Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 20
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.”


More Flashbacks
Harold and Maude Dec. 20, 1971
Harold and Maude Opens

Hal Ashby's iconic black comedy Harold and Maude opened in theaters on December 20, 1971.

Read more »
December 20, 1979
Bob Fosse's All That Jazz

For denizens of the New York theater scene, Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical All that Jazz provided them the guessing game of the season. What scandals was Fosse going to spill in his expose musical? The film, which tells the story of a Broadway choreographer/director Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), whose excesses in life and work bring him to the edge of a collapse, was clearly modeled on Fosse’s own life. Some actors (like Ann Reinking) play characters very similar to themselves; other figures (like ex-wife Gwen Verdon, producer Hal Prince, and others) are played by others; and other actors (like Jessica Lange) who were close to Fosse play oddly mythic figures. Fosse, who’d started choreographing for film in 1954, was soon pulled to New York to choreograph and eventually direct such musicals as Pippin, Chicago, and Sweet Charity. In 1969, he started making films as well, winning an Oscar in 1972 for Cabaret. A demanding taskmaster and infamous womanizer, the chain-smoking Fosse suffered a heart attack in 1975. It was during this period that Shirley Maclaine (according to her) suggested he create something about his brush with death. The resulting film is a breathtaking musical sleight of hand as Fosse’s alter ego Joe Gideon reveals his innermost fears and desires only to cover them in the next moment with all that jazz––surreal show stopping dance numbers and Felliniesque romps into his libido and unconscious. In 1987, life imitated art as Fosse died from a heart attack, just moments before his revival of Sweet Charity was to open at the National Theater.

Read more »