Thursday, August 22, 2013

Murder, the Naked Nude without Clothes, and Killing!

Here's an example of how lack of restraint or subtlety on the part of a director can sink a film. You certainly couldn't blame the cast of 1961's The Naked Edge which includes Deborah Kerr, Eric Portman, Peter Cushing, and you wouldn't know it's Gary Cooper's last role, shortly before his death. There's plenty of vigour in his performance. But director Michael Anderson directs a Hitchcockian suspense movie almost like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

In fact, it's very easy to compare the movie to a Hitchcock film because it shares a screenwriter with Psycho and its plot is so close to Hitchcock's 1941 film Suspicion that it's practically a remake. But where Suspicion indulges in a slow burning sadistic and personal terror, The Naked Edge has the story of a wife's rising suspicion that her husband made his fortune by murder play like pans falling out of a kitchen cupboard.

Cooper and Kerr play husband and wife and, again, I can't fault them when their back and forth about his possibly murdering his boss several years earlier is shrill rather then exquisitely painful. Cooper starts to sound so repetitive in his questioning whether or not Kerr suspects him, and Kerr in response can only sound halfway between doubting and believing so many times before she just starts sounding annoyed at being asked the same question over and over.

I love Deborah Kerr. I'm always reminded of how Michael Powell said she was the most intelligent actress he'd ever worked with particularly when half the movies I've seen her in are markedly beneath her talents. Her face has all the nuance and subtlety Anderson's Mickey Moused score and ecstasy junkie placement of close-ups would seek to obliterate.

Peter Cushing's role is tiny--Eric Portman gets a little more interesting material to work with but, if you're thinking about watching this movie, I'd recommend you just watch Suspicion instead, especially if you've never seen it before. But also if you have seen it before.

There were a few movies in the 50s and 60s with the word "naked" in the title--The Naked Truth, The Naked Spur, The Naked Jungle, to name a few--I think to draw in crowds aware of the abolished Hays code but I don't think any of these movies actually have nudity. So I was surprised to see even a brief glimpse of Deborah Kerr's left breast in The Naked Edge. Since The Naked Edge wasn't the title of the source material, I suspect someone thought this was a selling point, which is rather amusing since we're talking about a very brief and incidental moment in the bath.

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