Monday, November 26, 2012

The Naked Kiss

Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, The Naked Kiss is the story of a prostitute who hopes to start a new life in suburbia as she falls for a revered man only to realize not everything in this small town is what it seems. The film is presented in a film-noir style that explores a woman trying to create a new life only for her past to finally catch up with her in a terrifying moment. Starring Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, and Virginia Grey. The Naked Kiss is a captivating yet mesmerizing film from Samuel Fuller.

After a life as a prostitute in the city, a woman named Kelly (Constance Towers) arrives at the quaint, small town of Grantville in hopes to start a new life. There, she meets the town’s local sheriff Griff (Anthony Eisley) who learns about her past as he suggests to get her to the next town to work at a seedy cat-house run by a woman named Candy (Virginia Grey). Kelly instead decides to rent a room at the home of a seamstress while taking a job as a nurse helping handicapped kids at a local hospital. Her work as a nurse has made her welcome by the locals as she attends a party at the home of J.L. Grant (Michael Dante) who is a scion of the town’s founding family. The two begin a relationship as everything seem to go well for Kelly.

Yet, when she learns that a nurse named Dusty (Karen Conrad) is thinking about aborting her baby while a young woman named Buff (Marie Devereux) was paid $25 to work at the local cat-house. Kelly decides to confront Candy in hopes that nothing bad happens to Buff. When Grant proposes to Kelly, Kelly accepts as Griff reluctantly decides to become Grant’s best man. When Kelly returns to Grant’s home, she learns something shocking that changes everything as she finds herself in big trouble. Even as her past finally catches up to her where she faces the possibility of being condemned by the town.

The film is essentially the story of a woman trying to start a new life in a small town as she deals with a sheriff who knows about her past as she eventually gets herself into some trouble. During her time in this small town, she would make a discovery that would not only change everything but also have her face her past as well as those she confronted in an act of discrediting her. It is a film that explores the world of suburbia where things seem great on the surface but there’s a darkness that surrounds it where people know something but don’t want to say anything. Nearby is a cat-house where people do things that are immoral and for this outsider who was once a prostitute, it’s a place that she despises and only goes there to confront its owner after trying to get a young woman to become a prostitute.

Samuel Fuller’s screenplay is definitely engaging for the way he showcases a woman trying to reinvent herself as someone who is yearning for redemption for her dark past. The film opens with Kelly fighting her pimp and knocking him out to get what she’s owed and later leaves his apartment. Two years later, the film’s narrative begins where Kelly arrives in Grantville as she definitely seems a bit out of place as she is new but immediately starts to find her way to fit in. She is someone who is just trying to create something that is of her own where she is embraced by some locals including a few nurses who realize how good she is with children. Then there’s Griff who is a sheriff that had seen people come and go where he is suspicious about Kelly’s intentions. They have a brief tryst but it only maintains Griff’s suspicion about Kelly as she starts to go into a relationship with his friend Grant. Grant seems like a very nice guy that’s been around the world and offers Kelly something that is very different. Yet, there’s something about Grant that would shock Kelly as well as his idea of abnormality.

Fuller’s direction is very stylized from the opening scene where Kelly is fighting her pimp in an immediate moment where she’s attacking the camera. It’s to establish what kind of woman Kelly is as she is a woman who seems to despise her profession as she then walks out. The film then cuts to a quaint, small town that is beautiful and full of life as she steps out of the bus. Fuller’s direction is quite straightforward in the way he presents this small town while utilizing stylish noir shots in some interior scenes to create an element of drama. Notably the scenes between Kelly and Griff as there is a sense of darkness that is to occur where Griff doesn’t trust Kelly at all and Kelly knows that Griff doesn’t trust him.

Fuller’s direction also has a very playful side to it in the way Kelly interacts with children at the hospital as she is proven to be a very lovely person that really brings out the best in them. It’s Fuller just letting things loose to establish the kind of person that Kelly is trying to be yet something becomes off later on. Notably in the song that Kelly sings with the children where it’s played again in a very crucial moment that would really change the tone of the film altogether. The film then becomes a more traditional noir film where Kelly is definitely on her own and the only person that has to decide her fate is Griff. The obstacles become more troubling as there’s a certainty that Kelly will never be innocent but the results do become surprising. Particularly in its ending where Kelly sees the town for what it really is where her actions definitely changes things to point where this town will never be the same. In the end, Fuller creates a majestic yet intriguing film about reinvention and a woman’s desire to find redemption.

Cinematographer Stanley Cortez does brilliant work with the black-and-white photography from the amazingly gorgeous look of many of the film‘s daytime exteriors to the more stylized lighting schemes in the nighttime interior scenes to set a mood for the film. Editor Jerome Thoms does superb work with the editing to create some rhythmic cutting styles to play out the drama as well as some of the film‘s suspenseful moments. Art director Eugene Lourie and set decorator Victor A. Gangelin do wonderful work with the sets such as Grant’s home as well as the hospital hall where the kids play.

Costume designer Einhar H. Bourman does terrific work with the costumes in the dresses that Kelly wears to display her personality along with the more lavish clothes that Candy‘s barmaids wear. Sound effects editor Leonard Corso does nice work with the sound to create some effective mixes in some of the intimate moments including the film‘s crucial scene where Kelly makes a shocking discovery. The music by Paul Dunlap is excellent for its noir-inspired score with a bit of saxophone and orchestral arrangements to play up the drama that occurs in the film. Even as the soundtrack features a mix of jazz and classical music as the latter features piano sonatas and pieces by Ludwig Van Beethoven.

The film’s ensemble cast is amazing as it features some noteworthy performances from Patsy Kelly as the head nurse, Karen Conrad as the young nurse Dusty, and Marie Devereux as the young woman Buff who is struggling to find work. Virginia Grey is superb as the devious Candy who tries to make money by exploiting woman while doing whatever she can to bring down Kelly. Michael Dante is wonderful as the charming Grant who falls for Kelly and wants to give her a good life only to be revealed as someone who isn’t what he seems to be. Anthony Eisley is terrific as the no-nonsense sheriff Griff who deals with Kelly’s presence in town as he wonders if she’s really being honorable as he’s forced to face some truths about himself and the town.

Finally, there’s Constance Towers in a radiant performance as Kelly where she’s a woman seeking to get a fresh start in life while dealing with her dark past. Towers also brings an intensity to her role where she would prove to be a very tough woman who doesn’t take shit from anyone. It’s truly Towers at her finest as she definitely creates a performance for the ages.

The Naked Kiss is a marvelous film from Samuel Fuller that features an incredible performance from Constance Towers. The film is definitely an intriguing look into the world of small town hypocrisy and its exploration into the theme of redemption from the perspective of a former prostitute. The film is also a provocative look into several taboos that isn’t touched upon during the early 60s where Fuller definitely raises a lot of questions about what is occurred in the film. In the end, The Naked Kiss is a dark yet exhilarating film from Samuel Fuller.

Samuel Fuller Films: I Shot Jesse James - The Baron of Arizona - The Steel Helmet - Fixed Bayonets! - Park Row - Pickup on South Street - (Hell and High Water) - House of Bamboo - (China Gate) - Run of the Arrow - Forty Guns - Verboten! - The Crimson Kimono - Underworld U.S.A. - Merrill‘s Marauders - Shock Corridor - (Shark!) - (Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street) - The Big Red One - White Dog - (Thieves After Dark) - (Street of No Return) - (The Madonna and the Dragon)

© thevoid99 2012

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