“Film is a battleground. Love, hate, violence, action, death… in a word ‘emotion’.” – Samuel Fuller, writer & director of The Naked Kiss
A bald prostitute beats her pimp unconscious with a stiletto shoe. That’s what were given in the opening of The Naked Kiss. When we thing of old films we naturally have an idea of a sepia toned wholesomeness or watered down action where a person didn’t bleed after being shot. The bad guys are always bad, the good guys are dove like icons, and never never a hint of sexuality or “gasp” fornication. This film smacks that idea in the nuts
After the pimp smack down, the protagonist, played by Constance Towers, goes on the road as a traveling prostitute. Eventually she bumps into a small town sheriff who samples her wares, then sends her across the river to the whorehouse in another town as his is a “decent place”. Emotionally at the end of her rope, she decides to quit the life of a hooker and miraculously lands a job as a nurse in charge of the cripple children’s ward. I guess they didn’t need accreditation for nurses back then.
Well life turns good for the poor hooker and she becomes embroiled in the small town society. Stopping a girl before she starts the life a whore by picking a cat fight with the across-the-river Madame and so on. He then enters into a relationship with the town rich boy, who is best friends with the sheriff. After a dream-like courtship where even Tower’s confession about her hooker can't deter rich boy, the two decide to marry.
Just before the wedding, she arrives her fiancé’s mansion, to find him on the verge of molesting a small girl. As he grinningly tries to persuade her to marry him, arguing that she too is a deviant, the only one who can understand him, and that he loves her, Towers kills him by striking him in the head with a phone receiver. Jailed, and under heavy interrogation, she must convince him and the town that she is telling the truth about her pervert beau’s death.
An odd mixture of sappy and fucked up, tone in The Naked Kiss shifts dramatically from scene to scene. It is inconsistent in its presentation, as if the film is struggling on what it wants to be. From a harsh beginning we believe that we are delving into a sweet faux Cinderella story, only to have that illusion ripped away by a child molestation. I will say though that the actual scene is rather tastefully done, several people I showed it to were confused as to what had actually happened.
Mixed in is one of the strangest musical scenes ever shot. In a sense it is a perfect mirror of the rest of the film. None of the kids can actually sing or, more accurately, they sing like untrained kids, badly. When Constance Towers joins, who can sing, the two blend incongruously together. It reminded me of Cop Rock, the two elements did not fit, but makes something truly weird.
The Children's Song
When the film is good it is dead on slap-in-the-face “did they really allow this kind of thing back then” good, but it does get bogged down in a sappy undertone that Tower’s character descends into after she decides to give up hooking. The film is then scattered with stock small town oddball “characters”.
Parts of The Naked Kiss would still be controversial today. I can’t imagine how people reacted to it back then. The full film is below. Enjoy and Caveat Emptor!