained and serious movie, and Jûhassai umi e, for which you see a poster above, falls into that category. In English it was called Eighteen Years to the Sea, and the long and winding plot starts when top science student Aiko Morishita sees fellow student Kaoru Kobayashi win a game of death against the leader of a motorcycle gang. The game is to see who can wade into the ocean farthest weighed down by rocks and not drown. Aiko gets all hot and crazy watching this macho contest, and later tries the same game with her friend Toshiyuki Nagashima. They only look like they're trying to commit suicide.

The weirdness is just beginning. When a student at Aiko's school jumps to his death from a building, she's not horrified, but fascinated. Aiko and Toshiyuki decide to play another game of death, this time with pills, each taking one at a time, not planning to die, but risking overdoses in the pursuit of... we're not sure. Call it the search for some sort of nebulous existential revelation. In any case, they do overdose, but both survive. Those around Aiko come to understand that she has a screw loose. Meanwhile Kaoru, whose macho contest against the gang leader was the trigger for all that has happened, starts dating Aiko's sister.

We'll stop there with the plot description. Suffice it to say that, via the circuitous route director Toshiya Fujita takes to reach his destination, viewers are reminded that life can be hard—apparently even for gorgeous young college students. We don't mean to be glib. It's just that for uncounted millennia someone from both our mother's and father's branches of the ancestral tree had to survive cold, predators, disease, injury, poverty, human malice, and more, generation after generation, just to have their genes culminate in our existence. We would never risk casting all that hard work and luck aside seeking a fleeting insight. But that's just us.
 
Fujita, on the other hand, clearly thought he had something deep to say. The running time alone tells you that—Nikkatsu movies were often just over an hour long, but this one unspools for almost double that length, clocking in at an hour and fifty minutes. That's a lot of ennui. A lot of ennui. But Jûhassai umi e is good. Maybe even very good. It premiered in Japan today in 1979.
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Vintage Pulp Aug 16 2021
STRANGER DANGER
Don't mess with the man upstairs.


Stranger on the Third Floor is sometimes cited as a proto film noir, coming a year before the first official noir, 1941's The Maltese Falcon. In this day and age, any vintage crime film is called a film noir on crowdsourced websites like IMDB, so depending on where you look film noir isn't as pure a cycle as it used to be. But in this case the debate is fair. The film is about newspaper journalist John McGuire, who serves as a witness at a sensational murder trial, while his fiancée Margaret Tallichet frets about the impact of recognition on their lives. The two of them are planning to move out of their boarding houses and find a place together, but McGuire's building has lately been haunted by a mysterious stranger played by Hungarian actor Peter Lorre. Who is he? Why is he hanging around? Is he somehow connected to the murder?

Gene D. Phillips, in his book Out of the Shadows: Expanding the Canon of Film Noir, cites Stranger on the Third Floor as a film that “codified the visual conventions of film noir.” It has flashbacks, a brilliant nightmare sequence, a sense of growing dread, a false accusation (or possibly two), a narration (though not of the hard-boiled variety), and a usage of angles and shadows that is extravagant. Where it differs from film noir is in its general lack of cynicism and world weariness. In fact, it's the opposite. McGuire ponders whether doing his civic duty by testifying will have consequences, but at no point does he feel like a sucker for doing so. He believes in society and its basic functions. The Maltese Falcon, by contrast, offers civic duty as an option, but Sam Spade acts as he does because of his personal code. Duty is secondary, and ultimately, so is love.

Despite these differences between Stranger on the Third Floor and canonical film noir, casting the net wide enough to include this movie makes sense. It definitely gets its influences from the same places as film noir, particularly in German Expressionist cinema of the early 1900s. Interestingly, Lorre would feature prominently in The Maltese Falcon, as would Elisha Cook, Jr., who plays the defendant at the trial. So the connection between Stranger on the Third Floor and film noir is concrete on that level at least. All that said, does our opinion matter? Watch Stranger on the Third Floor and debate whether it's a film noir yourself. You'll see a visual masterwork regardless of which cinematic bin you stick it in. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1940.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 13 2021
SEALED WITH A KISS
Victor Mature gets intimate with mortality in film noir classic.


This poster for the classic crime drama Kiss of Death both catches the eye and captures the mood of what has come to be regarded as a better film noir. The plot deals with a career thief and inveterate tough guy played by Victor Mature who decides to turn narc for the cops and help them gather evidence against numerous criminals. Needless to say, the decision turns out to have more pitfalls than expected, as he ends up in the crosshairs of a psycho hitman.
 
We've never been Mature fans—it's those cheeseball sword and sandal epics he made later in his career—but he's awfully good in this, deftly capturing the essence of a man feeling his way through desperate circumstances. Richard Widmark is also excellent as the hitman. He has a ridiculous but sinister laugh he uses to good effect. And Coleen Gray plays the embodiment of redemption, a standard role in these flicks, but one she manages adroitly. We'll have to rethink our feelings about Mr. Mature. If you haven't seen him before, this is a good place to start. Kiss of Death premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 13 2021
TO LAUGH OR DIE IN L.A.
Blaxploitation flick goes slapstick and the result is bold but bad.


This poster for the blaxploitation flick Darktown Strutters, aka Get Down and Boogie, is a high quality piece of art. The movie it promotes, conversely, is a low quality piece of art, one of those efforts any rational assessment concludes is an utter disaster, but which has advocates, among them Quentin Tarantino. The advocates are wrong. Tarantino—and it pains us to say this—is wrong. This musical-alleged-comedy about a female motorcycle gang in L.A. battling the owner of a fried chicken franchise is about as entertaining as watching a circus clown punch himself repeatedly in the nose. If you watch it with your Vaudevillian cortex activated you might get a few bemused laughs. And if you dig into it with a pickaxe and mining helmet you might find commentary upon cultural appropriation, feminism, capitalism, and law enforcement. But if you examine it from a technical point of view you'll simply cringe, even factoring in its highly limiting three-day shooting schedule. Since when does lofty intent stand in for basic execution? We missed that memo. But we do love the poster (by an artist we were not able to identify), and we like the promo images below. They show Edna Richardson, Bettye Sweet, Shirley Washington and, front and center, Trina Parks, who thankfully had other opportunities to show her actual talent. Darktown Strutters premiered in the U.S. today in 1975.

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Modern Pulp Aug 11 2021
DEAD MEN WALKING
Fulci goes full-on gruesome in Italian zombie epic.


We're still looking toward Italy today, specifically at vintage Italian horror cinema, and simply put, these didn't mess around. Regardless of quality they tended to be unusually foreboding and grim. And that's just the poster art. Above you see a promo for Paura nella città dei morti viventi, which was known in English as City of the Living Dead. Lucio Fulci, who directed and received a story credit for this one, was particularly enamored of zombies, churning out at least five films touching on the theme, including ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà, aka The Beyond, and Quella villa accanto al cimitero, aka The House by the Cemetery. In all of them he used his trademark tricks—extreme close-ups, death-white make-up effects, and gore, gore, gore.

Italian genre flicks usually had international casts performing in both English and Italian, with the babel smoothed out later with overdubs. City of the Living Dead follows that template. U.S. born Christopher George and Brit actress Catriona MacColl are in the leads, with support from Italians Carlo de Mejo, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Daniela Doria, the truly lovely Antonella Interlenghi, and Swedish star Janet Agren. The movie is set in New York City and Dunwich, a mythical town conceived by H.P. Lovecraft for his Cthulhu Mythos, where a priest's suicide has somehow opened the gates of hell and allowed the dead to walk the Earth.

Obviously, the heroes want to close these gates, but that's pretty difficult when you have to fight through a storm of maggots. Yes, Fulci throws everything into this—the ancient Book of Enoch, the Salem witch trials, seances, drifting fog, people regurgitating their own intestines, and of course head-crushing zombies. The low tech nature of Fulci's obsessive gore-nography just makes it that much more disturbing. On the other claw, the low quality of some of the acting is a definite detriment. Even so, if you can get into a zombie frame of mind, the acting becomes less important than the mood, and in horror, mood is everything. Paura nella città dei morti viventi premiered in Italy today in 1980.
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Vintage Pulp Aug 9 2021
A FLOWER GROWS IN OSAKA
Naomi Tani discovers she's a rose that hasn't blossomed yet.


It's been a few years since we checked in on Japanese bondage queen Naomi Tani. Well, she returns on this poster for Kurobara shôten, aka Black Rose Ascension. The movie, which is a roman porno—i.e. a Nikkatsu Studios softcore sex flick—concerns a self-absorbed Osaka porn director played by Shin Kishida who loses his star when she refuses to work while pregnant. Simultaneously, over in the subplot, Naomi Tani has an unfilled life doing various things that aren't exactly ethical in the sexual sense, such as rimming an older man for money and having an affair with a married dentist. Kishida targets Tani, seduces her, and films it. She doesn't know she's on camera at first, but realizes it partway through when a gaffer and a camera guy jump out of a closet. If you know this genre you can guess where the movie goes from there. Hint: Hmm... maybe what I was doing before was kind of like porn anyway. Nikkatsu never fails to ponder whether a woman is really just a sex freak who hasn't blossomed yet. We can't say the movie is great, but we'll say this much for it—you'll really believe it's possible to fuck while roller skating. Kurobara shôten premiered in Japan today in 1975.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 6 2021
HOT TO TROTTOIR
How do you show your man you love him? Show your love to other men.


Here's another amazing and framable movie poster, this time for Le trottoir, which was originally made in England as The Flesh Is Weak. The art is by René Brantonne, who typically illustrated book covers, such as here and here. This is stylish work, very different from what we've seen him do before. It's cartoonish, but captures the mood of the film, an urban drama starring John Derek. Yes, that John Derek, the one who— Or has he been forgotten already? We'll reacquaint you. Derek was an actor, photographer, screenwriter, and director, but he's best known as a sort of Svengali who directed his fourth wife Bo Derek in several erotic films in which male actors got to squeeze and lick her soft parts. In 1984's Bolero he shot Bo in three love scenes, one of which made viewers wonder if there was more than acting involved. That's unlikely, but even so, actual penetration was about the only thing missing, which makes John Derek a different kind of husband indeed.

His partnership with Bo in using her body to make money is even more interesting considering the subject matter of The Flesh Is Weak. He plays London agent who meets naive Milly Vitale and convinces her to attempt resolving his debt problems by selling her womanly favors. Of course, he has no debt problems, and he's no agent—he's a pimp, and chose Vitale to convert to prostitution. She ends up tricked into selling herself because she's in love, and though for some readers that surely seems impossible to comprehend, we read Iceberg Slim's autobiographical Pimp some years back and he confirmed from a firsthand perspective that love was what he often used as a lever. It's hard to imagine but true. And its pretty sad, even in the sanitized version presented in The Flesh Is Weak. Is it worth watching? There's no need to clear your schedule, but overall it's pretty good. There's no known French release date, but it had its world premiere in London today in 1957.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 16
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
October 15
1945—Laval Executed
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
October 14
1962—Cuban Missile Crisis Begins
A U-2 spy plane flight over the island of Cuba produces photographs of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed. Though American missiles have been installed near Russia, the U.S. decides that no such weapons will be tolerated in Cuba. The resultant standoff brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. The crisis finally ends with a secret deal in which the U.S. removes its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing the Cuban weapons.
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