Thursday, 10 April 2008

The Naked Kiss (1964)

The Naked Kiss, written and directed by Samuel Fuller, has to be one of the oddest movies ever made, a strange disjointed mix of film noir and melodrama. The tone of the movie combines the hardboiled cynicism of Kiss Me Deadly with some of the most vomit-inducing sentimentality you’ll ever see. It’s like Mickey Spillane channelling Walt Disney, but done with a crudity and a degree of technical incompetence that would have had Ed Wood demanding to have his name taken off the credits. The plot concerns a prostitute who suddenly decides that what she really wants to do is to devote her life to helping cute little crippled kids. Then she makes an alarming discovery about her husband-to-be, the most respected citizen in the town, and her past comes back to haunt her. The acting is almost unimaginably bad. The dialogue defies belief. “A sweetheart is a bottle of wine; a wife is a wine bottle.” That’s deep Sam. And there’s more, and worse, where that came from. This has been claimed as a kind of proto-feminist film, presumably because the prostitute turns out to have a Heart of Gold (and she really loves those cute little crippled kids – she even sings to them). I’m not so sure about this movie’s politics though. I suspect a conservative and even puritan agenda, but it’s so incoherent it’s hard to tell. It gets points for attempting to deal with controversial adult subject matter back in 1964, but it’s about as a subtle as being run over by a bus. Fuller became something of a cult director during the 60s and was even for a time the darling of the French Nouvelle Vague. The Naked Kiss is certainly different, and it’s definitely untypical of Hollywood movies of its era. It just shows that being different and non-mainstream is not always a good thing! It does have considerable so-bad-it’s-good entertainment value if you’re in the right mood. You could say it’s the Valley of the Dolls of film noir. It probably helps if your brain is deranged by the ingesting of certain chemical substances. Not that I’m advocating the use of such substances, but if you’re going to watch this movie it’s probably essential if you hope to retain your sanity. Especially when you get to the song about the bluebird of happiness.

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