Raquel makes everyone a little bit happier.
There's no discussion of mid-century cinema without Raquel Welch. She burst onto the scene in 1964 mainly on television, but by 1966 was a major silver screen presence. She was far more famous than the quality of her films would otherwise have warranted, but her beauty and bod helped make her a superstar. The above poster for The Biggest Bundle of Them All is an example of what movie studios usually sold: Raquel with a smile, preferably in a bikini. This promo was painted by Robert McGinnis in his trademark elongated style, and you see the naked art below, reversed from the poster but in its original orientation. Often the only available versions of these vintage pieces contain graphics, inextricable except by enterprising modern people using Photoshop or Gimp, but clean McGinnis originals survive for quite a few of his commissions, making his artistic ability all the more evident. You can see examples here and here, as well as on this website dedicated to him. We talked about The Biggest Bundle of Them All a while back. Shorter version: Raquel drives Italy wild. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1968.
This has nothing to do with genocide and land theft, English! I just hate your fucking face!
On this cover for Lauran Paine's novel The Farthest Frontier, illustrator Roger Hall depicts how even in the midst of tectonic historical upheavals there are moments of interpersonal drama. Like this knife fight, which started over confusion about whether trade talks were dressy casual, or just casual. 1957 copyright.
An American con man in London.
Above: a nice Italian poster for Jules Dassin's 1950 film noir Night and the City. The city is London, which proves to have numerous hazards for shady Richard Widmark. In Italy the movie was called I trafficanti della notte, then retitled Nella citta la notte scotta. You see both on the poster. Earlier promos exist that have only the first title, but we like this later one painted by Renato Casaro the most. It has a beautiful glowing cityscape in the background. Amazing work. We don't know why the title was changed, but the original translates as “the traffickers of the night," while the second is, “in the city the night is hot,” so maybe the distributors simply preferred the more poetic second title. We certainly do. We haven't talked about this movie yet, but we'll get to it a little later. It opened in Italy today in 1951.
The city is fine. It's the men that are in disrepair.
You may have noticed we're looking at photo covers a bit more lately. Here's one for Winchell Barry's Scarlet City. The art here is interestingly tinted, and the moment of struggle depicted while indifferent people occupy the adjacent room says plenty. We showed you the Beacon Signal cover a couple of years ago, but the book was actually first published in the above form by Intimate Novels in 1953. The line at the bottom, “She pandered to the lusts of evil men,” pretty much sums up the story, as the main character Lora tries to sleep her way to the top. If you want to know more feel free to check here.
I've been working on some fresh runway poses. I call this one: sociopathicool.
Above: a cover for Australian author Neville Jackson's, aka Gerald Glaskin's 1965 novel No End to the Way. What you see here is a 1967 edition from the British publisher Corgi. This is a significant book, one of the first novels with gay themes to be widely available in Australia. It wasn't legal to mail into the country, so Corgi, the legend goes, flew it in aboard chartered planes to skirt the law.
Plotwise what you get here is a drama about Ray and Cor, two men who meet in a bar and form a relationship that becomes committed, and seems aimed toward permanence—which is exactly when their most serious challenge arises in the form of a bitter ex-lover. This ex is determined to ruin what Ray and Cor have built, up to and including slander, career damage, and more.
We were quite interested in the cover art because Corgi was a mainstream publisher, and with this bright yellow effort they gave this controversial book the full court press. The push, the art, and the quality of the story worked—it was reprinted at least twice, and in fact was Jackson's/Glaskin's best selling book. He was an eclectic and fairly prolific writer, so maybe we'll run across him again later. There's a good bio here. Now we're going to work on that pose.
Miki and Reiko rock and rule Osaka in 1973's Sukeban.
We already shared this rare circular poster for Sukeban, aka Girl Boss Revenge: Sukeban, in a group post years ago, but since it's so rare and interesting we're bringing it back for a solo look, and as you see below we've split it in half to allow you to have your own copy of reasonable size, if you're inclined to put the two pieces together. We might as well comment on the movie too. When we first shared the art for this, we figured why discuss the film in detail when there were already plenty of reviews online? We even linked to one back then. Little did we know that Pulp Intl. would still be going ten years later and would be a top repository for vintage Japanese poster art online. That being the case, we figure we'll tell you about the movie this time.
It stars two of the brightest stars of the Japanese grindhouse era—Miki Sugimoto and Reiko Ike. Miki plays a gang leader who calls herself Kantô Komasa, while Reiko is the girl gang leader of Namairu High School. They meet in a prison van and escape simultaneously, headed different directions but destined to cross paths again. Miki forms a new gang in Osaka called Gypsy Dance, gets into the usual delinquency, and meets a director of dirty movies who she enlists in a revenge plot. But all the fun and games take a nasty turn when she runs afoul of the North Dragon yakuza and they start dishing out pain and suffering. Only with the help of a young North Dragon footsoldier named Tatsuo is Miki able to escape her predicament.
It just so happens that Tatsuo is Reiko's boyfriend. Reiko has been missing since her escape from the prison van, but arrives on the scene just in time to find Miki in bed with her man. That puts Reiko and Miki at odds in the worst way, but Reiko has no idea Tatsuo is working for the North Dragon. She'll find out, though, via a stunning betrayal. We'll end the synopsis there, but add the warning that the North Dragonare mean as hell and the tortures they administer are hard to watch. But gangsters gonna gangster—if they spent their time at garden parties and poetry readings there'd be a different word for them.
Sukeban, which was directed by Norifumi Suzuki, is a prime example of Toei Company's pinky violence genre—wild, colorful, gritty, and bloody, with moments of humor to leaven the hard tone. Movies of this style influenced many later directors, but apart from Quentin Tarantino and maybe a couple of other mavericks such operatic exploitation is a relic of the past. The film is basically Miki's show, and whether rolling fabulously down a hill in her fur coat and platforms or getting dirty in an alley fight, she delivers a freewheeling performance in a production that isn't for the faint of heart. It's worth watching for its historical value as well as for entertainment, but in either case, hold onto your hat.
As a bonus, below we have some production photos, including a rare image of Miki striking the topless pose used to create the promo poster. We always thought her head looked a little warped on that poster. Turns out it's a defect in the original photograph—someone either shot her off-kilter or introduced the flaw during the developing process, and she stayed that way. We're guessing, but we're pretty sure because normally her head is very symmetrical. As is the rest of her. You'll see what we mean below about the photo. Sukeban premiered in Japan today in 1973. You can see our other write-up on it here.
Herbert Kastle writes South Beach as Sodom in his sprawling kidnap thriller.
Miami Golden Boy is the wrong title for this book. It's too trite for the tale of a plot to kidnap the invalid former president of the U.S., which intersects a plot by Havana expats to return to Cuba and depose Fidel Castro. While the book gets its name from the ostensible central figure Bruce Golden, there's a vast assortment of characters, including a Kennedyesque political clan, that keeps him out of the narrative for entire chapters. These characters have deeply detailed personal lives that add dimension but strain credulity. One secretly has cancer, one is secretly gay, one is secretly sadistic, one is secretly a pedophile, one is being blackmailed, one is secretly a drug addict, one is secretly suicidal. It's a lot. But okay, the only question that matters is does it all work? Well, mostly. Kastle uses these secrets to weave a tale of decadent American decline, with South Beach as a backdrop. A choice example:
“The country is beginning to stink. Our stated goals and our actual goals are drawing farther and farther apart. And the divergence is tearing us apart. We've either got to bring the actual goals closer to the stated goals—reduce the materialism in our lives, the idiocy of our anti-communist crusades, the cruelty and blindness of our dealings with blacks—or admit that the stated goals are false.”
Kastle wrote that fifty-two years ago, and we know how things have gone since then. His abduction plot is a symptom of the greed, hypocrisy, and decline he details. The scheme involves several characters using several other characters as pawns. The lever in most cases is sex, and the book is pretty well packed with sexual content, occasionally explicit, and in one case violent. Then there's that pedo thing too. Kastle doesn't shy away from it, though you may wish he had. The tapestry of duplicity and manipulation, in terms of how it relates to the kidnap, needs to weave together in perfect synchronization, and of course doesn't. The scheme blows up spectacularly. If it didn't there'd be no book. Conversely, Kastle brings everyone's secret stories to miraculous conclusions within the space of the final thirty pages. That's the drawback of so many characters—a few story arcs don't end convincingly.
Even so, the one thing you cannot say is that Kastle doesn't know how to write. His skillful prose makes the slam bang climax almost believable. Bruce Golden, a bit of a shallow playboy, isn't a great guy but at least he isn't a killer, kidnapper, or political plotter, so he's the character you root for. His love interest Ellie De Wyant, on the other hand, is a crucial if unwitting cog in the kidnaping, which means if Golden is to have her he may have to do something he's never done in his entire life—show courage in the face of danger. Will he or won't he? We think Miami Golden Boy is worth a read to find the answer. And speaking of worth, books with Barbara Walton cover art aren't usually cheap, but this one from the publisher W.H. Allen was. We got lucky. Walton was one of the top illustrators of her era. See more from her here and here.
Cino Del Duca and the Nous cool.
This cover for Lucíenne Royer's Toi ma folie (You My Madness) was published in 1950 as part of Éditions Mondiales Del Duca's popular Collection Nous Deux. The company was owned by Cino Del Duca, who we wrote about several years back, after learning about him thanks to a trip to Paris. Shorter version: French resistance hero, publishing genius, movie mogul, and more. We love the Nous Deux aesthetic, particularly that of Nous Deux the magazine. Much of our appreciation has to do with Aslan, aka Alain Gourdon, and Giulio Bertoletti painting numerous stunning covers for the publication. We put together a collection of those a while back. Look here and prepare to be impressed. What would be nice is if Del Duca had decided to credit the above art. No such luck.
I didn't notice you trying to claw your way out of the room, so we're both hitch-hike hussies, in my view.
Above is a 1959 cover for Hitch-Hike Hussy painted by Saul Levine, who we've shown you before, such as here and here. This cover was also used in 1954 for Hans Habe's Walk in Darkness, but with a different male figure and background. The duo of John B. Thompson and Jack Woodford are the minds behind this tale, the story of a hitch-hiking runaway named Sunny Neversen, and her adventures and sexual involvements, which include a young trucker named Jim Bottomly, a man in his sixties named Mumford Basserman, and others. None of it is convincingly erotic, and little of it actually takes place on the road. She mostly works in a gambling hall, and after a few guys get to sample her wares Bottomly turns up again to sweep her off her feet. This is rote sleaze fiction, one of many mid-century books to use the hitchhiking gimmick. The only interesting aspect of this is pondering why it took two people to write it. Nothing to see here, people. Move along...
Packed with flavor and fortified with the recommended daily allotment of vitamin f.
Victor Kalin went the tight focus route with this cover of an orange femme fatale he painted for William Ard's 1958 thriller Deadly Beloved, also published as The Root of His Evil. We love the art, and we loved the book too. An insurance investigator named Tim Dane is hired to transport a $100,000 gambling debt from an unlucky loser to a Miami hood named John Cashman. Cashman plans to use the money to help finance a war in Latin America, but that's just background. The more immediate part of the narrative involves an exotic dancer named Lissa, real name Elizabeth Ann Miller, who he has ringfenced with the help of 24/7 bodyguards and a lifetime management contract. Dane ignores warnings to keep away and is soon giving Lissa deep nocturnal lovin'—a pleasure that could cost his life if Cashman finds out about it. Ard, who also wrote as Ben Kerr, Mike Moran, et al, is a talented stylist with an approach all his own. His way of cutting transitional exposition is pretty neat. Every writer is required to do it, but Ard can cross town within the space of a sentence and still not sound like he's rushing. We're already trawling the auction sites for more from him. Highly entertaining.
Edit: We got an e-mail asking exactly what we meant by "cutting transitional exposition." We don't want to search through the book for an example, so we'll make up one. It would go something like this. "He decided he'd have to drive to Coral Gables to ask Cashman in person, and two days later when the door opened to his knock, he was surprised that it wasn't a servant but Cashman himself who answered."
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—Boston Strangler Convicted
Albert DeSalvo, the serial killer who became known as the Boston Strangler, is convicted of murder and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison. He serves initially in Bridgewater State Hospital, but he escapes and is recaptured. Afterward he is transferred to federal prison where six years later he is killed by an inmate or inmates unknown.
1950—The Great Brinks Robbery Occurs
In the U.S., eleven thieves steal more than $2 million from an armored car company's offices in Boston, Massachusetts. The skillful execution of the crime, with only a bare minimum of clues left at the scene, results in the robbery being billed as "the crime of the century." Despite this, all the members of the gang are later arrested.
1977—Gary Gilmore Is Executed
Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by a firing squad in Utah, ending a ten-year moratorium on Capital punishment in the United States. Gilmore's story is later turned into a 1979 novel entitled The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer, and the book wins the Pulitzer Prize for literature.
1942—Carole Lombard Dies in Plane Crash
American actress Carole Lombard
, who was the highest paid star in Hollywood during the late 1930s, dies in the crash of TWA Flight 3, on which she was flying from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after headlining a war bond rally in support of America's military efforts. She was thirty-three years old.
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