Criterion's The Naked Kiss Blu-ray Review

Out of the frying pan...

by Casimir Harlow
Movies & TV Review

1

Highly Recommended
Criterion's The Naked Kiss Blu-ray Review
SRP: £19.99

The Naked Kiss Film Review

Uncovering some sordid small-town secrets, Samuel Fuller's 1964 neo-noir drama was daring for its time.

The second of his Studio efforts for Allied Artists, Samuel Fuller's The Naked Kiss followed up the preceding year's Shock Corridor with similar underlying themes of twisted identity and underlying corruption. Fuller's Shock Corridor would later inspire Scorsese's modern masterpiece, Shutter Island, and his style of filmmaking - persistently directing with a moving camera - would itself inspire Scorsese's own distinctive style, and it's just as evident here in this heady expose of small-town seediness, which makes for a fabulous companion-piece to Shock Corridor.

This time around, returning star Constance Towers (ironically almost 'playing' a prostitute in Shock Corridor) takes centre-stage as a former prostitute who wants to play at going straight, seemingly finding the perfect small town to do so in, but slowly uncovering repression - and worse - underneath the surface, with its innately prejudiced townsfolk ready and waiting to lynch the newcomer based on past sins rather than look towards their own.

In 2019, we've become desensitised to this kind of story, but back in the 60s this was controversial territory handled expertly by one of the old masters

Fuller handles the story adeptly, even if it's a bottom-heavy affair, startling you with a violent POV opening sequence, impressing with its second prologue dialogue, and disconcerting with a mid-film near-musical number, but ultimately losing steam as its builds painstakingly towards an electric third act. He's a classic auteur - writer, director, the whole nine yards - and his fingerprint is evident on every shot, every angle (his top-down, and bottom-up shots are innovative, as are the slow tracking shots and some of his exquisitely shadow-lit frames).

Ultimately though, it's Towers who makes this work, going full tilt after proving she was worth a shot at the lead with her supporting work in Shock Corridor. She's superb as the striking blonde who just wants to escape her former profession but struggles to do so, and Fuller's script takes her to some pretty dark places in the process. In 2019, we've become desensitised to this kind of story, but back in the 60s this was controversial territory handled expertly by one of the old masters.

The Naked Kiss Blu-ray Picture

The Naked Kiss
Criterion bring Fuller's 1964 The Naked Kiss to Region Free UK Blu-ray several years after their likely identical US Blu-ray, affording us what is presumably the same largely impressive 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, based on a remaster of the original 35mm print.

A frequently impressive presentation

The director's fondness for shadows - and moving cameras - doesn't always leave this the easiest film to clean up and remaster like new, but Criterion's presentation does a very good job, delivering it in likely the best state we will ever see it in. For every strikingly captured sequence, there's a but, although this often comes more from Fuller's style than any technical limitations in the presentation (the close-ups in the park haze the background, whilst noise in a few shots is a little variable). The black and white cinematography frequently helps the image stand up, however, with superior shadows, black levels and perfect shadow detail, as faces creep in and out of the darkness like Brando's Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. It's a frequently impressive presentation, though - as with Shock Corridor - not without its limitations in the source.

The Naked Kiss Blu-ray Sound

The Naked Kiss
Authentic and similarly largely impressive aural representation

The accompanying lossless Linear PCM 1.0 Mono track affords us authentic and similarly largely impressive aural representation, from the screaming shock opening sequence, through the disarming musical medley, to the tense third act. There's keen delivery of the dialogue, presented clearly and coherently throughout, and the few nominal atmospheric effects pad out the inherently front-dominated soundscape, whilst an engagingly emotive and melodramatic score dominates the proceedings. It's a strong audio track.

The Naked Kiss Blu-ray Extras

The Naked Kiss
A number of archival Fuller Interviews and a new Interview with star Constance Towers leave this another impressive package from Criterion.

The Naked Kiss Blu-ray Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Criterion's The Naked Kiss Blu-ray Review

The Naked Kiss
A fabulous companion-piece to Shock Corridor

Criterion bring us a Samuel Fuller double-bill in September, with his 1963 and 1964 gems Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss, earning strong remastered video presentations and audio tracks, as well as a decent selection of extra features. Both are well worth checking out.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Movie

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8

Picture Quality

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8

Sound Quality

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8

Extras

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8

Overall

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8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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