THE NAKED KISS (1964) B/W widescreen 91m dir: Samuel Fuller

w/Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Gray, Patsy Kelly, Betty Bronson, Marie Devereux, Karen Conrad, Linda Francis, Barbara Perry, Walter Mathews, Betty Robinson, Gerald Michenaud, Christopher Barry, George Spell, Patty Robinson

Be forewarned: the following material contains specific story information you may not want to know before viewing the film:

From Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, edited by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward, an assessment of THE NAKED KISS written by Julie Kirgo: "A warm-hearted prostitute with a violent temper Kelly [Towers] takes a long look in her mirror one morning and decides to become respectable. She gets a job nursing handicapped children in a small town, establishes a wary relationship with Griff [Eisley], a local cop who knows about her past, and meets Grant [Dante], a wealthy intellectual who regales her with tales of Venice. ...

"Samuel Fuller could be described as a primitive talent never introduced to the restraint of polite society. The Naked Kiss is, above all, an impolite film, lingering over the uncomfortable subjects of prostitution, perversion, and physical handicaps. From its opening sequence of Kelly's brutal battle with her pimp, during which her wig is snatched off and her shaved head is revealed, The Naked Kiss presents a series of increasingly bizarre images: Kelly, dressed garishly and with a suitcase at her side, sits primly on a bench in a small town square; children with withered limbs and shrunken eyes are incongruously clad in pirate hats; Kelly stuffs money down the throat of a madam who attempts to lure a young nurse into her shady business; a child skips blithely from the room where she narrowly escaped the 'attentions' of a pervert; and Kelly bludgeons her lover to death with a telephone receiver. This is a nightmarish vision; but it is Fuller's reality, unflinchingly captured by Stanley Cortez's hard, sharply delineated black-and-white photography.

"That such a bizarre vision of the world proves convincing is due largely to Constance Towers's performance as Kelly. Tough, cynical, and violent, she fulfills the role of the traditionally male film noir protagonist better than many men could; and, like them, she follows a certain code of honor. Her violence, while excessive, is never without motive. It stems from a sense of moral outrage against the pimp who cheats her, the whore who would corrupt innocence, and the lover whose cultured veneer deceives her and hides his unnatural lusts.

"If Kelly's presence is anarchic, it is because Fuller considers anarchy a healthy antidote to the strictures of modern society. The handicapped children, sunk in hopelessness prior to Kelly's arrival, are briefly liberated by the workings of her unbridled imagination. Herself a misfit, Kelly appeals to the little band of outsiders by releasing the wilder aspects of their natures, which have been stifled by the reality of their handicaps and by a constrained society that prefers to ignore them. Kelly arrays the children in pirate hats and encourages the outlaw in them, telling them that if they pretend hard enough, they will be free. Through cinematic fantasy, one of the most pathetic of the children actually runs, leaps, and gambols in joyful abandon.

"Like the other moment of pure fantasy in the film, in which Kelly and Grant float together in a Venetian gondola while enveloped in a fog of dreams, this happy vision cannot be sustained. Reality prevails in The Naked Kiss. The children can run and play only in their newly freed imaginations; Kelly can only dream of romantic love; and the 'bluebird of happiness,' which the children sing about in the haunting little melody taught them by Kelly, is forever out of reach."