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Criterion / 90 Minutes / 1964 / Unrated / Street Date: January 18, 2011
The one-two punch of Criterion's debut BD Samuel Fuller titles - The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor - provides a particular thrill (at least for this writer) because it has been long enough since many of us experienced the films that watching them anew in high definition offers a chance not for just a recapturing of past glory, but almost a kind of aesthetic rebirth.
Both these pictures are so good, so fun, so exciting - they may be marginalized by uppity cineastes who find their genre-play pedantic, but in his films, Fuller always insisted that his viewers read between the lines, so when I say that The Naked Kiss is a swirling vortex of lunacy and hedonism, I mean that it's both plainly enjoyable and deceptively complex.
The kicker comes early - The Naked Kiss' opening sequence is the stuff of legend. As our protagonist prostitute (Constance Towers) engages in a balls-out fight with her pimp, we watch the energy of the scene really start to bubble: Something bad is going to happen. But then, in a standout visual punch, we watch the pimp grab Towers' wig and pull it clean off, revealing an unmistakably bald dome. This display is beyond embarrassing for the prostitute, and it urges her on to completely and utterly beat the ever-loving shit out of the dude.
And so starts our film.
Viewers of The Naked Kiss then continue down the film's dark halls, with Towers attempting to realign herself with a 'normal' society (Fuller indeed loves proving that this paradigm is sheer myth) with shaky at best results. Where Shock Corridor is perhaps a more socially, issue-heavy morality tale, The Naked Kiss is pure adrenaline, a movie with a philosophical center, to be sure, but one that relies far more on narrative inertia and whiz-bang punch than on bubbling thematic undertones. Long story short: The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor on Blu-ray will make for arguably the best home theater double feature experience you'll have in early 2011.