Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

THE NAKED KISS

Bald and Beautiful: Constance Towers
THE NAKED KISS (1964). Produced, written and directed by Samuel Fuller.

A prostitute named Kelly (Constance Towers) comes to a small town, Grantville, after a violent incident with her pimp, and briefly hooks up with a hypocritical cop named Griff (Anthony Eisley of The Mighty Gorga). Griff wants Kelly to "get out of town" and go across the river to an establishment of ill repute run by Candy (Virginia Grey). Instead Kelly gets a job working at an institution that helps disabled children. Kelly then meets the hospital -- and the town's -- chief benefactor, the romantic and cultured Grant (Michael Dante). Despite at least one red flag, Kelly finds herself falling for Grant, but he has one highly disturbing secret. The Naked Kiss is superior to Fuller's earlier Shock Corridor, and full of equally controversial material. Of course it's not the first movie to have a hooker for a heroine, and not even the first to look into the subject of pedophilia (Never Take Candy from a Stranger came out four years earlier in Britain). The movie has a very interesting script, but, unfortunately, it descends into melodrama that only cheapens it. Towers is more effective and not as overwrought as she was in Corridor; Eisley is perfectly cast as the slimy Griff; Grey is terrific as ever; and Dante, while his character is essentially a charming if one-note villain, has his moments as well. Patsy Kelly appears as a nurse in the institution. The Naked Kiss, whatever its flaws, certainly has some interesting scenes. There's the opening with Kelly assaulting the pimp who shaved her hair off as her wig falls off of her head and she's revealed to be bald; Kelly's smack-in-the-face purse assault, this time on madame Candy; Kelly's landlady (Betty Bronson of The Locked Door) talking about the soldier she intended to marry but who never came home from the war; and especially the poignant scene when all of the children sing the plaintive melody 'Tell Me Why." Towers, who years later co-starred with Yul Brynner in "The King and I," reveals a lovely voice in this sequence. Edy Williams, who dated Dean Martin, appears briefly as a hooker. In Grantville, the movie theater's marquee reads "Shock Corridor."

Verdict: Good story, but too lurid and superficial. **1/2. 

1 comment:

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