My medical advice is to spend the rest of the night in bed. Let me just phone down to the desk because I'll need an early wake-up call.
Another lecherous physician stars on this cover for Frank Haskell's Hotel Doctor, published in 1954 by Belmont Books. We've been documenting these over the years, and if you actually have the patience, you can see some of them here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. We have others, as well, but there can't possibly be time for you to look at them all. We know. We should make a keyword for these. We will, we promise. Haskell was aka Haskel Frankel, and when he wasn't authoring novels was a theatre critic and ghost writer. Hotel Doctor was also published by Carnival Books and Venus Books, so it must have been pretty good. The art is uncredited.
Bogart shows the way for the makers of Congo Crossing.
This poster for Congo Crossing has all the elements—firearms, some romantic nuzzling, and a huge crocodile. The trifecta. So we watched it, and what you get here is a Technicolor adventure set in the fictive West African land of Kongotanga, which sits geographically on the border of Belgian Congo, and is a stand-in thematically for Casablanca. Which is to say Congo Crossing uses the basic set-up of Casablanca—transitory expats and shady types in an ass-end outpost riven by local political tensions and power struggles. Virginia Mayo plays a wanted woman fleeing a murder charge she picked up on the French Riviera, George Nader plays the rakish stud who you aren't sure whether to like at first, and in the supporting cast are corrupt local kingpin Tonio Selwart, killer for hire Michael Pate, and Peter Lorre as the local chief of police. Here are some Casablanca similarities:
Expats desperate to catch the next day's plane to anywhere.
A climactic airport shootout.
A woman greatly desired by two men.
Lots of gun toting guys in tropical suits.
A comedic police official whose loyalties shift where the wind blows.
A moment when one man tells a rival it looks like the beginning of a friendship.
We mention Casablanca as shorthand to give you an idea of the set-up, and now we'll mention The African Queen—another Humphrey Bogart classic—as shorthand to tell you what the middle of the movie becomes. Mayo, Nader, and a few others embark on a boat trip upriver to a jungle hospital. There Mayo realizes she's the target of a killer, and flees farther along the river with Nader, dealing with an ambush, a sexual predator, a swarm of terrible tse-tse flies, a sneaky croc, and a deadly illness. You've seen The African Queen, right? A couple of strong similarities there. The group faces these problems and, unlike their African helpers, come away more or less intact, then the movie disembarks from the river—and The African Queen—to shift back to Kongoblanca, er, we mean Kongotanga, where everything began.
So does a movie that starts and ends kind of like Casablanca and has something kind of like The African Queen stitched into the middle work? Not with this script and budget it doesn't. And though the cast is game and experienced, the material doesn't give them much of a chance to sparkle. We can't call the movie bad, but we certainly can't describe it as recommendable either. And going back to the jungle segment for a moment, why is it that in such films the people born and raised in Africa always get eaten while white folks like Mayo and Nader can snog in the bush and be just fine? That's a rhetorical question of course. Congo Crossing premiered today in 1956.
They may be cannibals but you have to credit their exquisite culinary taste.
The above poster for was made to promote Sergio Martino's La montagne du dieu cannibale, which was originally filmed in Italy as La montagna del dio cannibale, and in English was known as Slave of the Cannibal God and The Mountain of the Cannibal God. Basically, Ursula Andress ventures into the New Guinean jungle to find her husband, who disappeared during an expedition to Ra Ra Me Mountain, considered by native tribes to be cursed. The movie was actually shot in Sri Lanka, but details, details. Andress is accompanied on her quest by her brother, played by Antonio Marsina, a professor, played by Stacy Keach, and some unlucky locals. Their jungle trek brings on interpersonal strife, native attacks, gruesome murders, eventual capture, and additional gruesome murders, all to the accompaniment of creepy drum and synth music.
You'll sometimes see this movie classified as horror, but it's really a mondo revulsion flick, padded with real animal deaths that most people will find unwatchable. These gross-outs are somewhat balanced by the imminently watchable Ursula Andress, who's forty-two here and looking just fine. We don't mention that in passing. The entire point of this gorefest is to get her tied to a stake, stripped, and caressed by hot native girls. The plot about her missing husband—which morphs into a scheme to get rich with uranium—is just a fig leaf. We don't recommend the movie even with Andress undressed in it, but if you watch it maybe don't eat lunch beforehand. After originally premiering in West Germany, La montagne du dieu cannibale opened in France today in 1978.
A dozen reasons to love French cover art.
We've done plenty on illustrator Jef de Wulf. Today we have a diverse collection of more of his work. As always, we'll circle back to him later. In the meantime, we recommend looking here, here, here, here, and here.
Is it freezing in here or are you as excited about this examination as I am?
In ’60s sleaze fiction no subject is taboo, including doctors turning examinations into sexual opportunities, as on this uncredited cover for Woman's Doctor by Lauris Haney. Sleaze fiction was a subset of mid-century literature, so one shouldn't look at covers like this as pervasive. They do pop up on Pulp Intl. often, though, because the art is nearly always outrageous, and we can't resist it. On a scale of one to ten, this one sits at about level four outrageousness. Just for reference, because you want to know, we rate this a six and this maybe a seven. We don't upload the eights, nines, or tens. At least not yet. Woman's Doctor came from Magnet Books in 1960, and was originally used in a slightly different form for the cover of Joe Weiss and Ralph Dean's 1959 sleazer Anything Goes.
Turns out sharks like the catch of the day too.
As soon as we saw this cover for Peter Cheyney's 1950 novel Dark Bahama we had to read the book. We had to find out if this was a literal illustration. And yep, a guy gets eaten by a shark. The artist here, John L. Baker, painting this for Fontana's 1960 edition, must have really enjoyed creating something different from the usual gun toting studs and chain smoking femmes fatales. The story is different too. In a tale set on the fictional Bahamian island of Dark Bahama, Cheyney creates an array of Afro-Bahamian characters, filling roles from fishermen to police officials, and, surprisingly, writes them with something nearing respect. The addition of a mysterious Belgian character makes for another fun spot of diversity.
The protagonist is Julian Isles, a British detective hired to locate a globetrotting ingenue and rescue her from Dark Bahama before her partying and dubious associations permanently embarrass her family. Isles immediately walks into a murder scene, is suspected by the local cops, begins to think his client has lied to him, and sets about defying orders and expectations to get to the bottom of it all. Getting to the bottom involves working with the aforementioned Belgian cipher, Ernest Guelvada, a tough, romantic, eloquent, and ruthless operative of vague provenance. We thiink he's one of the best characters we've come across in mid-century literature. Just listen to this guy:
“I am delighted to meet you. I am more than delighted to bring a little excitement into your—what is the word—prosaic existence. Yes, goddam it, you will agree with me that there is nothing like a couple of murders to stir the blood of a police commissioner at three-thirty in the morning.”
“You think so? You lie. More than that, my friend, you love her. That I know. When you speak of her I see the look in your eye. I have discovered your secret. I will tell you something else. I also love her. I, Guelvada, who loves every woman in the world, love her at least as much as the other few million.”
“When I go into action, my friend, I like a lot of room and a lot of space. Like great armies I must have room to develop. Like great fleets I must have space to maneuver. You understand? It is for this reason that I do not wish this island to be cluttered up with non-essential women, and at the moment our beautiful Miss Lyon is non-essential. Therefore, she will stay in Miami.”
To us, that sounds like a writer having a very good time with an off-the-wall character. Guelvada's reasons for turning up change Dark Bahama from a mystery to an espionage tale, but we won't reveal the details. We suggest reading it yourself. Cheyney is famous for his Lemmy Caution series, which began back in 1935, but we think he's better here fifteen years later—a better stylist and a better conceptualizer, who's produced a generally better read than we think he was capable of back when he started out. The story is engaging, the femme fatale is fascinating, the secondary characters ring true, the bizarre Ernest Guelvada keeps reader interest high, and the island backdrop adds atmosphere and spice. With Dark Bahama Cheyney gave us more than our money's worth.
There are skeletons in the closet, and then there are entire graveyards.
Above is a nice Barye Phillips cover for Savage Bride, an alternate to the one we showed you last year, also painted by Phillips. This cover is far nicer, we think. The teaser tells the truth—this story is weird and terrifying. Well, not terrifying in the sense that it'll give you chills. More in the sense that you can't possibly imagine what you'd do if your wife were like the one in this book. You can read a bit more about it here.
She likes to fly by the seat of her panties.
Just when you think you've seen every mini-trend in Japanese film posters, from sexy nuns to topless pearl divers to dirty teachers, you stumble upon another. Women high kicking with their panties showing seems to have been a thing. Mere high kicking posters, we already knew about. Like here, here, and here. But we'd seen only one previous panty-exposing high kicking poster, here. Now the tally is up to two. Where will it end? No way to know. This was made for Document porno: Shin sukeban, aka Semi Documentary: Truly High School Girl Boss, with Kenji Miyako, who was featured in seven Document porno flicks in 1973 and 1974. It premiered in Japan yesterday in 1973.
Going under for the second time.
John D. MacDonald was a widely read author whose popularity endured, which means there are multiple editions of most of his books. We already showed you a cover for his 1963 thriller The Drowner. Here's a second version. This came from publisher Robert Hale Ltd. of England in 1964, and the art is by the incomparable Barbara Walton.
Money is always greener from a distance.
Sweet Smell of Success was a mandatory watch for us. It's considered by many to be a top film noir but we'd never seen it. Well, that's been rectified now, and what a good expenditure of time it was. Tony Curtis plays a New York City publicity agent whose business is falling apart because he's been blacklisted by the most important newspaper columnist in the country, played by Burt Lancaster. Why the rough treatment? Lancaster's sister is dating a jazz musician and he wants the relationship ended. He's trying to force Curtis to do the dirty work—smear the guy, frame him, whatever, just get him out of the picture. Curtis's desperation to climb to the top ranks of agents leads him to try breaking up the pair, but in film noir sleazy decisions have a way of pushing goals farther away rather than drawing them nearer.
Sweet Smell of Success, which had a special premiere in New York City in June 1957, and went into national release a week later, which was today, has a feel similar to another Big Apple drama—the excellent 2019 movie Uncut Gems. Both movies are very fast paced, even borderline chaotic, as desperate bottom-dwellers try to climb to the top of a dog-eat-dog industry while keeping one step ahead of karmic fate. Sweet Smell of Success is the better film largely thanks to Lancaster in one of the all-time heel roles. You'll want to punch his character J.J. Hunsecker—nice, right?—directly in the middle of his face. And you'll want to give Curtis a shaking fit to rattle his teeth. Anything to wake him up to the fact that in a cutthroat game, the most important thing isn't having a razor but lacking a conscience. Noir fans should push this one to the head of the queue.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1945—Churchill Given the Sack
In spite of admiring Winston Churchill as a great wartime leader, Britons elect
Clement Attlee the nation's new prime minister in a sweeping victory for the Labour Party over the Conservatives.
1952—Evita Peron Dies
Eva Duarte de Peron, aka Evita, wife of the president of the Argentine Republic, dies from cancer at age 33. Evita had brought the working classes into a position of political power never witnessed before, but was hated by the nation's powerful military class. She is lain to rest in Milan, Italy in a secret grave under a nun's name, but is eventually returned to Argentina for reburial beside her husband in 1974.
1943—Mussolini Calls It Quits
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini steps down as head of the armed forces and the government. It soon becomes clear that Il Duce did not relinquish power voluntarily, but was forced to resign after former Fascist colleagues turned against him. He is later installed by Germany as leader of the Italian Social Republic in the north of the country, but is killed by partisans in 1945.
1915—Ship Capsizes on Lake Michigan
During an outing arranged by Western Electric Co. for its employees and their families, the passenger ship Eastland capsizes in Lake Michigan due to unequal weight distribution. 844 people die, including all the members of 22 different families.
1980—Peter Sellers Dies
British movie star Peter Sellers, whose roles in Dr. Strangelove, Being There and the Pink Panther films established him as the greatest comedic actor of his generation, dies of a heart attack at age fifty-four.
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