Cineartista: Vintage Mexican Movie Art

07 May

Corruption (1963)

moral_y_deseo.jpg

Spanish title: Moral Y Deseo (Moral and Desire)
Stars: Rosanna Schiaffino, Jacques Perrin, Alain Cuny, Isa Miranda
Directed by: Mauro Bolognini
Distributor: Cinematografica Anahuac

"…and it was dragged out by human passion!"

Originally called La Zorruzione in its native Italian, this film involves a young man who wants to be a Priest, only for his controlling father to disapprove and set his son up with a woman whose job it is to corrupt him. Only the Italians (well, and maybe the French) could figure out a way to turn a film about paternal influence and religion into an erotic drama. And well done, sirs.

Though we can’t say the design of this lobby card takes graphic art to a whole new level (it’s far too symmetrical, it lacks a background, the colors are dire, and it relies too much on skin to draw you in)… it’s still pretty darn hard to look away, isn’t it?

The film starred Jacques Perrin, who would eventually receive world renown as the older Toto in Cinema Paradiso, and Rosanna Schiaffino who… well… looks REALLY good.

Worth a look, even if only to pay respect to the fine paintwork of the artist, as he did his best to recreate the female form, and as one of the few samples in our collection of a Cinematografica Anahuac, S.A. release. For the record, their office address was listed in the fine print of the card as being Monterrey 10 – Mexico, D.F. – stop in, say hi.

06 May

Thunder in Dixie (1964)

rayos_al_volante.jpg

Spanish title: Rayos Al Valante (Lightning to the Steering Wheel)
Stars: Harry Millard, Judy Lewis
Directed by:  William T. Naud
Distributor: Peliculas Agrasanchez

"The gamble of the race! The love of life! From the first second, you will be caught in a web of emotion, intrigue and suspense!"

William T. Naud had never directed a film before when the studio offered him a choice of two. One of those was a movie called The Great Escape. The other a movie called Thunder in Dixie.

Guess which one Naud chose? 

"Why do I drive? It’s the only thing I have to live for, thats why."

Typical of the 60’s genre of motor racing films, this one follows Mickey Arnold (Harry Millard), a race car driver who is devastated when an accident kills his best friend’s wife. Having hit rock bottom, and with his former best bud now his sworn enemy, he has to win the big race to get the girl and reestablish himself as a racer.

Both Millard and Judy Lewis play their roles exceptionally well, with Lewis not doing any shame to her thespianic bloodlines of Clark Gable and Loretta Young, and Millard emoting up a storm, despite his lack of A-list status. A host of racing figures of the time show up (Bob Wills, Berk Motley, Barry Darvel), and though the budget weren’t much, the action on screen isn’t too shabby.

But all that aside, the lobby card is a freakin’ treat. Despite it being for a low budget, low box office, 60’s film, Peliculas Agrasanchez did right by this one with some great car crack-up art, complete with one going off a cliff, and the prerequisite damsel in peril. Speedsploitation flicks were great fodder for cinema promo art around this era, but few cards of the time had as much original art as this one.

Looks great in a frame, and even better on the wall – and who could ask for more than that of a lobby card? 

05 May

The Great Adventures of Captain Kidd (1953)

aventuras_del_captain_kid_1.JPG

Spanish title: Aventuras del Capitan Kid
Stars: Richard Crane, David Bruce, John Crawford, George Wallace
Directed by: Derwin Abbe, Charles S. Gould
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

"The king of the pirates! 15 sensational episodes!"

The age of the serials was well and truly over by the time this pedestrian matinee ‘thriller’ series hit the screens, and it has all the hallmarks of a thrown-together-at-the-last-minute outing.

A chubby Richard Crane sleepwalks through the production as a (strangely non-villainous) Captain Kidd, as he stumbles from one lame cliffhanger to the next, battling supposed bad guys and wooing supposed women.

The lobby card promoting the series upon it’s Spanish release is reflective of the lack of care demonstrated by the filmmakers, as it’s basically illustrated art mixed in with some cut’n'paste photo imagery, surrounding the requisite still shot.

Certainly it’s far from ugly, but at the same time, it sure as heck ain’t Spy Smasher or Flash Gordon.

Interesting sidenote: This series was co-written by George H. Plympton and Arthur Hoerl, who between them had a part in writing just about half the films that came out of Hollywood from 1912 on up. In 1929 alone, Plympton had a part in the writing of 13 different films and series, and a year before that, the number was an astonishing 35. In 1930, he was only involved in one film, so we’re guessing he took a well deserved holiday that year.

That said, Plympton wasn’t away from the typewriter for long, and was still cranking out scripts as late as 1966!

Arthur Hoerl wasn’t far behind, in terms of productivity, but while he took part in 152 films and series over his career, Plympton amassed a whopping 288 productions… can you imagine the royalty checks?

04 May

Joseph Sold By His Brothers (1960)

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Spanish title: Jose Vendido en Egipto (Joseph Sold in Egypt)
Stars: Geoffrey Horne, Belinda Lee, Robert Morley, Carlo Giustini, Arturo Dominici, Finlay Currie, Mario Girotti
Directed by: Irving Rapper, Luciano Ricci
Distributor: Colorama Features (US)

"Extraordinary! Spectacular! Grandiose!" 

The tagline doesn’t quite describe the film correctly, but we can let that slide for now; this was one of the ongoing swords and sandals flicks that poured out of Italy like fine wine in the 50’s and 60’s, few of which were anything more than an excuse to flex muscles and shake hips around cardboard sets.

This particular flick was shot partly in Yugoslavia, where making movies was cheap as hell, with the Italian scenes taking place at Titanus Studios. The story followed the biblical tale of Joseph, and was quickly followed by another about Pontius Pilate, which was a tactic often used by producers who wanted to make stories that they didn’t need to pay any rights fees for.

The artwork in the lobby card design looks to have been acrylic paint, diluted to give a washed appearance, and if one looks really closely, they can spot the occasional pencil mark left in after the paint went down. What’s interesting, from a purely trivial point of view, is the long black stripe along the bottom of the card; that would indicate that, rather than being original Mexican art, this was likely the art taken from the Italian release, retitled, with the distributor’s name blacked out on the bottom.

Now, in order to put a new title on the lobby card, an artist would need to paint over the old title, make it blend with the background, and then cut’n'paste in the new title. They’d also likely have to get rid of the old taglines… which in this case wouldn’t be too hard, because two of the three tagline words are the same in Spanish as they are in Italian.

In fact, upon further investigation, we found the word ‘Eastmancolor’ painted over right above where the ‘Totalscope’ logo has been added – very sneaky!

Anyway, there you have it – a perfect example of a reworked lobby card.

03 May

Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules (1962)

maciste_contra_los_monstruos_1.JPG

Spanish title: Maciste Contra Los Monstruos (Maciste vs the Monsters)
Stars: Reg Lewis, Margaret Lee
Directed by: Guido Malestesta
Distributor: Embassy Pictures Corporation (US), Telexport (Italy)

"A mysterious world in the prehistoric apocalyptic era, millon of years before Christ!"

In the world of Italian swords and sandals pulp film ‘epics’, Maciste is a fairly regularly-seen character.  In fact, he first appeared on film in Italy in the 1914 silent flick, Cabiria. He’s usually a sort of Hercules, who has incredible strength and gets in all manner of peril trying to help people against injustice.

In this film, despite the title, the story actually focuses on two warring tribes, with Maciste stuck in the middle. Not many monsters to be seen, but when you look at the variety of titles this film has had over the years, it has been clearly named not with story in mind, but box office.

In the US, it was Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules, while in the UK it was Collossus of the Stone Age. In Germany, it was Germanicus in the Underworld. And in the original Italian, Maciste contro i mostri (Maciste vs the Monsters).

The lobby card design is all original artwork, though none of it is particularly impressive. There’s a real focus on the monsters, obviously, but the character portrayed looks nothing at all like Reg Lewis, so there’s a good chance this was actually stock art being reused from other films.

Looks good, framed, hanging in a den, though! 

02 May

Serpent of the Nile (1953)

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Spanish title: Cleopatra la Serpiente Del Nilo
Stars: Rhonda Fleming, William Lundigan, Raymond Burr, Julie Newmar
Directed by: William Castle
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

"From my bed of silk, I dominate the world with my burning lips… Sin and savagery in matchless spectacle!"

This low-budget version of the Cleopatra story, which is often considered to be as good as the big budget Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton opus that followed, used sets from the 1953 Rita Hayworth/Stewart Granger film, Salome, to tell the tale of the infamous Queen of the Nile and her Roman pal, Mark Anthony.

New Westminster, British Columbia’s own Raymond Burr is Rhonda Fleming’s co-star, which led the designers of this piece of cinema promo art to add a "Perry Mason" in brackets under his name, celebrating the actor’s renowned TV character. Julie Newmar also appears in the film (as Julie Newmeyer) in the role of The Gilded Girl – her first credited screen appearance.

The lobby card is attractive enough, but it’s very square and the original artwork is decidedly quick and cheap. For a movie character that relies so heavily on her sexuality to get what she wants, this is a lobby card that you would really expect to ’sex it up’, and yet it really doesn’t.

Our version has one staple hole in the top left corner (which is odd), a small tear on the bottom edge, and some roughing up of the right-side edge. It also features a small piece of handwriting over Cleopatra’s name that seems to say "Cartelera de Ludo" – which translates to ‘billboard of the Ludo’, which was presumably a theater it showed in.

Why do those words appear there? Well, figuring it out is half the fun. 

01 May

Underwater! (1955)

la_sirena_del_caribe.jpg

Spanish title: La Sirena Del Caribe
Stars: Jane Russell, Gilbert Roland, Richard Egan
Directed by: John Sturges
Distributor: RKO Radio Pictures

"Between thousands of pirates and killer sharks, she looks for of a
lost treasure – the most fabulous adventure under the sea!"

Jane Russell was said to have been ‘two of the biggest stars in show business’, and as a result of the fact that her chest was as famous as her name, she appeared in a fair number of films in which, really, the entire shoot was based around getting her as naked as possible, as often as possible. This is one such film.

Having broken free of the clutches of Howard Hughes (who ‘discovered’ her working as a dental assistant, before making her the star of The Outlaw, and paying her a wage to promote it every day for the five years it took to get the film past censors and on to the screen), Russell made many claims that she was going to take on more serious roles, but the fluff paid well enough that it was tough to resist.

In this film, there’s much talk about pirates and sharks and treasure, but really all anyone was turning up for was a look at Jane Russell in her skimpies.

And the film delivers on that front, as is seen on the promo art for the film above; in fact, the image of the star from this lobby card was so successful at grabbing the attention of passers-by, that other (less ethical) Mexican distributors actually stole it and placed it on the promo art for other films – films that Russell had nothing to do with.

I’m a big fan of this card, for all the obvious reasons, but also because if you take Russell and her most marketable assets out of the picture entirely, it’s still a great piece of original art.

30 Apr

April in Paris (1952)

paris_en_abril.jpg

Spanish title: Paris en Abril
Stars: Doris Day, Ray Bolger, Claude Dauphin
Directed by: David Butler
Distributor: Warner Bros

"Nights in Paris! Romantic encounters! Endless pleasures! You’ll cheer for this spring-time celebration!"

This lobby card is a great example of how cinema art designers often mixed original art with cut’n'paste images and illustration to create something that looks all hand-painted. On the left hand side of the card is a ‘from scratch’ watercolor portrait of Doris Day (spelled Dorys Day on the poster, oddly enough), with illustrations of Paris in the bottom right hand corner, and what looks like more paintwork on the right hand side, with the image of Day and co-star Ray Bolger. Only, if you look closer, you’ll see that those portraits on the right are actually a cut-out that has been painted over to give it a hand-painted appearance.

This technique was common back in the day, when saving a few days of painting was the difference between beating a deadline and missing it entirely. While high standard original art would stop people in the street, sometimes it just wasn’t possible to hand-paint an entire lobby card, so artists cut corners to achieve ‘the look’ they wanted, as quickly as possible.

The years haven’t been too kind to this particular lobby card, although the colors and artwork lend it to framing in a big way, but someone has had a scratch at Doris Day’s amply presented groin (if she once wore that strapless outfit in the film, I’d be surprised), and a few small tears on the sides and corners make it less than mint in value.

But heck, I like it enough to keep. After all… It’s Doris Day, reimagined by a leering Mexican cinema promo artist… what’s not to like?

29 Apr

Son of Ali Baba (1952)

el_hijo_de_ali_baba.jpg

Spanish title: El Hijo de Ali Baba
Stars: Tony Curtis, Piper Laurie, Susan Cabot, William Reynolds, Hugh O’Brian, Victor Jory
Directed by: Kurt Neumann
Distributor: Universal Pictures

"Soul of a Prince, heart of a poet… with steel in his hand and a kiss on the lips, the sensational stars of "The Prince Who Was a Thief", together again! And… in love!"

If you’re one of the few people on the planet who think Ali Baba (or his son) would have had a 50’s greaser hairstyle, then Son of Ali Baba might be just for movie for you. 

Fortunately, I doubt many people fall into that category, and thus Son of Ali Baba is generally considered to be an ‘Elvis film’ that doesn’t actually have Elvis in it. 

The Spanish lobby card promoting the release is a good design, albeit very text-boxy (such being Universal’s way in the 50’s), with some painted over cut’n'paste pics of Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie in a romantic embrace, as well as plenty of illustrations of dancing harem girls (which I’ll never complain about – ever).

Our version features a good ensemble sill photo, no pinholes and decidedly little abuse collected over the last 50+ years, which is nice. 

28 Apr

Tarzan en la Selva Encantada (??)

tarzan_en_la_selva_encantad.jpg

Spanish title: Tarzan en la Sela Encantada (Tarzan and the Enchanted Jungle)
Stars: Unknown
Directed by: Unknown
Distributor: Operadora de Peliculas

"The exciting adventure of the brave king of the jungle"

Can’t tell you much about this lobby card, mostly because it’s completely devoid of anything that relates to the actual film. No stars are mentioned, no director either, and even the black and white still shot fails to help, since it’s actually a reproduction of a sketch, rather than a photo.

Complete mystery. If you know when this came out, or who was in it, give us a shout and be forever imortalized.

© 2015 Cineartista: Vintage Mexican Movie Art | Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)

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