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Nov 12 2011 10:23am

Seedy and Sublime: The Ero Guro Dystopia of Japanese Noir Posters

Stills and poster from Sejin Suzuki filmsIn the 1960s and 70s, the Japanese film industry (Nikkatsu Studio to be precise) headlined a golden age for East Asian exploitation noir. After years of censorship, first outlined by Japanese Imperial government during the Second World War and later by the occupying Allies, exploitation noir films became a mode of subcultural expression and perhaps even an outlet for social critique. Just as cover art played a major role in selling pulp magazines and fiction in the West, the film posters of post-industrial Japan exhibited talent that was often lacking in the actual production. The eye-popping images of hardened yakuza, rogue detectives, and doe-eyed damsels (often in the nude) are unforgettable, though the same cannot be said about the underfunded, poorly-scripted pinku eiga (softcore exploitation genre known as “pink films.”)

[katana and guns, rogues and whores...]

Nov 4 2011 9:45am

Holmes Coping with Alzheimers Comedy Sketch: Depressing?

If you are a fan of British comedy, which tends to be more focused on literary references and word play, you may already find yourself a fan of BBC’s That Mitchell and Webb Look. The sketch that ended Series 4 portrays Dr. John Watson on a visit to a nursing home to see a geriatric Holmes coping with Alzheimers. The bit that really got to me was (not, the Chinaman line, and yes, we do get quite a bit of the Fu Manchu syndrome even in the modernized Sherlock) but the moment when Holmes refers to Watson by his first name. “I know, John. I do know. I can’t get the fog to clear . . . ”

Really, it’s too sad to watch.

Oct 24 2011 9:45am

Grimm: Part Modern Detective Procedural, Part Dark Fairy Tale

It is no secret that the original fairy tales written by the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm did not feature happy, sedated-looking woodland creatures frolicking about with doe-eyed, singing heroines. The stepsisters in “Cinderella” tried to swindle her Prince Charming by chopping off their toes to fit into the glass slipper. The evil queen in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” ordered the heart and liver of Snow White as a delicacy to snack on. The Wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood” is a crossdressing childeater. 

NBC’s new supernatural procedural, Grimm, takes a look at the darker elements of these “children’s stories” through a contemporary lens. David Giuntoli stars as Nick Burkhardt, an Oregon detective who wakes up one day with the ability to see monsters from folklore hiding in our world. He decides to roll with it (I probably would have called my psychiatrist to double-check my medications) and finds out that he is a Grimm, a hereditary line of paranormal criminal profilers and headhunters—kind of like Fox Mulder meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer when the clock strikes twelve. True to procedural style, the cases will be wrapped up each week so there’s no need to keep a scorecard—meaning, you can watch from any episode and it will make sense (well, as much as it can make).

And just when you’re thinking to yourself, “I know what it’s all about!”—I should tell you this: see that vegetarian church-goer who does Pilates over there? He might just be the Big Bad Wolf.

Grimm premieres October 28, 2011 at 8/9c. 

Oct 21 2011 9:45am

Fatale: Brubaker and Phillip’s Upcoming “Sci-Noirror” Comic

What do you get when you mash up James M. Cain and H. P. Lovecraft?

New York Comic Con 2011 may be over, but anticipation of noir fans over the latest collaborative project of legendary duo Ed Brubaker and illustrator Sean Phillips has only begun. Together, they defined the graphic noir genre with Incognito, Criminal, Coward—just to toss some titles out there.

During a panel with the Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and Neal Stephenson (Snow Crash), Brubaker (rather, footage thereof) and Phillips unveiled Fatale, the next series they will bring to Image Comics. The comics mini-series, a mix of science fiction, noir, and horror—or “sci-noirror,” has a smoking female lead and also a Cthulhu-esque creature armed with the Tommy gun. The story spans from the 1930’s to modern day. The first issue will feature two different covers and will be available in January 2012. Preview a couple pages here.

The official synopsis copy reads:

“A reporter in 2012 stumbles on a secret that leads him down the darkest path imaginable… to a seductive woman who’s been on the run since 1935, a mobster who may be an immortal demon monster, and the stories of all the doomed men who’ve been caught in their decades-long struggle.”

Hey, hold up. I have to clean up some drool that just landed on my keyboard.

Read our coverage of NYCC 2011 here, in case you were too busy getting that hot nerd’s phone number. Don’t forget to check out our Comics and Graphic Novel feature page for more inked and etched crime shenanigans.

via Comic Alliance and NYCC

Oct 17 2011 9:45am

Real-Life Superhero Gone Rogue?: Phoenix Jones Unmasked

Rain City Super Heroes

It seems these days one of the prerequisites for being a “crime-fighter” is pepper-misting citizens. First, we had officer Anthony Bologna, “a human crop-duster reigns habanero misery on Wall Street protestors” (Jon Stewart) while protecting the streets of New York City. Now, in Seattle, a RLSH called Phoenix Jones, was caught on tape pulling out a can of pepper spray on a group of people (alleged to break up a fight)—and subsequently being chased down by an angry, shoe-wielding woman. Truly, vigilante justice at its best.

Phoenix Jones to Ben Fodor

After appearing in court last Thursday and dramatically unmasking himself, Phoenix Jones (whose real name is Benjamin Fodor) is back patrolling the streets of Seattle Saturday night with other members of Rain City Super Heroes after a brief stopover at Occupy Seattle.

via Seattle Post Intelligencer

Oct 10 2011 9:45am

Post-War Noir Visual Iconist Saul Bass Jazzes It Up

Saul Bass, legendary graphic designer who revolutionized animation in motion picture title sequences, continues to be a source of inspiration for many student and professional artists. (In case you are unfamiliar, here’s a compilation of his collaboration with film noir heavy-weights like Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Otto Preminger.) For those interested in learning more about the evolution of mid-century art deco, a biography co-authored by his daughter Jennifer Bass and design historian Pat Kirkham called Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design, with more than 1,200 illustrations, will be available in November.

It comes as no surprise that there are many contemporarized tributes to his iconic style—from the opening of Mad Men to an alternate intro to Dexter by designer Ty Matterson. And now, may I present, from director Maikel van der Laken, a hat tip to Saul in the form of a music video for Dutch jazz singer Caro Emerald. And true to its literary inspiration, the music video for “That Man” has the following description to play up the noir ambiance.

“A night at the Copacabana can bring all kinds of excitement: wise guys on each side of the room making sure the big bosses are happy. Cigarettes sparking flames and smoking hot dames with jewels the size of Everest on their fingers. Those kept ladies can’t stop what our narrator already knows. In a devoted plea to the handsome crooner on stage, nothing’s gonna stop our girl now.”

Please step this way through the smokey backroom to our Film Noir feature page for more blood-red herrings, rogue private investigators, and irresistible femme fatales.

Oct 7 2011 3:28pm

Consulting Detective Edgar Allan Poe in The Raven (2012)

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you transported Richard Castle to the 19th century in a time machine, set him up for a misadventure with a Sherlock Holmes of sorts, and oh say, called him Edgar Allan Poe? The answer is The Raven, a historical suspense film from James McTeigue, who directed the dystopian thriller V for Vendetta.

The film, due for the big screen on March 9, 2012, explores the theme of copycat crime where the murderer gets inspired by the ghastly gothic tales from Poe’s literary repertoire, such as The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, and more. Poe is invited by a detective to help solve the string of murders but soon falls under suspicion himself as the perpetrator. John Cusack stars in the titular role as the famed pioneer of gothic literature, though just between you and me, I think he’d be more convincing as Poe if he had developed an opium habit during the shoot. (It’s all in the sunken eyes and dark circles.)

Oct 5 2011 9:45am

American Horror Story: Peephole

American Horror Story banner

Just in case you feel like your sleep has been too restful lately, here’s a recipe for fresh nightmares: ambient noises, dilapidated mansion, singed antique photos, ol’ timey tunes from vinyl records, specimen jars in the basement—oh, and a possessed black spandex fetish catsuit in the attic.

FX’s highly-anticipated psycho-thriller (with a touch of dark humor), American Horror Story, premieres tonight at 10 P.M. EST. The Story follows the Harmons as they look for a fresh start after Ben’s (Dylan McDermott) extramarital affair and his wife Vivien’s (Connie Britton) miscarriage. They move into a house with a macabre, perverse past which I’m sure we’ll get plenty of twisted clues about its sordid history as the season progresses. Here’s a teaser trailer.

Ryan Murphy, the creator of FX’s anticipated show, American Horror Story, has this to say about the morbid scratch-and-pop opening montage.

“The title sequence is almost like a mystery. By the time you see the ninth episode of this season, every image in that title sequence will be explained. So for example, what are the jars in the basement? What is the mystery of the floating white Christening dress? Why is somebody holding hedge clippers that are bloody? Each time you watch it and you watch the week’s episode you’ll be able to say, ‘Oh that’s why that’s in there!’”

Don’t forget to take a look at the American Horror Story mystery flash game in which you can explore the house and review artifacts as they are revealed in episodes. What can you piece together?

Tomorrow, one of our bloggers will give you her take on the first episode. Check back in and give us yours!

Sep 21 2011 9:45am

Politics, Physics, Production of the X-Files: “The Truth is Out There” Roundup

It’s been a good year so far for paranoid schizophrenics conspiracy theorists. The end of 2010 ushered in 2,000 pages of documented UFO sightings released by the government of New Zealand. The FBI decided to open the doors of its classified vaults to the general public in April this year, including a letter from an FBI Agent investigating the Roswell, New Mexico incident to the FBI director at the time. The document, dated March 22, 1950, had the subject line “Flying Saucers, Information Concerning.” (You can check out the vault here.) In June, the Australian government reported that its X-Files had been “lost.” (Ah, it must be the terrorists!) A few weeks ago, British National Archives released more formerly-classified documents on UFO and extraterrestrial-related political discussions covering the period from 1985-2007.

Today, there is a lot of buzz around NASA’s Kepler Telescope and its discovery of a planet that orbits around two suns, an astrophysical anomaly thought to only have existed in Star Wars until now. Over the past decade, the Kepler Telescope has helped discover Earth-like worlds. Since March, the data gathered by Kepler Telescope and Europe’s COROT planet-hunting probe has been harvested by government SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) institutions.

While I am keenly interested in the findings, I am equally skeptical about some of the seemingly pseudoscientific research being conducted by NASA scientists. A paper published in April 2011 by scientists from NASA’s Planetary Science Division and Pennsylvania State University titled “Would Contact with Extraterrestrials Benefit or Harm Humanity? A Scenario Analysis” had some deep thoughts to share on a potentially harmful alien attack. The science they had to drop was this: “ETI (extraterrestrial intelligence) could attack and kill us, enslave us, or potentially even eat us.” I’m not a believer of the anthropomorphic, human-centric views of ETI that permeate popular science but uh, ok.

What better time than now to tantalize X-Files (the TV show) fans with the possibility of a third X-Files movie to be released in 2012? Gillian Anderson has been quoted on her anticipation of X-Files 3, following David Duchovny’s hint that X-Files 3 is in the works. All this is to say the beloved crime-solving, conspiracy-busting duo might be back on the big screen next year! So, whatever your views may be on the existence of technologically-advanced alien life, the “real” timeline for encounter, and the future of humanity, just remember to trust no one and stay tuned for X-Files Monster of the Week Rewatch and more.

Images courtesy of National Archives of Australia and Natgi

Sep 15 2011 9:45am

Stan Lee-Endorsed Real-Life Superheroes: Humans, all too Human?

In HBO’s Superheroes documentary, Stan Lee said this about Real-Life Superheroes (RLSH):

“I’m worried about the person who doesn’t have an actual super power, who puts on a costume and then runs around challenging criminals or a person who’s armed. I figure that person could get hurt.”

As it turns out, Stan Lee co-hosted History Channel’s Superhumans with contortionist Daniel B. Smith. The show, which debuted August 10, 2010, covers a range of astounding, uh, “powers” from around the world. (Yes, it’s X-men in the real world.) This made me spend endless, unproductive hours pondering how the featured real-life superhuman would fare as RLSH?

There are some extraordinary abilities that would come in handy for a street crime-fighter, such as the ability to withstand a blow to the head from a sledgehammer (not taking into account long-term brain damage) or enough accuracy and speed with a katana to cut a projectile bullet. There are some effective crime-fighting talents that seem almost fictional, such as a man who exhibits telekinesis or another who can stun opponents without physical contact. Oh, and a man from England believes his dreams predict the future. (Note: the hiring of a scientist or medical professional is not in the production budget.)

Then, of course, there is the human beat box, a man who can perfectly mimic complex rhythms. Here’s where the crime-fighting gets a bit tricky. I suppose it can be used as a distraction tactic—get the criminal groovin’ to beats so that the hostage situation turns into a dance party? An Algerian man has incredible gastronomy that allows him to eat things from plastic to nails. Hmm, I guess he can disarm the assailant by digesting his weapon? Really, the possibilities are endless.

Silliness aside, RLSHs don’t really need a cliché comic-hero super power to accomplish their goal. The RLSH Project includes Water for Africa, an organization that aims to bring accessible and clean sources of water to West African countries. Donating ten dollars may not require a spandex bodysuit (though I’m all for dressing up) but it makes a difference. Check out other RLSH profiles for the areas they patrol, the charities they support, and Halloween costume ideas.

In case you were busy kicking a child molester’s ass and missed HBO’s Superheroes, read about it and watch clips here.

Aug 16 2011 2:00pm

Ramen Westerns: Far East Meets Old West

What are “Ramen Westerns?”

Western gunslinger vs Samurai swordsman

Imagine a spaghetti western as a starting point. Samurais and sharpshooters are not all that different. An iaidō instructor compared his Japanese martial art of drawing the katana, striking an opponent, removing blood from blade, and placing sword back into scabbard in one fluid motion to the smooth, practiced movements of legendary gunslingers from the Old West. Both art forms rely on three essential skills: speed of the quick draw, precision of the hit, and unstoppable swagger and style.

Some claim that the grand-daddy of spaghetti westerns is none other than Akira Kurosawa, who directed The Seven Samurai (1954), one of the classics that inspired the American Western The Magnificent Seven (1960) by John Sturges. In turn, Kurosawa’s masterpiece Yojimbo (1961) is heavily influenced by comic-action-packed and visually stylized American westerns. The plot comes from the suspense-noir, The Glass Key (1942), an adaptation of the 1931 crime novel by Dashiell Hammett, and Red Harvest (1929) by the same author. The plot of a vagabond out-manipulating two rival gangs is shared by the iconic Western, Sergio Corbucci’s Django (1966).

[Ride on!]

Aug 7 2011 2:00pm

HBO Superheroes Documentary: Real-Life Crusaders Against Crime

Self-Appointed Superheroes: (L to R) Dark Guardian, Zimmer, Z, Mr. XTreme, Zetaman, TSAF, and SuperheroCheck out HBO’s quirky documentary Superheroes to premiere August 8, 2011, at 9PM. The film, which has already won acclaim at several film festivals this year, including Slamdance, introduces us to several real-life, well, superheroes—from Brooklyn hipsters crime-fighters to not-so-in-shape middle aged men. We are introduced to colorful characters such as “Mr. Xtreme”, “Master Legend”, and “Thanatos.” These people, sometimes termed RLSH for “real-life-superhero”, are among hundreds of men and women who patrol the streets under the guise of a costumed alter-ego. Here’s a peek beneath the capes:

[Someone forget their meds?]

Jul 30 2011 2:30pm

The Walking Dead: Trailers and Entrails

The wait is almost over! Well, not quite. AMC’s The Walking Dead will return to screen for a 13-episode long 2nd season on October 16th, 2011. However, fans at San Diego Comic-Con were treated to this 4-and-a-half minute long teaser trailer (watch below). Fox International Channel (FIC) acquired international rights to the show in 2010 through FOX Crime, an international channel with a growing repertoire of hit crime shows such as Law & Order, The Glades, Dexter, Fringe, Monk, Rubicon, and Warehouse 13. Members from cast and crew of The Walking Dead presented some details on the highly anticipated Season 2. Yes, it will pick up from the explosion at CDC. No, it will not stay in the city but move to a more rural setting. And yes, there will be fresh additions to the cast. You can watch video highlights from the panel here.

For those who are unaware that the zombie apocalypse has already happened, Season 1 focuses on Deputy Rick Grimes, a sheriff of a small town in Georgia, who gets gunned down and ends up in a coma, only to wake up to a post-apocalyptic world overrun with the walking dead. After Grimes discovers his wife and son are missing, he undertakes a dangerous journey in hopes of finding his family in Atlanta, where the CDC is rumored to have set up a quarantined safe-zone in the city.

Here’s the teaser trailer for Season 2. Bon appétit!

Jul 19 2011 12:00pm

High Fashion Crime Scene: Lights, Camera, Exploit!

Melanie Pullen’s High Fashion Crime Art PhotographyPhotographer and visual artist Melanie Pullen resurrects the morbid fascination with women, beauty, and death in her exhibit “High Fashion Crime Scenes”. (Be warned that the collection features graphic images that some may find disturbing.) It is currently on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art at Jacksonville in the Atrium Gallery from July 16th to November 6th. According to an article from The Florida Times-Union, Pullen’s inspiration came from Luc Sante’s “Evidence,” a collection of crime scene photos taken in New York City from 1914 and 1918 as well as archival images from Los Angeles Police Department and coroner’s offices.

[Say cheese and die…]

Jun 9 2011 9:45am

Sugar and Vice: Kill Bill-Themed Birthday Cake

Sometimes, nothing is as satiating as a pulp-tastic revenge-plot splatterfest—and that’s one reason why I love the homage Quentin Tarantino paid to Hong Kong gangster flicks, Japanese chanbara (samurai period-pieces) films, and spaghetti westerns in the Kill Bill series. But that’s not the only reason. Buried beneath the gore-fest of violence and vengeance is a rather nuanced exploration of the complexities of parenthood. 

On that note, check out this amazingly macabre confection made by Barbarann Garrad of Cake Rhapsody last year—for her daughter’s 9th birthday party.  The level of detail in the katana, bullet shells, and hitlist, really takes the cake (pun intended). Go to her Flickr photostream to check out more pictures from the Kill Bill  bash. Barbarann might just be the coolest mother on the planet. But still, isn’t her daughter just a bit too young to be watching uber-graphic depictions of decapitation and dismemberment? (Just sayin’. That sh%t seems way too intense. But then again, it’s none of my business.)

Kill Bill birthday cakeProduction sources say that Kill Bill Vol. 3 is tentatively scheduled for 2014. Three years is a really. long. time. But as they say—revenge is a dish best served with freezer burns.

Go to our Food Fatale feature page for more nibbles to appease the voracious crime fan.

Image courtesy of Cake Rhapsody.

Jun 8 2011 3:57pm

Place Your Bids!—Sherlocking the Auction of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Narrative of John Smith

A couple of years before the world was introduced to Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, struggling 23-year-old physician Arthur Conan Doyle went to the post to mail out his very first manuscript to a publisher. Unfortunately, his debut novel, The Narrative of John Smith, would never see its first printing...until this September, more than a century later.

What caused such a long delay? Well, the original manuscript was, in fact, subsumed by some administrative mishap in the British postal system. In other words, it got lost in the mail. Fast forward to 2004, the manuscript was purchased at Christie’s, an esteemed fine arts auction house based in London, by the British Library for £47,800 (US$84,606). Seven years later, the British Library, an institution with a most reputable literary collection, announces its plans to publish the acquired book.

But ah, wait! There’s more to the story than meets the eye.

[Let me explain, my dear Watson...]

Jun 6 2011 9:45am

The Photographic Noir: Criminal Portraits from Sydney Police 1912-1948

Perhaps the least glamorous photography of the human subject is that of the police mug shot. Well, living subjects anyhow. Crime scene and autopsy photos may be less flattering still. Yet these beautiful vintage photographs—their glass-etched acetate negatives salvaged from the Sydney Police criminal archive in a flood and compiled by curators Caleb Williams and Peter Doyle—beg to differ.

The photographs that made the “cut” are published in The City of Shadows, which contains pages after pages of photographs with little guiding textual narrative. There is a strong scent of the film noir aesthetic on these portraits of murderers, gangsters, loan sharks, hustlers, prostitutes, drug addicts, and gamblers that walked the dark alleys of Sydney during that era.  There is a certain mystery and intrigue heightened by the image-driven format of the book. The second compilation, Crooks Like Us is more expository and incorporate police-recorded documents, testimonies, and confessions.

In the process of sorting through thousands of files, the curators became enchanted with the “insouciant faces staring back.” There is certainly style in the clothes, swagger in the poses, and devilishness in the smiles that set these images apart from most mug shots. There is something haunting, memorable, and almost sublime about them—even though the subjects led sordid lives.

Perhaps, this collection speaks to the criminal in us. And vice versa.

Browse the vintage criminal portraits gallery from The City of Shadows.

Did you know Alphonse Bertillon standardized the mug shot and crime scene photography? But that’s not all. Read about his significant contributions to fingerprinting and biometric research here.

You may also be interested in our feature series on Film Noir.

Images Courtesy of La boite verte.

Jun 3 2011 9:45am

The Art of the Heist: Caper-Lovers Will Never Be ‘Out of the Game’

If the detective mystery is the father of crime fiction and noir the alcoholic uncle, then the caper is the lovable nev’r-do-well cousin. Well, I take that back. Capers are doing quite well, thank you. Just look at box office heists like The Italian Job and the remake of Ocean’s 11 (also 12, and 13). The genre has evolved from big-screen adaptations of Donald Westlake’s offbeat Dortmunder stories (Bank Shot, The Hot Rock) to postmodern quirky comedies like The Brothers Bloom, Reservoir Dogs to the acclaimed science-fiction genre-(and mind-)bender Inception.

As readers and film-viewers, we are expected to see hustlers or criminal masterminds, in their endeavor to plan and carry out a get-rich-fast plan, as protagonists. Perhaps our identification with the crew is us wanting to share in the ingenuities of execution or laugh at the absurdities of the crime. (In Bankshot, a gang of criminals carries out a bank robbery by ‘stealing’ the entire building.)

At the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, British-based art collective Blast Theory designed a GPS app for smartphone that guided registered audience members through Park City, Utah to take part in a ‘Locative Cinema’ heist film, A Machine to See With. “One of the starting points was Made In USA by Jean-Luc Godard and the novel from which he stole the story, The Jugger by Richard Stark. (also Donald Westlake.) The experiential film explores choice, consumerism, and technology through a crime thriller.

That brings me to another hook in capers: the plays on the contradiction of material desires—namely, greed. The plots often suggest that there is a ‘last-time’ operation, after which the protagonists are ‘out of the game’ and will no longer participate in high-risk criminal activity. However, if there’s one thing to be learned, it’s this—there is no cure to ever-spiraling desire. In capers, the progression of the narrative invokes only the fantasy of escape from the repetition of desire.

Rarely do our main characters make it out—at least not with the loot and alive.

Image courtesy of Ain’t It Cool News.

Jun 2 2011 1:17pm

Murder at the Royal Wedding, or Capitalizing on the Hype

Camilla Duchess of CornwallMurder at the Royal Wedding by Ron MorgansLadies and Gentlemen, may I present... Murder at the Royal Wedding. One can almost feel the papillae on one’s tongue shrivel under the utter blandness. The plot? A deranged maniac obsessed with the late Princess Diana of Wales plans to kill Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at Will and Kate’s Royal Wedding. The protagonists? A disgraced royal copper and a girl-gone-wild paparazzo. 

The author Ron Morgans admits to receiving more than a few emails on how “it’s in bad taste and poorly timed” to have unveiled this mystery novel (and through Amazon ePub, no less.) 

Au contraire! (Could it be exquisitely-timed to surf the hype wave surrounding the Royal Wedding? How long do you think it took him to write this? Hmm...let me think.)

In any case, I’m sure Mr. Morgans will be making some bank off of this tacky little number about a Diana-crazed ex-con. Though I’m pretty sure if anyone thought about committing murder at the Royal Wedding, it’d be for one of those outrageously fabulous hats.

Via USA Today and thanks to MFrampton.

Jun 1 2011 9:45am

Camera Guns: Photo/Video Shoot(-Out)

Attention, vintage relic aficionados! Check out this 1938 Colt .38 revolver and black and white camera. This nifty device captures a picture with every pull of the trigger. Also for your viewing pleasure is a photo filmstrip of the victims… uh, subjects.

Colt .38 Camera Revolver 1938

The intent of the design was to capture a mugshot of the criminal in case the officer missed the shots.

I guess police liability was less of an issue back then.

(Click image below to enlarge article.)

Camera on Police Gun Shoots Criminals in Action article in Popular Science August, 1938

Today, almost a century later, there’s buzz once more on the news about police departments adopting camera guns as part of the arsenal for the force. This time, we are talking about video cameras. PistolCam®, unlike the vintage revolver cam, is to be used to record and monitor police activity during heated incidents in hopes of minimizing unjustified use of firearm and police brutality (supposedly).

Just point and shoot (a roll, not a round).

Images courtesy of Nationaal Archief of the Netherlands and Popular Science (Issue from August, 1938) and thanks to Dr. Linguica.