The Naked Kiss (Filmmakers Collection) (1964)

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Released 5-Aug-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer-02:20 Good condition with one cut.
Theatrical Trailer-Pickup on South Street
Theatrical Trailer-The Last Seduction
Theatrical Trailer-Shock Corridor
Theatrical Trailer-Crossfire
Theatrical Trailer-Key Largo
Theatrical Trailer-Kiss Me Deadly
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 86:39
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Samuel Fuller
Studio
Distributor
Allied Artists Picts
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Constance Towers
Anthony Eisley
Michael Dante
Virginia Grey
Patsy Kelly
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI Box Music Paul Dunlap


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Social - bar scenes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Crucial fight scene before credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   

 "Now you know why I could never marry a normal woman." 

    The final film in the Umbrella released Sam Fuller Filmmakers Collection is The Naked Kiss from 1964. Like the other three titles in this indispensable collection from a true Hollywood original, The Naked Kiss is much more than it seems on the surface. It would be so easy to dismiss this as low-budget melodramatic pulp entertainment, but it is not easy to dismiss a film that has been written, produced and directed by Samuel Fuller.

    Before any titles we are confronted with two characters, a  man and a woman, arguing bitterly in searing close-up. Frantic jazz plays on the soundtrack. She begins bashing him, brutally, and in the struggle her wig comes off, revealing her to be completely bald. The man is bashed unconscious and the woman rifles through his pockets, finding eight hundred dollars. She takes the "seventy-five dollars that's coming to (her)", puts the wig back on her head and the titles begin. Samuel Fuller has our undivided attention. As the titles continue she puts on her make-up in front of the mirror. The woman is Kelly (Constance Towers), a prostitute, and the man her "business manager"/procurer. We later learn that he had shaved her head as punishment for her threatening to leave her trade. The time is July, 1961.

    We jump to August 1963, and Kelly is getting out of a bus in the conservative town of Grantville. Police Captain Griff (Anthony Eisley) eyes her off as she leaves the bus, and follows her through the town into the park. (They pass a cinema where the current attraction is Shock Corridor!) We see them seated together on a park bench, and Kelly tells Griff that she is selling champagne, showing him her sample case. Cut to a hotel room  - Griff has paid for it - he is lying on a sofa drinking champagne, she is brushing her hair, obviously post-sex. She refers to having to regrow her hair and when he asks what happened she replies, "It'll keep". The conversation then wanders through Beethoven, the Moonlight Sonata, poetry and Goethe, before Griff tells her to try the town across the river to practise her trade, and to leave his town clean. He refers her to an establishment run by Candy, who guarantees her customers "indescribable pleasure". The next morning Kelly wakes alone, and sees a framed headline from the Grantville Gazette on the wall : "Grant saves Griff in Korea; Wounded." She goes to the mirror and contemplates her face and the tell-tale signs of age and her profession. She makes a decision.

    From this point Kelly decides to turn her back on the "oldest profession", to stay in Grantville and be respectable. She rents a room from Madame Josephine the refined elderly seamstress. When Kelly admits she has no references, Josephine says, "Your reference is your face, Miss Kelly". Kelly asks about finding a job, and Josephine tells her about the excellent work being done with handicapped children at the local hospital, which is financially assisted by local rich boy, Grant (Michael Dante).

    Meanwhile Griff goes to Candy's (Virginia Grey) looking for Kelly. He talks with a brunette "bon bon" girl, Candy's version of a Playboy bunny,  whom he also had met in the park and referred to Candy. He hears that Kelly has found work in the hospital, and sees nurse Mac (Patsy Kelly) who tells him that Kelly "was born to handle underprivileged kids". Confronting Kelly, Griff accuses her of using her work with the children as a cover for her real "trade". Kelly defends herself telling Griff that after that one night with him she took a look in the mirror and saw "nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of (her) life". Griff comments on the irony of "a hooker moving in with the town virgin (Josephine)". Kelly says, "Give me a break!" Blackout.

    Kelly meets rich boy Grant, they fall in love, and he proposes marriage. She confesses her past to him, and in response he gives her the key to his mansion home. Grant asks Griff to be his best man, which spurs Griff to go to the hospital to see Kelly. Griff gives her thirty minutes to get out of town or he will tell Grant everything. Kelly instantly gets Grant on the phone, and Griff is confronted with the knowledge that Grant already knows about Kelly's past but still wants to marry her. Griff agrees to be best man.

    Josephine has helped Kelly make her wedding gown  Kelly rushes to Grant's home to show him the finished work. The radiantly happy Kelly is in for a major surprise. What transpires in the last thirty minutes of the film should be left "unspoiled", except to say that it is here that Fuller dares to involve, if not tackle, issues which were taboo in the 60s.

    Fuller's plot is pure melodrama, a term today much misunderstood, as is the case with "thriller" and "film noir". The Naked Kiss is definitely a sensational dramatic piece with violent appeals to the emotions, even involving "melody", with music strongly involved in what is being depicted on screen. The story of the "bad girl" trying to change her life in a new, small town has been the basis of so many movies, but Fuller uses this old formula and adds other elements which concern him. The question of reality, of man's frequently perverse secrets covered by a seemingly wholesome facade. Reality is not "pleasant" like Madame (?) Josephine's room for rent. This is chiefly exemplified in the character of Grant, but there are other more subtle asides as well. The manservant, Barney, had formerly accompanied Grant on all his overseas trips. What did that mean? Griff relished the mocking of the petulant Barney when Grant gave him his coming home gift. Then the "best friends" leave for a drink, arms around each other laughing. What are we to make of Kelly's sensitivity to "culture"? Is it genuine or a pretentious facade? She mispronounces Goethe twice, once in the hotel room with Griff and later with Grant, who almost, but not quite, corrects her. We remember the mispronunciation of "schizophrenia" by Constance Towers' character in Shock Corridor. What does Fuller imply by juxtaposing Kelly's alliteratively poetic "leaves lazily falling on me" with the brutally prosaic , "How long have you been a cop?"  And just how many young women has this officer of the law directed across the river to work as a bon-bon girl for Candy? We may not alway be sure of what Fuller is saying, but we are absolutely sure that he is saying something, something much more than the literal, surface meaning.

    In the central role of Kelly the multi-talented Constance Towers is excellent. Barely off screen, she is beautiful , and able to be sexy as well as sweet. At times quite harshly photographed, she is a compelling centrepiece. (The Broadway star even gets the chance to sing in a thematically significant scene.) Other performances are problematic. Anthony Eisley is a gruff Griff, with basically one note to his wooden performance. Maybe that's how Fuller wanted it. Michael Dante is an extremely weird Grant, and I could see no reason for Kelly's attraction to him. The minor characters seem almost amateurish, with the exception of Patsy Kelly and an extremely thin Virginia Grey. Not helping the minor performances are the very jarring reaction establishing close-ups which Fuller seems to favour. Maybe this is another of his "alienating" techniques, detaching us from the story so we think more deeply about his underlying themes.

    Photography by Stanley Cortez is excellent, harsh and dramatic. Paul Dunlap's mainly jazz score is dramatically effective, if at times it barely seems to be integrated with what is on the screen. Editing is at times jarring, with a loss of continuity. Alienation or budget restrictions? I tend to think budget.

    Samuel Fuller's films are not easy. In The Naked Kiss, Fuller  the writer weakens the overall impact with too many extraneous female characters. That aside, this is a dramatically and thematically challenging film made by a man who demands that his audiences think. That process of thinking goes on long after the viewing experience.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is a very satisfactory transfer of the black and white film.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the original ratio being 1.37:1. The film was matted to 1.66:1 for theatrical showing, and there is definitely a more dramatically satisfying image when viewed "blown up" to widescreen. I continually switched from one ratio to the other, with the widescreen image always looking better composed. There was little loss in quality with the larger image.

    The transfer is extremely sharp, with no variation from reel to reel.
    Very little grain.
   
    Shadow detail is good, although this is a film of high contrasts and there is little subtlety in the harsh screen image.
    There was very little low level noise.
    There was quite a lot of aliasing, initially noted on the bus timetable (04:54) , then on Venetians (13:22).
    There were very few film artefacts, with the film looking clean and undamaged. There was a notable negative "blob" at 42:45, made more obvious by being on Miss Towers' attractive torso.
    Reel cue marks had been removed.
   

    There are no subtitles.

    This is a single layer disc.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track on the movie,  English in Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 448 Kbps.
    The soundtrack is in very good condition, with very little background noise.
    There is a little crackle and the occasional "pop", but no drop-outs.
    There is one distinctly abrupt change in sound quality (23:30), but this is an isolated instance.

     
    Dialogue was perfectly clear and every syllable crystal clear. There were no sync problems.  
   
 

    The jazz soundtrack is very effective, and well produced. There is a harsh edge to much of the sound, but this suits the dramatic tone of the movie.
    
    

    

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

   

Menu

    The Main Menu is 1.33:1 displayed over simple artwork. Soundtrack jazz theme provides the audio.
    The Main Menu options are : Play Feature
                                                 Select Scene : Four screens, each with same collage of three stills and no audio. A total of twenty scenes.
                                                 Theatrical Trailer                      
                                                 Umbrella Propaganda

Theatrical Trailer : (02:00) 
    Quite good quality presented 1.33:1. There appears to be an abrupt cut after Constance Towers' name, removing the initial credit for Anthony Eisley. Probably due to damage.

Umbrella Propaganda : 
    This is a collection of interesting trailers, two included elsewhere in the Sam Fuller Filmmakers Collection set, one of another Umbrella release, and a collection (Pulp Cinema) from films not, to my knowledge, available through Umbrella.
                Pickup on South Street : (01:47)  This is the excellent theatrical trailer also included on the Pickup on South Street disc.
                The Last Seduction : (01:36) Short trailer for this must-see movie, presented 1.33:1 with softer colour than the Umbrella anamorphic release.
                Pulp Cinema : (06:38) A strange compilation of three trailers, with varying image quality. The movies are Crossfire, an interesting Dore Schary hosted introduction to the 
                                        RKO film noir; Key Largo, the Warners Bogart/Bacall/Robinson classic; and the Ralph Meeker starred Kiss Me Deadly from MGM/UA.
                Shock Corridor : (02:52) A repeat of the original theatrical trailer included on the Shock Corridor disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 Criterion Collection edition is different from the Region 4 release in that :
       :
        *  it has a 1.85:1 non-anamorphic transfer. (I'm sure this image would be matted from the Umbrella image, so no real advantage.)        
        *  it contains an insert with a brief overview of Fuller's career.

    The Region 2 French release is a three disc set :
        * Disc One : Shock Corridor
        * Disc Two : The Naked Kiss
        * Disc Three: Very comprehensive extras.

    The preference here would be a very individual one. The local box set release is good value with a good transfer which seems to be on a par with the Region 1 release, the lack of enhancement negating Criterion's 1.85:1 transfer.

Summary

    This is an intense melodrama, with Constance Towers outstanding in her central role. Sam Fuller's trademark style is ever present, and he tackles some themes which were immensely controversial for the 60s, and still controversial today. This does not have the compulsive, energetic drive of Shock Corridor, but the film is immensely entertaining, as well as provocative and troubling. The transfer is generally clean and dramatically sharp, with quite good mono sound.
    

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Monday, May 12, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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