Friday, February 11, 2011

Constance Towers in The Naked Kiss 1964

To cap off our week of Noir we have this late entry. 1964 is really the bitter, ragged end of film noir. Many people wouldn't consider this a noir film because of the year it was made, but for our purposes we're going to count it in. In this Leon Fromkess/Samuel Fuller production, Constance Towers is Kelly, a former prostitute who's trying to give it up and walk the straight and narrow. The film opens with a shocking scene of Kelly beating up her pimp, from the pimps point of view. As she pounds at him with her purse her wig falls off and she's bald. He's shaved her head to punish her for transgressions. We next see Kelly getting off a bus in a small town. She meets the sheriff (Anthony Eisley) there and has a fling with him, after which he tells her to leave town and suggests she work at Candy's - a clip joint in the next town over. He's later surprised to find her working at the local children's hospital as a nurse's aid. She tries to convince him that she's cleaning up her act, but he doesn't believe her. Later, she's taken to a party at the home of the town's most eligible bachelor. Well, of course you can guess that they fall madly in love. He's hiding a dark secret, however.

This film is really disturbing on many levels. The close proximity of deviant behavior and children, the exploitation of disabled children to drive sympathy for Kelly, the sanctioning, even championing of Kelly's tendency to viciously attack the people who have wronged her in some way all add up to one twisted film. Look for Virginia Gray and Patsy Kelly in small, but well featured parts, and an especially creepy scene with the above mentioned disabled kids singing "Mommy Dear." Also, look below for my little soap box moment about some implausible plot points in the film - they include spoilers though!
This film has gotten something of a cult reputation in the years since it was made. There was a DVD release by the Criterion Collection back in 1998 and it's also on the Hollywood Bombshells Collection that's been the source of all the films this week. It's uploaded to YouTube in full, thanks to MindsiMedia. Part 1 is above. Many thanks to Steven Menendez for loaning me the set!

Obscurity factor: 3 (film is cult classic, available on DVD, YouTube, largely unknown out of cult circles)

*spoiler alert*
Now I usually don't include spoilers in these write-ups, however this needs to be addressed. There's a big hole in the plot here that has only become more obvious in the age of Law & Order. Kelly is in jail, awaiting trial for killing her fiance, and when the child is found and she confirms her story she's set free, no trial, no other corroboration. She's killed one of the most prominent citizens of the town and is released with a thank you. It completely implausible. At the very most the circumstances would provide a defense lawyer with a case of justifiable homicide, but because there wasn't a specific victim in immanent danger, that defense probably wouldn't have gotten her off. There, I feel better now...
*end spoilers*

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