Mid-century sex symbol provides inspiration for nuclear erotica.
This unusual piece of art was made by a French artist named Jacques Puiseux, whose work we've shared here before. We happened to be in contact with him recently, and he sent this our way to enjoy. He painted it back in 1999, and it suggests Brigitte Bardot and the French nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll, combined to create “a graphic pun of a sex bomb.” Appropriately, he calls it “Vénus Atomica.” We dig it, and Jacques' other art too, which you can see by clicking his keywords below. Just a little something different for you this lovely Thursday. Also, Jacques has a Flickr gallery here.
Erin Moran and co-stars have some unhappy days in outer space.
Galaxy of Terror, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1981, was produced by New World Pictures and Roger Corman, and you know what that means—no budget. Corman must have really licked his chops when he heard this pitch. In his genius, he probably realized immediately that he could avoid millions of dollars in costs by making his sets extra cheap and simply bathing them in darkness in order to save on production design. He also went cheap on script, direction, sound, music, special effects, and costuming. The result was one of many terrible outer space movies to hit multiplexes in the wake of Star Wars and Alien. This one is distinct in being influenced by both of those classics while sharing none of their advantages.
The plot deals with an intrepid crew of nine who embark on a military style rescue mission, seeking a ship lost in a distant star system on a planet called Organthus. After various travails, they land on the accursed world, find the lost ship, and make the mistake of entering it. Giant leeches, deadly shuriken, and other horrors bloodily whittle the crew down to an unfortunate few, at which point comes the infamous moment—which may be the only reason Galaxy of Terror is remembered—when poor Taaffe O'Connell is raped and killed by a giant maggot. The mission only goes farther downhill from there as Corman digs deep into the New World prop department for a couple of mothballed monsters to terrorize the survivors.
The thing about science fiction movies back then is that it was impossible to have an inkling of what the end result might be. Basically, the producers said, “Trust us, it'll look good.” The cast of Stars Wars took a leap of faith and were rewarded. The casts of imitator movies hoped to capture the same magic and failed over and over. Galaxy of Terror's budget of five million dollars probably sounded okay, considering Stars Wars cost eleven. The heady desire to roll the dice and hope for the best is probably what enticed co-star Erin Moran into taking a little moonlight ride from her hit television show Happy Days to appear in this turkey. Afterward, she may have considered a lobotomy to help her forget the entire ordeal.
There are, however, a few plusses to Galaxy of Terror. First, young production designer James Cameron probably learned that in sci-fi there's a budgetary floor beneath which disaster is assured, and would later make three of the best and most successful science fiction movies of all time (no, we're not counting Avatar). Second, co-star Zalman King probably realized sci-fi was for suckers, went softcore as a producer and director, and churned out such memorable (and now anachronistic) erotica as Red Shoe Diaries, Two Moon Junction, and Wild Orchid. And third, the poster art by Charo (not the singer) is nice. Also, the movie brought our special consulting critic Angela the Sunbear out of her cave. Watching Galaxy of Terror with her was really fun. I think the crew should have stayed in hibernation.
Just because she's high class doesn't mean she can't get down.
This lovely poster was made for the roman porno movie Yamanote fujin: Seiai no hibi, known in English as Uptown Lady: Days of Eros, and the star is the incomparable Izumi Shima, centerpiece of at least three dozen films for Nikkatsu Studios in a mere four years from 1977 to 1981. Here she plays the young wife of an old, blind classical dance teacher, and becomes the focus of romantic feelings from her husband's son from an earlier marriage. The two are around the same age, which is probably one reason Shima begins to have feelings too, though it's oh so very wrong. Would it be incest to boink your son-in-law? We don't know the legal ramifications, but it would certainly be a case of bad judgment. This exact type of bad judgment is of course standard territory for Nikkatsu, but under the direction of Masaru Konuma Seiai no hibi is gentler and more poetic than the usual fare. After seeing Shima receive forced enemas in other roman pornos this was a nice change.
Shima eventually gives in to her son-in-law in a hot and sweaty/oily sequence. The encounter features a sixty-nine and some pretty concentrated nipple licking by Shima that sent a ripple through our innards. Some guys don't like their nipples licked, but we think they're crazy. In our view, the nipples are a required pitstop on any excursion along the body, whatever the ultimate destination. Shima and her son-in-law have a second encounter, also of the wet and shiny variety, this time in a red-lit room, and once more it's a well shot and stimulating scene. But it's here that we must issue our standard warning to novices that roman porno is not porno—the appellation stands for “romantic porno,” and the movies are softcore, with no genitalia displayed. In order to find them stimulating, you have to use your imagination. That might be a problem for anyone under age thirty.
Anyway, for Shima's husband to not know something's going on he'd have to be blind—doh! rimshot! Read the premise again. He's a blind dance teacher. You know that cliché about the blind compensating with their other senses to the extent that they don't miss their vision at all? This movie hews to that concept. However, Shima's hubby is circumspect in marriage, if domineering as a teacher, so he doesn't let on that he knows—at first. Since Shima is not just his wife but also his star student, she has her career as a future natori to consider, and he knows that. How it eventually concludes we'll leave for you to discover on your own. We can tell you that serious roman porno enthusiasts tend to find this movie too sedate, but the less bizarre approach worked great for us. Of course, anything with Shima works great for us. Yamanote fujin: Seiai no hibi premiered in Japan today in 1980.
Classic horror feature still shocks and thrills.
It was inevitable that we'd get around to this movie. It was only a question of which poster we'd choose. Above you see a bizarre Japanese promo for Stuart Gordon's cult horror epic Re-Animator. In Japan it was titled Zombio – 死霊のしたたり, and the Japanese means “dripping of the dead,” which is pretty weird. But then so is the movie. It's an at times darkly comic splatterfest about a medical student obsessed with life after death, and it starts gory and quickly goes places you can't possibly expect. The source material is H.P. Lovecraft's tale, “Herbert West—Re-Animator,” first published in the pulp magazine Weird Tales in 1922.
The plot is only loosely based on what Lovecraft wrote. The movie follows a medical student played by Jeffrey Combs as he tries to defeat death by using a phosphorescent green re-animating agent of his own creation, and in so doing manages to drag promising fellow student Bruce Abbott and his girlfriend Barbara Crampton into a downward spiral of lies, illicit research, corpse abuse, and worse. It's even more catastrophic than it sounds. Meanwhile, a pompous and established physician-instructor played by David Gale becomes simultaneously jealous of Combs and lustful for Crampton, with results that are—in a word—totally insane. Well, two words.
We suspect that Re-Animator is one of those movies many have heard of, but not many have seen. There's more than just gore and that infamous sequence where Crampton is molested by a decapitated head. There are also cross-currents of blind ambition, skewed medical ethics, middle-aged lust for the young, and parental love, as well as overarching questions about human consciousness. It's a movie about obsession, but on multiple levels. Of course, it's also a movie done on the cheap, which leads to a few amusing efx, but overall it transcends its limitations, and for horror fans it's an absolute must. Re-Animator premiered in the U.S. in 1985 and crept into Japan today in 1987.
They're a sight to behold.
This is a cool little item that's been making the rounds on Twitter lately. It's the VHS box cover art for the horror flick Videodrome, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Debbie Harry and James Woods. As you know, we rarely post box art, but this one needed to be seen. The movie needs to be seen too—to be believed. It deals with a Toronto television producer who stumbles upon an illicit snuff channel, but finds that what's going on behind the broadcasts is even worse. It's Cronenberg at his weirdest. The movie premiered today in 1983.
The lady is a tramp, and the director is a scamp.
Junko Mabuki is back on Pulp Intl., as you see on this poster for the roman porno movie Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei, known in English as Office Lady Rope Slave. It premiered in Japan today in 1981, and basically, Junko plays a straight-laced nine-to-fiver who gets involved with a pair of bondage fetishists. These types of films were, of course, her specialty, and she once again gives viewers everything they'd become accustomed to seeing. But we're less interested in the plot of the movie than the reaction at Japan's censorship board Eiga Rinri Kikō. Adherence to its restrictions was ostensibly voluntary on the part of film studios, but the body had real enforcement power. Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei must have shaken the place to its foundations.
Let's set the scene. One of the censors has shown up at the Eiga Rinri Kikō office for an emergency meeting with the board chief. He and the other members of the body are proud of themselves for their work, which basically just hews to Japanese obscenity standards by forbidding shots of sex organs and pubic hair. But they never really thought it out from the perspective of directors determined to skirt the edges, which suddenly is happening with increasing frequency. Now at least one censor is in a tizzy. He'd be even more agitated if he knew digital technology would make roman porno films globally available, and thus decades later raise uncomfortable questions about Japanese culture and misogyny, but at this point he has no clue about that.
Censor: I'm beginning to think our censorship regime has backfired. I just screened Dan Oniroku OL nawa dorei and that fucker Katushiko shows dripping semen.
Chief: We didn't ban that?
Censor: No. We overlooked it.
Chief: Well, what's a little semen?
Censor: It's dripping from Mabuki Junko's mouth. He also shows vaginal juices, vaginal blood, and strongly implies that Mabuki-kun gets her clitoris clothes-pinned.
Chief: Hmm... that does sound provocative.
Censor: I watched it twice just to be sure of my eyes. It's depraved. Additionally, there's all the usual bondage, some bizarre insertions, an enema, oral sex both heterosexual and lesbian...
Chief: All this without violating a single one of our rules?
Censor: Nothing is actually shown. It seems quite revealing, though, because, well, Mabuki-kun is a very good actress. Great boobs too.
Chief: Agreed. Mabuki-kun has excellent boobs.
Censor: But in general, it feels like these roman porno directors are ridiculing our censorship standards. There's even a moment—I swear—when I felt like the actors looked directly at me and sneered.
Chief: Now you're being paranoid. Regarding the standards, we could change them, make them more restrictive, but it's hell keeping Nikkatsu and the other studios in line already. Any alteration now may cause serious problems.
Censor: *sigh* But the semen...
Chief: What's a little semen? So, that screener is VHS?
Censor: Betamax. It's a better format. Soon everything will be Betamax. I have it with me.
Chief: I better check it out—just to confirm your findings. Leave it by the Beta player over there, and close the door on your way out. Also, tell my secretary I'm not to be disturbed for ninety minutes.
Okay, a scornful look for the censorship board on one... two... and now! At first I thought this was a citrus reamer, but now I'm not sure. How the hell do you expect me to flush this way? I'll help him. I've been hiding in the shower the whole time. I have to take a short break. There's an office pool on my chair. We'll all have what she's having!
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a mandatory look at grindhouse moviemaking during the untamed 1970s.
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a film we've watched a few times, and whenever a movie racks up multiple viewings we think it needs to be highlighted. It's a fast paced documentary about the wave of low budget exploitation flicks made in the Philippines from the late ’60s through the ’70s. We weren't old enough to see any of them during the actual grindhouse era, but caught them in later years, and one reason we came up with this website was for the opportunity to riff on these types of flicks. Over the last decade-plus we've had the pleasure of writing about entertaining dreck like Savage Sisters, The Big Doll House, Night of the Cobra Woman, and Cleopatra Wong. Built around interviews with stars such as Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Margaret Markov, Gloria Hendry, and directors/producers like Eddie Romero, Jack Hill, Joe Dante, and Roger Corman, Machete Maidens Unleashed! is an insider's look at a unique era in cinema history. It compellingly juxtaposes snippets of cinematic insanity against clips of the performers involved laughing over the craziness of it all. While the moviesdiscussed often fall into the category of sexploitation, at the time they were also considered an adjunct of the women's liberation movement—a point made by a couple of the actresses interviewed. Coming out of the sexually repressive decades of the fifties and early sixties, nudity was seen as a rebuke to patriarchal control. Covering productions ranging from 1964's The Walls of Hell to 1979's big budget war flick Apocalypse Now, this is a wide ranging documentary, and by far the most entertaining one on the subject matter we've seen. What with our website's Philippine provenance, and with PSGP having spent a couple of years in Guatemala, another country where life was cheap but fun was unparalleled, this also hit us directly in the nostalgia gland (PSGP feels like the only reason these films weren't made in Guatemala is because everyone actually would have been murdered, instead of just thinking they would).
All the interviewees seem to understand that they're from an extinct breed of very brave film performers, making entertainment for audiences ready to see absolutely anything happen. It sometimes seems that modern audiences have forgotten that the filmmaker is not the material, and the actor is not his or her character. The message comes through strongly here that movies are simply make believe. The creators maywant to outrage, or teach, or push censorship envelopes, or illuminate themes that leave audiences enriched in some way, but it's still just a job they perform before going home to their real lives. We wouldn't be surprised if some of the interviewees now feel they'd been traumatized, but during this movie, at least, they shrug off the difficulties of filming—ranging from extreme weather to graphic nudity to military revolt—as obstacles true professionals must navigate. The title cards of some of these films should be enough by themselves to intrigue you. We have a set below. We've also mixed in some screenshots. We'd love to have uploaded actual production photos, but the films are so low budget those are close to impossible to find. But why look at photos when you can watch the movies? Give it a shot. Quarts of booze are optional. Machete Maidens Unleashed! had its world premiere in Australia in the summer of 2010, and first hit U.S. shores today the same year at the Philadelphia International Film Festival. We've pointed you toward a few Philippine grindhouse flicks above, and you can read about more—there are so many, so please excuse the avalanche of links—here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
There's never a cop around to perform a cavity search when you need one.
You probably suspect at a glance that this is a Japanese poster for an x-rated movie, and you'd be right. It was made for Trinity Brown, starring Sharon Kelly, aka Colleen Brennan, who's backed by a supporting cast of stalwart porn studs and b-level starlets. This is the fourth movie of Kelly's we've looked at, after Love, Lust and Violence, Gosh!, Scream in the Streets, and Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks. Do we have a special affinity for her? Not really. But the Japanese did, apparently. We've found Japanese posters for many of her flicks. They've retitled this one 弾を握る女, which means “woman holding a bullet.” Or possibly they've retitled it SEXリボルバー, which means “sex revolver.” The rest says, “Right now, a miraculous comeback, Sharon Kelly. A trap of terrifying passion, the scent of lavender drifting in the cloudy darkness. A man never forgets the smell of Sharon.” Indeed.
You can always expect a plotline with vintage porn, and in this case Kelly plays a tough L.A. cop partnered with John Leslie, who she also happens to be banging off-duty. The two are assigned a murder case in which a strip club owner is thought to have shot a local gangster. Brennan and Leslie delve into the world of exotic dancers and show business to unravel the mystery. It isn't much of a mystery—psst the gangster's girl set him up—but getting to the end is reasonably fun.
Generally vintage porn features realistic sexual performances, without a lot of asinine screaming and backbreaking positions. It was made before the medium became festishistic performance art, and takes itself seriously as erotica for normal people. This particular flick was made without any of the most inspiring porn beauties from the era (Ginger Lynn, Angel, Shauna Grant, Jody Swafford, Annette Haven, et al), so it's possible some viewers might be aesthetically nonplussed by Kelly and company, but everything is real, rather than silicone, and that's worth something. We'll discuss some of those top stars again, and Kelly will be back too, on yet another Japanese poster we have. Trinity Brown premiered in the U.S. in 1984 and reached Japan today in 1986.
Matt Dillon gets on an unstoppable roll.
Above is a poster for the U.S. movie The Big Town, which is a drama released today in 1987, set in 1957, based on the 1967 Clark Howard novel The Arm. We like 1950s movies. And we like new movies set during the 1950s. It's always interesting to see an interpretation of the era, versus productions actually made during those years. The Big Town is a fun rendition, as pretty boy Matt Dillon plays a skilled young dice shooter who leaves podunkville Indiana for Chicago and experiences all its pleasures and pains.
On the pleasure side is femme fatale fan dancer Diane Lane, and bringing the pain is Tommy Lee Jones as a gambler who runs a crooked nightspot called the Gem Club—and who happens to be married to Lane. It's always a bad idea to bed a bad man's wife, but it's an even worse idea to break his bank for $15,000. Dillon does both. Later he tries to engineer a high stakes double-cross that will allow him to win the Gem Club in a craps game. Along the road from rags to potential there are plenty of subplots, including revenge, good girl redemption, and the struggle to retain's one's soul.
The Big Town is often called a neo-noir, and though any film with a crime focus and numerous night scenes tends to get that label slapped on it, in this case we feel like the designation is accurate. The movie deals not only with crime and gambling, but also takes passes at burlesque, racism, and the culture clash between ’40s style tough guys and new generation hipsters, with their sculpted hair and rock and roll attitudes. On the acting front, Dillon does a good job, and Jones is excellent as always, doing that unique thing he does. If you're looking for a fast period drama you can certainly do worse.
When is a flower not a flower and a snake not a snake? In Japanese cinema.
Above you see a poster for the Nikkatsu Studios roman porno movie Hana to hebi: Jigoku-hen, known in English as Flower and Snake: Sketch of Hell. In this genre, any mention or sight of a flower is liable to be symbolic. Some call them vulvic symbols, some yonic symbols, but in either case something phallic is usually about to rear its ugly head. The movie starred Kaori Asô and Mami Fujimura, and it was second in a Flower and Snake franchise that eventually numbered eight entries, with this one premiering in Japan today in 1985. That puts it outside our vintage purview, since for our purposes we define modern as anything from 1980 and after, but we had to show you the poster art. How could we not? This amazing promo was painted by famed bondage artist Kaname Ozuma, whose work you can see with an image search. Japanese film studios were very interested in bondage, and Japanese audiences must have been too, because many roman porno films with bdsm themes did well at the box office.
Much of the interest in the subject derived from literature, particularly the works of Oniroku Dan, who wrote the source novel for this film. His books were behind about three-dozen roman porno productions. While we don't get these explorations of humiliation and bondage, we understand that every culture has its particulars. For example, if you go on Japanese Wikipedia, celebrities' biographies often contain their blood types. On the other hand, if you go on U.S. Wikipedia, celebrities' biographies often contain their political allegiances. Objectively, both types of information are completely pointless, yet they suggest—interestingly—what obsesses each culture.
What we're saying is that since we're not Japanese, we can't offer much insight into the roman porno wave that swept Japan. We can do the when, where, who, and how of it—but not the why. But we like the posters, the films are usually incredibly well shot, and the actresses are generally stunning, so we watch the movies and tell you whether we liked them. You're probably wondering if we watched Jigoku-hen. We did, and it's what we expected—longform bondage and torture, softcore style, with little shown, but plenty implied. While it stars Asô and the amazing Fujimura, we don't recommend it unless you're okay with plenty of tears and pee. Neither of those are our bag, and if they're yours, maybe talk to someone. Below, Fujimura is happy after washing off the stain of having starred in such a mean and pointless film, while Asô calls home from vacation and tells her family she's recovering fine. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
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