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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Vintage Pulp Oct 1 2020
BRAIN DAMAGE
Disembodied alien has a mind to destroy the Earth.


Incredibly, the sci-fi flick The Brain from Planet Arous, which premiered today in 1957, was never featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. We scanned the episode list three times just to make sure, and we still can't fathom the omission, because the film is rife with set-up lines, humorous plot holes, and improbable leaps of logic that make it a natural for a send-up. Storywise, a hyper-intelligent floating brain comes to Earth, takes over the body of affable scientist John Agar, and transforms him into an egomaniacal sociopath right out of Ayn Rand. This alien's plan? Subjugation of the Earth or destruction. It/he also seems strangely interested in money, fame, and sex with Agar's girlfriend Joyce Meadows.

Subsequently a second floating brain arrives and reveals to Meadows that it's/he's a cosmic cop come to take brain uno back home to be punished for being such an asshole. Brain two decides it needs a perfect cover, a body to hide inside until it's time to pounce, and promptly selects the family dog. We're not kidding. We could tell you more but why bother? This is a real stinker by today's standards, but objectively speaking it's a viable sci-fi effort for the 1950s, a time when adequate budget, excellent actors, and behind-the-camera technical prowess were not generally reserved for genre pix such as these. The best thing we can say about The Brain from Planet Arous is that there's a certain comfort in its retro simplicity. Find evil, expose evil, bury axe in evil. If only real life worked that way.
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Vintage Pulp Jun 15 2020
BEAST WITH THE LEAST
If the budget had been 10ยข for every eye they might have ended up with a good movie.


Above is a promo poster for the sci-fi b-flick The Beast with a Million Eyes, a $33,000 cheapie that premiered in the U.S. today in 1955. This film is nightmarishly bad. It has to do with an alien intelligence that can take over the minds of any creatures on Earth, and uses these animals as the vanguard of an invasion. But in one of the worst strategy blunders since Agincourt, the alien uses its power to control the animals on and around a podunk farm in Ojai, California. This alien is only briefly shown, by the way. There's a double exposure of a rubber eye and a cheap-ass foam rubber monster head from another film, and there's a pint sized spaceship three feet high that was built by efx supervisor Paul Blaisdell for $200. These were tacked onto the film after investors had conniptions upon seeing the monsterless rough cut. We suspect more money went into the poster, which is sort of interesting, in a cheap way. But the film? It's cheap, in an uninteresting way. We recommend a hard pass.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 6 2020
STAR CROSSED LOVERS
Sex with you is out of this world. Which makes total sense, considering you're from Alpha Centauri.


Lately we've been reading mid-century sci-fi novels, in this case George O. Smith's Troubled Star, from 1957, for which you see cover art by Edmund Emshwiller. It doesn't really fit the book, but this is what happens when the publisher wants good-girl-art at all costs—you get your basic horny detective novel couple, but with the guy in a silver jumpsuit and gadgety bracelets. It's nice art anyway, and there is actually a bit of human/alien sex in the book. The overall premise is interesting. An advanced interstellar civilization decides it needs to turn the Sun into a blinking variable star to mark a galactic space lane, and they decide to relocate the Earth—literally tow it across the galaxy in mere minutes and set it in orbit around a similar star. Since this new parent star is closer to the galactic center the Earth would get lethal doses of gamma radiation, which isn't discussed, but whatever. The book is big picture stuff. Details don't matter.

The aliens have used a special device to determine the most appropriate Earthling to approach about this, and this device measures human goodwill. Basically, it helps them discern who is the most respected person on the planet. In their way of thinking, this person would be a leader, but unfortunately the device picks a movie star. Interestingly, this actor, Dusty Britton, is famous for playing a space hero, and all the people on Earth thinking of Britton in this way makes the aliens think humans have an advanced space program when they really don't. In short, these denizens from the gulfs of the cosmos are smart enough to initiate and execute interstellar infrastructure projects, but they're actually not so bright. Britton is troubled by their plan, and so the title Troubled Star becomes a double entendre, because, you see, the Sun is in trouble, and Britton, a movie star, is...

Oh, screw it. Just don't bother reading this. It's for adolescents (If you're an adolescent, though, feel free, but what are you doing on this website? Get off! It's not good for you!). The last five sci-fi novels we read before this one were The Ant Men, (silly), Rogue Queen (decent), I Am Legend (good), The Body Snatchers (excellent), and Gladiator (excellent). They cover a wide range of subject matter, and are written in wide-ranging styles. Though the most recent two have been less successful than the others due to both being junior high school level in terms of their content, in general these have been entertaining forays into the far realms of imagination. As we mentioned yesterday about sci-fi movies, speculation is a major attraction. If you run into any obscure vintage sci-fi, it can serve as a nice break from hard-boiled fiction. If the stars align, you may luck into a real gem.
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Vintage Pulp Jun 5 2020
THE IT FACTOR
Desert town suffers invasion of body snatchers.


There's something about cheeseball ’50s sci-fi. The earnestness and analog efx are fun, but it's their speculative nature that makes them don't-miss cinema. How will we travel in the future? What would a trip to Mars be like? How will society have changed by the year 2000? What if aliens visited Earth? It Came from Outer Space falls into the latter category, and here's why aliens visit—by accident. The entire script can be summed up with: space ship crashes, space ship broken, space ship needs repair, aliens take over human bodies to do it. Talk about invading your personal space. Pretty soon two local menials are wandering around like zombies seeking spare parts to fix the grounded ship, while studly Richard Carlson tries to figure out what crashed in the desert.

It sounds silly, but this is a high budget flick, as such efforts go, with good direction, more than adequate acting, and lots of alien-cam shots. It's funny too, though unintentionally, for example when Kathleen Hughes, for reasons that are never clear, plays her bit part like a mink in heat, even though she's supposed to be worried to death about her kidnapped boyfriend. That boyfriend is Russell Johnson, the professor from Gilligan's Island. Can you believe this guy? First Hughes, then he's shipwrecked with Ginger and Mary Ann. Some guys have all the luck. But we're lucky too—we found numerous excellent promo images and uploaded them below. The movie's iconic poster was painted by Joseph Smith. It Came from Outer Space premiered in the U.S today in 1953.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 21 2020
TWILIGHT SAGA
The island of Doctor Morose.


There's cheese and there's Philippine cheese. Cheese is mildly fragrant. Philippine cheese is chase-you-from-the-room stinky. Twilight People, for which you see a promo poster above, was made in the Philippines and it reeks to high heaven. But all is not lost—it's also fantastically funny in parts. The story here is a scientist kidnaps John Ashley to an isolated tropical island with the aim of transplanting his personality into the members of a menagerie of feral semi-humans created as the next step in human evolution.
 
This scientist is not just mad—he's a total downer. Nuclear war, pollution, overpopulation, the ecological consequences of civilization—he's worried about it all. His ugly quasi-humans are the answer. In our opinion, anything that makes Pam Grier look less like Pam Grier is not an advancement of any kind, but whatever—she's hairy, others are hairy, and they're the next leap up the evolutionary ladder, so sayeth the script.
 
Ashley can only think of one way to escape this crazy island, which is by using his lips. He works his charms on the sad doc's assistant Pat Woodell, who's the only non-hirsute woman around, and pretty soon her hormones get to simmering and there's trouble in paradise. We really can't blame Ashley for going this route. Woodell is spectacular. Too bad the movie isn't. Think of it as a low budget Island of Doctor Moreau, then watch that film instead. Twilight People premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.

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Modern Pulp Jan 28 2020
THEY STILL LIVE
And at this rate it looks like they'll outlast us all.


Is it one of the greatest allegorical science fiction films ever made? Well, sci-fi is conducive to metaphor, so the list of contenders is long, but certainly John Carpenter's They Live is somewhere in the mix. You see its Japanese poster above. The film invaded Japan today in 1989, after premiering in the U.S. during November of the previous year. We suspect this one falls into the category of movies many have been told they should see, but few have bothered to make the time for. We're here to suggest that you make the time. The premise is ingenious—Earth's ruling class are actually aliens in human form. What do these offworld one-percenters want? Mainly for humans to obliviously embrace behavior that is beneficial to the maintenance of elite power. To that end the everyday world people see is a mere curtain over a deeper reality totally geared toward making humans obey, consume, conform, and reproduce.

Carpenter said about the film, which is based on the 1963 short story, “Eight O'Clock in the Morning,” by Ray Nelson, “The picture's premise is that [our current economic system] is run by aliens from another galaxy. Free enterprisers from outer space have taken over the world, and are exploiting Earth as if it's a third world planet. And as soon as they exhaust all our resources, they'll move on to another world.” The idea is certainly poignant in this age of inequality, low wage employment, population explosion, environmental ruin, and all-powerful international corporate overlords that somehow are regarded by U.S. courts as “people.”
 
The aliens of They Live, not unlike corporations, want to go unchallenged while they suck the planet dry. But Roddy Piper, playing a drifter passing through Los Angeles, happens upon a small resistance who have made special sunglasses that penetrate the disguise laid over the world. When he dons these glasses his mind is simply blown by what they reveal. Even the money people work so hard for is nothing more than plain white paper bearing the message: “This is your god.” Carpenter builds the drama of They Live slowly, and plays it for laughs on multiple occasions, but the sense of dread mounts as Piper and co-star Keith David realize the illusions that maintain order are broadcast from a massive fleet of hovering drones, and if they don't expose the truth perhaps nobody will.

We've seen They Live several times, and loved it more on each occasion. Generally, people who don't like it find it too slow, which is ironic considering it's a film that suggests people are deliberately being prevented from taking the crucial time needed to see what's real and what isn't. They Live makes us imagine what would happen if aliens really did arrive on Earth. Most likely they would be sifting through the ruins of what was once here, and they'd say, “This strange species had diverse art that often discussed hostile alien invasions, but it appears they didn't realize the thing that would destroy them was already here—it was their own economics.”

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Vintage Pulp Oct 2 2019
HEADLESS HYDRA
Sci-fi invasion film is a Missione impossible.


The hydra of myth had seven heads. The movie 2+5: Missione Hydra feels like there wasn't a single head involved. It originally premiered in Italy today in 1966, but was re-released in 1977 as Star Pilot, an opportunistic move inspired by the success of Star Wars. But where Star Wars made history, Star Pilot is historically awful. The plot involves aliens who crash land on Earth but need to go back to their home planet located somewhere in the constellation Hydra, and can only repair their ship with the help of a few human scientists. As a bonus they plan to abduct these accommodating people for intensive—possibly even invasive—study.

2+5: Missione Hydra is very nearly the worst science fiction film we've ever seen, perhaps second only to the infamous Star Crash. Its unique terribleness was brought about by a perfect storm of factors, including a budget completely inadequate for the film's ambitions, which resulted in cheap sets, shoestring special efx, ridiculous costumes, bad music and sound, and stunt work that looks as if it was performed by the guys who fight with wooden swords at medieval fairs.

Adding to these problems is a script that is not only inept, but filled with attempts at light-hearted humor that fall flatter than buckwheat crêpes. Leontine and Leonora Ruffo are dealt the worst characters, and must try to bring to life, respectively, a frisky sexpot and a cold alien space babe. But they're overmatched by the writing. The only positive with 2+5: Missione Hydra is the usual one when it comes to awful films—if you have a few quick-witted friends and some booze, this could turn into one of the most entertaining movie nights you've ever had.

Guys, was that our screenwriter back there on the side of the road? Maybe we should stop. We might need him.

We have come to Earth to fertilize your women. And your men. And possibly some trees. Our semen funnels can induce fertilization in anything.

Among our species, my funnel is considered enormous.

You had me at “fun,” space stud.

This is the fertilization chamber. To excite you we have installed mood lighting and will transmit the Chili Peppers', “Party on Your Pussy.”

We can't fertilize on this! It's barely big enough for a reverse cowgirl, let alone a standard missionary.

Heh. They have no idea we're recording the fertilizations. We should do quite well with these on the galactic candid porn market.

How did your fertilization go? Mine, all things considered, was better than expected.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 23
1936—First Edition of Life Published
Henry Luce launches Life, a weekly magazine with an emphasis on photo-journalism. Life dominates the U.S. market for more than forty years, publishing scores of iconic photographs that remain some of the most recognizable ever shot, and peaking at one point with a circulation of more than 13.5 million copies a week.
1963—Doctor Who Debuts on BBC
The BBC broadcasts the first episode of Doctor Who, starring William Hartnell as a mysterious alien who time travels in his spaceship, the TARDIS. With his companions, he explores time and space while facing a variety of foes and righting wrongs. The show would become the longest-running science fiction series ever broadcast.
November 22
1963—John F. Kennedy Is Assassinated
In Dallas, Texas, U.S. President John F. Kennedy is killed and Texas Governor John B. Connally is seriously wounded as they ride in a motorcade through Dealy Plaza. Lee Harvey Oswald, an employee of the schoolbook depository from which the shots were suspected to have been fired, was arrested on charges of the murder of a local police officer and was subsequently charged with the Kennedy killing. He denied shooting anyone, claiming he was a patsy, but was killed by Jack Ruby on November 24, before he could be indicted or tried. Today, Americans who believe JFK was killed as the result of a conspiracy are routinely dismissed in the press, yet the vast majority of them believe Oswald did not act alone.
November 21
1959—Max Baer Dies
Former heavyweight boxing champ Max Baer dies of a heart attack in Hollywood, California. Baer had a turbulent career. He lost to Joe Louis in 1935, but two years earlier, in his prime, he defeated German champ and Nazi hero Max Schmeling while wearing a Star of David on his trunks. The victory was his legacy, making him a symbol to Jews, and also to all who hated Nazis.
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