Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Naked Kiss (1964) Kinky Neo Noir On The Cheap


CHEAP,
      TAWDRY,
           RIDICULOUS.
               STYLISTIC,
                    MELODRAMATIC,
                        CRAP,
                            NOIR!

A la Sam Fuller. My favorite Fuller Noir is Pickup On South Street, a 10/10, a Classic Twentieth Century Fox Noir. A film with the full complement of veteran motion picture studio artists, set designers, art directors, contract players, and with Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, and Thelma Ritter at the top of their game, quality actors. It looks like a quality production, a piece of cinematic ART.

The Naked Kiss has none of this. It stars Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, and Marie Devereux. I don't blame you if you ask who? The studio was poverty row Allied Artists, and they must have rented Samuel Goldwyn Studios back lot and the Columbia/Warner Bros. Ranch, but they forgot to rent the extras, the cars, the  atmosphere and most importantly the studio personnel with the knowhow to make it work.

Grantville

Fake Town

Fake Street,  fake buildings (notice the plug for "Shock Corridor"{
At least in The Man With The Golden Arm, another backlot bound film that I reviewed recently, director Preminger had the doe to cast bigger name stars and was able to clutter up the backlot. When you have Sinatra, Novak, and McGavin, you are going to pay attention to them. This film, with no outstanding actors to distract, looks like a cheapo TV film of the week. There is an opening aerial shot of downtown Grantville. It's of a brownstone type city block with an angle, but it looks instantly phony, i.e.,  glass storefront windows with venetian blinds, blinds hiding the fact that there is probably nothing behind the glass. And hardly a pedestrian, no parking meters, hydrants, street signs, no parked cars, no traffic. Doesn't look like any real small town, it just screams backlot. Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, they knew how to disguise the shots with the right angles and blocking. Pickup On South Street wasn't New York City but they filmed the 20th Century Fox Studios backlot in a very convincing way, no? Here Grantville USA looks phoney.

By the early fifties lighter portable cameras allowed lots of film noir to go to actual locations. Nothing looks better than the real thing, and by the '60s going back and using studio sets without the personnel who knew how to film them and pull it off, was a disaster. Another noticeable Noir of this time period with the same problems is The Money Trap, it uses a back lot and location work and the differences between the two are glaring.

Kelly (Constance Towers)




What keeps all the negatives in play is the incredibly bizarre story. The film is like a macabre train wreck, that you got to keep watching. It's opening hook has a frenzied prostitute Kelly (Constance Towers), beating the living shit out of her pimp with a shoe. She is downright crazy eye, dick shriveling scary. While they struggle Kelly loses her wig revealing a cue ball head, nice touch Sam.




Knocking her pimp senseless, she grabs the money, dons her wig, and scoots. She goes freelancing. Three years later Kelly gets off the bus in Grantville ready to peddle her ass in a new market, but she runs straight off at the get go into the Captain of Grantville Police Griff. Griff was waiting for the bus with a punk kid he was running out of town. Griff has her number. Griff propositions Kelly and gets the first "crack" at her.

a punk with Captain Griff (Anthony Eisley)

Griff getting the lowdown
After they are done playing hide the sausage, in Griff's apartment, no less, Griff tells her that his town is clean. It's gonna stay clean. He doesn't want her turning tricks in Grantville. But he also tells her that there's a Madam, named Candy, runs a whorehouse in the town across the river, she can go there join the stable of local talent.


He tells her to tell Candy that Griff sent her with his "seal of approval." Griff's got to go out on shift but tells Kelly she can hang there for the night. When Kelly wakes up she takes a long appraising look at herself in the mirror and decides to go straight.



Kelly: I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That's what I saw.

Kelly finds a boarding house, a nice affable landlady, gets the room and looks for a job. Now here is where the film sort of goes off the rails. Nevermind that Kelly, as played by Towers, is not in any way shape or form believable as a hooker, just like she wasn't believable as a stripper in Shock Corridor.

She gives off a wound a bit too tight, absolutely fucking nuts aura on one hand, and on the other, you sense the stuck up attitude of an actress (a hoity toity graduate BTY of the Juilliard School of Music and the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts) who wants you to know that she's better than this part, and is slumming in this particular piece of trash, playing a mere prostitute. So she enhances/inflates the part. Kelly is into classical music and quotes Goethe, fer chrissakes, a high society hooker in a fly speck Mayberry.



I don't know if that all makes sense, but the fairy godmother like shift from whore to handicapped childrens nurse is completely off the wall. Besides, how the hell does she get a nursing job without any education or license?  The film glosses that over with some bullshit, not ever going to fly in the real world, lines of dialog. After she does get the job, Griff keeps hounding her anyway thinking she's screwing the Docs and up to no good.

Another chuckle inducing sequence is Candy's whorehouse, across the river from Grantville in another state that must be called Candyland. Candy's girls are called Bon Bon's and the whorehouse looks like a cheap roadhouse nightclub with the gals in sort of cigarette girl outfits with trays, but instead of cigarettes they sell "candy," only the "candy" is really sex. It's all in the subtext. So I guess if a gal sold a blow pop or suckers, it would be oral sex, the Big Cherry candy bar for straight sex, and maybe a Hershey Bar for anal. Kinky stuff there Sam.

Candy (Virginia Grey) and Griff
Candy's Whorehouse




Continuing further into bizarro world, we get long cringeworthy sequences with Kelly in nurse costume and with  the handicapped children dressed up as pirates altogether singing like the Vienna Girls & Boys Choir (Towers Juilliard School of Music degree put to use here).



Into this mix comes the town's most eligible bachelor Grant (Michael Dante). He and Kelly hit it off after a somewhat rough start and become a definite item.

Grant (Michael Dante) Griff and Kelly



It all looks as if it's going to be a Cinderella type story ending until Kelly drops by Grant's mansion one day unexpectedly early, and catches him molesting a little girl. Woah! It's, as Kelly explains somewhat cryptically, the "Naked Kiss" of the title, so the audience can let their imaginations run wild as to what exactly is being kissed. The girl runs out the front door and Kelly confronts the apprehensive Grant, who babbles.....

The perv caught in the act
J.L. Grant: Now you know why I can never marry a normal woman. That's why I love you. You understand my sickness. You been conditioned to people like me. You live in my world, and it will be an EXCITING world!  [Now on his knees] My darling... our marriage... will be a paradise... because we're BOTH abnormal.

"My darling... our marriage... will be a paradise... because we're BOTH abnormal."
At this point Kelly grabs the telephone receiver and in one vicious blow crushes Grants skull killing him deader than a doornail.  Griff does not believe the town's namesake was a pedophile and Kelly is arrested. It all goes melodramaticly Noirsville.

Noirsville



















An uneven, visually ugly film with a weird score, an absurd plot, told in a warped style. Pure trash. A kinky curiosity to rubberneck, about a 6/10.

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