Vintage Pulp Apr 19 2021
BEACHFRONT PLOT
Don't hate the Playa, hate the games.


Playa prohibida was a Mexican-Spanish co-production filmed on Mallorca, starring Rossana Podesta, that premiered in Mexico today in 1956 and reached Spain the next year, in March 1957. Above are the Mexican and Spanish posters, both quite nice we think. They're differentiated by the fact that one gives second billing to Carlos López Moctezuma, who was Mexican, while the other gives second and third billing to Spanish actors Fernando Rey and Alfredo Mayo.
 
Podesta plays a woman living in a beach town, and everyone thinks she's daft. When she's found on the beach standing over a corpse and looking guilty, the cops want to pin the crime on her, but a screenwriter passing through takes up the mystery and—with the help of his story construction skills—tries to figure out what happened. He narrates a significant part of the film, but other characters apply voiceover too, including the allegedly mad Podesta. The puzzle is eventually solved, and as you'd expect it's layered with jealousy, greed, betrayal, and all the usual games.
 
If you're thinking this sounds a bit familiar, that may because the setting bears some resemblance to Podesta's 1953 Mexican made thiller La red, in which she was also a somewhat enigmatic woman living in a small seaside community. We suppose when Mexican filmmakers thought "exotic beach beauty" Podesta came to mind, and why not? Just look at her. Her presence alone makes Playa prohibida worth a viewing, at least for us. And possibly for you too. For the moment—i.e. while the link lasts—you can watch it on YouTube and decide for yourself. Spanish required.

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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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Intl. Notebook Mar 29 2021
A MOMENT TO REFLECT
Tanaka takes a turn in front of the mirror.


We're interested in all things Mari Tanaka, so we had to share this promo image featuring her striking a nice over the shoulder pose. This was made for her movie Rabu Hantâ: Atsui hada, aka Love Hunter: Hot Skin, which premiered in Japan today in 1972. You can see a couple of other interesting promos at our write-up on the film here.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 26 2021
CITIZEN SHANE
Who do you think you're calling baby, buster?

Any reasonable excuse to feature Pam Grier is one we'll gladly take. We checked out her blaxploitation flick Sheba, Baby a few years ago. We've since found this alternate poster, which is different enough from the one-sheet that we thought it would be a good idea to share it, as well as the promo image, which is a subtle colorization of the black and white original. Sheba, Baby premiered today in 1975, and this is the last we expect to write about it. We'll have plenty more on Grier though.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 20 2021
A CASE OF THE BLUES
Baxter's bad night is about to get a lot worse.


We thought the French poster we shared for Anne Baxter's The Blue Gardenia was the best promo made for the movie, and we stand by that, but this U.S. promo in three-sheet style is pretty nice too. No artist is credited with this, as it's a photo-illustration. We think it has a film noir feel to it, but even though the movie was directed by German noir legend Fritz Lang, it isn't a noir—it's a mystery/drama, one that deals with gender issues, and for vintage film buffs it's certainly worth watching.

You've noticed that the name of the film echoes the Black Dahlia murder, still somewhat on the public's mind at the time, but there are no similarities between the crime and the film. That's just sneaky marketing. Well, whatever people thought they were getting when they ponied up their cash to watch this, what they got was an okay-not-great showcase for Baxter's top notch acting skills. The Blue Gardenia premiered in the U.S. today in 1953. You can read our detailed discussion of it here.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 13
1960—Gary Cooper Dies
American film actor Gary Cooper, who harnessed an understated, often stoic style in numerous adventure films and westerns, including Sergeant York, For Whom the Bell Tolls, High Noon, and Alias Jesse James, dies of prostate, intestinal, lung and bone cancer. For his contributions to American cinema Cooper received a plaque on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is considered one of top movie stars of all time.
1981—The Pope Is Shot
In Rome, Italy, in St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II is shot four times by would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca. The Pope is rushed to the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic to undergo emergency surgery and survives. Agca serves nineteen years in an Italian prison, after which he is deported to his homeland of Turkey, and serves another sentence for the 1979 murder of journalist Abdi Ipekçi. Agca is eventually paroled on January 18, 2010.
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.
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