Mondo Bizarro Jun 15 2021
WON'T GET UFO-ED AGAIN
More people are talking about alien visits but they still aren't happening.


Have you noticed the uptick in talk about UFOs the last couple of months? The subject is being discussed on websites like Scientific American and BBC, in the pages of publications like the New York Times, and even in the corridors of power in in Washington, D.C., where a while back Congress demanded that the Pentagon produce a report on the subject. Donald Trump and Barack Obama have talked about it. Retired Nevada Senator Harry Reid even went so far as to say that weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin may have fragments of a crashed UFO in its possession.

All we have to say is here we go again. We know a lot of people really believe in the existence of alien UFOs, but here's when we'll believe: when one arrives, an alien climbs out and says. “Greetings, Earthling. Take me to your leader. We ask because we couldn't figure out which of you is in charge of this clusterfuck.” Let us be clear. We aren'tUFO agnostics. Agnostic would be to neither believe nor disbelieve—in other words to cop out. We're UFO atheists. When the only alleged evidence consists of hearsay, anecdotes, blurry photos of pie tins on strings, and indistinct FLIR footage, we feel safe saying they don't exist.

The idea of UFO sightings being legit hinges upon numerous assumptions. That aliens have the ability to come here. That they have the ability to come here and want to observe us. That they want to observe us and prefer to do it up close rather than from a vast distance. That they want to observe us up close rather than from a distance and aren't interested in disguising themselves. And that their up close methods of observation would be detectable to us in the first place. Think stealth or nanotechnology. We human doofuses already have the basics of those figured out. Aliens would have the capability to observe us by using machines the size of gnats, a far more likely option than soaring around the sky chased by F-35s.

The list of assumptions UFO believers gloss over goes on, but the biggest problem, in our view, is that aliens could learn far more about us from our broadcasts and data emissions than in person. Even our detection and defense capabilities, assuming they wanted to understand those, would be easier to learn from the math that built them, rather than with field encounters. They could also, from millions of miles away, decipher our languages, observe our many warring cultures, ponder our crazy taboos, note our hundreds of fanciful religions, puzzle over our destruction of the very environment we need to survive, be horrified over our caste systems based on the presence of a pigmenting chemical in our skin cells, and be astounded over the fact that most of the above is true because we've created a global system that elevates and rewards ruthless, dangerous people. Some of those people are smart, but many of them are sociopaths, and all the major tribes of Earth (U.S., Russia, China, et al) are led by people prone to violence. Would aliens really want to bother with creatures like that?

So while we keep up with UFO reporting—as required by our status as a pulp website—we don't believe aliens are the cause. If they're anything, they're advanced drones. But the alien UFO stories will keep coming. We think humans, or at least some humans, will believe even the most outlandish fantasy if it makes them feel good, or makes them feel frightened or outraged. If you doubt that the latter is true, just ponder the epochally sad fact that fantasies about a pedophile ring in a Washington D.C. pizza parlor have had an indelible effect on American politics. In short—people are amazingly gullible. Despite anything Harry Reid says, we don't think Lockheed has alien UFO bits in a top secret warehouse.

All that said, we also do not believe humans are alone in the cosmos. Scientifically, the assumption that we're alone makes little sense. Plus wouldn't that be utterly depressing, the idea that we're the smartest creatures in the universe? We're hanging off a cliff edge like Indiana Jones, groping for a stray tree root to save us as our sacks of gold threaten to pull us to our doom. If nuclear war and global heating don't send us hurtling into the abyss, resource depletion and social collapse will. The system we put in place to deliver prosperity is now eating the foundations that enabled it to stand in the first place. We can't be the smartest beings in the universe. We think aliens exist—but immeasurably far across the cosmos. And if we're wrong, and they're actually among us, all we can say is: reveal yourselves, and please help.
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Vintage Pulp Jun 5 2021
LITTLE SCHMO PEEP
Little Schmo Peep is such a creep and doesn't know how to stop.


1965's Passion Peeper, for which you see a Darrel Millsap cover above, is another sleaze novel credited to Don Elliott, but allegedly written by future sci-fi author Robert Silverberg. The blurb tells you all you need to know, as a voyeur named J. Martin Crispian gets his rocks off by spying on his female neighbors who live across the courtyard from his apartment. He describes himself as a schmo and a loser unliked by women, though he certainly likes them. Among his obsessions: a blonde who does nude calisthenics every night, a high school aged nympho, and this pair:

They were in a tight embrace. Mr. Crispian watched, startled by what he saw. These two young girls, framed in the window, were unmistakably kissing. [The redhead] began rubbing her hand over the brunette's blue jean-covered buttocks.

Lesbians!

It had to be, Mr. Crispian thought. Two girls who were just roommates or good friends might kiss each other now and then, he figured. But they wouldn't kiss on the lips the way these two were doing. And they wouldn't go in for buttock grabbing and breast squeezing.

That's pricelessly funny. Interestingly, the peeper doesn't appear much through the middle of the story, as Elliott/Silverberg expands his narrative to encompass the lives of other characters. But everything circles back to him, as his spying puts him in the uncomfortable position, Rear Window fashion, of witnessing a possible crime. A clever ending follows, but future sci-fi legend or not, this is mediocre fiction. Silverberg was just trying to pay bills, which we can certainly respect. He later proved he could do much better. 

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Vintage Pulp May 7 2021
WHIPPING AND HANDLING
This is one tough dame. I think it's time we tried Thai food, a few glasses of white wine, and a back rub.


No! Not the back rub! Anything but that! It'll work, though. And once she starts talking she'll give up the details on everyone. Occasionally you read a book and it isn't anything like you expected. We knew A.E. Van Vogt was a science fiction writer, but we figured that—like others in his literary niche—he dabbled in crime or sleaze fiction early in his career. And perhaps he did, but not with this book. It starts with a quasi-detective character believing he's rescuing a woman from whip wielding villains, but soon takes a left turn to involve secret Central American cults and an ancient marble house that bestows its inhabitants with eternal life, with the protagonist of course refusing at every step to believe what he's seeing. It's a fascinating concept, but Van Vogt forgot to piece his tale together in a way that allows the narrative to gel. We give it major points for weirdness, but demerits for execution. Interesting effort, though. The cover art on this Beacon edition from 1960 is by Gerald McConnell.

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Femmes Fatales Apr 4 2021
GIVE HER SOME SPACE
Not exactly your average princess.


No introduction needed here. Carrie Fisher portrayed one of the most iconic characters in cinema history when she became the double hair-bunned Princess Leia Organa of the planet Alderaan for 1977's blockbuster space opera Star Wars (we're not going to bother with the unwieldy chapter title foisted onto the public afterward). Fisher memorably begged Obi-Wan Kenobi for help, saying, “You're our only hope,” but she was pretty useful herself—good with a blaster, infused with the Force, and determined as hell. We're pretty sure Leia Organa and Carrie Fisher will be well remembered for as long as cinema exists.

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Intl. Notebook Mar 14 2021
POLICE PRESENCE
There's never a RoboCop when you need one.


The city of Detroit recently rejected a statue of the main character from 1987's RoboCop, made by a local artist group and meant to be displayed at the city's Michigan Science Center. Seizing the opportunity, the mayor of Stevens Point, Wisconsin—which is where RoboCop star Peter Weller was born—has offered a place for the statue in the town of 26,000. Mayor Mike Wiza called the artists, as well as Peter Weller's family. in a so-far unsuccessful attempt to secure the figure. The story amused us because, though on the surface the statue seems like a fitting public monument for Weller's hometown, we wonder if Mayor Wiza knows that RoboCop, aside from being a very good movie, is director Paul Verhoeven's dark satire of the U.S.

The movie hits on several areas, including policing and television culture, but most particularly it's a cautionary epic about the power of corporations. It made the prediction, also made by others, that all life would soon be controlled by corporations, and by extension the unelected, megarich heads of those entities. Those who doubt we've reached this point should read up on private prisons, or Citizen's United v. FEC, or Facebook's recent attempt to punish the entire country of Australia by slapping it with a news ban.

RoboCop goes on to posit that corporations allowed to grow and spread unchecked inevitably make the business decision to place profit above human lives. It didn't mean lives in some distant corner of the globe, or some urban niche of Detroit, where the movie was set. That was already clear. The movie's incisive subtext was that the lives of middle Americans—the very people who live in Stevens Point—would soon be deemed expendable too.

When movies like this pop up they create a paradox: people generally won't watch social critique films unless they're violent and/or funny, but when they're violent and/or funny the majority of people don't get the critiques, even when those are obvious. Examples: Starship Troopers (also a Verhoeven film), Being There (which starred Dr. Strangelove's Peter Sellers), 2019's Us (whose unspoken but glaringly obvious alternative title is, “U.S.”), and, to cite a particularly clear-cut example of blunt satire, They Live, which a substantial minority of filmgoers still managed to think of as merely a strange and slow-moving sci-fi invasion flick.

It's possible Mayor Wiza knows exactly what RoboCop is about, but simply can't pass up the chance to plant something in the town square that will bring gawkers and Instagramers to local restaurants and add warm bodies to the yearly artwalk. If he succeeds, in public he'll hail his coup as an economic victory for his administration (though mainly for the town, always the town first). But later he'll stand at a window in city hall, looking down at RoboCop, nodding thoughtfully as he explains to some nearby aide, “The ironic part of turning that statue into a public monument is that RoboCop, aside from being a very good movie, is director Paul Verhoeven's dark satire of the U.S.”

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Vintage Pulp Dec 2 2020
MURDER BY NUMBERS
Unlike a normal lottery nobody wants a ticket, and against all odds you're bound to get picked eventually.


We all know that in cinema no idea lies fallow for long. They're all reused until they've given everything of value, and plenty that isn't. Part of the fun of watching movies is seeing the lineage of ideas. La decima vittima, for which you see a nice Mario de Berardinis poster above, was known in English as The 10th Victim, and resides in the sub-genre of films about humans killing humans for sport and gain. Other movies in the group include 1932's The Most Dangerous Game, 1972's The Woman Hunt, 1975's Death Race 2000, 1987's The Running Man, 2013's The Purge, and others.

In La decima vittima's near future, violence between citizens has been made legal and placed under the auspices of the Ministero della Grande Caccio, aka the Ministry of the Big Hunt. Those who hunt are given the identities of their prey, along with their locations and personal habits. Anyone can be hunted, even those who previously were hunters. The hunted can kill their hunters in self defense, but if they make a mistake and kill the wrong person—easy to do when you're paranoid and an unknown person is stalking you—that's old fashioned murder and off to prison you go. The purpose of all this slaughter? As the film explains, “Why have birth control when you can have death control?”

Ursula Andress, whose looks kill anyway, plays an adept hunter given an opportunity by a big corporation to monetize her tenth (and by law her final) murder. Marcello Mastroianni plays a one percenter who's been computer selected as her prey, and whom Andress' corporate benefactors want to film her assassinating for a tea commercial. Andress has agreed to kill Mastroianni at the Temple of Venus in Rome. Getting him there won't be easy, but the classic honeytrap, with the sun-kissed Andress as the sticky goodness, is a sure bet to work. It'd work on us.

We said the movie is in the same lineage as The Most Dangerous Game, The Purge, et al. Nearly all those films are better than La decima vittima. There are several problems here, not least of which is emotional tone-deafness—the characters love and hate because the script requires it, but there's no spark, no believability. The movie is probably worth watching anyway because of its super sex symbol cast rounded out by Elsa Martinelli, plus its sleek, retrofuturistic ’60s fashions, but don't go in expecting a landmark sci-fi, a brutal social commentary, a cutting satire, or anything of the ilk. In the end, just like the real future, it's so-so. La decima vittima had its world premiere in Rome and Florence today in 1965.

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Mondo Bizarro Nov 24 2020
2020: A SHEEP ODYSSEY
Mysterious monolith found in desert. Local wildlife now walking upright and demanding better mobile coverage.


Someone cue Also sprach Zarathustra. In Utah a helicopter pilot from the Department of Public Safety's Aero Bureau was counting bighorn sheep in a remote part of the state when he overflew a strange object, and upon turning back for a second look was astounded to sight a metal monolith planted in the desert. Estimated at ten to twelve feet (about three meters) high, the object is shiny, silvery, rectangular, and appears to be man-made. Appears to be. Advanced metalwork is assumed to be a solely human ability, but that's just an assumption. We also thought we were the only species that masturbated until we saw dolphins do it.
 
The slab story has taken on a mostly humorous life of its own, as observers reference 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie which appears to have inspired the creator of the rectangle. The film's monolith triggers a quantum leap in human evolution, which in 2020 we could really use, but since modern culture is little more than a seven-billion-person rugby scrum in which nobody has noticed the ball got lost decades ago, we don't think a comparable evolutionary leap is coming. Anyway, there's nothing out there in the desert but sheep, so maybe it wasn't made for humans at all. Everyone should keep close watch on those bighorns. Maybe they'll make an evolutionary leap and, like in the film, start using old femurs to break heads. Sheepherders beware.
 
For our part, there's little doubt the slab is actually just a piece of guerrilla art, planted in the wilderness years ago, where it has patiently waited for discovery. As a publicity stunt it's ingenious. Once authorities inevitably remove and examine the piece, they'll most likely find some identifying mark, and at that point the artist will come forward or be identified. People are already speculating it was made by deceased monolith master John McCracken. However it turns out, we think it's appropriate that this discovery, one of the most confounding in recent memory, was inspired by 2001, one of the most baffling films ever. The desert slab will eventually be explained to most people's satisfaction. The movie? Never.
Update: the monolith has vanished. Its next probable sighting will be in a barren wilderness near you.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 15 2020
STRAIGHT OUTTA THE JUNGLE
She's tougher than Tarzan, meaner than Sheena, and lustier than Gungala.


You can look at this cover and correctly assume that we've shared it because it was painted by Frank Frazetta, considered by many to be the master of sword and sorcery art. It's a beautiful piece, rightly famous. Alan Dean Foster is a master too. He isn't what you'd call a significant author in the sense that he's produced lauded original material, but he may be the king of movie novelizations. Among his output: The Black Hole, Clash of the Titans, Outland, Starman, Pale Rider, and The Chronicles of Riddick, as well as novelized series based on Star Wars, Star Trek, and Alien. We love Foster for his Star Wars sequel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, which came out before The Empire Strikes Back (notice we don't bother with that Episode nonsense) and followed Luke and Leia—not siblings in Foster's universe—as they adventured on strange worlds and discovered their love for each other. We still think the film series should have followed Foster's lead, but whatever.

His Luana is a novelization of the 1968 movie of the same name starring Mei Chen Chalais, which we talked about a while back. Sometimes novelizations are published before the film, sometimes after. Foster published Luana six years after the film in 1974 for reasons that are obscure. It was among his first published books. While template for a novelization is provided by the filmmakers, the author is who gives it color and life. Foster fulfills that duty with obvious relish, mining literary and cinematic antecedents like Tarzan, Tarzana, Gungala, SheenaShuna, and Ka-Zar for familiar tropes. A kilometer long pit filled with army ants? A lion and panther, both larger than any ever seen before, working in tandem with a huge chimp? A pitched battle between blowgun wielding Tanzanian tribesmen and an expedition of white explorers? A secret city of solid gold buildings? As lost world tales go, by standing on the shoulders of his predecessors, Foster crafts something better than average. And far better than the movie too. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 1 2020
MUSHROOM CROWD
The fallout from this situation will be lethal.


Above, an Italian poster painted by Renato Casaro for the Japanese macabre sci-fi flick Matango, which in Italy was called Matango il mostro and in the U.S. Attack of the Mushroom People. We shared the excellent Japanese posters back during the summer and you can see those here. The film opened in Italy at the Festival della Fantascienza di Trieste today in 1964.

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Intl. Notebook Oct 30 2020
HALLOWEEN 20
When is a monster not scary? When it's a guy in a latex suit.


Maybe yesterday's Halloween themed post was a bit too grim. After all, it's a kid's holiday. So, continuing along the same lines but with less macabre realism, above and below we have a collection of monsters (full disclosure: some are actually monster-fighting good guys) culled from 1970s Japanese television and shlock cinema. There are hundreds of these from the period, but we restricted ourselves to twenty. You may recognize a few. For example, we tossed Hedorah, aka the Smog Monster, into the mix just for fun. You can definitely impress friends and the general public if you dress up as one of these ferocious entities. That'll have to wait until next year, though. Which is actually good, because it would probably take that long just to put one of these get-ups together. Most of these are a bit ridiculous, so theoretically they shouldn't give anyone nightmares. Then again, that's what they say about clowns.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 26
1945—Churchill Given the Sack
In spite of admiring Winston Churchill as a great wartime leader, Britons elect Clement Attlee the nation's new prime minister in a sweeping victory for the Labour Party over the Conservatives.
1952—Evita Peron Dies
Eva Duarte de Peron, aka Evita, wife of the president of the Argentine Republic, dies from cancer at age 33. Evita had brought the working classes into a position of political power never witnessed before, but was hated by the nation's powerful military class. She is lain to rest in Milan, Italy in a secret grave under a nun's name, but is eventually returned to Argentina for reburial beside her husband in 1974.
July 25
1943—Mussolini Calls It Quits
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini steps down as head of the armed forces and the government. It soon becomes clear that Il Duce did not relinquish power voluntarily, but was forced to resign after former Fascist colleagues turned against him. He is later installed by Germany as leader of the Italian Social Republic in the north of the country, but is killed by partisans in 1945.
July 24
1915—Ship Capsizes on Lake Michigan
During an outing arranged by Western Electric Co. for its employees and their families, the passenger ship Eastland capsizes in Lake Michigan due to unequal weight distribution. 844 people die, including all the members of 22 different families.
1980—Peter Sellers Dies
British movie star Peter Sellers, whose roles in Dr. Strangelove, Being There and the Pink Panther films established him as the greatest comedic actor of his generation, dies of a heart attack at age fifty-four.
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