She's not great on her feet but once she's horizontal—watch out.
We love the dancer on this cover of the 1962 sleaze novel Sex Dancer. We picture her coming out like, “Va-va-va-voom! Boom shakalaka! Wah-wah-waaa—” before remembering she despises her job and shifting into, “Oh, screw this. Just pay me.” Which is the progression most people go through with their jobs. The main character Jean is supposed to be a hell of a lot hotter than the deflated looking figure in the art. The story from the imagination of veteran author Clayton Matthews deals with a woman who headlines the burlesque attraction at a traveling carnival. She wanted to be a star on Broadway, but now must resist pressure from her boss to do more than just dance. It's a ripe concept but goes mostly unrealized, degenerating into a banal love story, as Jean falls for a stunt motorcyclist who's lost his nerve. After a few nights with her, though, he gets back his nerve, his verve, and his swerve, and the two plot a better life. The only question is whether they can get there. We weren't thrilled with this, but it's reasonably well written, so we may try Mr. Matthews again later. The art is uncredited.
The island of Doctor Morose.
There's cheese and there's Philippine cheese. Cheese is mildly fragrant. Philippine cheese is chase-you-from-the-room stinky. Twilight People, for which you see a promo poster above, was made in the Philippines and it reeks to high heaven. But all is not lost—it's also fantastically funny in parts. The story here is a scientist kidnaps John Ashley to an isolated tropical island with the aim of transplanting his personality into the members of a menagerie of feral semi-humans created as the next step in human evolution.
This scientist is not just mad—he's a total downer. Nuclear war, pollution, overpopulation, the ecological consequences of civilization—he's worried about it all. His ugly quasi-humans are the answer. In our opinion, anything that makes Pam Grier look less like Pam Grier is not an advancement of any kind, but whatever—she's hairy, others are hairy, and they're the next leap up the evolutionary ladder, so sayeth the script.
Ashley can only think of one way to escape this crazy island, which is by using his lips. He works his charms on the sad doc's assistant Pat Woodell, who's the only non-hirsute woman around, and pretty soon her hormones get to simmering and there's trouble in paradise. We really can't blame Ashley for going this route. Woodell is spectacular. Too bad the movie isn't. Think of it as a low budget Island of Doctor Moreau, then watch that film instead. Twilight People went into wide release in the U.S. this month in 1972.
Jungle orphan grows from little duckling into beautiful Swan.
Above are four Italian posters for Gungala la pantera nuda, aka Gungala the Black Panther Girl, starring Swedish actress Kitty Swan, née Kirsten Svanholm. Four posters? This must be a good movie, right? Well, not really. But the lost world concept was incredibly popular in international cinema during the 1960s, and in landing Swan for the title role, Summa Cinematografica and director Roger Rockfeller (Ruggero Deodato) knew they had something special on their hands. Tasked with making the most of an exceptionally beautiful star, they dutifully take care of the nuda aspect in the opening credits, and keep Swan lightly clothed throughout a movie that's basically Tarzan re-gendered—i.e. a young heiress survives a plane crash in the jungle, is taught by tribespeople to survive in a hostile environment, but has her idyllic existence of running hither and yon in slow motion ruined when folk from the civilized world come searching for her. And when these modern interlopers bring greed, guns, interpersonal dysfunction, and inheritance law to Swan's paradise, it looks like perhaps it's they who are uncivilized, not the primitive panther girl... We've seen it all before, but at least this iteration has Swan to keep the yawning at bay. Gungala la pantera nuda premiered today in 1968.
I'm not worried. I know something you don't. I'm the star of an entire series.
Above, a 1959 cover painted by James Meese for John Ross MacDonald's 1950 thriller The Drowning Pool. We looked at a 1951 cover for this a while back, but rather than talk about the story made some dumb jokes and called it a day. So about the book. The novel features franchise detective Lew Archer trying to solve a drowning murder while dealing with a family torn apart over an inheritance. Liking the book is a matter of liking the character. Archer is cynical, quippy, and pretty rude most of the time—in short, a typical mid-century fictional detective. And therein lies the issue. He's standard, which means the mystery needs to be unique, but instead it's a drop-off from the series debut The Moving Target. It's not bad, though, and consensus is the eighteen Archer adventures improve as they progress. We'll see, because we plan to keep reading them. Hopefully Archer will make us glad he survived this gun to his head.
French crime drama throws Caution to the wind.
Here you see two posters for the 1953 French crime drama La môme vert de gris, which was called Poison Ivy in the U.S. This was adapted from a 1937 novel by Peter Cheyney that featured his recurring character FBI agent Lemmy Caution, who onscreen is played by Eddie Constantine. When two million dollars worth of gold goes missing Constantine is sent to Casablanca to determine its disposition and identify all malefactors involved. He finds himself pitted against a criminal mastermind of sorts, and a hive of henchmen that occupy a nightclub, a yacht, and a hideout in Casablanca's old quarter. Constantine deals with all comers by applying the time-honored advice: when in doubt, punch them out.
Film buffs the world over associate Casablanca with the Humphrey Bogart film of the same name, but the city you see here is different from the one made famous by Bogart and Co. ten years earlier. The Casablanca of this film is a maze of L.A.-style roads, white skyscrapers, and an industrial port the size of Long Beach. We checked population figures and learned it was already a major city of more than 500,000 people during the early 1940s, which means that Casablanca's village feel is really just a clever cinematic fantasy. Poison Ivy's Casablanca is real, and the many location shots mixed into the movie prove it.
That's Dominique Wilms on the top poster, and she's the reason we watched the movie. In this, her cinematic debut, she plays a femme fatale named Carlotta de la Rue, which of course indicates that she's a woman from the street. If that isn't enough to warn the men away, her friends call her Poison Ivy. Why? Because she burns. Hopefully that's meant figuratively, and above the waist. A character bringing so much heat must of course perform a torch song, which she sings with detachment, while the lyrics—as they usually do—indicate deeper issues: “I wander with my sorrow, along with my memories, looking for my old joys, which I've seen fade and die.” See? She just wants to be loved, assuming a man isn't thwarted by her acid tongue, that ironic right eyebrow, and the barbed wire encircling her heart.
The movie is certainly watchable, though it's nothing special aside from its exotic setting. But you have to appreciate the French love for U.S. crime fiction. In fact, director Bernard Borderie got the band back together and cast Constantine, Wilms, and her prehensile eyebrow in the next Caution movie, 1954's Les femmes s'en balancent. Constantine and Wilms also co-starred in 1957's Le grand bluff, another Caution adaptation, but helmed by Patrice Dally. Constantine went on to make Caution the signature character of his career. Wilms, who at age ninety is still out there somewhere, had about a dozen more roles before leaving cinema behind, but we think she had “it,” and will definitely check out some of her other work.
Glenn Ford gets the picture and it isn't pretty.
This poster for the film noir Framed, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1947, is a bit different in style from what you'd normally see during the 1940s. It was a low budget movie, so we imagine this was the low budget solution to promo art. It's reasonably effective, enough so that we decided to watch the movie, and the premise is that pretty boy Glenn Ford is a down-on-his-luck job seeker who's been unwittingly selected by a couple of shady characters to take the fall for a bank embezzlement. We didn't give anything away there. Viewers know pretty much right away Ford is being set up, who's doing it, and why. It's the complications that make the movie, and those accumulate rather quickly. If being framed is defined as to be on the hook for a crime you didn't commit, then there's more than one framee in this film, which is where clever scripting comes in to rescue a bottom drawer budget. In the end you get a nice b-noir with a title that takes on more significance than you'd at first assume. We recommend it highly.
Sun, sand, and an unusually high homicide rate.
Of all the covers we've posted on Pulp Intl., these two—the first from U.S. publisher Dell, and the second from British publisher Consul—are among the most interesting. Both illustrate books called Murder in Majorca, both feature a female figure partly obscured by foreground blinds, and both have in the background the lower legs of a man walking into the room. But Michael Bryan and Paul Tabori are different authors, and these are different tales. Is that not weird as hell? We've always wanted to read these books because Majorca, aka Mallorca, is one of the great garden spots on Earth. We've been several times and it always recalibrates us perfectly. Also, there isn't much murder there, despite the titles of these books, which is a nice add-on to the sun, sand, food, bars, architecture and beautiful people.
Michael Bryan was in reality Brian Moore, and also wrote as Bernard Mara. His Murder in Majorca appeared in 1957. Paul Tabori was in reality Hungarian author Pál Tábori, and his Murder in Majorca came in 1961. How did these two uncredited covers get to be virtually identical? No idea. Sometimes when a book was reprinted overseas a second artist was commissioned to do a riff on the original cover, such as here. So maybe the second piece was for a re-issue, but it fell through, and the art was lying around when Tabori wrote his book. That's a wild-ass guess that has very little chance of being correct, but we just know these two fronts can't be similar by coincidence, so that's all we've got by way of explanation. Maybe you have a better deduction, or even the facts. If so, we'd love to know.
He didn't become a doctor by quitting when things got tough.
Above is an eye catching Italian poster painted by Ezio Tarantelli for Ik. Dr Fu Manchu, aka The Face of Fu Manchu, part of a series of films based on Chinaphobic novels by Sax Rohmer. According to IMDB and other sources this film played in Italy as Fu Manciù A.S.3: Operazione Tigre, but this poster suggests otherwise, or at least suggests it played there under more than one title. There's no known release date, but it would have shown sometime in 1966.
We gave it a look, and plotwise the infamous crime boss Fu Manchu is executed via beheading in the first scene, much to the delight of various police authorities, but they later suspect that a double died—a man with Fu's face, hypnotized into marching to his own death. And of course, they're right. Fu can do most anything he sets his mind to, including setting other people's minds to doing things detrimental to their earthly existence.
Christopher Lee, who specialized in movies of this ilk, occupies the starring slot, with his yellow make-up shading toward a grayish brown. Other cast members include Nigel Green, Karin Dor, Joachim Fuckburger—er, we mean Fuchsberger—and several more white folk pretending to be Asian. You'll have to ignore that and other racist aspects of the film. Or not, at your option. Setting that aside, is The Face of Fu Manchu any good? Umm... no, we wouldn't say so. But you might get a laugh or two from it.
When an evil mastermind plans to take a bite out of the Middle East, only Modesty Blaise stands in his way.
Above you see a cover for Peter O'Donnell's Sabre-Tooth, his second Modesty Blaise novel, and as with the first book Modesty Blaise, Fawcett Publications managed to land Robert McGinnis for the cover chores. He chose a scene from the narrative in which Blaise uses “the nailer,” a move in which she walks into a room topless, and in the split seconds gained by shock and awe, proceeds to kill everyone in sight. This could only happen in an erotic style adventure, but instead of keeping things as light as the debut novel, O'Donnell veers in a darker direction. There's still plenty of waxing about his main character's physical beauty and sexual prowess, but in terms of actual plot, he takes things in a radically non-erotic direction, and in so doing attempts to show just how far Blaise will go in her pursuit of justice. We won't say what she does, or whether it's realistic, but we'll hint that if a mainstream writer did it today it would spark an online conflagration the intensity of an Australian wildfire.
One thing O'Donnell does well is villains and their henchmen. In this book the main malefactor is a brutal would-be king named Karz who plans to invade and take over Kuwait. His top henchmen are Lok and Chu. Get this: they're twins born conjoined at the shoulder. They lived much of their lives that way, grew to hate each other, but learned to fight and defend themselves in tandem as a matter of mutual survival. When they were finally separated they realized they had no purpose apart, and now go about wearing a leather harness that keeps them conjoined. They still hate each other, but also give each other purpose. As killers they fight back to back and side by side, switching configurations, baffling opponents. That entire concept is O'Donnell in full flower. Take Karz and his twin killers, add the Kuwait takeover, sprinkle in an international mercenary army holed up in an Afghan stronghold, and finally fold in equal portions of Blaise and deadly sidekick Willie Garvin, and you've got yourself a thrill ride worth reading.
What can I say? My parents taught me to always demand more.
Above, classic sleaze from Gordon Semple, Man-Crazy Hussy, aka Blonde Temptress, 1954, from Croydon Books. Often these novels seriously examined ’50s stereotypes, particularly those concerning what was appropriate sexual behavior for women, but the authors had little control when their serious stories were given crazy titles and wrapped in titillating covers. We can't tell you whether this novel is an attempt at real literature or if it's pure sleaze, because we aren't going to pay thirty bucks for it. We never go above ten dollars per—including shipping. But we're tempted. The art here is by Bernard Safran. See another example of his work here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1941—Lou Gehrig Dies
New York Yankees baseball player Henry Louis Gehrig, aka The Iron Horse, who set a record for playing in 2,130 consecutive games over the course of fourteen seasons, dies of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, two years after the onset of the illness ended his consecutive games streak.
1946—Antonescu Is Executed
Ion Antonescu, who was ruler of Romania during World War II, and whose policies were independently responsible for the deaths of as many as 400,000 Bessarabian, Ukrainian and Romanian Jews, as well as countless Romani Romanians, is executed by means of firing squad at Fort Jilava prison just outside Bucharest.
1959—Sax Rohmer Dies
Prolific British pulp writer Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, aka Sax Rohmer, who created the popular character Fu Manchu and became one of the most highly paid authors of his time writing fundamentally racist fiction about the "yellow peril" and what he blithely called "rampant criminality among the Chinese", dies of avian flu in White Plains, New York.
1957—Arthur Miller Convicted of Contempt of Congress
Award-winning American playwright Arthur Miller, the husband of movie star Marilyn Monroe, is convicted of contempt of Congress when he refuses to reveal the names of political associates to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The conviction would later be overturned, but HUAC persecution against American citizens continues until the committee is finally dissolved in 1975.
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