Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fresh Fiances for the Devil's Daughter (Russell Gray, MARVEL TALES, May 1940)

This story has me wondering what kind of marital issues Russell Gray may have had.  Because this story has a level of salaciousness that I was not expecting from the 1940s - more like from the sleazy exploitation films of the 1970s.  Between the nearly-nude woman whipping a man half to death and the balls-out insanity of naked women being hunted with paintball guns...but I get ahead of myself.

"Fresh Fiances for the Devil's Daughter" (listed just as "Fiances for the Devil's Daughter in the Pulp Fiction Megapack) begins with a publishing agent being introduced to "Tala Mag," a bronzed sex goddess who doesn't take no for an answer.  She allegedly wants to meet with him about becoming a client, but her way of going about this is to grind her pleasure-zeppelins into his chest.  A faithful and loving husband, our hero pushes Tala Mag away, leaving her swearing vengeance.

Shortly thereafter, he gets a letter from Portia, one of his best clients, apologizing for Tala Mag's behavior and requesting the agent meet her at her penthouse apartment.  Despite his better judgment (if she wants to be his client, she should meet him at his office), he meets with her, and when he once again rebuffs her sexual advances, she has him stripped and chained up by a thuggish servant, and then whips him into unconsciousness, leaving him half-dead in the warehouse district of town.  He manages to get home to his loving wife, keeping quiet about his experience with Tala Mag.

A few weeks later, he and his wife are invited, again by letter, to a resort cabin being held by another of his writer clients.  Having not learned his lesson, they go - only to discover that not only is Tala Mag not done with him, she has unfinished business with several of his other clients, all of whom had the same initial experience he did.  Five men and their wives are now prisoners of Tala Mag.  After being forced to watch Portia tortured to death with hot irons, the men are presented with a new horror: Armed with paintball guns loaded with acid pellets, they must hunt each other's naked wives for two hours, and the woman with the most acid burns will be tortured to death with the hot irons.

Can the men break free from the crippling psychological trauma of Tala Mag's domination long enough to rescue their wives?

Wow.  There's, uh, a lot of S&M here, and precious little actual story.  This story seems like it'd be more at home in a men's adventure magazine in the 1950s or early 60s.  The characters are all pretty much interchangeable - all the males are the same, all their wives are the same, all the henchmen are the same, and Tala Mag exists solely to be a pair of boobs and a whip.  Her motivation is given solely as "she just wanted a reason to kill us."

I will say, the imagery of people being hunted with paintball guns that shoot acid is a powerful one.  I may have to steal that for when I get back to work on the "private eye vs evil cult" novel I started on a while back.

I'm considering picking up more of Russell Gray's work, because this story was like a train-wreck - I just couldn't look away, and I want to see if the rest of his stuff is this crazily sexual and weird.

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