Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Naked Kiss

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Jan 9, 2011.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer

    Apr 24, 2006
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    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
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    The Naked Kiss (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Samuel Fuller

    Studio: Criterion
    Year: 1964
    Aspect Ratio: 1.75:1   1080p   AVC codec  
    Running Time: 91 minutes
    Rating: NR
    Audio: PCM 1.0  English
    Subtitles:  SDH

    Region:  A
    MSRP:  $ 39.95

    Release Date: January 18, 2011

    Review Date:  January 9, 2011

    The Film


    One of Samuel Fuller’s most notorious B-movie melodramas, The Naked Kiss examines hypocrisy and double standards with an unflinching eye. Though filled with over-the-top emotional material performed with a curious mix of underplaying and overplaying, The Naked Kiss features a story which wouldn’t have been possible in a movie industry of a decade earlier. In the last gasping years of the censorship board’s influence on what was considered acceptable in American movies, this film manages to work in discussions about prostitution and pimping, abortion, and pedophilia, none of which would have been talked about in movies of director Fuller’s Fox studio contract days. Here they’re not even whispered about but faced openly and discussed in adult tones. And, the film shows us a genuine star that got away in Constance Towers, a beautiful actress with a gorgeous singing voice who didn’t have the fortune of being at Warners or MGM during their glory years of musical production when her looks and talent could have made her one of the great stars of her era.

    After getting her pimp drunk and beating him to a pulp to get money owed to her, prostitute Kelly (Constance Towers) goes on the run for two years to escape retribution and winds up in Grantville where police captain Griff (Anthony Eisley) has a close encounter and then offers to get her work in the local bordello “across the river.” Instead, she applies for work in the orthopedic children’s ward of the local hospital and is soon the ward’s charge nurse beloved of the children and adults alike. She meets handsome local philanthropist Grant (Michael Dante) whose grandfather was the patriarch whom the town was named in honor of, and their love affair leads to a proposal, even after she admits to him her past misdeeds. Though it looks as if her world couldn’t get any rosier, Kelly has a lot of heartache ahead as she makes some shocking discoveries.

    Samuel Fuller’s screenplay has a jumpy, bumpy vibe to it: we don’t see Kelly apply for the nurse job or watch her learn the ropes there. When we next see her, she’s running the ward and is the envy of the younger nurses under her (a sign overhead at the film’s conclusion tells us two years passed since she arrived). The policeman Griff is a problematic creation, so eager he is to “sample the merchandise” but just as eager to shuffle her out of town and never give her the benefit of the doubt as problems arise, always suspicious of her motives and actions even after years of her good public service. Fuller’s pulpy writing has flair even with its inconsistencies and inaccuracies (“Intelligence is seldom a feature of physical beauty” is a typical daffy line), and the opening sequence as Kelly bats around her pimp and a later scene as she bats around a brothel madam are unmatched in American cinema to that time, the camera alternating in point-of-view shots as both attacker and victim. The resolution is too pat (and with some of the weirdest staging imaginable), and wonky characterizations in the writing offer challenges to the actors that some can’t find ways to rescue. Still, there is no doubt that it’s entertaining and at ninety minutes contains not one wasted scene or shot even though a musical number in the middle of the movie “Tell Me Why” seems an odd choice. Later we come to see the reason for its inclusion.

    Constance Towers is the shining light of this production, alternately savage and sanguine with a glorious singing voice and a quality of believability in her acting that helps cover over the patchy nature of the storytelling. Anthony Eisley has less success with the gruff Griff, his character’s motivations seemingly jumbled and inconsistent and sometimes nonsensical. Michael Dante makes an initially appealing Grant though a few more scenes with him after the twisty revelation might have given him more of a showcase. Screen veterans Virginia Grey as the tough bordello madam, Betty Bronson as Kelly’s landlady, and Patsy Kelly as head nurse Mac make the most of their screen time. Three younger actresses, unfortunately, seem inept compared to their older counterparts. Neither Marie Devereux as Buff (who’s tempted to leave nursing to become a “hostess”), Karen Conrad as Dusty (a nurse who finds herself unwed and pregnant), nor the now-notorious Edy Williams as Hatrack, the most in demand of the roadhouse’s chippies, have much to offer in the acting department, their inclusion in the film seemingly based more on looks than talent.

    Video Quality


    The film has been framed at 1.75:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. It’s a beautiful black and white transfer with next to no age-related artifacts (one slight scratch was the only observable flaw) and only some slight moiré in some sheer curtains. There are some occasional soft shots, surprisingly in some close-ups, but most of the time, the grayscale is gorgeous with perfectly rendered contrast adding great richness to the image. Black levels are nice and deep with only one or two moments where details in shadows get obscured. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.

    Audio Quality


    The PCM 1.0 (1.1 Mbps) uncompressed audio track is exactly what one would expect for a B-film of this era. There isn’t a lot of dynamism to the audio, but problematic age-related artifacts like hiss, pops, crackle, and flutter are not present. Dialogue is always understandable even when the music seems a little shallow and indistinct.

    Special Features


    All of the bonus features are presented in 1080i.

    An interview with Constance Towers was taped in Hollywood in 2007 by Charles Dennis and finds the star looking back over the making of the film and her subsequent Broadway career with fondness. She clears up some old wives’ tales about the movie (she did not shave her head for the opening scenes) and has kind things to say about all of her co-stars. This interview lasts 28 ¾ minutes.

    A 1983 edition of ITV’s The South Bank Show finds the focus on writer-producer-director Samuel Fuller who talks for 31 minutes about his career offering up his philosophies of both work and life in a lively interview in the director’s familiar rat-a-tat style.

    An episode of the French television show Cinéastes de Notre Temps filmed in black and white in 1967 finds director Samuel Fuller discussing (and jumping around) a variety a topics for 23 ½ minutes. It also features clips from The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor.

    Another French television show Cinéma Cinémas features a 12 ¾-minute interview with the feisty director, this time recorded in 1987. Fuller discusses his career and particularly his work with Darryl Zanuck.

    The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 minutes.

    The enclosed 26-page booklet features complete cast and crew lists, the chapter listing, stills from the movie, a celebratory essay on Fuller by author Robert Polito, and Fuller’s own remembrances of the making of the movie excerpted from his autobiography.

    The Criterion Blu-rays include a maneuvering tool called “Timeline” which can be pulled up from the menu or by pushing the red button on the remote. It shows you your progress on the disc and the title of the chapter you’re now in. Additionally, two other buttons on the remote can place or remove bookmarks if you decide to stop viewing before reaching the end of the film or want to mark specific places for later reference.

    In Conclusion

    3.5/5 (not an average)

    A film that gives B-movies a good name, The Naked Kiss may be occasionally overwrought melodrama, but it’s still an enjoyable Samuel Fuller film. The Criterion Blu-ray features an outstanding video transfer and some excellent bonus material making it a package that’s an easy recommendation.

    Matt Hough

    Charlotte, NC


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