The American Society of Cinematographers

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The Adjustment Bureau
Career TV Award
Presidents Award
Presidents Desk
DVD Playback
The Naked Kiss
Rocky Horror
The Thin Red Line
ASC Close-Up
The Naked Kiss (1964)
Blu-Ray Edition
1.75:1 (High Definition 1080p)
LPCM Mono Audio
The Criterion Collection, $39.95

 “I'm not rolling you, you drunken leach. I'm taking only the seventy-five dollars that's coming to me!” blasts Kelly (Constance Towers), a furious, bald, bombshell. She's been beating her semi-conscious pimp and finishes by shoving the cash in her cleavage and standing in the mirror to slide her wig back in place before leaving his dump for good. It's the fourth of July 1961 and we don't see freshly independent Kelly again until August 1963 when her bus pulls up to the prim, middle-American suburb of Grantville.

Newly coiffed Kelly slinks off the bus with a fresh head of blonde hair. Noticing her as she strolls into the park is slick town sheriff Griff (Anthony Eisley) who saddles up and makes small talk about the champagne Kelly's fronting as a traveling sales girl. Later, after they've had sex, Griff tells Kelly that Grantville is “clean” and she should hit the road because her brand of champagne can't be sold in his town.

Ignoring Griff's warning, Kelly rents a room from elderly spinster, Ms. Josephine (Betty Bronson).  Ms. Josephine recommends that Kelly take her “honest face” to the Grantville Children's Orthopedic Hospital where they always need workers. As luck would have it, tough but gold-hearted, head nurse Mac (Patsy Kelly) is instantly impressed with Kelly's kind ways with the children and hires her.  

Griff is disgusted with Kelly securing a job in town. Kelly implores him not to blow her cover because she's trying to “go straight”. Griff reluctantly agrees but it's clear he's holding a torch for her when later, his best friend and town patriarch, Grant (Michael Dante) makes it clear he's interested in Kelly.  Kelly can't resist suave, charming Grant who romances her with visions of Europe and the music of Beethoven. Even with Griff's tense presence between the couple, something that will prove more dangerous has drawn a grey cloud over Kelly’s chance at a normal life with Grant - his kiss. Kelly hides the gut feeling she has. “Once before a man's kiss tasted like that and he was put away in a psych ward.  It was what we call a naked kiss...”

When brash, maverick film director Sam Fuller pulled together his production team for The Naked Kiss it included several re-partnerships from his previous film Shock Corridor (1963).  In addition to actor Constance Towers, editor Jerome Thoms and others, he also re-teamed with director of photography Stanley Cortez, ASC (Since You Went Away, Magnificent Ambersons). Fuller was eager to re-team with Cortez whom he got along with very well. On one of the new blu-ray presentation's supplements Fuller states that his job is the “acting, the emotion and the dialogue” while the cinematographer is responsible for the camera.  He goes on to say “I don't know what lens he's using but when I give him something to shoot, he knows.” Cortez's work with on The Naked Kiss offers a dynamic, monochrome look that perfectly suits the tone of Fuller's brutally honest look at small town hypocrisy. Cortez's legendary career that involved working with many maverick directors including Welles and Laughton also earned him the ASC's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990.

The Criterion Collection has debuted The Naked Kiss on blu-ray. The 1080p image transfer of this low budget, contemporary classic is crisp and remarkably clean. Cortez's gray scale has good depth here and while there are occasional sequences that seem slightly softer than others, there are solid blacks throughout and the contrast is consistent making the overall presentation very pleasing. The LPCM monaural audio track is quite a step up from the previous standard def DVD that seemed plagued with tonal issues and occasionally muted dialogue.  This much improved version is clear and free of age-related distortions.

Criterion has packaged the blu ray with clever illustrations by Daniel Clowes and a booklet containing excerpts from Fuller's autobiography and an essay by poet Robert Polito. On screen supplements include a 30 minute, 2007 interview with Towers, 32 minutes of interviews with Fuller that ran on The South Bank Show in 1983, the lurid theatrical trailer and several excerpts of interviews with Fuller from French television programs dating from 1967 – 1987.

Fuller's The Naked Kiss is an irresistible pulp melodrama filled with his typically jaw dropping dialogue and intense confrontations. It manages to invoke an indictment of hypocritical small town values and a whiff of feminist politics that like the director himself, was ahead of its time.  Burnt out and reborn, Kelly is just trying to walk the straight and narrow in Grantville, a town full of double standards and the audience is never not 100% with this wise and often violent survivor.  This solid new presentation is a great way to experience Kelly's gripping, long walk on the plank for the first time or over and over again.

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