Friday, July 13, 2012

Spotlight On: Sam Fuller

First shot of The Naked Kiss (1964), pretty memorable, no?
I've decided to spend this weekend chilling out on my couch slowly dying along with macaroni and cheese. I was bored and channel surfing when TCM (my usual saving grace) started broadcasting a bona fide Sam Fuller marathon. I've seen most of his work more than once, but I could not pass this up. Usually when one watches Sam Fuller, there should be a whiskey on the rocks in one hand and an American Spirit in the other, wearing nothing but a bra and a cheap string of pearls. Well even though this paints a pretty picture, I brewed some chamomile and put it over ice, and threw on my favorite comfy fleece shorts and pulled out my pedicure set. 
Original poster for the film

By the time I was on my favorite film of his; The Naked Kiss (1964), I knew I had to spotlight him, and I was remice to realize I'd actually not blogged about him up until this point. Wikipedia describes Fuller as known for 'low-budget genre films and controversial themes'. I couldn't have said it better myself, and though all of his films are jewels in a rather dull world of studio cinema of the late-50's/early 60's, the best by far is The Naked Kiss (1964). Let me just tell you the premise really quick. A prostitute moves to a small town where no one knows her and becomes a pediatric nurse for special needs children. She meets a millionaire/small-town hero and falls in love with him, everything seems idyllic as she plans her upcoming wedding until she learns he's a notorious pedophile who preys on the very children she takes care of, so she kills him with the heel of her shoe.
Now if you've been asking yourself how the effing hell this film was ever made back during the Haze code and strict social and moral hypocrisies that Hollywood adhered to in the 60's, the answer is Fuller funded it completely on his own. At that point he was seasoned enough not to take any shit from the studio hierarchy, and successful enough so that he could live in a tiny one-bedroom shack if it meant he could make the films he wanted to make without the executives' choke hold firmly around his neck.
Of course, this also meant that no big name hotshots would work with him, so he had to resort to casting B-movie actors as his principals but it worked towards his advantage because everyone was appropriately melodramatic and campy to give Fuller his proper place in cult-film immortality. 
Back to The Naked Kiss, it was a sequel off of Fuller's previously successful film on the foreign and cult film circuit; Shock Corridor (1963) which is featured in literally every single documentary about the French New Wave, considering how much they all adored Fuller and his repertoire. Warhol himself was said to take a considerable of inspiration as a filmmaker from Fuller. If Warhol was king of underground cult-cinema, Fuller was his above-ground mainstream counterpart. 
The man, Sam Fuller.

After that we didn't hear much of the social recluse who smoked like a chimney drank like a famished water buffalo and abused everyone around him until he died and Criterion bought all of his material for their collection and he became en vogue again. For someone who didn't live through those times to see just the level of shit he was able to get away with, is fascinating, and definitely gives credence to the term 'independent film'.
There are things in The Naked Kiss people would be too chicken shit to include in a film today, that's how contraversial Fuller was, and also how prophetic. He basically realized that pop-culture was never going to get there on it's own, so he decided to give it a little push. And that little push turned out to be one of the most profound American film legacies that ever existed. Why I didn't write any academic papers about him is beyond me. 

Below, some of the most memorable scenes from The Naked Kiss to give you a better idea of the depravity and decadence of his work. 

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