In The Killers she's absolutely to die for.
We've shared Swedish, French, Australian, and U.S. promo art for The Killers over the years. But there was more than one U.S. poster, and you see an alternate version above, a nice crimson effort that has no artist credit. You already know the plot of this film, so we won't rehash it, but we wanted to single out something we love about film noir—the spectacular entrance of the femme fatale. Remember Rita Hayworth's first screen moment in Gilda? “Gilda, are you decent?” “Me?” That might be tops. Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, those white shorts and that weird headwrap. Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not. “Got a light?” There are many others, and men sometimes get good entrances too, but Ava Gardner's first moment in The Killers, sitting at a piano in a swank Manhattan apartment, with that light—you know the light we mean—glowing on her face, is another great example. Then she gets a song. You gotta love it.
Bad news, I lost the key. But before I was a kidnapper I was an orthopedic surgeon, so foot reattachment is no problem.
Above is another vibrant cover for Adam magazine, this one from May 1968, uncredited as always but painted by Phil Belbin or Jack Waugh. The pair did the bulk of the illustrations for the magazine, but it's not possible—for us, at least—to determine who was responsible for which pieces, because they worked in a similar style. On the occasions Belbin bothered signed something it wasn't only as himself—sometimes he signed as Duke, Pittsburgh, Humph, or Fillini. Waugh, as far as we know, was always Waugh. We've now uploaded more than seventy issues of Adam (we haven't done an actual count for a couple of years) and we'd say signatures appear on maybe one of every ten illustrations. Waugh's scrawl pops up here in the art for the H.M. Tolcher story, “Prize Sucker.”
The cover illustrates the Joachim Heinrich Woos story, “The Danger Behind,” which is is about a man walking through the woods at the exact moment some rural cops and a heavily armed posse are looking for men who robbed a bank. The robbers shot the guards and several police. Blinded by a lust for revenge, the mob mistakes the innocent hiker for one of the killers and chases him over hill and dale with the intent to end his life. He escapes by rowboat only to drift downriver and run into one of the real crooks, who's chained up a hostage and has bad ideas as well as an evil temperament. It's a decent story from Woos, who also wrote for Pocket Man, Argosy, Off Beat Detective Stories, Adventure, and Manhunt. We have thirty-three scans below.
Part of me really loves nature and solitude. But then part of me wants a frappuccino and a cheese danish.
Frisco Dougherty is back, and as impressed with himself as ever, if we judge by how many times he refers to himself in the third person. Last seen in 1951's Jewel of the Java Sea, he's still knocking around Indonesia in 1960's The Half-Caste, eternally seeking the big score that will earn him enough money to escape the tropics for San Francisco. His newest chance comes in the form of a trio of Americans who have arrived in Java to repatriate the bones of an anthropologist who died in the jungle. Dougherty suspects the coffin they plan to recover contains not a body, but a treasure, and formulates a complicated plan to steal whatever is inside. He follows the group into deepest Borneo, funded by the Wuch'ang crime cartel, who he also plans to betray.
There are two main positives to The Half-Caste. First, the exotic setting mixed with deep background concerning the Dutch East Indies evolving into an indepedent Indonesia influenced by a rising China is interesting; and second, the contents of the coffin are a clever surprise. Overall, though, we considered the book an unworthy sequel to Jewel of the Java Sea. Dougherty always verged on caricature, but now he's fully up that river. While still calculating, bigoted, chauvinistic, and pervy, he's bereft of charm, which used to be his saving grace. We suspect Cushman wanted to show how the tropics had decayed Dougherty's psyche since the first book, but he comes across too unsympathetic. It feels as if Cushman returned to the character unwillingly.
As for the half-caste of the title—Annalee, aka Sangra Brueger—she's one of the trio of coffin seekers, but because Dougherty spends nearly the entire book tracking the group from afar, she's barely in the narrative physically until the last forty pages. Dell Publications used Annalee's meager presence, with an assist from Robert McGinnis cover art, to lure readers, but it's a slight misrepresentation. The book is basically all Dougherty, along with his two male partners. During the era of good girl art there were nearly always women on paperback covers, no matter how flimsy the rationale, so you have to expect this sort of thing. We can't really complain, because certainly, the art is brilliant. We're happy to have it.
Twentieth Century Fox chooses goofs over thrills for Blaise adaptation.
After writing about the first four Modesty Blaise novels over the last few years we figured it was time to talk about Twentieth Century Fox's cinematic pass at character. You see a brilliant poster for the movie adaptation above by Bob Peak, who seems to be reminding people that Robert McGinnis wasn't the only painter capable of working in this style. Two more versions of the poster appear below, and you can another example of his work here.
We'd heard for years that Modesty Blaise is a terrible movie, but it isn't—lightweight might be a better description. It's based on the debut novel, and while author Peter O'Donnell plays it straight apart from the affable relationship between Blaise and her partner Willie Garvin, here in the movie Blaise has a space age apartment, a sentient computer, a huge lobster tattoo on her thigh, an adoptive father, and a referential theme song. The villain, meanwhile, drinks goldfish water, wears a chauffeur's cap, and uses a Japanese pai pai fan. At a couple of points Blaise and Garvin burst into song together. All these touches must have baffled fans of the book, and indeed the additions are pointless in our opinion, but that's cinema. Filmmakers are not transcribers—they're translators, and if you know anything about translation you know it's not done literally.
The main question is whether star Monica Vitti does the legendary main character justice. It was a lot to ask, after Modesty became popular thanks to three years of popular daily comic strips followed by a well received novel. We think she manages fine with the material she's given, but there's the rub. While the screenplay follows the basic thread of the novel, the flow is clunky and the dialogue is cluttered with non-sequitur asides and attempts to be cute that make Vitti resemble Emma Peel from The Avengers rather than the lethal woman O'Donnell created. In terms of the actual story, Modesty is tasked with stopping a master criminal from stealing a cache of diamonds meant for her father (we know, we know—she's an orphan in the books, and it defines her character). She's had dealings with this quirky crook before and would like to settle matters between them permanently. That means traveling from London to Amsterdam to his rocky stronghold on Sicily for a final showdown—in good pumps and a diaphanous haute couture a-line dress.
The action, which is central to the books and written with deadly seriousness, is mostly played for laughs. We mean even to the extent of villains crashing into each other to the accompaniment of circus music. We think this is probably the movie's only unforgivable sin. O'Donnell took pride in his action sequences, underpinning them with ingenious forethought by Blaise and Garvin and violent precision in execution. All the humor and cuteness would have been fine if the movie had thrilled where it most needed to, but no such luck. So in the end what you get is a cutesy spy caper of a type that was all too commonplace during the 1960s, but even goofier than most. We think the movie should have been something fresh and surprising, and in ways that go beyond its glossy high fashion aesthetic. Unfortunately, the final result is no better than watchable, though it becomes progressively more enjoyable the more booze that's ingested. Hit the liquor store before screening it and you'll find out for yourself. Modesty Blaise premiered in London today in 1966.
Touch a hot Stover and you'll get burned.
Above is a promo poster made for the Jane Russell drama The Revolt of Mamie Stover, which premiered in Honolulu today in 1956, and was sourced from William Bradford Huie's novel, a book we discussed at length some months back. The movie was directed by Raoul Walsh of Casablanca fame. He's properly credited on the above art, but for some reason on the second poster, which you'll find below, his name appears as Walsh Raoul. It's a weird mistake to get past so many studio eyes, but things like that happen, we guess. The U.S. art is uncredited, but the third poster, also below, was made for the film's British release and that was painted by Jock Hinchcliffe. He wasn't a noted stylist whose work is especially sought after today, but he did paint numerous posters, and he signed the piece below. Anyone who did that gets singled out here, because so few artists were credited by the studios.
Regarding the movie, needless to say, the challenging themes of Huie's novel were turned on their head by Hollywood. Mamie is no longer a racist toward Hawaiian islanders—in fact, the one islander character who gets to speak is bigoted against her. And she's no longer a prostitute but a hostess who induces men who frequent Honolulu's Bungalow Club to buy more booze and pay extra for private time. That private time takes place in a rattan decorated sideroom, but there's no bed evident. Instead there's a table and two chairs, so apparently men pay just to chat with Mamie, and the other women at the club. There's a sexual implication, but of the barest sort, because obviously Twentieth Century Fox could not have made a movie about Jane Russell prostituting herself 51,840 times—the exact number given in the book.
The Revolt of Mamie Stover is another example of suppressed sexual themes during the mid-century era, which is a big reason why we extend our purview at Pulp Intl. into erotic films and imagery—because in our era the previously unshown can be shown and openly examined. We've discussed this before. If you watch the movie, it's interesting to ponder the presumed maturity of book readers, who were asked point blank to consider a prolific prostitute the protagonist of the story, as opposed to cinemagoers, who were never presented with the possibility. In any case, the screen version of Stover, while not a sex worker, is at least a very knowing character, and Russell certainly has the sneer needed to pull off portraying a romantically cynical money worshipper determined to reach the top tax bracket no matter what it costs—her or others. We figure anyone who has what it takes to get rich for simply, er, chatting with men deserves wealth, and indeed Mamie gets her money. That's not a spoiler, because it's never in doubt. It's part of the revolt—her resistance against forced membership in the underclass. The question is whether she can retain her newly gained higher status, and whether she can preserve the love she's stumbled upon along the way, because in American cinema moneyseeking characters must choose between their fortunes and their souls. That choice is supposed to supply the drama, but we think the movie is more interesting for its proto-feminist feel and class discussion. It's pretty good on all fronts, though, except that co-star Richard Egan is a bit of an empty shell. But he doesn't ruin it. How can he? He has Russell to carry him the entire ninety-three minutes.
Just look at all of you—up and about and alert. You've really regained the will to live since I started.
Not only do the patients in the male ward look better lately—if they keep making this kind of progress they'll soon brawl over the nurse and be pronounced 100% normal. Physically, anyway. Obviously, you have superior cover work here, and that's because it was painted by Rudolph Belarski, one of the can't-miss illustrators of the mid-century era. He painted this one for Venus Books and Mitchell Coleman, aka William Neubauer, and the copyright is 1954. We have Belarski scattered throughout the website, particularly in men's magazines and cover collections, but to see a few interesting individual entries, you can go here, here, here, and here. Also, note that the patient in the foreground is holding a paperback. It's Sylvia Erskine's 1954 novel Nurses' Quarters, for which Belarski also painted the cover. How meta of him. Is that meta? Let's just call it self-referential.
Sorry to interrupt, ladies. Just a reminder—senior medical staff considers attendance at tonight's sponge bath seminar mandatory.
We might as well, right? Okay then, quickly, here's the Rudolph Belarski cover for Sylvia Erskine's Nurses' Quarters that he slipped into his piece for Male Ward, mentioned in the above post. Nurses' Quarters is copyright 1954 for Cameo Books. And you also see the original art.
Many miles to go before you Sleep.
This unusual Danish photo poster was made for Sternwood-mysteriet— Actually, a quick digression. That would be a good pub quiz question, wouldn't it? It could be part of a foreign titles round. “Okay, next question. What is the original title of the film released in Denmark as Sternwood-mysteriet?” Did we ever mention that PSGP has hosted numerous pub quizzes? That's why it came to mind. Funny story: He once lost a bet and had to host one in a Speedo. Anyway, any noir fan would get the question right—Sternwood-mysteriet is better known as The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart and someone named “Laureen” Bacall.
The movie didn't premiere in Denmark until today in 1962. Why? Apparently it was banned. There could be a couple of different reasons why, or both at once. Bogart's character Sam Spade gets laid—by implication—with a bookstore clerk played by the lovely Dorothy Malone. And a central part of the complex mystery deals with illicit photos, implied to have been pornographic shots of a drugged Martha Vickers. The bookstore seduction isn't in Raymond Chandler's source novel, but the smut photos are. Haven't seen the movie? You should watch it. But carefully. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall play in the “Sternwood-Mystery” - the film that was previously banned but is now released by the censor - uncut!
Okay, in she goes. Now I just need some bubble wrap and a dozen or so pine air fresheners and she's good to ship.
This is such a macabre image, a man stuffing a woman's corpse in a crate, that we probably should have posted it around Halloween. 1958's Et un cercueil pour Cecilia was written by Francis Richard, aka Paul Bérato, for Société d'Editions Générale and its collection Service Secret 078. This is one of those tales where the author pretends to be the hero. In other words, it was written by Bérato as Francis Richard, but the main character is also named Francis Richard, and he's a globetrotting spy who heads to Chile on a mission, where the villains apparently crate up corpses. Though the grim art on this is not attributed, others in the series were signed E.G. or F.G. and the style here is similar. Unfortunately, we don't know who E.G. or F.G. is.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
1916—Rockwell's First Post Cover Appears
The Saturday Evening Post publishes Norman Rockwell's painting "Boy with Baby Carriage", marking the first time his work appears on the cover of that magazine. Rockwell would go to paint many covers for the Post, becoming indelibly linked with the publication. During his long career Rockwell would eventually paint more than four thousand pieces, the vast majority of which are not on public display due to private ownership and destruction by fire.
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