Thoughts on The Naked Kiss

The other evening I rewatched Samuel Fuller’s The Naked Kiss (1964), forgetting just how ludicrous, provoking, and glue-my-eyes-to-the-screen the movie was. If you haven’t treated your peepers to this feast of a film, or delved into any Fuller, I guarantee your brain will be far more occupied by it than the new Avengers. I won’t write out the film’s melodramatic tilt-a-whirl of a plot, but in terms of its political agenda, it was both ahead of its time and simultaneously ham-fisted misguided, which is what makes it so enthralling. It is hard to fantasize many analogues circa 1964. Fuller, of course, was no slouch, first defended by Manny Farber (see the Library of America’s Farber on Film: The Complete Writings of Manny Farber) and today is a director whose regard only grows in stature. Though The Naked Kiss is one of the pinnacles of Fulller’s output, it is also an excellent introduction to the director.

While The Naked Kiss is not an Out of the Past type of film noir, or even falling within that main cycle of films designated as such, thematically it is, traveling the noir map and evolving out of the ’40s and ’50s into the ’60s. There is an investigator, here a buffoon rather than a Marlowe, with a version of manhood that could almost be a magazine subscription to an idea of an idea; a manhood that by 1964 when the film was released had drifted into organizational culture and professions like advertising (Mad Men). There is also a femme fatale, Constance Towers’s Kelly, whose point of view, unprecedentedly for its time, drives the story. Over the course of the film, the American Dream is shattered (there’s a Capra-esque town that is the placeholder for this), female sexuality is liberated from a patriarchal economy, and then there’s a song that can only be described as “Julie Andrews sings with the Little Rascals.”

Watch it, and if your attention fails to be 110% consumed, engulfed, and cast into oblivion by The Naked Kiss (who knows maybe you won’t even check Facebook while you are watching), then I’m sure this Vine of a snorting dog burritoed in a bedroll will not charm you either – basically, there is no hope for you.

Jot it down

This is not practical advice at all considering we live in a digital age. I should have sang a sentiment like, “Type ideas you may want to squirrel away out on your laptop,” or try entering them into your device via its touchscreen interface and have said device autocorrect whatever it is you are trying to write and get wildly frustrated when “lept” is changed to “kept,” then “slept,” only later to realize that you were possibly wrong and it is “leapt.”

I suspect it is also completely and totally indecipherable what I’m singing about, but it is along the lines above of jotting it down.

1do’clock

Any table top RPG player worth his or her salt has dice, more dice than one would possibly need. I remember buying totally pointless trap and weather dice, like you couldn’t just make a 1d6 die table for weather conditions. Whatever, it’s part of the hobby and it’s harmless fun.

But what the fuck? Why would one need a d12 that tells time… by showing the numbers 1-12 in analog clock form? Wouldn’t a regular d12 be just as good?

doclock

Cthulhu Movie Cleaning

Over the weekend I watched two movies, which I probably should have seen for various reasons years ago but had not. They were Breaking the Waves (1996), directed by Lars von Trier, and Star Trek (2009), directed by J. J. Abrams. As films, they could not have been more diametrically opposed, but both have stood the test of time well enough to have led their respective directors to bigger opportunities.

While both films engaged my attention, at their ends I had to wonder just what it was that so captured the minds of their respective fan-bases. As a reboot, Star Trek was heavy on action, but thin on everything else. Breaking the Waves had interesting visuals, but its treatment of a woman finding martyrdom through her sexuality left me wondering just what critics loved so much about it after its 2+ hour runtime.

I could go and watch all the iterations of Star Trek and write out just where Abrams got blinded in the lens flare, or I could go get a book on Lars and try to better understand where he is coming from – but honestly, I’m probably just going to watch all the Danger 5s, and I really have a lot of other things I’m reading. Instead I decided I’d ask people here what they thought. If you’ve seen either film and have opinions, let me know what I am or am not missing.

Ultimately, what I’m really glad about is that Spring is finally here. So, feel free to comment on Spring too. On the other hand, my dog just thinks Cthulhu is real.

Wasteland & the Apple II

Wasteland title screen
Wasteland title screen

Way back in the day, we had an Apple II+. I think it was an Apple II+; it might have been an Apple IIe. Maybe someone can remind me. This would have been circa 1989 or 1990. The II+ was replaced by the IIe in 1982 and a few new features. To be honest, I’m pretty sure we had a IIe, and Tom had a II+. More on this later.

Ours had a monochrome green screen and two bulky separate 5.25″ floppy drives. Tom’s had a color screen; color back then was around 4 or 16 colors. We didn’t have a lot of games for this thing, or really any software for that matter. Mind you, this computer was already pretty outdated when we got our hands on it. I think my parents acquired it after the local school system (or community college where my dad worked) got rid of them. So it was already unwanted junk by an organization which traditionally is resource starved.

So games. We would have been 10–13 around that time and we naturally wanted games. We had this box of disks that we had copied off of someone my dad knew, but it was a mish-mash of stuff. There was a copy of Zork III, which we played a ton of and never got really anywhere. That’s all I really remember from that batch. Anyway, games. We wanted games. I remember being with my mom at the mall in Software Etc. looking at discount games. There wasn’t a lot of choice; the Apple II was pretty much dead at this point. We got a copy of Questron (or Questron 2) and Wasteland. I think they were in the couple dollar price range.

Scorpitron (PC)
Scorpitron (PC)

We played a lot of Wasteland. I remember sitting on the edge of Tom’s bed, each of us ‘controlling’ one character in the game during combat, being afraid of messing up and losing a party member, and generally not know what was going. A few moments stand out:

  1. Being scared shitless of the Scorpitron. This giant menacing robot parked out in the middle of an intersection in Las Vegas which could decimate you.
  2. Falling in the river and not being able to get out for quite some time. Characters would fall unconscious, but their swimming skill would get boosted a lot.
  3. Getting stuck on a stage in some bar in some town and having to use acrobatics to entertain the crowd so they’d let you off.
  4. Going in through a skylight in Ugly’s Hideout instead of a full on frontal assault.

I played the game off and on after that time, through high school and even doing a long run through it freshman year in college. I even made a website for the game, way back in 1997–8.

Naturally, when Wasteland 2 had a Kickstarter, I backed it. I started playing it sometime last December. I haven’t made it all that far but I’ve really enjoyed it. It manages to capture a lot of the vibe and mechanics of the original while still being updated.

Desert Dweller (Apple II)
Desert Dweller (Apple II)

One particular example of staying true to Wasteland is the rocket use mechanic. If I recall correctly, ‘AT Weapon’ (Wasteland anti-tank weapon skill) and ‘Heavy Weapons’ (Wasteland 2 equivalent) aren’t the greatest skills. The reason being is that rockets were somewhat scarce, and the non-rocket weapons the skill controlled weren’t always that great and/or burned through a lot of ammo. So at least when I played, no one was particularly good at them. So rocket use was often unskilled. That was ok, because they did a shit ton of damage and at least in Wasteland 2, are area effect weapons. Still, accuracy left a bit to be desired. So you stockpiled and used them in ‘Oh shit’ moments as an act of desperation. Those ‘Oh shit’ moments helped heighten the excitement of the game for me as a kid, and play some part in how much the game stuck in my mind.

Anyway, the Apple II and the few games we had made a big impression on me. Wasteland (and Zork III) defined games for me in many ways, and I’m happy that Wasteland II captured a little bit of that.