The Naked Kiss (1964)


(director/writer: Samuel Fuller; cinematographer: Stanley Cortez; editor: Jerome Thoms; cast: Constance Towers (Kelly), Anthony Eisley (Griff), Edy Williams (Hatrack), Michael Dante (Grant), Virginia Grey (Candy), Patsy Kelly (Mac), Betty Bronson (Miss Josephine), Marie Devereaux (Buff), Karen Conrad (Dusty), Betty Robinson (Bunny); Runtime: 93; Universal-International; 1964)
“The studio offended Samuel Fuller by cutting his film against his wishes.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Kelly (Constance Towers) has her wig fall off in the fight that she is having with her drunken pimp, as she beats him unconscious with the spiked-heel of her shoe and takes only the $75 she says he owes her. She is a bald and statuesque prostitute who will flee to a small-town, hoping to change her life.

The studio offended Samuel Fuller by cutting his film against his wishes. He was so upset, that he wanted his name removed from the credits. It did ruin the film to a certain extent, as it looked disjointed in parts and did not appear up to Fuller’s high standards of filmmaking. Nevertheless, Fuller was still able to make a disturbing film about American morality that has something to say about hypocrisy and something modern to say about an independent woman.

It uses a flashback to cover the years from 1961 to 1963 of Kelly’s story, as she arrives by bus in a small town called Grantville and meets the police captain, Griff (Eisley), at the bus terminal. By force of habit she does a trick, where the cop gives her $20 for her services. Afterwards, he warns her to clear out of his wholesome town by tomorrow. But says that she can go across the river to the wide open next town, where he gives her the name of the local madam, Candy (Virginia Grey), to look up.

Kelly walks the quiet, tree-lined streets of Grantville, sees a vacancy sign in a boarding house and decides to live here and become respectable. She gets a job in the local hospital as a nurse’s aide for handicapped children and becomes an angel of mercy, overnight. She is able to give the children the tough love they need and becomes accepted into the community.

Kelly helps a nurse get her life together who foolishly wants to join Candy’s prostitute racket, by going over to Candy’s bordello and stuffing two ten dollar bills and one five dollar bill down the madam’s mouth. Kelly is incensed that this whore is trying to corrupt an innocent child.

The pillar of the community, whose family name is bestowed on the town, the handsome Grant (Dante), returns home from his visit to Europe. He is very wealthy and is esteemed for his charity work, most notably building the town’s hospital. He is also considered one of the most eligible bachelors in the world and is Griff’s closest friend. At a reception for his return to America, the head nurse, Mac (Patsy Kelly), brings Kelly along and he is instantly attracted to her.

Kelly tells Grant about her prostitute past and expects him to dump her, but he instead asks for her hand in marriage. She is surprised and elated, though she is disturbed about the funny way he kissed her. There was something chilling that she can’t put her finger on. Their dreamlike relationship seems to be too good to be true, as the couple talk about Byron’s poetry and their love.

Warning: spoiler to follow in next two paragraphs.

Kelly comes by Grant’s place to show him the wedding dress and catches him in the middle of molesting a little girl. He tells her that is why he forgave her. They are a perfect couple, they are both abnormal. The former prostitute with the soft heart but with a quick-temper, picks up the phone receiver and fatally beats him over the head. She then calls Griff and tells him what happened.

Griff doesn’t believe her, taking the side of respectability. But eventually the little girl is located who Grant attempted to molest and relates what happened. The town forgives her, but she still leaves.

For Towers, the ‘naked kiss’ is that of a pervert. For Fuller, this film is a morality story, where honesty can’t seem to exist within the law but only outside of it. The misfits need to live out their inner fantasy worlds, or else live an unsatisfactory life. The film’s weakness, is that it asks you to believe its flighty story without questioning it.