Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 04
The Naked Kiss October 29, 1964
The Naked Kiss opens

A prostitute thrashes the drunken pimp who has stiffed her. As they fight, he reaches up and grabs her hair — and winds up with a fistful of her wig. The bald hooker, Kelly, beats him into unconsciousness with her shoe, rifles through his wallet for the money she’s owed, and splits. It’s one of the most audacious opening scenes in movie history, and it’s the start of Samuel Fuller’s pulp melodrama masterpiece, The Naked Kiss, which opened October 29, 1964. After that bravura opener, Kelly is driven out of town by the pimp, landing in a small town where she tries to go straight by working at a children’s hospital. She falls in love with a local businessman and plans for marriage... until she discovers he’s a child molester, kills him, and then must prove her righteousness to the disbelieving townsfolk. Wrote Adrian Reeves at Senses of Cinema, “The Naked Kiss has the trademark Fullerisms, including plot holes you could fall into, chunks of exposition delivered as dialogue (try that in a screenwriting class and see how far you get), heavy-handed metonymy and a penchant for delivering key points as visual ‘headlines.’ Fuller’s recurring motifs are obvious and yet rather than being corny there is something strangely satisfying about them.” Indeed, The Naked Kiss endures because of that opening, its surreal interludes with the crippled children at Kelly’s hospital, and for the way it forces the audience to upend their traditional morality. In The Naked Kiss, Fuller’s 17th film, the violent prostitute is the hero and the town scion the depraved villain.” Wrote Reeves, “Fuller could condemn and praise at the same time. He could make violence virtuous and charity odious. His films live and breathe contradiction and leave us breathless.”


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December 4, 1998
Psycho remade

Nearly 40 years after Alfred Hitchcock released his seminal horror film Psycho, Gus Van Sant offered a remake that caused as much controversy as the first one, albeit in a different way.

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December 4, 1987
Rouben Mamoulian Dies

21 years ago today, Hollywood lost one of its great pioneers and stylists, Rouben Mamoulian, though the director had been an almost forgotten figure for nearly 30 years prior to his death. In many ways, Mamoulian was emblematic of old Hollywood: a European immigrant, he came to America as an unknown, enjoyed huge success as a director and saw his career come to an end as the structure of the studio system collapsed in the late 50s. Born in Tbilisi (now the capital of Georgia, but then part of Russia), Mamoulian started out as a musical theatre director after relocating to England. From there, he transitioned to Broadway, arriving in 1927 and getting his first cinematic assignment only two years later on the backstage musical Applause. Though he returned to musicals on the big screen and the stage, Mamoulian refused to be pigeonholed and is now remembered for the cinematic ambition and inventiveness he displayed: in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), he opened the film from the perspective of the protagonist (something which initially baffled audiences), he was a major proponent of moving the camera (at a time when it was difficult and noisy to do so), and used innovative sound design, such as in Love Me Tonight, where the film begins with a jazzy, rhythmic blend of street sounds and snoring. Mamoulian was also the first director to ever use three-strip Technicolor, in his adaptation of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Becky Sharp (1935), a film on which his dedication to his vision of a rich cinematic aesthetic was clearer than ever. Sadly, Mamoulian never quite had that one hugely successful picture that would have cemented his reputation and had a fair amount of bad luck, such as being fired from the noir classic, Laura (1944), on which he was replaced by Otto Preminger. After making the Fred Astaire musical Silk Stockings in 1957, Mamoulian never completed a film again, as he was fired from his last two directing assignments, Porgy and Bess (1959) and Cleopatra (1963). He received the DGA’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1982 and five years later died of old age, at the age of 90.

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