When there's a blonde on the premises anything can happen.
Any movie called Dangerous Blondes is a mandatory watch, if only because it might give us insight into the mind of PI-1, the most dangerous blonde we know. We learned nothing useful on that front, but the movie was entertaining. It stars Allyn Joslyn as a famous mystery author who sometimes helps the cops but mostly gets on their nerves. Does that sound familiar? 1937's Super-Sleuth, which we watched earlier this year, also features a celebrity crimesolver who sometimes helps but mostly gets on the nerves of the cops. And of course there's that Thin Man celebrity sleuth guy. Hollywood, it seems, has always beaten dead horses.
As it happens, though, the filmmakers beat life right back into this particular carcass. Dangerous Blondes is a cut above because of Evelyn Keyes, who'd be interesting to watch even clipping coupons or digging holes in the garden for her spring magnolias—let alone in a meaty role co-headlining a high budget mystery. She plays Joslyn's better half as the two try to solve the murder of a society lady laid low in a photography studio. Simply put, she's tops in screen magnetism and elevates everything she's in.
Nothing else about the movie is exemplary, but all of it is pleasant and competent. You get a locked room mystery, an amusing lead male, a bumbling inspector, a bit of slapstick from the fringe castmembers, and a resolution complete with the classic line, “If it hadn't been for your meddling I'd have gotten away with this.” They don't make 'em like this anymore. Actually, no—strike that. The two Knives Out movies play in these waters, and the Hulu series Only Murders in the Building is exactly what Dangerous Blondes is, but updated for modern tastes. You should probably watch all of the aforementioned. The latter premiered in the U.S. today in 1943.
Vintage shockumentary explores the evils of witchcraft.
The above promo was made for the mondo style occult documentary Angeli bianchi… angeli neri, known in English as Witchcraft ’70 and White Angel, Black Angel. It opened in Japan today in 1970 after premiering the previous year in Italy. In English “mondo” and “shockumentary” are synonymous terms, but foreign web pages sometimes say the latter is a misnomer. They don't explain how it's a misnomer, so until they do, this movie is both mondo and shockumentary. It was one of our first film write-ups, way back in 2008, before we decided PSGP's previous stint as an indie film reviewer gave us the excuse we needed to get all opinionated. Can you imagine us unopinionated at this point? You can experience it here.
Oshida and her friends run riot in the capital.
We're sticking with Japanese posters today. Here's one for the 1970 pinky violence flick Zubekô banchô: yume wa yoru hiraku, aka Tokyo Bad Girls, aka Delinquent Girl Boss: Blossoming Night Dreams. We showed you two other promos for this film, which were the standard and always fun tateken sizes. This is a rare bo-ekibari.
Maybe it's too soon to bring it up, but if you ever remarry maybe choose someone who isn't a Red Sox fan.
Awhile back we put together a small collection of vintage paperback covers featuring hanging figures. The above cover for Joseph Shearing's The Golden Violet is an addition to that group. Shearing was actually Margaret Gabrielle Vere Long, who earned acclaim writing numerous historical and gothic horror novels, with The Golden Violet part of the latter group. The cover on this Dell edition was painted by Barye Phillips. Side note: the Red Sox are going to miss the playoffs again, and they might even finish last. We're devastated—not. That's for you, Dan. With love, of course.
Cosby and Culp go all out in gritty detective thriller.
Hickey & Boggs is not a good name for a movie unless it's a buddy action/comedy. You'd never look at the title and think: hardcore crime thriller. It makes us think of one time when we were brainstorming with an actor friend, trying to think of the worst possible title for an action/buddy comedy, and we came up with "Jackson and Frisbee." But title notwithstanding, hardcore drama is what you get with Hickey & Boggs. The plot, courtesy of future 48 Hours director/co-writer Walter Hill, follows two down-at-the-heels dicks played by Bill Cosby and Robert Culp as they're hired to locate a missing woman who somehow may hold the key to recovering $400,000 in loot from a bank heist. In typical detective movie fashion, Cosby and Culp deal with cops, crooks, and ambushes as they work their way to the center of a mystery that progresses from danger to personal tragedy.
You'll sometimes see Hickey & Boggs described as a modern film noir, but it doesn't fit the brief. The two detectives are cynical, broke, and alienated, and there are several night sequences, but we're not sure if those elements are enough to automatically make a noir. There's very little high-contrast cinematography, no flashbacks, no narration, no shadowplay, no dream sequences, no extremely skewed angle shots, and no legit femme fatale. Getting into specific iconography, there's no rain, no silhouetting, no mirrors or blinds, no smart aleck bartenders or cab drivers, and virtually no sexual innuendo.
If Hickey & Boggs is a film noir then scores of other 70's crime movies are too, from Serpico to Magnum Force. And if the net is that wide then film noir is a pointless distinction. The American Film Institute, whose categories are expert-derived, calls Hickey & Boggs a drama in the action and detective sub-genres. And, yes, they do categorize neo-noir. Hickey & Boggs didn't make the cut. It's very good, though. It takes an unblinking look at the unglamorous side of Los Angeles and de-mystifies the private dick business—for about the umpteenth time, but very effectively just the same. As long as you're willing to watch Cosby—and we're not suggesting you should be—it's worth your time. It premiered today in 1972.
Cryin' won't help you, prayin' won't do you no good.
We enjoyed an excellent tale not long ago in John and Ward Hawkins' natural disaster thriller A Man, a River, and a Girl, which was also published as The Floods of Fear by Corgi Books, as you see above. The striking art on this edition is by John Richards. You can read more about the book here.
Horwitz Publications perfectly red the paperback market.
For a while we were tracking the possibly unlicensed usage by Australian imprint Horwitz Publications of celebrities on its paperback covers. We fell down on the job a bit. The last one we looked at was two years ago.
The red-haired model used above on Carter Brown's thriller No Halo for Hedy is Playboy centerfold and nightclub performer Colleen Farrington, who was the mother of actress Diane Lane. The book originally appeared in 1956, and the above reprint came in 1959. This photo used for the cover is rare. We've seen no other shot of Farrington in these capri pants. Presumably, at one point multiple frames from the session existed, but time disposes of such items. However, it can't diminish the beauty of this cover. You can see all of our Horwitz celeb covers by clicking here.
Revenge is a dish best served on land. Served at sea it might come back up the wrong way.
Mort Engle art fronts this Dell edition of Frank Kane's 1962 novel The Conspirators, the improbable tale of a tycoon named Howard Carter who takes an ill-fated yachting trip from New York City to the French Riviera and onward toward Crete and Turkey with his wife, lawyer, and various acquaintances. Carter is not a nice guy, while his guests are mainly sniveling, underhanded, and weak. Why then has he invited them onto his yacht? Good question. He plans to hold them helpless while the machinery of revenge churns. They tried to double-cross him on a land deal, which in reality was an elaborate loyalty test/entrapment he set up in the first place. He can't wait to see their faces when he reveals that they've profited nothing except maybe prison terms for embezzlement, and, stuck on the boat, they can do nothing to help themselves—except possibly beg for mercy.
But Carter hasn't considered that this disloyal crowd might fight back. They might, for example, knock him over the head and toss him overboard. We didn't blame them a bit for deep-sixing him. Carter is one of the meanest characters we've come across in fiction. There's an Ayn Randian shading to his portrayal, and you already know we hate Rand's objectivist horseshit. The land swindle was even over a parcel named Galt, just to make Kane's thinking clear. In any case, sending Carter over the side is not the end of the conspirators' problems, but we won't tell you more of the plot except to say that it's malarky. But Kane can write, so the story comes across mostly okay. We can't say we were enamored of him repeatedly describing one of the characters—a blonde woman—as “the snowtop.” That's just bizarre. But all authors have quirks. The Conspirators is an entertaining voyage.
Gemser travels to many distant cities, and meets the worst people in every one of them.
To say that Laura Gemser's Emanuelle films are hit and miss is an understatement of epic proportions. While early entries have the happy softcore feel needed for thought-free diversion and occasional boners, later offerings veer into dark territory. Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? is in the latter category. An Italian production, the title translates as “Emanuelle - Why violence against women?” Erotic cinema and social commentary don't usually mix well—not because they're mutually exclusive, but because the filmmakers never have the skill to pull it off. In the U.S. the movie was retitled Emanuelle Around the World, which sounds fine, but its international English title was changed to The Degradation of Emanuelle. Uh oh.
Gemser's adventures begin in San Francisco when her New York based photo-journalist character enjoys a satisfying boning in the back of a truck. But soon she's off on her next assignment, a titillating expose of a Kama Sutra commune in Asia. Once there she meets creepy guru George Eastman and uses her superior sexual skills to make his holiness transcendentally ejaculate too fast. Up to this point Perché violenza alle donne? is somewhat fun. But next Gemser meets up with pal Karin Schubert in Rome and joins an assignment to expose a sexual slavery ring. Wait—didn't she do that in Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade? Yup, but slavers never quit. This collection of bad men are unusually horrible. One is is a burn victim who rapes his captives. Another has a penchant for bestiality.
Obviously, during the 1970s filmmakers didn't really understand the idea of unintentionally minimizing serious subject matter the same way they do today. It was the “what-the-fuck-let's-give-it-a-try” era, and taking such risks produced some of the greatest cinema ever. But in this case writer/director Joe D'Amato and co-writers Maria Pia Fusco and Gianfranco Clerici failed. Badly. A movie on the subject of slavery and rape would be unpleasant but important if it were a Claire Denis drama or a Laura Poitras documentary. Mixing it into a flyweight sex film doesn't add dramatic weight—it adds discordance, embarrassment, and insult. It was a total miscalculation. You could potentially watch the film until Gemser departs the Kama Sutra commune, then turn it off. If you don't, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
However, we try to see the good in every movie we screen, so we should note that there are some high points. We'll list them. The Emanuelle films were typically shot in exotic locales, and in this case not only does D'Amato set scenes in New York City and San Francisco, but in Kathmandu, Rome, Hong Kong, and—for real—Teheran. Gemser is a limited actress, but one who always does her best with preposterous scripting. Schubert is a stolid co-star. Underutilized Don Powell is always a welcome sight. And lastly, many of the production photos, some of which appear below, are interesting. That's about all the good we can find. We'll just slide Emanuelle - Perché violenza alle donne? into ye olde metaphorical trash bin and forget it ever happened. It premiered in Italy today in 1977.
It's you and me, baby, ’til death do us part. What's your name again?
Here's a quick quiz for you. Is the following passage from a crime novel or a romance? There was one truth between us, one truth that would never be untrue. Whatever this animal thing inside me was, there was something inside her that was a mate for it. I felt that nothing could ever change that. It had to be brought alive again. It had to live and burn its own fire and be electric with its own voltage.
Those lines are from Richard Himmel's 1950 thriller I'll Find You, aka It's Murder, Maguire, first in a series of books starring mobbed up Chicago lawyer Johnny Maguire. The passage illustrates something we've noted before—that crime novels and romance novels sometimes intersect. Fictional tough guys occasionally fall head over heels in love, and when they do, the prose describing that love—in some author's hands—can be as overwrought as what you'd find in any romance novel.
In this story, Maguire, who must be one of the dumbest smart characters in crime fiction, falls for a deceased friend's wife who later fakes her own suicide. While the police believe she's dead, he never buys it, and risks his career and safety to locate her. He finds her living under a new identity and refuses to let her get away from him again—which is exactly as stalkerish as it sounds, considering he barely knew her before she vanished. She eventually submits to his overbearing attentions, but sadly, malign actors may ruin their love story.
It's surprising to us that there was a sequel, but Himmel's crime-romance must have struck a nerve with the reading public. It didn't strike one with us, but we didn't dislike it. We felt that it was eye-rollingly saccharine, and we found Himmel's dialogue a bit stilted. On the plus side, Maguire is funny at times, and his friend-with-benefits relationship with a supporting character named Tina has the potential to be engaging, assuming she hangs around. We'll see what develops in book two.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
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