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.
By any Reckoning this poster is a top quality piece.
This promo poster for Dead Reckoning is deliberately garish and highly effective at drawing the eye. They don't make 'em like this anymore, nor movies like this either. It had a special premiere today in 1947 in San Francisco, and went into wide release across the U.S. a month later. We shared a piece of Japanese promo art years ago and talked about the film, so if you want to know more, check here.
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.
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.
It's rough going for anyone who gets on Meiko's bad side.
Above we have another promo poster for Meiko Kaji's pinky violence actioner Nora-neko rokku: Bôsô shudan ’71, aka Stray Cat Rock: Crazy Rider ’71, aka Stray Cat Rock: Beat ’71, which premiered in Japan today in—you guessed it—’71. This great poster is just as rare as the others we shared. See those here and here.
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.
Polish painter turns pain into an abstract concept.
This Polish promo poster was made for the 1965 Japanese psychodrama Utsukushisa to kanashimi to, which in Poland was called Piekno i ból. That translates to “beauty and pain,” whereas the Japanese translates as “with beauty and sorrow.” Both translations are apt descriptions of the movie, which is just as bizarre and twisted as the poster art. We talked about it a while back, so if you're interested have a look here. The poster was painted by Maciej Hibner, a well regarded illustrator active during the ’50s and ’60s whose output is considered collectible today. A lot of his stuff has this same fine art look, which is very different than what we usually share here, but worth a gander just for the sake of its stark contrast with the Japanese poster. We may try to dig up more on Hibner later.
Bogart and Bacall mix love and career.
Above, two Luigi Martinati posters for Il grande sonno, aka The Big Sleep, with stars and spouses Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. These posters are more colorful than the U.S. versions because Warner Brothers had cut back on printing costs due to World War II. But when the film came out in Italy today in 1947 a full palette of color had returned to the mix. See a small collection Martinati's great work here.
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.
Demongeot and her chambre of secrets.
Above, a beautiful Belgian poster in French and Dutch for La chambre de Madame, aka Upstairs and Downstairs. We talked about it a while back. Shorter version—Mylène is the pause that refreshes. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
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.
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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