MacDonald paves the way for two brilliant film adaptations.
John D. MacDonald's The Executioners should be studied in screenwriting classes as an example of what great movie minds can do with good base material. The book was made into two movies, both called Cape Fear, the first in 1962 with Robert Mitchum playing an iconic villain, and the second in 1991 with a lean and terrifying Robert DeNiro in the same role. You probably know the novel's basic set-up: a young man's testimony sends a savage rapist to prison, but years later as a middle-aged lawyer, he's astonished to find not only that the rapist has earned an early parole, but that he has one thing on his mind—revenge. MacDonald gets the entire backstory of the rape, trial, and imprisonment built in the first twenty pages, then kicks the tale into high gear as the hero tries to save his family from several potentially horrible forms of retribution.
The book is great, a day's work for most readers, but even so it's of minimal scope compared to both film adaptations. The 1962 Cape Fear rearranged the book's climax into something more intense and physical, while the 1991 Cape Fear, which was directed by Martin Scorsese, took the pedophile sexual predator subtext of the novel and dragged all its dark ugliness right out into the open. Both adaptations made wise, bold choices, both were acclaimed by critics, and both pushed the envelope while daring audiences to endure the ride. So what you have here is a book that is among MacDonald's best, and two movies based upon it that are both among the best cinema of their era. That's some trick. We suggest you make time for all three. It will be well worth it.
The hangman comes for Britain's top sex symbol.
A while back we showed you a British poster for Diana Dors' drama Yield to the Night, which tells the story of a woman on death row facing a date with a noose. That poster was a photographic effort. The movie was renamed Blonde Sinner for its U.S. release, and a photo-illustrated poster, which you see above, was issued to promote it. This is a classic piece of movie memorabilia, perfect in every way. The Brits actually got an illustrated poster too, just not this one. Maybe we'll dig theirs up later. After premiering in Great Britain during the summer of 1956 Blonde Sinner opened in the U.S. today that same year.
New main ingredient, same old Female Prisoner Scorpion.
We've already shared two posters for Yumi Takigawa's women-in-prison pinky violence flick Shin joshuu sasori: 701-gô, aka New Female Prisoner Scorpion: 701, which premiered today in 1976. Above is the slightly different tateken sized poster, added here for the sake of completeness. The film is a reboot of the original Female Prisoner Scorpion series starring Meiko Kaji, and most consider it to be of lesser quality than the first four films, but quality is a relative term in pinku. Some would say all the films are bad. Not us. But some would say that. Bonus material: a Yumi promo image below. And you can see the other posters here and here.
I'm glad you boys are so eager. To start off, I'm going to watch you do it with each other for an hour or so.
Above, a cover for The Wide Bed by Brenda Porter, a sleaze novel about a girl who loves her father as both as a provider and as someone central to her nascent sexual desires, and who, when daddy dies, finds she needs two men to take his place. We just... what can you say about these sleaze authors, other than that any idea would suffice? This one caught our eye thanks to the Bill Edwards art, identifiable both by style and by the beauty mark on his female figure. 1965, from Saber Tropic. See more Bill here.
We have a couple of juicy parts for you. And afterward we'll give you a role.
Above is a cover for Willis T. Ballard's novel The Package Deal, and we can hear you groaning out there, but really, what are we to do with a cover like this other than make the most obvious tasteless joke possible? The predatory Hollywood producer is an archetypal character in mid-century literature and—as has been documented of late—in real life too. But for the purposes of this website, we're only interested in fiction, and here you get a story about a producer trying to rekindle his career in television after serving in the military during World War II. He struggles to make a show called Mr. Detective a hit. It stars an ambitious actress named Marianne Delaine, and she comes attached to a problematic financial backer. Ballard worked in television for years on shows like Dick Tracy and Cowboy G-Men, so the hook here is that he gives you an insider depiction of that realm. This was originally published in 1956, and the above edition from Bantam came a year later, with uncredited cover art.
We knew Amazon working conditions were terrible, but now there's a monster too?
This is a brilliant Belgian poster for a terrible U.S. monster movie originally called Curucu, Beast of the Amazon, about plantation workers who are being terrorized by a horrible creature—possibly Jeff Bezos. Considering the low pay, hard work, and lack of bathroom breaks, the workers should have gone on strike long before the monster showed up. Unfortunately, before they can get organized the man in charge materializes to set everything straight. That would be John Bromfield, armed with a machete and a strong sense of entitlement, while Not of This Earth's Beverly Garland plays a scientist wandering the same patch of jungle looking for a miracle drug.
You'll need a miracle drug too, if you plan to watch this flick—we recommend mescaline. But really, you don't even have to watch it, because the poster covers all the salient plot points—Garland is attacked by a big rubber snake, Bromfield is attacked by a big stuffed leopard, they get tied up at one point but escape, and the villain dangles some shrunken heads at them before ending up one himself. Rapacious capitalism is saved again. The movie was called Curuçu sorcier de l'Amazone in French and Tovenaar van de Amazone in Dutch. There's no known Belgian premiere date for it, but it opened in the U.S. in late 1956 and probably reached Belgium in the middle of 1957.
We expected lightweight erotica but got stuck in a quagmire.
“Don't worry, Mom. We've got penicillin...” With a cover blurb like that, we thought Vietnam Underside! might be something along the lines of L.J. Brown's infamous sleaze novel Viet-Nookie, but no. Instead, the book is a deadly serious history of prostitution and sexual practices in Vietnam from the mid-1800s to the date of publication, which is 1966. It's also—and there's no grey area here—virulently racist. Leland Gardner writes reams about the depravity of the Annamites (an 1800s word used to refer to the Vietnamese), disparages in the most detailed terms their hygiene, morality, ethics, customs, religion, history, mentality, intelligence, and more. He accuses them of practicing pederasty, of allowing incest between pre-teens, and of being inherently promiscuous. The diseases they're allegedly rife with include yellow fever, elephantaisis, syphilis, and gonorrhea, all subsequently inflicted upon ivory pure Westerners. When Gardner writes something true—for instance about the deleterious effects of betel nut chewing on the teeth and mouth—he goes on, and on, and on. He describes Vietnamese women as having “black lacquered teeth and blood red mouths” at least fifty times. Interesting, isn't it, that just when your country's overseas invasion is ramping up you find that, basically, your foes don't deserve to live? Gardner actually claims the Vietnamese were well on their way to self-destruction long before the Yanks showed up. He writes about the war: “[these] decadent, deteriorating people have been adopted by a benevolent Uncle Sam.” Right at that instant Vietnam Underside! got to be too much, so we scrambled to the top of the literary embassy and barely got the last helicopter out. When it comes to choosing books based on the cover art, you win some and you lose some.
Teach, nurture, encourage, love. That all comes later. Right now, they're mainly focused on killing.
Yes, there are two movies called The Muthers. We covered the one from 1968 yesterday. Today we turn our attention to the unrelated blaxploitation flick, which premiered this month in 1976. Yesterday's Muthers was a simple nudie romp, rather innocent. Here eight years later we have a full blown savage adventure epic about a clan of female pirates who get themselves deliberately thrown in a coffee plantation/prison camp called Sal Si Puedes—Get Out If You Can—as part of a rescue mission. So what you basically have here is a women-in-prison movie, replete with sweat, cruelty, and a desperate plan to make a break for freedom.
Two of the pirates are portrayed by Playboy centerfolds Jeannie Bell and Rosanne Katon, while model Jayne Kennedy is a sort of privileged prisoner. Without getting too pervy about it, these are three of the more beautiful women from ’70s b-cinema. Another pirate is played by Trina Parks, who while she isn't otherworldly like the goddesses previously mentioned, is certainly plenty hot by any normal measure. We bring up their physical characteristics because it's exactly why director/writer/producer Cirio Santiago cast them. He was an exploitation producer/director nonpareil, and his milieu was putting beautiful women—among them Pam Grier, Judith Brown, Roberta Collins, Margaret Markov, and Colleen Camp—in roles where they drove the action.
The Muthers takes place in what is supposed to be Central America, but it was really produced in the good old Philippines by Santiago and the same people who gave the world movies like She Devils in Chains and Savage! The women Santiago has assembled here karate kick, rabbit punch, and machine gun a series of anonymous bad guys, finally working their way up the prison camp's commandant, played by Tony Carreon. Who comes out on top? You never know in these jungle epics, but you can count on the end being pyrotechnic. Do we recommend this? Well... in terms of sheer quality maybe not, but in terms of watching Bell, Katon, and Kennedy? For sure. Those girls are poison!
They don't have much in the way of maternal instinct but they make up for it with eagerness to please.
In the nudie flick The Muthers, which opened this month in 1968, two groups of people located somewhere in Southern California between No Budget and No Inhibitions spend an inordinate amount of time putting the ’60s ethos of free love to the test. You have the teens, who party and get laid, and the mothers, who do the same, but with more skill. The movie is just a lighthearted little softcore romp, quaint by today's standards, but notable for the fun attitude it brings to the proceedings. The plot, such as it is, eventually coalesces around one teen's feelings of neglect and tendency toward self-destruction, and the title derives from the fact that for some reason she can't spell “mother” properly.
But don't let our suggestion that there's a plot scare you—this flick is just one long sex scene after another. None of it is explicit, or even frontal for that matter. Mainly the performers just grind and wiggle. But it's still pretty stimulating because one of the moms is Virginia Gordon. For those unfamiliar, Gordon was an in-demand nude model, who, like a fine reposado tequila, just got more golden and more potent as time went by. She's in her thirty-second year in this film, and her body makes every other performer, including those twelve years younger than her, look like walking cookie dough. Safe to say your muther—or mother, even—never looked like that. I know—you can't take your eyes off them, can you?
Grinding is how I keep my muscle tone. Three-hundred fifty reps to go.
Tarzan destroyed on social media after posting photo of himself with lion he killed for sport.
Tarzan and the Lost Empire, originally serialized in 1928 and ’29 in Blue Book Magazine, was entry twelve in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan series, and some would say the concept had jumped the shark—and the lion—at this point. Basically, Tarzan stumbles upon a remnant of the Roman Empire hidden deep in the mountains somewhere in Africa and—as this 1951 cover by Robert Stanley depicts—is dragged into their coliseum bloodsports. In later books he'd venture to a subterranean world, find a city of talking gorillas, and fly a fighter plane for the RAF (maybe that one isn't so strange, since he had the civilian identity of John Clayton).
Burroughs was never mistaken for a great writer, but his Tarzan books sold millions of copies and the character remains one of the best known in pulp literature. As tough as he was, we doubt even the King of the Jungle could have survived social media. But Tarzan was not one with whom to trifle. We can totally picture an adventure where he goes to Silicon Valley to battle the forces of shame. It ends when he learns the evil mastermind is Mark Zuckerberg, swings on a DSL cable into Facebook, and lays waste to the place. “Shame me, Zuckerberg? Me Tarzan! You lame!”
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1945—Nuremberg Trials Begin
In Nuremberg, Germany, in the Palace of Justice, the trials of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany begin. Among the men tried were Martin Bormann (in absentia), Hermann Göring, Rudolph Hess, and Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
1984—SETI Institute Founded
The SETI Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, the discovery of extrasolar planets, and the habitability of the galaxy, is founded in California by Thomas Pierson and Dr. Jill Tarter.
1916—Goldwyn Pictures Formed
In the U.S.A., Samuel Goldfish and Edgar Selwyn establish Goldwyn Pictures, which becomes one of the most successful independent film studios in Hollywood. Goldfish also takes the opportunity to legally change his last name to Goldwyn.
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