Hollywood gets wholly weird in Bill Gault's show business thriller.
With Death Out of Focus, which is our third reading of Bill Gault, aka William Campbell Gault, we're thinking he can be moved into the trusted bin. He once more documents the decadent ins and outs of Southern California, this time centering his tale around a movie production. When director Stephen Leander's leading man ends up in the wreckage of his car at the foot of a cliff in Pacific Palisades and police call it an accident, a determined insurance investigator launches his own inquiry and begins turning up what looks like evidence of murder. Leander joins forces with the insurance guy to uncover the truth. Fun to read, quick of pace, and quirky the way a Hollywood thriller should be, Death Out of Focus takes various Tinseltown archetypes—the aging actress, the tyrannical producer, the sexy ingenue, the loyal industry wife—adds money motivations and showbiz ambitions, and ends up with a nice concoction. Like a typical Hollywood movie, it doesn't strive to be unique or lofty, but with so many literary duds out there, good enough is good enough. This Dell edition is from 1960 and the cover is by Robert McGinnis.
Holiday revelers come face to fungi with their worst fears.
This is a simply awesome poster. It was made for the Japanese horror movie Matango, which was known in English speaking countries as Attack of the Mushroom People. The second title pretty much gives it all away—mushroom people aggressive. Plotwise, a group of sailboating jet setters get swallowed by a fog bank and end up marooned on a mysterious island. There they find a derelict boat, evidence of scientific research into the island's unique giant mushrooms, and disturbing indications that the fungi are more than what they seem. Not long afterward the castaways begin to fear they're turning into mushrooms themselves. This is of course a terrifying prospect, but since they're food challenged the upside is they'll have something to put in their eggs. Overall Matango is better than you'd suspect. It's atmospheric, nicely photographed, and the hallucinatory efx work pretty well. If you like 1960s sci-fi and horror we think this one will do the job for you. It premiered in Japan today in 1963.
Wow, how much did I drink last night? I feel terrible this morning.
You guys run! I'll hold them off with this garlic and bottle of olive oil!
Welch tries to Fathom the spy game in cheeseball ’60s thriller.
This great poster was painted by French artist Vanni Tealdi for the 1967 spy adventure Une super-girl nommée Fathom, originally made as Fathom. The film was based on an unpublished novel by Larry Forrester, and is set in Spain in various beautiful locations around the Costa del Sol, including Nerja, which we discussed not long ago. Sixties icon Raquel Welch plays a member of a skydiving troupe recruited by Headquarters Allied Defenses Espionage and Security—HADES—to locate the fire dragon, which is supposedly a trigger for a nuclear bomb. Mostly the mission involves Welch using her smile and showing off her supernaturel physique, which is the real nuclear bomb, packed with kilotons of destructive power.
She finds herself caught in a web of lies and soon doesn't know who's the good guy, whether the fire dragon is really a nuclear trigger, and whether she shouldn't just run away and catch up with the rest of her troupe. It's all quite lighthearted, and considering what Welch is given to work with scriptwise, she manages not to sabotage herself or the film. However, she was not that great of an actress at this point, so your primary motive for watching this would be to enjoy the scenery—certainly of Welch, but also of Spain. Those two reasons will get you through the film's ninety-nine minutes. Une super-girl nommée Fathom has no known French release date, but it premiered in the U.S. today in 1967, and would have made it to France later the same summer.
Nobody is who they seem in this crime collection.
Above are some covers from French publishers Éditions Baudelaire, specifically four entries from its collection Le Chat Noir, or Black Cat, written by various authors, and with cover art by Jacques Thibésart, who signed his work as Nik. The authors were pseudonyms too—or at least, Georges Méra and César Valentino were, which makes us pretty sure the others were, as well. Sharp eyed readers will notice that Thibésart was inspired by Hollywood's film noir wave. The first cover is definitely Dick Powell, and the male on the third cover has to be Alan Ladd from This Gun for Hire. Right? Or is that just us? Thibésart seems to have switched out Ladd's co-star Veronica Lake, though, because the female figure doesn't look anything like her. Oh, it's all such a riddle with these pen names and borrowed faces. In any case, nice art. These were all published in 1959.
Seems naive now, but when I heard it was a recreational drug I thought it would make me spend more time outside.
Amazingly, if you go shopping for a copy of N. R. de Mexico's, aka Robert Campbell Bragg's 1951 novel Marijuana Girl, some vendors will try to charge you $200 or more. That's quite an ask for a flimsy old digest novel, but people must pay it, we guess. It certainly isn't the cover art of a hapless model that makes the book valuable. Is it the prose? Well, the book was good, in fact far better than we expected. It sets up as a drug scare novel. The main character, Joyce, goes through the full progression—i.e. youthful smalltown rebelliousness leads to a permissive lifestyle leads to the big city leads to drugs leads to harder drugs leads to prostitution and so forth. We didn't give anything away there—the rear cover provides all that information and more. We're even told Joyce hangs with jazz musicians (which you understand to mean non-whites) and trades “her very soul” for drugs, so you know where this all goes before you even reach the title page.
But Marijuana Girl also defies conventions of drug scare books. For example, it portrays nearly all the drug users as regular folks well in control of their intake. In fact, the two characters responsible for introducing Joyce to drugs are the same two who work hardest to get her off them. Other easy plot choices are avoided as well, which is rarely the case in 1950s novels with numerous non-white characters. But here's really why the book is unique—it goes into amazing detail about the process of consuming drugs. De Mexico zooms close during those moments, sharing the proper technique for smoking joints, clinically explaining how to use a needle, and how to pull blood back into the syringe to rinse out every last molecule of heroin. It's all there. This had to be shocking for 1951 readers, which we suppose is what boosts the book's value for modern collectors. Still, $200? We don't think Marijuana Girl, or any paperback, is worth that much, but it's definitely worth reading.
They have a certain je sais exactement quoi.
Yes, we have yet another issue of Cancans de Paris, this time from August 1967, with Teffie Winters on the cover and inside. There are plenty of fun French burlesque and glamour magazines, but Cancans is a particularly convivial one. Generally, these focus strictly on women, but this issue has a horoscope, which we've included for those of you out there who read French. But you don't need astrology to predict the future. Just keep coming back to Pulp Intl. and the future will be filled with fun, films, fiction, and femmes fatales. We have five other issues of Cancans de Paris in the website. They're available various places online, so if you want them for yourself, they're out there for the getting. To see the issues we've shared, click the keywords below and enjoy a leisurely scroll.
Robert Taylor plays the bad cop blues.
Here you see a nice blue promo poster for Sur la trace du crime, better known as Rogue Cop, with Robert Taylor, George Raft, and Janet Leigh. We talked about this last year. Shorter version: decent but not great. It opened in France yesterday in 1955.
They say money isn't everything but it sure feels like it sometimes.
Above, an alternate poster for the pinku heist movie Nora-neko rokku: Wairudo janbo, which starred Meiko Kaji and Bunjako Han, and premiered in Japan today in 1970. We watched it, we liked it, and we explained why here, where you can also have a look at the film's tateken sized poster.
Nudetown—come for the free love, stay for the free jazz.
The pairing of music and sex is natural. Many names for genres of music are actually just euphemisms for sex. Bop? Sex, obviously. Rock and roll? Of course. Funk. Definitely. And even jazz, which according to music historians was just a mutation of the word jism. So Bob Tralin's Jazzman in Nudetown makes perfect sense, conceptually. This is about a sax player named Jock Midnight who's fleeing murder charges and somehow manages to get involved with a series of strange women along the way, including a pair hunting for buried treasure and a 6'5” dynamo named Lily Mae. 1964 on this, from Gaslight Books. Consider it an addition to this collection, and check out more from Tralins here.
Humphrey is pitch perfect as always but it's Edward who makes this movie sing.
Above, one of many promo posters for the classic drama Key Largo. This movie, as you doubtless know, is great. It hinges on Edward G. Robinson's bravura performance as a washed up gangster trying to make a comeback, but he gets ample onscreen help from co-stars Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Gomez, Claire Trevor, Dan Seymour, and others. And John Huston in the director's chair is no slouch bringing the foreground drama and hurricane background to life. Key Largo is often called a film noir. Is it though? Hmm... Bogart certainly fits the bill in terms of characterization, but since the movie lacks most other noir elements we're inclined to call it a straight crime drama. But that's just our opinion. It was first seen by the public at a Hollywood preview in mid-July 1948, and went into full national release today.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1995—Mickey Mantle Dies
New York Yankees outfielder Mickey Mantle dies of complications from cancer, after receiving a liver transplant. He was one of the greatest baseball players ever, but he was also an alcoholic and played drunk, hungover, and unprepared. He once said about himself, "Sometimes I think if I had the same body and the same natural ability and someone else's brain, who knows how good a player I might have been."
1943—Philadelphia Experiment Allegedly Takes Place
The U.S. government is believed by some to have attempted to create a cloak of invisibility around the Navy ship USS Eldridge. The top secret event is known as the Philadelphia Experiment and, according to believers, ultimately leads to the accidental teleportation of an entire vessel.
1953—Soviets Detonate Deliverable Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon codenamed Reaktivnyi Dvigatel Stalina, aka Stalin's Jet Engine. In the U.S. the bomb is codenamed Joe 4. It is a small yield fission bomb rather than a multi-stage fusion weapon, but it makes up for its relative weakness by being fully deployable, meaning it can be dropped from a bomber.
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