Review: The Naked Kiss

This Naked Kiss is a film noir from the noir legend Samuel Fuller. Fuller wrote and directed this film from 1964.

This film starts out with a prostitute named Kelly, played by Constance Towers, in a fight with a man. The man pulls off her wig to reveal she is completely bald! The reason she is bald in this opening scene does come up later in the film, but seems a minor point by that time. This is a shocking scene though and appears promptly on many of the posters and promotional items for the film, I’m sure it peaked some interest in the film and sold a few tickets back in 1964. After this battle with the man, Kelly takes only the money that is owed to her and leaves. The film then flashes forward a few years as Kelly gets off the bus in Grantville. She soon meets a police captain named Griff, played by Anthony Eisley. Griff soon becomes Kelly’s first customer in town and it is also her last. Griff recommends Kelly go across the river and work at an established cat house in the neighboring town. When Griff goes to the cat house to see how Kelly has settled in, he finds she is not there. Kelly has had a change of heart and soon gets a job at the local hospital for children. When Kelly meets J.L. Grant, the Grant for which the town Grantville is named, there are instant sparks and a romance soon starts.

The holes in this plot are so big that the plot doesn’t even make any sense after a while. Why does a prostitute suddenly decide to change her ways? OK, this one may be explained away as perhaps Kelly was playing the long game and using her femme fatale ways to land the most eligible bachelor. Kelly does seem to come across as bi-polar, one minute she is the nicest person you will ever meet and the next she is loosing it for some minor reason. I don’t know whether Towers is a bad actress or brilliant, I could never get a read on what Kelly’s motives are and at the end of this film I still didn’t know why she did half the stuff she did.

This film is unique and a bit campy in places, but well worth viewing for fans of classic film noir. This is not my favorite film from Fuller, but he has made it interesting enough that I’m glad I did see it.

Favorite Tidbit: Samuel Fuller put a few Easter Eggs in this film from his own noir universe. In one scene you can see Kelly walking by a theater where Fuller’s previous film Shock Corridor is on the marquee. In another scene Kelly is reading on a park bench while talking to Griff, the book she is reading is The Dark Page,a book written by Fuller.

Review: Shock Corridor

So the classic film noir era ended in 1958 according to some film noir historians, some might stretch it to 1960. I guess nobody told Samuel Fuller, because this film is about as close to a classic film noir as you get. This film is written, directed and produced by Fuller in 1963, and Fuller has done it all in the noir genre.

This film stars Peter Breck, who plays a journalist named Johnny, and is willing to do anything to win a Pulitzer. He trains with a psychiatrist to look like a mentally disturbed person when the time is right. He has a girlfriend, played by Constance Towers, who happens to be a stripper with brains and is madly in love with Johnny.

Johnny wants his girlfriend to act like his sister and tell the police that Johnny is making sexual advances towards her. So in 1963, I guess a stripper could tell a cop,” this is her brother and he is abusing me” and that is enough to get thrown in the mental hospital. You would think a background check to see if Johnny is even her brother would be done first? So we got to suspend our disbelief for a bit, but that is OK. So Johnny’s girlfriend thinks this is a really bad idea, I think she maybe right. Johnny wants to get institutionalized so he can solve a murder of a patient in the hospital. He knows there are three witnesses to the crime and one of them has to know who really committed the murder. So Johnny is deemed insane and sent to the hospital and proceeds to get close to the three witnesses as well as some of the other patients and staff members. Will Johnny solve the murder? Will he stay sane? Will his girlfriend stay with him when it is all over?

There are some very good performances in this film, but besides the two leads the one that stood out the most to me was James Best as Stuart. I’ve never really seen Best play anything by Rosco on The Dukes of Hazard, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him in something totally different.

This film is shot in black and white and it also uses a lot of classic film noir techniques for the cinematography.

The story is told with a few voice overs and delves into some dark places of the mind and our society. Finally one of my requirements for being a great film noir, this film doesn’t exactly have a happy ending. So by date alone I will file this under neo noir. On the other hand I think classic film noir lovers will actually really like this film. Forget what date is on it and just enjoy this film for what it is.