Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse.
When we saw Jean Peters in 1953's Pickup on South Street, it was our first exposure to her, and we immediately knew we'd be seeking out more of her work later. Last night we watched another film of hers from 1953—the mystery Vicki, which is based on Steve Fisher's 1941 novel I Wake Up Screaming. Peters plays an up and coming New York City model and actress who's found murdered. The rest of the film, told partly in flashback, details her rise from obscurity to celebrated It girl, and the investigation that follows her killing. Jeanne Crain plays Peters' sister who's dedicated to finding the truth, and Richard Boone takes on the unusual role of an emotionally unstable lead detective whose assumptions affect his objectivity.
The movie plays like a partial retread of 1946's Laura, and like Gene Tierney's famed character Laura Hunt, Peters' aspiring superstar Vicki Reed has a profound effect on people even after her death, from broken hearts to poisonous resentment. But Vicki doesn't have the same atmosphere and narrative heft as Laura. Even though it's a mystery, there are no real surprises. Still, we've seen far worse films, and Peters' performance is fine, if not quite as enjoyable as her jaded working class beauty from Pickup on South Street. We recommend that film unreservedly, and Vicki cautiously. It premiered in New York City today in 1953 before going into national release on October 5.
Tanaka is crazy like a fox in diamond hunting caper.
Nikkatsu Studios goes cute on this fun poster for the pinku comedy Kôshoku kazoku: Kitsune to tanuki, known in English as Amorous Family: Like a Fox and a Raccoon. This starred the iconic Mari Tanaka, along with Mikiko Sakai and Michiko Komori, and the story revolves around several horny sisters and the search for a missing cache of diamonds worth 200 million yen. There's the usual sex and perversion, plus a typically pinku ending steeped in irony. We also managed to track down a promo image from the same shoot that spawned the poster. Looks like it was a fun session. We'll get back to Tanaka a bit later. Kôshoku kazoku: Kitsune to tanuki premiered in Japan today in 1972.
Sir Squeezalot starts slow but once he gets warmed up he's a hell of a lot of fun.
1967's Diary of a Dyke was published by Greenleaf Classics for its imprint Pleasure Readers, and the, er, interesting cover was painted by Tomas Cannizarro. The book was written by Robert Silverberg under his Don Elliott alter ego. The distinguished Silverberg is of course famous as the mind behind award winning novels like A Time of Changes and Lord Valentine's Castle, but early in his career he paid the bills by surreptitiously cranking out sleaze classics like LSD Lusters and Sin on Wheels. When these serious writers are outed for their early smut we always picture them reacting like vampires suddenly exposed to the light, shrinking into a far corner and hissing eternal curses. But Silverberg seems pretty chill about having worked in soft porn. He even wrote the foreword to one of the reprints. We'll undoubtedly run across more from him and his worse half later, but until then feel free to click his/their keywords below and explore our previous postings.
Predatory housing market claims more victims.
Is there such a thing as a movie poster that's too effective? This particular promo was painted by J. Gommers to promote the Belgian run of the horror movie The Haunting. Luckily, we already saw the movie, because we aren't sure we'd brave it based on this freaky piece of art. It opened in the U.S. in 1963 and reached Belgium titled La Maison du diable in French, and Het duivelshuis in Dutch, sometime in early 1964. You can read a bit more about it here.
The deeper you go into this casino the wilder it gets.
Today we're circling back to James Bond—as we do every so often—to highlight these movie tie-in editions of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale. The movie these are tied into is not the 1963 original with Sean Connery, but the 1967 screwball version with David Niven as Bond and Woody Allen as Bond's nephew Jimmy Bond. If you haven't seen it, just know that it was terribly reviewed, with Time magazine calling it an “an incoherent and vulgar vaudeville.” These covers are derived from the Robert McGinnis Casino Royale movie poster, which is an all-time classic. McGinnis created two versions of the poster—one with text and one without, with the painted patterns on the female figure varying slightly. You see both of those below.
The paperback was published by both Great Pan and Signet, and the cover art was different for the two versions. The Great Pan version at top is McGinnis's unaltered work, but the Signet version just above was painted by an imitator, we're almost certain. We'd hoped to answer this for sure by visiting one of the numerous Bond blogs out there, but none of them have really discussed the difference between the 1967 paperback covers. That leaves it up to us, so we're going to say definitively that the Great Pan version was not painted by McGinnis. Whoever the artist was, they did a nice job channeling the original piece, even if the execution is at a much simpler level.
Moving back to the posters, if you scroll down you'll see that we decided to focus on the details of the textless version to give you a close look at McGinnis's detailed work. The deeper you go the more you see—dice, poker chips, glittery earrings, actor portraits, and more. If you had a huge lithograph of this on your wall and a tab of acid on your tongue, an entire weekend would slip past before you moved again. This is possibly the best work from a paperback and movie artist considered to be a grandmaster, one the greatest ever to put brush to canvas. If anyone out there can tell us for sure who painted the Signet paperback—or whether it is indeed McGinnis—feel free to contact us.
I used to be over easy, but that was during my wild college years.
Above, a beautiful 1950 Venus Books cover for Hard-Boiled, originally published in 1935 as Struggle, written by Harmon Bellamy, who was in reality Herman Bloom. The book deals with an embittered misogynist who meets up with a hardboiled woman of low repute, and finds his feelings for her evolving from contempt to a growing desire to peel her and have her for a meal. The main attraction here, though, is the art by George Gross. He was good at everything, but in the area of dressing his women, he was top of the heap. This lacy bodysuit is perfect. For more examples of Gross fashions, check this collection, especially the top example.
Before we start let me just warm my hands by the fire. Last time your little guys shriveled up like two prunes.
More classic sleaze, 1964's Sexurbia County, by Orrie Hitt, who we've discussed often. We didn't read this, and there's no need—we've braved several of his novels now, and they're all pretty much the same. We're putting together a collection of suburban sleaze covers you should find somewhat entertaining. Look for that in a bit. The art on this is uncredited.
I have to admit, you're pretty good in the sack for a capitalist running dog lackey.
Heat, guns, passion, and politics. What more do you need for an adventure novel? Paul Edmondson's 1959 potboiler The Little Revolution is set on the fictional island of Caimanera, which is of course modeled after Cuba, where American wife Fidessa Broughton gets tangled up in a rebellion via her choice of a bedroom partner, even as her husband goes astray with a local woman, and a military captain's daughter rebels as well, in that way all teenagers do. The excellent art on this is by the eclectic Mitchell Hooks. We discussed his singular genius in detail a while back.
Ancient Zapotec treasures bring out the tomb raider in everyone.
This poster was made for the 1953 adventure Plunder of the Sun, a title which may sound familiar from David Dodge's 1951 novel. The movie starred Glenn Ford, Patricia Medina, and Diana Lynn, and follows the basic gold hunting theme of the book, but with numerous plot details altered, and the exotic locations around Latin America—particularly Peru—condensed to only Havana and the province of Oaxaca, Mexico. The Havana scenes were shot in Mexico, but the Oaxaca scenes were indeed shot in southeastern Mexico, with location work at the Zapotec ruins in Monte Alban. You can practically hear the head honcho at Wayne-Fellows Productions saying, “I love this book, but we've got to make it cheaper. Why go all the way to Peru when there are perfectly good ruins in Mexico?” The Oaxaca locations are great, though, and extensively used, which really helps the film. Are we saying Plunder of the Sun is good? Well, no we aren't. It doesn't have the depth needed to earn a place in the top ranks of vintage cinema, but it's well shot, and its proto-Indiana Jones feel is interesting enough to keep you watching. We have a few promo images below, and you can learn more about the plot by checking our write-up on the novel here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.
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