There’s always jazz in film noir–in black and white classic film noir, that is. Even in the post classic noir era of the 60s when rock and R&B inspired pop was du joir, it’s always jazz.
That’s because the film directors were old guys. (With the exception of Ida Lupino, God bless her). Jazz was the music of their youth. It was subversive to them, anyway.
So when Kelly (Constance Towers) beats the blankety-blank out of her pimp in the pre-credit opening sequence of Samuel Fuller’s The Naked Kiss, the jazz is a blarin’. Maybe that’s because Kelly turns the radio up so nobody can hear the pimp pleading and whimpering while his masculine nick-nacks are being smashed to smithereens…
No. It’s the old guy thing.
While the jazz isn’t subversive, that’s about only thing that isn’t in this opening sequence. Everything else is as stunning as Constance Towers is.
Whoa! Those cheekbones!
The sequence opens with Kelly looking directly into the camera with a furrowed and sweaty brow, mid wallop. She’s using her purse as a bludgeon and she’s in her brassier, a skirt and stilettos–of course.
Okay. I’m predominately a realist. Men are physically stronger than women. Sorry.
(Believe me, no one is sorrier about that than I am. There is almost nothing that I would like more than to have a figure like Raquel Welch and the physical strength of Lou Ferrigno. Not happening. Either or. And yes, I’m getting on up there too–hence my references.)
Anyway, there’s no way a man is just going to take a beating from a woman wielding a patent-leather clutch like a battleaxe unless he’s incapacitated. And, yep, it turns out Kelly’s pimp is just that. She’s slipped him a mickey.
But that doesn’t stop him from getting in a few licks of his own.
Samuel Fuller is known for his realistic physical violence sequences. In the opening, famed cinematographer, Stanley Cortez (The Night of the Hunter, The Amazing Ambersons) strapped a camera to a cameraman who was tethered to a production assistant acting as an anchor. (Movie cameras–especially those from that era–are extremely heavy.) Fuller told Towers to literally wallop the camera with her purse.
The effect is staggering. And unprecedented. The viewer takes on the perspective of the pimp getting the blankety-blank beat out of him.
During the melee, the pimp pulls Kelly’s hair and–holy smokes!–her hair is a wig. It comes off! She’s bald!!!
True. Not that big of a deal, certainly not befitting of three exclamation points–these days. Remember, this is 1964. (Refer to my previous post Prelude to The Naked Kiss.)
Kelly finally, realistically, gets the better of her pimp. She straddles him. She throttles him. Then she grabs one of those bottles–a martini bottle, I think it’s called–and sprays him with it for good measure.
Then she goes through his pockets. He’s got a bank roll of 800.00. That’s a good chunk of change circa 1964. But Kelly doesn’t take all of it. Just the 75.00 he’s cheated her out of. She stuffs her brassier with it.
With all due respect to Ms. Towers–it could use a little stuffing. Nobody’s perfect.
After all that, she gives him a final kick in the ribs, snatches up her wig and gets herself together in front of his dresser mirror. Now the credits roll and the music changes into feminine melodramatic swells as she refreshes her makeup and combs out her wig. She’s a little worse for wear, but still beautiful. And still defiant.
And it’s just the opening sequence.
No exclamation points needed.
To be cont’d…