The Naked Kiss

Year 1964

Constance Towers   as   Kelly
Anthony Eisley as Captain Griff  
Michael Dante as J. L. Grant  
Virginia Grey as Candy
Director - Samuel Fuller  
Screenwriter - Samuel Fuller

The Naked Kiss by Samuel Fuller is a B-Movie, make no mistake. If the lurid sounding title didn't clue you in, then let me instruct you. Any time the word "naked" appears in a movie title followed by some bodily function or body part, then it's lurid and a B-Movie. I'm sorry but even The Naked Jungle, a movie about ants, sounds sleazy. (It's not and I can't believe that I haven't written that one up yet.) But The Naked Kiss by Samuel Fuller IS sleazy. From what I can gather, sleaze is practically Fuller's trademark.

Now this is weird because Fuller is also the guy who gave us The Big Red One which is one of best movies ever made about World War II from an infantryman's perspective. It's only slightly sleazy at times. (I can't believe that I haven't commented on that one, either! "that one"? "The Big Red One"? Nevermind.)

The Naked Kiss isn't a perfect movie. Far from it! But it has style and a point of view. It tries not to pull any punches, but it doesn't rock you back on your heels either...except for one scene.

Kelly (Towers) is a call girl one the run from her "procurer". She ends up in small town called Grantville where the founding father's grandson is a very eligible bachelor. Kelly doesn't know this though when she decides that she's getting too old to be turning tricks so she hangs up her round-heeled shoes, so to speak, and becomes a matron at the local hospital. She's a success at dealing with crippled children and everything is going along okay until she meets...Dum! Dum! Dummm!...him! J.L. Grant (Dante) and Kelly fall in love. Then come the secrets and the shocking scene which occurs about two-thirds of the way through the movie. It's early and for a minute I thought, "That's it. That's quite a way to end this one. I wonder what happens to Kelly now?"

We get to find out! Yay! Or not. The big scene should've still been at the end of the movie. The movie should've been written to make this happen. Or at least closer to the end. There should have been some suspense as the audience not only worries over Kelly but eventually finds out what she'd done.

I guess it's time to mention that this is a movie about women. It's about unwed mothers and how seedy prostitution is. It's about a strong female lead and how she takes control of her life and helps others without being sappy about it. Kelly is pretty good with her purse Kung Fu and one of the girls at a brothel has a "karate punch" that takes care of men with one stroke to the back of the neck. These are some tough broads.

There are men in the movie like Grant and Police Captain Griff (Eisley) but this isn't their story.

As I watched the movie, I wondered how much Sam Peckinpaw or Stanley Kubrick are indebted to Sam Fuller. Fuller lacked subtlety, but his "in your face" style of directing reminded me of both Peckinpaw and Kubrick.

Fuller's script contains filler scenes, although some scenes go on a little long. Why is Kelly so enamored of children? You'll find out. Why is the song at the hospital sung? It's not just to show off Towers' voice. The essential pieces of Kelly's life with respect to her time in Grantville all come out. This is good.

And now the bad. Kelly isn't as drop-dead gorgeous as she's expected to be. Even though Griff comments, "That's enough to make a bulldog bust his chain," when he first sees Kelly, I didn't share the sentiment. Sorry but Towers looks like a hooker who's three steps shy of being over the hill. She's supposed to be classy, but misses it because she's too wooden. For Grantville, she's probably hot stuff. Although the girls at Candy's cat house, "across the river" are coarse, they're better looking.

But the whole beauty thing is trivial. It's the wooden acting that sinks some of the scenes. The choppy editing doesn't help either. Some scenes just end abruptly, like they do in any B-Movie. Maybe it's lack of script and too terse direction rather than an editorial gaffe, but it keeps this in the talented amateur category.

So do the sudden mood swings of the characters. Fuller is trying to make points but he's not smooth about it. Like the karate punch scene where there's nearly a cat fight over a cat house patron at just the time when Kelly arrives. Or when Kelly chastises Buff (Marie Devereux). Her first action isn't to scold Buff, it's to attack Buff physically. And who knew that there's a national association of pimps to punish wayward call girls? Or that the expression "naked kiss" means something to a girl of Kelly's background? (From what I gather, Fuller changed "iron kiss" to "naked kiss" because, you know, naked is more lurid. I haven't heard of either expression except the latter within this movie.) And gondoleers in Venice sing Santa Lucia because...? Maybe it's because Amazing Grace didn't quite fit?

In Grantville everyone knows everyone but they don't pay attention to what they're doing. Everyone seems to be in on everyone else's business, but no one knew that Kelly visited Candy's place? And then there's a little bombshell that Griff drops on Kelly about three-quarters of the way through the movie about a couple of incidents in town. These are not small incidents! People should have been talking about this more and not just introducing this as a single line to sort of tie things together as in, "Yeah. We knew about this kind of thing all along. We didn't tell you?"

The ending is a bit of a letdown as well. I asked myself, "That's it? Did The Lone Ranger leave a silver bullet?" I expected something more than the gratitude of the townfolk as the heroine rode off into the sunset on her white charger...I mean her battered bus. I guess it was supposed to be "edgy" and "real". Too bad it felt old and contrived and failed to take into account Kelly's future on the run from the syndicate of wayward call girl punishers.

In spite of all of its faults, if you keep your expectations low then you'll find a lot to like in this movie. A real surprise about two-thirds of the way through. (I was expecting something and I figured that it had to be tied in with how good Kelly was at her job, but I wasn't expecting the scene at all.) Throughout the movie, the ugly side of human nature is explored along with a sort of redeeming note after all is said and done.

No profanity, nudity, or blasphemy. If your girl can handle some of the "Oh, please!" and "Really?" moments and she doesn't mind watching movies about hookers, then there's some chick flick potential due to the strong female lead.

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