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.”
Welcome to Wilson's house of pain and leather.
American actress Ajita Wilson was born in Brooklyn but became a big star in Italian sexploitation and porn movies. She was transsexual, having been born George Wilson, but opting for gender reassignment in the mid-1970s. She launched her career in New York City, making a name for herself in the red light district of the era, which back then was centered around Times Square, these days aka Disneyland east. Not long after she launched her adult career she was seen by a European producer and offered a chance to work across the pond in historic Rome. She jumped at the chance.
Wilson appeared in close to fifty movies, starting with 1976's The Nude Princess. In Perverse oltre le sbarre, which is known in the U.S. as Hell Behind Bars, she plays a killer and jewel thief named Conchita who gets tossed in the prigione and has to negotiate the usual women-in-prison staples—corruption, violence, lesbianism, and a sadistic warden. Oh, and let's not forget screechy girl fights, and sexual harassment showers. Did we leave anything out? Ah, cavity searches. Can't forget those. Torture by high voltage shock. Illicit drugs. Karate chopping double-crossers. Breathy sexploitation soundtrack. Maybe that doesn't count, though, because the prisoners theoretically can't hear it.
Yes, this prison Ajita ends up in is pretty bad, but it could be worse—at least the warden lets the women wear lingerie. Rita Silva and Linda Jones co-star in what becomes a standard WIP escape drama, and of course the escape is more fraught than anyone expected. As prison sexploitation Perverse oltre le sbarre is the same as most others, with the exception that the budget is obviously lower. With nearly fifty films to her credit Wilson almost certainly made something better. We'll take a look and see if we can find which efforts those might be, and you'd be advised to do the same and skip this one. We'll see Wilson again, though. Perverse oltre le sbarre opened in Italy today in 1984.
Classic ninja movie Ren zhe da is a kick in the head.
This chaotic poster was made for a 1986 Taiwanese kung fu movie called Ren zhe da, which in English was renamed Ninja: The Final Duel. It stars Wang Chi Chung acting under the name Alexander Lo, along with Alan Lee and Alice Tseng. We gather the film is distilled from an eight hour television series. Cutting all that footage down to a ninety minute adventure makes for a final product that's choppy (see what we did there?), but the basic idea is the Ji Ho Clan wishes to defeat the Shaolin Temple, which is protected by the heroic Lo, two Hare Krishna martial arts experts, a renowned African American monk from Harlem, and others.
The film is notable for Alice Tseng's pivotal fight scene, in which—à la Reiko Ike in Sex & Fury—she battles a group of men while naked. If you unrepentantly use the freeze frame feature on your telly the fight is a vulva memorable sequence. Also memorable is the Harlem monk, played by Eugene Thomas acting under the name Eugene T. Trammel. His dialogue is dubbed by a voice actor imitating black vernacular English, but with an appalling Taiwanese accent. As surprising as the explicitness of Tseng's nude sword battle is, the black monk's ghettofied dialogue is, in a way, even crazier. We can't imagine why the filmmakers thought that was a good idea, but as unintentional humor goes, it's top tier.
The fighting between Ji Ho Clan and Shaolin Temple builds to a climax, with various good guys making the uiltimate sacrifice, until finally, as in many kung fu movies, the grizzled (but surprisingly spry) Shaolin master shows up to restore order by whipping ass on the best enemy fighter. Why doesn't the old master just fight this guy immediately and save his loyal underlings a lot of effort and pain? The Buddha once famously said, and we're paraphrasing, "Be loathe to pull thine disciples' bacon from the fire, because, after all, there is nothing more replaceable than a loyal follower." Or something like that. In any case, Ren zhe da is a movie kung fu aficionados must see.
Have you had a hallucination yet today?
We're really living up to the Intl. part of Pulp Intl. today with this fascinating promo poster from far away Ghana. It was made for Canadian horror filmmaker David Cronenberg's 1983 freakshow Videodrome, starring Debbie Harry and James Woods in a wild story about video-triggered hallucinations that become real. We found this on a website called Deep Fried Movies, and they found it at Deadly Prey Gallery on Instagram. It's signed O.A. Heavy J. Teshie, if we're reading that right. Well, good job, O. Since you worked in the ’80s you may still be out there, and if you are, FYI, dealers in the U.S. are selling your posters for up to $4,000 a pop. If you've got any pieces hanging around, we strongly urge cutting out the middlemen.
What's a crime? Being unable to identify the artist.
Has the Mexican crime art revival passed? Maybe, but not on Pulp Intl. We've talked about this niche quite a bit, and today we're veering back in that direction to share this piece entitled “Crimen Perfecto,” painted during the early 1980s by someone who signed as Yuno. Yuno who? We dunno. Do you? You do? Let us know. Actually, we don't expect you to know, because these artists were rarely properly credited, nor properly compensated, we suspect.
For that reason they never could have expected interest in their work to rekindle, but it did, and for a while auctions in these were pretty active, both online and in brick-and-mortar. The technical execution on display isn't what you'd usually find in classic paperback art, but as critic Ken Johnson wrote in the New York Times in 2015, “The value of [Mexican crime] paintings isn’t to be found in their aesthetic sophistication or refinement. This is truly art for the masses, as kitschy as it is amusing.”
He forgot to mention horrifying and violent. A smart person once said that violent societies have violent amusements, and Mexico, like the U.S., has certain strains in its culture that persistently glorify mayhem. Art such as this gives you a glimpse of that, put to pasteboard via brush and paint. While the artists remain mostly unknown, what they produced resonates all these decades later. See more wild Mexican crime art here, here, here, and here.
The more you Zoom the weirder everything looks.
Above is a poster for Zûmu appu: Bôkô hakusho, aka Zoom Up: Sexual Crime Report, the fourth film in the Zoom Up series. This installment starred Yuki Kazamatsuri and Rie Hirase, and premiered in Japan today in 1981. Where do we start with this? Kazamatsuri plays a disc jockey married to a powerful businessman. One night on her way to the radio station she's raped by a gang of creeps on motorcycles, and it turns out this was not a random attack. That's already a spoiler, so we'll stop there.
As always, we try to remember that Nikkatsu Studios was in the business of making money. The directors and screenwriters had a lot of artistic freedom, and occasionally tried to embed social commentary and deep metaphor in these films. But you know how it goes with metaphor—if you suspect it's there you'll look for it until you strain your brain. Broadly speaking, roman porno avoids the feminist patriarchy smashing of pinky violence films, usually denying women any sort of cathartic retribution. We stress usually. Even in this retrograde genre women sometimes get the opportunity to make men eat cold steel, or hot lead, as the case may be. Which path does Zûmu appu: Bôkô hakusho take? We ain't saying.
If you look around the internet the very few reviews of roman porno films you find are by males, usually in Japanese. We sometimes add to the all-male chorus, but just as often we keep our write-ups vague, focusing mainly on the poster art. We hope one day there'll be a more diverse online analysis of these, particularly of two types: in English from Japanese viewers who can provide social context we can't; and from women. The latter you might expect us to get from PI-1 and PI-2 (did we mention they're out of town?), but they refuse to watch these. Maybe, truly, that's the most incisive analysis of all.
Wait, so this is all a cinematic metaphor?
Ahh, a wonderful, relaxing metaphor for womblike security.
Oh no! A terrible, disturbing metaphor for survival in a hostile world!
Lalalala... slurp.... gurgle... metaphor.... lalalalalala...
Shhh... trust me. This is a metaphor you're really going to enjoy.
Maybe these metaphors will be clearer without my glasses.
Junko Mabuko is unjustly detained yet again.
It's Junko Mabuki again, beset by her usual troubles on this poster for the roman porno flick Dan Oniroku joen fujin, which premiered in Japan today in 1980. This movie seems to have been retitled for its English language release either Blazing Bondage Lady or Madam Rope Flame. Different sites say it's one or the other, but both titles kind of mean the same thing, so both are probably correct.
How does Junko get caged? It's her husband's fault. He accidentally runs over a woman who's a star S&M performer and her widower shows up to claim Junko as his own (and as a bonus also kidnaps her sister, played by the ethereal Izumi Shima). Junko's captor introduces her to aspects of bdsm such as whipping and enemas (always a favorite of roman porno flicks), and her shame and resistance eventually turn to acceptance and pleasure.
Mabuki burst onto the roman porno scene in 1979 and in 1980 made a dozen films. Nikkatsu thought they had another Naomi Tani on their hands and even staged a press conference at which they introduced Mabuki to the assembled journalists while she was done up in bondage gear. These types of publicity stunts weren't unusual for Nikkatsu. They had barely enough time to congratulate themselves for finding a new star when in 1982 Junko abruptly retired.
But Mabuki left behind more than a dozen films and established herself as one of the era's most popular stars. Even so, we rarely recommend these movies and can't recommend this one either, but we love roman porno posters, which taken out of context are always amazing art pieces. Junko is like art too, below. Rest assured, this is not the last we'll see of her.
She's an Angel but she knows all the tricks devils know.
This poster comes from our rather large collection of Japanese promos for x-rated U.S. movies, and was made to publicize The Pleasures of Innocence, starring all-time beauty Angel, aka Jennifer James. Porn copied successful mainstream films as a matter of course, and this is Flashdance influenced, with workout montages, sweat, and 100% earnest, specially made for the film, bass-popping, electro-drumming mid-’80s dance music. Angel plays a smalltown girl who ditches Des Moines and heads to NYC to catch a break. Other performers include Sharon Kane, Honey Wilder, real life former ballerina Terri Hall, and porn legend John Leslie as a slimy agent determined to gain entry to Angel's holy place.
Best line: “She always falls for those writer types. She was seeing a lawyer pretty regular back home.”
Second best line, as the writer is having sex with Angel: “You're a writer's dream.”
Well, Angel is anyone's dream. We won't get into the plot much more except to say that if you took all the sex out of the film the script would be more like a treatment you could read in nine minutes. We're mainly about the poster anyway, and as usual with Japanese promos, this one features a shot of the star that doesn't exist in any other form. That's no surprise—the photo that would have supplied Angel's likeness doubtless was either lost through carelessness, irreparably damaged through neglect, or was appropriated and will turn up on Ebay when the assistant graphic designer who swiped it dies and his kids find it in a box under his bed.
Obviously, we can't recommend this movie. It's dumb, despite professional film stock, good lighting, location work, split screen trickery, and serious performances. In its favor, the dancing is interesting to watch, a bit like revisiting MTV new wave videos, Kim Wilde maybe, or Pat Benatar. We know—that isn't great enticement, but there's also Angel, don't forget. She's an adult film industry legend for a reason. There's no known Japanese release date for The Pleasures of Innocence, but it premiered in the U.S. today in 1986. Bonus material: Angel dances below, and fronts three more posters here.
They're actually a little rude but the French don't seem to mind
Here you see the cover and few scans from Les femmes de Manara, which is a compendium from 1995 featuring published as well as previously unseen women created by the agile hand of Milo Manara, one of the great illustrators of graphic novels. He was born in Italy and was copiously published both there and in France, and remains extremely popular all over Europe. His niche is explicit erotica, and he's done it better than just about anyone, populating his books with lithe, beautiful women who manage to get into the weirdest scrapes. In Il Gioco, aka Click or Le Déclic, for example, the character Claudia Cristiani has an implant placed in her brain to help her with sexual arousal, which is all well and good until the remote control that operates it breaks and she's left in an ongoing nymphomaniacal state. It was made into a movie which we may discuss later, by the way. In Gulliveriana Manara's heroine survives a storm at sea only to find herself stranded naked on an island of tiny people. No movie of that, though we'd love to see one made. Anyway, these panels will certainly give you an idea why Manara became an icon in his field. He's still active, and maintains a nice website, frequently updated. So for more info on this master illustrator look there.
General depravity meets corporal punishment
Goliath Books is a Berlin based publisher that specializes in historical erotica, and they have a new volume fresh off the presses called A History of Sexual Punishment. We've featured Goliath several times, and their releases are always top quality. This new volume continues the trend with 272 pages of art and text related to spanking, flogging, and other outré practices designed to whip up a little excitement in your private life. These activities go as far back in the historical record as one cares to look and survive into our modern age, which the book takes pains to document, using examples ranging from old ink prints to modern photography.
The release is a sort of cousin to Goliath's 2018 book Marquis De Sade - 100 Erotic Illustrations, and the fact that they've circled back to the subject matter perhaps hints at the high level of interest out there about it. How high, you ask? Some surveys say 85% of adults in the U.S. have tried some form of bsdm (spanking, bondage, blindfolds, etc.), so you're not quite as weird as you thought you were, sadly. We have a few interior scans from the book below that amply get the idea of its contents across. And feel free to have a look at both the De Sade book here, and Goliath's two modern bondage collections here and here. Spank you very much.
A History of Sexual Punishment ISBN: 978-3-95730-047-8 €24.99
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
Winston Churchill resigns as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom amid indications of failing health. He had suffered a mild stroke during the summer of 1949, and another, more severe stroke, in June 1953. News of these events were kept from the public and from Parliament, who were told that Churchill was suffering from exhaustion. After his retirement he suffered yet another stroke in February 1956, but survived for nine more years before finally dying of a fourth stroke in 1965.
1976—Howard Hughes Dies
Eccentric American billionaire Howard Hughes, one of the world's richest men, and a former movie magnate and aviation pioneer, dies on an airplane en route from Mexico to Texas. After years of self neglect, he is almost unrecognisable and fingerprints are used to identify his body. In addition, he is determined to have died without a will, meaning twenty-two cousins inherit his fortune.
2005—Rainier III Dies
Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, whose 50-plus year reign made him one of the longest ruling monarchs of the 20th century, dies of heart and kidney conditions after more than a year of progressively worse health. Rainier is probably best known outside Europe for marrying American actress Grace Kelly, and he was buried in Monaco next to her, twenty-three years after she had perished in a car accident.
1943—Conrad Veidt Dies
German actor Conrad Veidt, who starred in films such as The Man Who Laughs and The Thief of Baghdad, but was most famous for playing the Nazi antagonist Major Strasser in the all-time cinema classic Casablanca, dies of a heart attack on a golf course in Los Angeles, just six months after Casablanca was released.
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