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Thursday, July 2, 2009

And now...a commercial break with J&B

“J&B Whisky” is a scotch blended whisky. The “J&B-Rare Blend”, the standard J&B whisky brand, is a blend of 42 Scottish malt and grain whiskies. Its charactaristic green bottle with yellow and red label are world wide known but if you ask people, even ardent J&B-drinkers, what the abbreviation “J&B” means not many can aswer you that the two letters refer to the names of its founders “Justerini & Brooks”. The company, originally “Johnson & Justerini” was founded in 1749 in London (UK), delivering fine wine and spirits to various up-scale aristocratic households, as well as supplying the then British King George III. In 1910, Johnson & Justerini was bought by Alfred Brooks and renamed “Justerini & Brooks”. In the early 1950s “J&B” merged with another company to form “United Wine Traders Ltd”,and by the end of the decade it had conquered America. From this sound base, and helped by another merger with “W. A. Gilbey Ltd, the London Gin makers", the brand went on to win over the world and became today’s second best selling blended whisky in the world after that other strange whisky fellow “Johnnie Walker”. “J&B”-whisky not only became a household name in hotels, bars and private homes but during the 60’s and 70’s it also became a fixed staple in the cultural world.

Some famous examples: In the original 1960’s “Ocean’s Eleven”, Sam Harmon played by Dean Martin, is seen with a bottle of J&B and glass looking at a painting of modern art in the home of character Spryros Acebos. The main character of Bret Easton Ellis's famous generation X novel “American Psycho”, Patrick Bateman, almost exclusively drinks J&B on the rocks. The main character MacReady in John Carpenter's 1982 horror picture “The Thing” exclusively drinks J&B on the rocks or even straight from the bottle. In the film “Goodfellas”, Ray Liotta's character receives a bottle of J&B smuggled into prison. In the cult film “Scarface”, Al Pacino's character, Tony Montana, drinks J&B with Elvira, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, during a poolside conversation. In the ultra violent HBO-prison drama “Oz”, various prison staff personnel can be seen drinking J&B in their office in several episodes. In the film “Once Upon a Time in America”, by maestro Sergio Leone, Robert De Niro as Noodles drinks J&B….
During the height of the Giallo genre, J&B was one of the most famous stars in those movies without getting any credit. In almost all the well-known gialli, the bottle and its golden liquid appears one way or the other. Very often, one of the main characters is an avid J&B-whisky drinker giving the beverage a prominent place in the film, the life of the characters and the evolving story. Even Marisa Mell could not escape this trend so when she appeared in a giallo “Una sull’altra”, directed by Lucio Fulci, she was also linked to the famous drink, if she liked it or not!

Seeing someone pour in a drink is nothing special but what makes this scene so special is the way Fulci directed Marisa Mell when fixing the drink. During a conversation with one of the other characters, Marisa Mell in a flower power bikini top, walks to the bar placed on a small table with a lamp. Instead of turning around with her face to the camera while pouring the drink she keeps standing with her back to the viewer and camera only opening her legs just a little bit.

The attentive viewer can now see the bottle J&D and its characteristic label through her legs giving the bottle a phallic like appearence as if entering the character's body. This scene filmed as it is by director Lucio Fulci is not a coincidence. Fulci had this scene clearly in mind while filming. Nothing more, nothing less. The scene gives a very clear hint about the profession of the character "Monica Weston". This scene also shows what a master craftsman Lucio Fulci was during the height of his carreer in telling a story solely with pictures and why “Una sull’altra” is regarded by many fans as one of his best movies.

During its giallo career, J&B appeared, as mentioned, in gialli like:

"Femina ridens" from 1969 with Dagmar Lassander as Maria, a giallo now famous for the dance scene with the see through bikini (See also entry "Pop Porno")
"Non si Sevizia un Paperino" from 1972 with Barbara Bouchet as Patricia

"Nude per l'Assassino" from 1975 with Edwige Fenech as Magda Cortis where the killer is pouring a glass of whisky

So in the end you can say that a giallo always had to have as a characteristic next to the black gloves and a bloody sharp razor blade a few scenes with J&B. Cheers!


Keith said...

Hey Mirko. Wow! I love this post. It's so cool how many films have used J&B. Thanks for doing such a cool post. I hope you have a great weekend. Cheers!

Keith said...

I hope you've had a nice weekend. I've given you an award over at my Dino Lounge blog.