Quote of the Day! Pickup on South Street (1953) Shifty as smoke!

One of my favorite film noirs with outstanding performances and dialogue from the entire cast. In particular Ritter shines in this one as Moe Williams the tie-selling wheeler-dealer informant who’s got her heart set on a proper grave stone out on Long Island. Ritter is brilliant with her quicksilver one liners and her poignant lovable puss.

Ritter was nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in this film!

Directed by Samuel Fuller who reigns in his gritty vision a bit and plays off a more the more interrelationships between the small time crooks, added with a bit of anti-communist sentiment thrown in.

Starring Richard Widmark, Jean Peters who is adorable as Candy in this role, Thelma Ritter, and Willis Bouchey as detective Zara, Richard Kiley, Murvyn Vye. Shelley Winters was the first choice for the role of Candy, but she  dropped out. Then the role was offered to Betty Grable. That did not pan out. Jean Peters did a wonderful job as Candy. With a dynamic music score by Leigh Harline with cinematography by veteran Joe MacDonald.

On a crowded subway, Skip McCoy prince of the cannons, pickpockets Candy’s purse. He nabs her wallet, inadvertently stealing a roll of microfilm containing top secret military and scientific plans that her boyfriend Joey (Richard Kiley– who tells her it’s just a patent for a formula) is really going to pass along to Communist agents.

Candy learns where Skip lives and that he has lifted the wallet from Moe Williams (Thelma Ritter), a police informer. Joey begs Candy to track Skip down at his shack on the water and she attempts and seduce Skip McCoy to recover the film. She fails to get the film back but does however fall in love with him.

Moe Williams – (about Skip) “He’s as shifty as smoke, but I love him.”

Capt. Dan Tiger – “You sold him out for a few bucks.”

Moe Williams – “Oh, look. Some people peddle apples, lamb chops, lumber. I peddle information. Skip ain’t sore, he understands.

Moe Williams: You got any Happy Money?

Candy: Happy Money?

Moe Williams: Yeah, money that’s gonna make me happy.

Moe Williams: I’ve got almost enough to buy both the stone and the plot.

Capt. Dan Tiger: If you lost that kitty, it’s Potter’s Field.

Moe Williams: This I do not think is a very funny joke, Captain Tiger!

Capt. Dan Tiger: I just meant you ought to be careful how you carry your bankroll.

Moe Williams: Look, Tiger, if I was to be buried in Potter’s Field, it would just about kill me.

Skip McCoy: Pack up the pitch with the charge or drive me back to my shack.

Capt. Dan Tiger: I’ll drive you back in a hearse if you don’t get the kink out of your mouth!

This is your EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ I haven’t forgotten my Coded Gay Characters article,

Moe Williams: You got any Happy Money?

Candy: Happy Money?

Moe Williams: Yeah, money that’s gonna make me happy.

Moe Williams: I’ve got almost enough to buy both the stone and the plot.

my concussion really set me back in my writing but I’m trying to catch up and I’ve got a few surprises in my bag if some smooth-operating cannon don’t come by and pick pocket me while I’m on on the train headed to the South Side next week!

Thanks for being patient. And say… Can anyone suggest a logo for my helmet?

Postcards From Shadowland: no. 15

Anna The Rose Tattoo
Anna Magnani in Tennessee William’s The Rose Tattoo (1955) directed by Daniel Mann
Blood of a Poet 32 Cocteua
director Jean Cocteau’s The Blood of the Poet (1932) starring Enrique Rivero
Broken-Blossoms-Gish
Lillian Gish stars in Broken Blossoms in D. W. Griffith’s (1919) visual poetry
kongo1932
Kongo (1932) Lupe Velez torments Virginia Bruce in this remake of West of Zanzibar (1928)
GIULETTA MASINA in Fellini's masterpiece oneric journey Juilet of the Spirits 1965
Guiletta Masina is brilliant in Juliet of the Spirits (1965) Fellini’s masterpiece oneric journey
kuroneko
director Kaneto Shindô’s Kuroneko (1968) a beautifully disturbing ghost story
Anita Louise as Titania
Anita Louise as Titania Queen of the Faeries in A Midsummer Night’s Dream 1935
Brando and Schneider The Last Tango in Paris
Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider in The Last Tango in Paris 1972
Ohmart and Franz The Wild Party
Arthur Franz, Anthony Quinn and Carol Ohmart in The Wild Party 1956
Annex - Alexander, Katharine as Alda Death Takes a Holiday)_01
Death Takes a Holiday (1934) Katherine Alexander as Alda with Fredric March as Prince Sirki/Death
curtis-strangler
Richard Fleischer directs Tony Curtis in The Boston Strangler 1968
Dead of Night
Part of several segments of this classical ghost story, Alberto Cavalcanti directs Michael Redgrave in perhaps one of the most famous frightening tales in “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy” Dead of Night (1945)
Shock Corridor
Peter Breck is attacked by Nymphomaniacs in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor (1963)
Brighton Rock Dick Attenborough as Pinkie Brown with Carol Marsh
Film noir thriller Brighton Rock (1947) starring Richard Attenborough as Pinkie Brown co-stars with Carol Marsh
Clementine
John Ford’s epic western drama -My Darling Clementine 1946 starring Henry Fonda and Linda Darnell
The Maids 1933 men in drag
Charles Busch, left, and Peter Francis James in a 1993 Classic Theater Company production of “The Maids” (1933) in which the sisters were men in drag
The Living Dead Man 1926-Michel Simon Jérôme Pomino
The Living Dead Man 1926-Michel Simon as Jérôme Pomino
the-bride-wore-black
François Truffaut’s tribute to Alfred Hitchcock with The Bride Wore Black (1968) starring the incomparable Jeanne Moreau
The Sea Hawk 1924
The Sea Hawk (1924) directed by Harold Lloyd starring silent film idol Milton Sills
through a glass darkly
Harriet Andersson in Through A Glass Darkly (1961) director Ingmar Bergman
The notorious Last Supper sequence in Luis Buñuel's VIRIDIANA.  Credit: Janus Films.  Playing 4/24 - 4/30.
The notorious Last Supper sequence in Luis Buñuel’s VIRIDIANA Janus Films. 

Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

Faster Pussycat
Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
Cul-de-Sac
Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
the Naked kiss
Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
Shock Corridor
Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
CapturFiles_3 copy
Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

THE DARK PAGES NEWSLETTER  a condensed article was featured in The Dark Pages: You can click on the link for all back issues or to sign up for upcoming issues to this wonderful newsletter for all your noir needs!

Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

Glen or Glenda
Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

The Killing of Sister George
Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

Davis & Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

weird-noir
There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
mimi3
Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
The Strangler 1964 Victor Buono
Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
Repulsion
Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

Twelve Neglected Characters from Classic Film.

nightmare-alley-edmund-goulding1947
1) The tragically poetic Pete Krumbein in Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley 1947 played by Ian Keith
Franzi
2) The flamboyant Franzi Kartos in Caught 1949 portrayed by Curt Bois ‘darling’
Fred Foss- The Dark Corner 949
3) Stauffer, alias Fred Foss in The Dark Corner 1946-played by the wonderful William Bendix in the white linen suit…
Jan Sterling in Women's Prison -Brenda
4) Good hearted kite hanger, Brenda Martin in Women’s Prison 1955 – the eternal pixie Jan Sterling
Brute Force Jeff Corey Freshman Stack
5) Jeff Corey, as the cringing, cowardly informer ‘Freshman’ Stack in Brute Force 1947
Granny Tucker
6) Beulah Bondi as spiittin’ Granny Tucker in Jean Renoir’s The Southerner 1945 ‘Ah shuckity’
Ma Stone- Jane Darwell, The Devil & Daniel Webster
7) Ma Stone in William Dieterle The Devil and Daniel Webster 1941– the grand Jane Darwell
Wills and Jewel talk at tea-Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte
8) Cecil Kellaway as Harry Wills and Mary Astor as Jewel Mayhew in Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte 1964
Elisha Cook Jr. Jazz wild drummer Cliff-phantom ladyjpg
9) Cliff the jazz sexed drummer in Phantom Lady 1944– the ubiquitous Elisha Cook Jr.
(Ladies in Retirement)
10) Quirky sisters Louisa and Emily Creed in Ladies in Retirement 1941Edith Barrett & Elsa Lanchester
11) The wonderful stoolie Mo whose saving for her headstone and plot out on Long Island played with that razor sharp wit of Thelma Ritter in Pickup on South Street (1953)
12) Jack Oakie as Slob in Jules Dassin’s realism masterpiece Thieves’ Highway (1949)

 

Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss: Part III “Tell me where is the blue bird of happiness found?”

The Naked Kiss (1965) Part III Meaning it bares no emotion. It’s empty of real substance. It has the taste of perversion to it.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!   I DO THE SYNAPSES RIGHT TO THE END OF THE FILM…

Working at the hospital while Kelly and one of the nurses are bathing the children Kelly notices that she is troubled and asks “Do you want to talk about it? Have you been to a doctor?” She has that intuition that the young girl is pregnant. Kelly instead of bringing the ‘plague’ to Grantville has brought insight and compassion to the women who are troubled in this provincial prison. In this way, the film can be view as feminist. She brings her strength and independence.

Cross fade, Kelly and Grant are slow dancing at Grants house. Kelly tells him that she wants to talk about something, something she needs to get off her mind. “I’m afraid our dance is over.” Asks him to sit down and listen to the words. “When I came to this town, the first day I came… I was a prostitute. My first customer was my last one, next morning I quit. Now I’m in love with a man who’s the dream of every woman.” Grant is seated looking puzzled Kelly continues “every woman who has the right to dream…but the man has got to stop seeing me before the volcano erupts.”

Grant looks up at her and grabs her hand. Pulls her close to him.“I love you Kelly.. .will you marry me?” She says “I’ve got to think it out.. .(now cheek to cheek) Oh I’ve got to think it out.”

Kelly’s in her room drinking from the blown Venetian glass from Venice that Grant gave her. She’s contemplating the marriage proposal. We hear a voice over, it’s Grant’s monologue “I wasn’t cut out to be a monk and you’re not the type to turn nun… but together we’ll prove our whole existence for each other, the only woman I want for my wife.”

Voice over by Grant “I wasn’t cut out to be a monk, and you’re not the type to turn nun. But together we’ll prove our whole existence for each other. You’re the only woman I want for my wife… If they condemn you for your past, I don’t want them for my friends. Kelly darling no one can forbid you your tomorrow. And I’m all your tomorrows. 

Kelly gets up from the bed, sighs and walks over to the tailor’s dummy and asks “Charlie, what should I do?” Again we hear Grants voice “If they condemn you for your past, I don’t want them as my friends, Kelly darling…no one could forbid you tomorrow, and I’m all your tomorrows, all of them.” Kelly raises her glass and answers to Charlie “that’s right!…why should Grant want to marry a woman like me?.. .confidentially Charley, (her arm around the fake soldier now) we girls are always chasing dreams… why shouldn’t I have a right to catch mine?”

Now Kelly has an internal monologue “many woman had a past like mine, and they made out didn’t they?” She answers aloud asking the question “or did they?… ah, of course they did.. .and you know why, because there was always the Rock of Gibralta to give them strength” She raises the blown glass to Charlie in toast “That’s what Grant is…The Rock…The Rock of Gibralta.”

So Kelly needs a man to legitimize her self worth, otherwise she is still considered machinery. “Oh Charlie” now we hear Grant’s voice again “we’d be living an endless honeymoon” she goes back over to Charlie, and hugs him “Oh Charlie, the dread of every woman in my business…is ending up alone…I know that world.”

She looks at the glass again and says “and I know his world( chuckles ironically) and that makes me a woman of 2 worlds… and that’s not good, or is it?” She looks at Charlies hat. She’s got her arm around his stuffed shoulders. “With him I’m complete, a whole woman” the voice over by Grant breaks in again “I’ll never strike at your past, not even with a flower” Kelly hugs Charlie closer, “oh Charlie, Charlie Charlie,Charlie…what should I do?…”

Fade to Black.

in this look on Grant’s face we sense something cold and unsavory deep rooted in his soul. A removed reptilian hypothermic smile. It is not his fine breeding, it is something dark and unwholesome he keeps bubbling below the surface of his refinement.

At Grant’s house, the door bell rings, and Kelly comes bursting in “Oh it’s a wonderful day Barney!… it’s a beautiful day!” Barney tells her that Grant is still asleep. She ignores him and yells “it’s a glorious day!” She goes to the stereo and puts on Beethoven’s 5th symphony and conducts. Barney still in his robe goes upstairs to get Grant. Kelly is conducting the music, she spins the large globe as if she’ll be able to see the world now.

Grant comes down in his silk pajamas, yawning and putting his robe on, he watches as she pretends to conduct the music. She runs to him and grabs his hands “I love you…it’s a deal” He looks oddly at her, pleased but more like he’s just sealed a business deal, not the reaction from a man truly in love. As they discover wedding plans he wants to send her to Paris to buy the most expensive wedding gown. Kelly has always paid for every stitch of clothing on her back. That tells you how independent she has been while working as a prostitute. Not taking any more than for her services to get by. Kelly has throughout shown to be a woman of integrity, thus the challange in narrative to balance the conflict of judging her as a whore with morals.

Dusty gets help from Kelly. Who gives her $1,000 and tells her whether the guy marries her or not she is to keep the baby. Dusty tells her, “Boy or girl I’ll name it Kelly.”

Kip’s gaze, the sadness shared with a child, as he watches Dusty crying. Sympathetic.

Now nurses and orderlies are bringing in the children in one by one. And a record begins to spin. Kip the little boy wearing the First Mate pirate hat begins to sing this song which has an eerily tragic poignancy.

“Mommy dear, tell me please, is the world really round” another little boy takes it from there, “tell me where, is the blue bird of happiness found” now a little girl sings “tell me why is the sky up above so blue” now they all sing in unison “and when you were a child, did your mommy tell you?

All of the children standing like wounded soldiers with their hats and crutches singing this sad little song together. The song creates an element of melancholy,and pathos in the film. It’s the children asking the question where is happiness?

The children are a diverse group of races, the spirit of these children fuel the film’s angst and alienation, for they are like castaways in a world that is perfect, while they are broken and striving to be whole.

“What becomes of the sun when it falls in the sea” “and who lights it again, as bright as can be” together they sing again “Tell me why can’t I fly without wings through the sky” back to Kip who sadly sings “tell me why mommy dear…are there tears in your eyes?”

Now Kelly joins in as an answer to the songs questions singing “little one, little one, yes the world’s really round, and the blue bird you search for is surely is found… and the sky up above is so blue and clear (the staff including Mac is watching Kelly serenade the children they are so sullen, yet proud) so that you’d see the blue bird if it should come near… and the sun doesn’t fall in the sea out of sight, all it does is make way for the moon’s pretty light… and if children could fly there’d be no need for birds… and I cry little ones cause I’m touched by your words.”

The children surrounding Kelly sing the song together, she has left a mark on them, she has found a different way to have worth, she sees herself through these child’s eyes. They are ultimately truly innocent, yet they are the ones who don’t objectify Kelly.

“Tell me please mommy dear is it true the world’s round, I will search, round the world til the blue bird is found” then Kelly sings “little one there’s no need to wander too far, for what you really seek is right here where you are.”

Griff and Grant are walking out of a building. Grant has asked Griff to be best man at the wedding but Griff can’t fake how miserable he is. Grant tells him to get it off his chest. Bunny comes running over to Grant with her dolly and he picks her up and spins her around. Griff still visibly upset, holding his cigarette and frowning. Bunny congratulates Uncle Grant on his wedding, and he kisses her cheek, she beams a smile half filled with baby teeth.

Now in the classroom back at the hospital, the children are getting a spelling lesson. Kelly is fixing Kip’s shoe lace. Griff knocks on the window glass to get Kelly’s attention. Through the glass panel in the door we see them talking seriously again a frame within a frame, symbolizing the entrapment of both characters who are stuck by their roles. They move into an empty room so they can continue to talk.

Continue reading “Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss: Part III “Tell me where is the blue bird of happiness found?””

Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss (1965): Part I: “There’ll be no later, this town is clean”

The Naked Kiss (1965) Shock and Shame, the story of a Night Girl.

Directed by the maverick auteur Samuel Fuller, with a screenplay by Fuller and black, gray and white shades in the striking cinematography by Stanley Cortez

-(The Maginficent Ambersons 1942, Since you Went Away 1944, The Night of the Hunter 1955, Shock Corridor 1961), Cortez creates a sense of space that is almost surreal and disconnect to the outside world. The Naked Kiss stars Constance Towers as Kelly, Anthony Eisley as Griff, Michael Dante as Grant, Marie Devereux as Buff, Patsy Kelly as Mac and one of my favorite unsung actresses Virginia Grey (The Women 1939, All The Heaven Allows 1955, Crime of Passion 1956, Backstreet 1961) as Candy.

Let me say that this is one of my favorite films. I think that it’s such a bold concoction of visual style, specific alienation that we as spectators experience along with Kelly our female Protagonist. The undercurrent of sexual pathology of a perverse nature and a raw energy that fuels some crude reactionary moments on film. Normally I wouldn’t write about the ending of a film as not to ruin it for the viewer, yet Constance Tower’s remarkable performance and Fuller’s raw cinematic veritae must be experienced, the story will not lose anything by my relating it here. I actually consider this part of my women in peril series, but more aptly put, it’s a womanhood in peril film.

Samuel Fuller’s B post noir films are not like anyone else’s. Fuller’s work is often confrontational and visceral considered the kinkiest of all the B post noir auteurs. Naked Kiss is his most potent work along side his noir masterpiece Pickup on South Street (1953) starring Richard Widmark and Thelma Ritter as Moe Williams.


From Alain Silver and James Ursini’s Film Noir Reader 2Fuller’s Naked Kiss “boldly offers a different kind of descriptive pause. Fuller takes on Patriarchy and directly assaults the spectator with a bizarre opening”

 

In their book they inform us that Fuller actually attached a camera to actor Monte Mansfield who plays Kelly’s pimp Farlunde, the guy she pummels in his swanky apartment right from the tip of the film. He has shaved off her hair and in retaliation she takes her primal vengeance out on his, beating him with her purse and high heels. Kelly only takes the money owed to her. The scene already prepares us, and what is created is an off kilter and disorienting mood. The opening of The Naked Kiss, is perhaps for me one of the most audacious beginnings to any cinematic work. It sort of punches you right in the face along with Farlunde.

The greater theme of the film is it’s narrative of womens’ role within society. In a way not unlike Elia Kazan, Fuller has created a sociological framework, to lay out questions of what womanhood, as well as motherhood, means discursively. While at the end of the film, Kelly is relegitimized as being a savior and not a whore, she is still not allowed to live amongst the clean town’s people. She is still an outsider. Silver and Ursini also correctly bring out in their noir reader the  fact that the context of the film is a “discursive-based attack on men and how they define women as well as the limits they place on them”. Also notable is the displaced female rage that only became better articulated later on with  feminists during the 60s and 70s.

It reminds me while watching television’s soap opera junk food Peyton Place with it’s pillory that sits prominently in the middle of the town square as a reminder of New England Puritanical morals and the lurking hypocrisy in the shadows of quiet provincial values, that warn girls to beware of giving away their virtue. Betty Anderson (Barbara Parkins) learns this when she is condemned as the archetypal whore, the tainted girl who gave up her purity to a boy during a summer fling then was thrown away like autumn trash. The pillory stands in the middle of the town, 200 years prior a woman like Betty had her head shaved bald, was locked in the pillory to be mocked and then was driven out by the good town folk of Peyton Place. Much like Kelly who we first meet at the shocking opening of the film (one reason The Naked Kiss is such a uniquely memorable excursion for me) is completely bald and striking back at the man who took her hair, her power away.

The Naked Kiss written, directed and produced by Sam Fuller, opens wide like a steel trap, with Constance Towers as Kelly viciously beating up a pimp Farlunde in his swanky apartment, smashing away at him with her handbag. Hitting his face and neck, it’s like watching a brutal choreographed dance. Fuller creates this wavering movement to give us a sense of the dizzying brutality. Farlunde begs “I’m drunk Kelly please,” “enough Kelly please.” The savage jazz riffs underscoring the bashing. Her wig comes flying off, and now we see a bald Kelly still attacking the man relentlessly. The jazz more coherent with hyper active saxophone.

Stripped of her hair looking like a mannequin (perhaps to show us Kelly as an “object”) she beats him till he staggers to the floor, spraying seltzer water in his face. He’s wasted by the beating, she rifles through his pockets and grabs some cash from his wallet. “Eight hundred dollars… you parasite… I’m taking only what’s coming to me.” She starts counting out bills, throwing them down upon his chest, “fifty, sixty, seventy-five… I’m not rolling you, you drunken leech, I’m only taking the seventy-five dollars that’s coming to me.”

She crumples up her share, shoves it into her bra and kicks him while he’s lying there. She stares at us like we’re her mirror. Gratified she puts her wig back on and the title rolls, The Naked Kiss. Sam Fuller’s story of alienation, gender subjugation and the question of immorality and deviant sexual pathology, opens up in a big way.

The Paul Dunlop score becomes more dreamy, with melodramatic strings and Kelly brushing her wig. getting it right. The credits roll and Kelly is applying her eye pencil transforming herself back into a woman and not blood thirsty she-devil. Now the blush is applied, the music fades back into the jazz number and we see Farlunde knocked out, lying on the floor.The saxophone is hurling trills at us, Kelly grabs a photograph down from a collection of beauties and she starts tearing it up to pieces, throws them on the ground, the Farlunde stirs, coughs a bit and starts to get up, Kelly slams the door.

As he starts picking up the debris Kelly has left in her wake he puts crumpled up bills on top of a calendar and we see the date July 4, 1961. A quick cut, flash forward to a banner in the street touting August 12, 1963 and the melodramatic music is serenading us again. The camera pulls out for a wider angle, we can see the entire banner now, it reads 2 years later. August 12, 1963 Fashion Show for Handicapped Children Grantville Orthopedic Medical Center

The top of a bus moving through the street, a parked car, a mostly empty street, with a few people crossing it, and mulling about. This is the suggestion of a quiet, quaint American town.

Then a car horn toots, 3 men standing outside a Bus Depot, Griff (Anthony Eisley) says “Ten bucks, that right Mike?” Mike says “why spend your own money on that punk?” Griff turns to the young man and says while stuffing it in his pocket “Here’s your ticket” smiles at him and shoves some money into his pocket as well. All the time the young man is looking down as if ashamed. He says “Thanks a lot Griff… I’ll pay you back.” Griff looks at him sternly, “I’m giving you a break, cause your brother was in my outfit… I don’t want to see you in this town again.” The young man looks down again.

Then a Greyhound bus pulls over to the curb. We see the marquee of the movie theater is playing Shock Corridor, a nod to Fuller’s other psychologically wrenching film about a newspaper reporter going undercover in a lunatic asylum, only to become one of the patients.

Continue reading “Sam Fuller’s The Naked Kiss (1965): Part I: “There’ll be no later, this town is clean””