Femmes Fatales Sep 21 2022
INTERGALACTIC FASHION
If you think this looks ridiculous you should see my winter wardrobe.

Austrian actress Sybil Danning has a lot of promo images with guns, both realistic and fake, due to her appearance in several over-the-top action movies, including 1984's Euer Weg führt durch die Hölle, aka Jungle Warriors, 1983's Chained Heat, and 1980's Battle Beyond the Stars, for which she shot the above photo. All of those films have attained cult status of varying levels, but the latter is amazing because of the people associated with its production. Its stars included respected actors Robert Vaughan and George Peppard, its screenplay was written by John Sayles, its efx were helmed by James Cameron, and its driving force was schlockmeister supreme Roger Corman. We may take a look at it a bit later, but in either case Danning will return.

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Femmes Fatales Aug 21 2022
LAFFAN MATTER
Hands up, Earthling—this weapon is set to kill. It also can be set to broil, roast, toast, and warm. But you I'll kill.


This photo shows British actress Patricia Laffan, in costume as Nyah in 1954's sci-fi epic Devil Girl from Mars, in which she was the titular Devil Girl. The movie is a schlock classic. Made in England, in the story Laffan pilots a flying saucer to London, where she's looking for male breeding stock after a war between the sexes wiped out all the males on her planet. If we remember correctly, she does incinerate a couple of people with that gun of hers. She also has a robot that does the same. Devil Girl is probably Laffan's best known role, but she also had major parts in Quo Vadis and Death in High Heels. We may reacquaint ourselves with Devil Girl and report back. Below is another shot from the film, and as you can see she's ditched the multi-function ray gun for an immersion blender. Martians are so advanced.
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Femmes Fatales Jul 24 2022
THE SMOKING GUN
It isn't conclusive proof she's responsible for the guy on the floor with a bullet hole in him. But it's highly suggestive.


We were thrilled when we found this photo of Jane Wyatt with a gun because she's one of those actresses that usually played good girls. But in 1951's The Man Who Cheated Himself, which is where this photo comes from, she's pretty bad. We won't say more because we plan to discuss the film, but we haven't spoiled it—she's bad early on, and her escapade with the smoking gun is the premise for what follows. Wyatt later became a veteran television actress and earned a special place in the hearts of Star Trek fans for playing Spock's mom in the 1967 episode “Journey to Babel.” In that episode her name was—we love this—Amanda. You'd expect something, maybe, spacier. But nope. She was plain old Amanda. But she was never a plain old Jane.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 18 2022
PSYCHEDELIC METAL
The Metal Monster is science fiction as a mind-altering trip.

We usually read novels from the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, but we took a trip to the heart of the pulp era with Abraham Merritt's The Metal Monster, which made its first appearance as a serial in Argosy All-Story Weekly in 1920. The above paperback came in 1946 from Avon Publications' Murder Mystery Monthly #41, and has cover art by the always interesting Paul Stahr, who worked extensively with Avon during this period. You can click his keywords at bottom and see all four of the covers by him we have in the website. There are also interesting covers by other artists on later editions of The Metal Monster. We'll try to show you a couple of those later.
 
In Merritt's tale, four explorers travel into an uncharted Himalayan valley and subsequently are trapped by what lives in the area—Persian soldiers seemingly stuck in time, or whose traditions have gone unchanged for two thousand years. There's something else in the valley too—a shimmering goddess creature named Norhala and her metal swarm, which is usually a blizzard of small geometrical shapes, but can collect into forms as needed, for example a towering monster with six whiplike arms that scythe through the ranks of the Persians, ripping them to shreds. While Norhala has some control over the swarm, we later learn that the creatures came from the stars, feed on sunlight, and eventually eradicate biological life on every planet they colonize. So that's not good.
 
Merritt's prose brings to mind H.P. Lovecraft, because he similarly tasks himself with describing the indescribable. Lovecraft fans know what that means—the creatures in his mythos are so mindbending as to drive humans insane merely to gaze upon them. Lovecraft challenged himself to describe those beings, and much of the horror in his writing derives from those attempts. But he sometimes took his built-in escape hatch too, ultimately saying the creatures simply were so inhuman they couldn't be described. Merritt faces the same challenge, and in his descriptions usually manages to be vivid yet vague:
 
Where the azure globe had been, flashed out a disk of flaming splendors, the very secret soul of flowered flame! And simultaneously the pyramids leaped up and out behind it—two gigantic, four rayed stars blazing with cold blue fires. The green auroral curtainings flared out, ran with streaming radiance—as though some spirt of jewels had broken bonds of enchantment and burst forth jubilant, flooding the shaft with its freed glories.
 
The tale is filled with psychedelia like the example above, though it does get more concrete in parts, like here:
 
[They] lifted themselves in a thousand incredible shapes, shapes squared and globed and spiked and shifting swiftly into other thousands as incredible. I saw a mass of them draw themselves up into the likeness of a tent skyscraper high; hang so for an instant, then writhe into a monstrous chimera of a dozen towering legs that strode away like a gigantic headless and bodiless tarantula in steps two hundred feet long. I watched mile-long lines of them shape and reshape into circles, into interlaced lozenges and pentagons—then lift in great columns and shoot through the air in unimaginable barrage.
 
Honestly, all these hyper-detailed descriptions get tedious at times, as does the pervasive incredulity of Merritt's narrator Dr. Walter T. Goodwin. We get that he's dumbfounded, but the human mind has an amazing capacity to normalize that which it sees constantly, therefore we'd prefer if Goodwin weren't repeatedly floored by everything he encounters. That way, when he finally learns what form the metal swarm actually takes—that of a vast city—we readers can finally be truly amazed. However, when we think of The Metal Monster as an Argosy serial circa 1920, it's visionary, and we imagine it must have been intensely gripping. Merritt may merit more exploration.
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Vintage Pulp Jun 21 2022
WORLD OF WARCRAFT
Aliens arrive on Earth to show humanity how killing is really done.


Above is a French edition of the 1898 sci-fi classic The War of the Worlds, published by Éditorial J'ai Lu in 1959 as La Guerre des mondes. H.G. Wells' vision of monstrous invaders with giant war machines, drooling mouths, and a thirst for human blood is still scary even today. The cover on this is by Italian artist Giovanni Benvenuti, a true master we've documented extensively. You can see what we've done on him by clicking here and scrolling down.

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Vintage Pulp May 30 2022
ALL WET
You can make it, honey. Just imagine the future satisfaction you'll get blaming me for coming here in the first place.


This is a dramatic piece painted by Ed Emshwiller for Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth's 1955 novel A Town Is Drowning. Did Emshwiller run out of paint, or is the fact that the town in the background is a mere ink drawing symbolic of its fragility and impermanence? We're pretty sure it's option two, and the result is a very striking cover, with some nice color bleeds as one of its main features.
 
The story is exactly as the title suggests, with fictional Hebertown, located somewhere in the American northeast, being hit by precipitation from a hurricane that sends the local river well over its banks to destroy large portions of the town. The rains and flooding are over by the halfway mark, at which point Pohl and Kornbluth focus on various aspects of social collapse, from infrastructure breakdown to looting.

Disaster-triggered social regression has been written many, many times. Some of the best efforts along those lines kill the soul to even read. A Town Is Drowning is a decent pop fiction undertaking on a non-apocalyptic but still somewhat harrowing scale. It isn't bad, but we think it's a little too impersonal. We'll concede that the authors' ambitions were to have a large array of people to show many different perspectives, but that makes getting to know them—hence caring about them—difficult. At least two characters could have been ditched to allow others to come to the fore.
 
But what do we know? Pohl and Kornbluth collaborated half a dozen times, so they clearly loved the result. They would go on to much acclaim, with Pohl peaking with the Hugo and Nebula Award winner Gateway, and its sequel Beyond the Blue Event Horizon. A Town Is Drowning is not on that level but it's interesting to catch Pohl here early in his career.

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Vintage Pulp May 26 2022
OUTER SIGHT
Forget Mercury and Venus. Zsa Zsa is the hottest celestial body between Earth and the sun.


This beautiful West German promo poster was made for Zsa Zsa Gabor's 1958 cheeseball sci-fi flick Queen of Outer Space, titled in German In den Krallen der Venus—“in the the claws of Venus.” This is our third entry on the film, though not because it's good. It's because the promo art is excellent, as you can see by looking at the U.S. promos here, and the Italian ones here.

How is the film? As we know, space is a vacuum, which means no one can hear you scream to get back the eighty minutes you lost watching this. Is it so bad it's actually good? Well, maybe. It was meant to be silly, but in the end you'll probably have to supply your own humor.

The poster, by the way, is signed, but we can't unravel the artist's illegible scrawl. We've included it here in case you can. Feel free to let us know who this is, because their work is great. After three years floating around somewhere between Hollywood and the inner planets, Queen of Outer Space premiered in West Germany today in 1961.
I hope your entry vehicle is sufficiently heat and pressure resistant, Captain.
 
Edit: It takes a village. Our friend Kevin has identified the artist as Ernst Litter, and now that we know who he is we'll return to him a bit later. Thanks, Kevin.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 16 2021
BACKTRACK TO THE FUTURE
It's the year 11,959 and everything is screwed worse than ever.


We thought we'd hit the sci-fi genre, since it's been a while, and chose Edmond Hamilton's Star of Life. It's one of the books visible in the photo of a 1959 airport paperback rack we showed you in August. The story concerns an astronaut named Kirk Hammond whose lunar capsule goes off course toward the far reaches of the solar system. Hammond decides to end his life rather than starve in the void, and when he vents the capsule the absolute cold of space freezes him. He awakens in the hot spacecraft hurtling back toward Earth. Turns out he was frozen so rapidly that his cells sustained no damage, and re-entry has thawed and revived him.

He's thrilled to be alive, but when he lands he's stunned to learn he's made a long elliptical orbit through the solar system and returned to Earth 10,000 years after he left. He's immediately caught in the middle of a millennia-old conflict between two races—the Vramen, immortal humanoids who control all galactic space, and the Hoomen, descended from ancient humans, and imprisoned on Earth. At least that's how it all sets up at first. Revelations are in the offing. Hammond is rescued by the Hoomen, but the Vramen have seen the capsule arrive, and their search for this strange object sends Hoomen-Vramen tensions into overdrive, while Hammond himself, as a being 10,000 years old, has the potential to permanently alter the balance of power.

Star of Life has some big concepts and it's spread over a galactic backdrop, but like a lot of science fiction, it's written at basically a junior high level. We had to laugh when one of the characters dropped the nugget: “We made an hypothetical reconstruction.” Here's an helpful hint for Hamilton and his editors. Don't teach your impressionable young readers to talk like knobs. It's not good for them. Still, the book is entertaining—utterly weightless, mind you, but fun in an awkward, haven't-gotten-laid yet sort of way. This Crest edition is from 1959 and the psychedelic cover art is by Richard Powers. Now back to our regularly scheduled grown people fiction.
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Vintage Pulp Nov 7 2021
SHLUNK IN THE TRUNK
The search for alien life is over. Just look in the back.


Adam magazine's cover illustrations usually deal with criminals, ranchers, wild animals, runaway vehicles and the like, so what is this unusual thing on the front of this issue published this month in 1968? It's a shlunk, and it comes from Tod Kennedy's science fiction story, “To Catch a Shlunk,” about a bloodsucking alien—named for the sound it makes—that terrorizes a hunter. In form this alien is like a squid, but with four thick tentacles. “It moved with a glutinous rhythm [and had] a band of flickering lights around its domed head that blinked off and on like radar stations seeking contact. With one quick motion its body shot upward and the four legs distended like chewing gum.”

That's pretty scary. As the hunter watches in silent horror, the creature, which seems part organic and part machine, grabs a wallaby, crushes it, and sucks its insides out. Needless to say, the hunter flees at the first opportunity, and thinks he's dodged this creature, but misses the part where it jumps in the back of his truck and rides home with him. Whoops. From that point Kennedy's tale deals with the hunter's defeat of the creature, which is accomplished via unlikely means. In the end, “To Catch a Shlunk” is merely a ripe concept that goes rotten due to poor execution.

But Adam on the whole is as rich as always, filled as it is with more fiction, fun cartoons, exotic factual stories, and great illustrations. Primary artist Jack Waugh even signed a couple of his pieces, which later, during the 1970s, he mostly stopped doing. Will we ever stop buying these? Well, since we've bought more than one hundred, it seems not. They are, however, becoming more difficult to obtain without buying issues we already have, though most vendors are understanding about separating issues from a group. Still though, it may be time to find another magazine to obsess over. We have a few candidates. Meanwhile, thirty-plus scans below.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 4 2021
RABBIT STEW
One small film for sci-fi, one giant Lepus for bad cinema.


This rare poster was made to promote Night of the Lepus, and those creepy eyes in the dark belong to rabbits. Giant rabbits. Lepus. Makes sense, right? Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun, Janet Leigh, and DeForest Kelly, post-Star Trek, star in what is supposed to be an epically bad film, but to us it was more like standard low level sci-fi or horror (take your pick). The special effects drag down the entire enterprise, but that's almost par for the course when it comes to this genre during the time period. We can imagine the actors signing on and being told the special effects would carry the movie. “Yeah, we've got top people on this giant rabbit thing. They'll look totally convincing!” Well, they don't, but neither do the monsters in 90% of vintage sci-fi.

If we had to guess, we'd say one reason people think this film is so bad is that there are numerous inadvertently funny lines of dialogue, for example when Kelly says, “We've got three holes to blow,” and when Chuck Hayward says, “I'm ready to release the gas as soon as they come out.” But the script is coherent, and the acting is more than adequate, so those two positives alone keep this out of the Plan 9 and Starcrash sub-basement category, as it brings to life the story of scientists and ranchers trying to reduce the number of feral rabbits in Arizona. Researchers Whitman and Leigh turn to hormones to shut off the bunnies' breeding capabilities, but this accidentally causes them to grow to enormous size—and makes them hopping mad too. In short order they overrun the nearby town and all the humans are fleeing for their lives.

Yes, the movie is silly. It's a clinic in the limited utility of forced perspective for trying to make believable monsters, an endeavor additionally undermined by the inconvenient fact that giant bunnies are still cute. But can you really pass up the chance to see Bones from Star Trek ambling around the high desert? And Janet Leigh is always sight to behold, here settling deep into an elegant milfhood, forty five with a cotton candy afroperm that she makes look as regal as a platinum crown. Epically bad? It's bad alright, mainly because it lacks distinction. But maybe you should just watch it and decide for yourself where it ranks. Night of the Lepus premiered today in 1972.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 24
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
September 23
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
September 22
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
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