William Marshall's creature of the night has a killer debut in Paris.
Above: a French poster for Blacula, known in France as Blacula le vampire noir, starring William Marshall as an African prince-turned-vampire awakened in modern Los Angeles. As concepts go, it was pure genius. The final result has its problems, but it was a huge hit in the U.S. and abroad, and for blaxploitation aficionados it will always be a mandatory film. It premiered in Paris and elsewhere in France today in 1972.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Rita Hayworth and Gilda get a dose of the northern aesthetic.
The awesome film noir Gilda premiered in Sweden today in 1946, and above is a beautiful promo for the movie painted by Swedish artist Eric Rohman. In typical Nordic fashion, the overall approach here is clean and understated. One of the most interesting parts of looking at vintage posters is noting the cultural differences in approach. Every country contributes to the art form in unique ways, and all are worthwhile. We often find Swedish posters to be less inspiring than U.S., Italian, Japanese, and French efforts, but this one, in all its simplicity, is a winner, as is the movie.
Laura Gemser rides Emanuelle to international fame.
We're looping back to Italian promo art today with this poster for Emanuelle nera, known in English as Black Emmanuelle. We already talked about the movie here, but didn't share this particular poster, a nice, understated effort for what is a pretty wild film. This was Gemser's third cinematic outing, but her first as the character of Emanuelle, which she'd reprise multiple times. Notice she's billed on the poster as “Emanuelle.” She acted under that name briefly before appearing under her real name, and the rest is softcore history. We have her entire film output, so you can be sure we'll get back to her later. Emanuelle nera premiered in Italy today in 1975.
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.
How do you spell murder in Italian? H-i-t-c-h-c-o-c-k.
Above is a beautiful Italian poster for Delitto perfetto, better known as Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder, a movie we watch every five or seven years and always greatly enjoy. This semi-abstract effort isn't the only Italian poster for the film, but it's the best, in our view. We weren't able to find out who painted it, and considering it sold on a swanky auction site without that info, it seems as if nobody knows. Such good work uncredited, it's a shame. However, below you see another poster for the film, and this one is signed by Angelo Cesselon. Since both have a Hitchcock profile, and there's a stylistic similarity in other areas too, especially if you focus on the women's faces and the males' trench coats, we think it's possible Cesselon painted both pieces. The evidence wouldn't hold up in court, but it's good enough for us. Nice work, Angelo. Delitto perfetto premiered in Italy today in 1954.
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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
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.
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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