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.