Zoom Salon of The Naked Kiss (1964) 90 min | Mechanics' Institute

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Zoom Salon of The Naked Kiss (1964) 90 min
October 2020: Women of Noir

Friday, October 30, 2020 - 6:00pm

CinemaLit Popcorn Pop-Up Salon: October-- Women of Noir

Hello Film Lovers,

Welcome back to CinemaLit! We have missed our Friday night gatherings. Laura, Pam, and I are excited to launch this new format for CinemaLit as we Shelter at Home. We will be viewing films on Kanopy and gathering online for a Popcorn Pop-Up Salon!

All you will need is either a Mechanics' Institute library card, or a San Francisco Public Library card, which will give you access to Kanopy and its treasure trove of movies. Make a reservation as usual via Eventbrite and watch the film on Kanopy at your leisure. You will receive a link to the Friday night CinemaLit salon on Zoom two days in advance. On the night of the salon click the Zoom link and join us.

If you do not receive a Zoom Link by the day of the event, contact Pam Troy at [email protected]


Mechanics’ Institute members can now sign up for FREE access to Kanopy, a wonderful film streaming service. To sign up:

1. Click on  THIS LINK.

2. Click on the large orange login button that reads, “Log in to milibrary.”

3. Enter the 14-digit bar code from your MI Library card

4. Set up your account following Kanopy’s instructions, including your email and a password.

5. Kanopy will send verification to your email address.

You’ll be able to choose from a wonderful selection of films, including classics, pre-code, foreign films, and documentaries, including the films we’ve scheduled this month for CinemaLit.

If you are not a Mechanics’ Institute member, consider membership and click  HERE  to join online:

Or, you can check with your public library to see if they are Kanopy members. If so, you may use your public library card to set up a Kanopy account.

 Matthew Kennedy, curator and host

CinemaLit Film Series

October 2020: Women of Noir

For October, we return to a longtime CinemaLit favorite – film noir. Our focus is on women in noir, in front of and behind the camera. Three films feature women as the dominant story-driving character – Woman on the Run (1950) starring Ann Sheridan, Sudden Fear (1952) starring a well-served Joan Crawford, and The Naked Kiss (1964) starring a way over-the-top Constance Towers. As an added bonus, two films this month, Woman on the Run and Sudden Fear, offer dazzling footage of their mid-century San Francisco locations. Two other films feature Ida Lupino directing. Lupino was a brilliant actress, as well as one of the very few women who had directorial responsibilities in American films of the 1950s. In The Hitch-Hiker (1953), Lupino artfully locates film noir in a remote desert setting more redolent of Westerns. In The Bigamist (1953), Lupino both directs and stars. Joan Fontaine and Edmond O'Brien are the two other points of what the title accurately suggests is a love triangle. For The Naked Kiss, we are delighted to welcome back CinemaLit emeritus curator and host Michael Fox as emcee.

October 30 - The Naked Kiss (1964) starring Constance Towers

The Naked Kiss falls outside a strict definition of film noir, coming two decades after the genre-defining They Drive by Night and The Maltese Falcon. But as a later film both subverting and building on earlier classics, it falls into the broader heading of neo-noirs. Even so, that doesn't begin to illuminate its general deliriousness.

Constance Towers, an actress most remembered for daytime soaps and stage musicals, plays Kelly, a prostitute who is beating the daylights out of her pimp when we first meet her. Wanting to start over, she moves to a small Midwestern town, rents a room, and is hired as a nurse to disabled children. Surely her past couldn't possibly catch up with her…

The Naked Kiss gets laughs for its sheer movie-movie audacity. Producer-Writer-Director Sam Fuller populates the surprisingly multicultural town with names like Rembrandt, Peanuts, Bunny, Angel Face, Dusty, Marshmallow, Hatrack, and Zookie. He puts one of his own movies, Shock Corridor, on the town's only theater marquee. He stops the action cold so Kelly can lead the children in a vaguely creepy version of "Little Child (Mommy Dear)" as though The Naked Kiss suddenly decided to be a gothic musical. And in Towers, he coaxes an angry yet tender performance requiring her to pull out all the stops. Is this exploitation, bad taste, or the work of a master primitive?

"The Naked Kiss finds Sam Fuller's tabloid sensibilities boiling to the surface," wrote film critic Jerry Renshaw, "as it dwells on the uncomfortable and taboo subjects of deviancy, prostitution, and small-town sanctimony. In typical Fuller style, it's a hard look at a nightmarish world, lurid and absorbing enough to demand that the viewer watch. It's part melodrama, part sensationalism, and part surreal, but above all it's absolutely, positively 100% Sam Fuller, with all the nuance and subtlety of a swift kick in the butt."

We welcome back Michael Fox, former curator and host of CinemaLit, to introduce and lead the discussion on The Naked Kiss.

Michael Fox is a film journalist and critic whose outlets include KQED Arts and Oakland magazine. He was the host and curator of CinemaLit for many years. Fox has taught documentary classes at the OLLI programs at U.C. Berkeley and S.F. State for over a decade. He is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle and an inductee of the S.F. Film Society’s Essential SF.


Matthew Kennedy, CinemaLit’s curator, has written biographies of Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and Edmund Goulding. His book Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s, was the basis of a film series on Turner Classic Movies. 

I don't have a favorite film,” Matthew says. "I find that my relationships to films, actors, genres, and directors change as I change over the years. Some don't hold up. Some look more profound, as though I've caught up with their artistry. I feel that way about Garbo, Cary Grant, director John Cassavetes, and others."

Classic films have historical context, something only time can provide,” Matt observes. “They become these great cultural artifacts, so revealing of tastes, attitudes, and assumptions.”

Register with Eventbrite below.

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CinemaLit Films

Members Free
Public Sliding Scale Free to $10
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Pam Troy - 415-393-0116
Register now by using the form below or calling .

Future CinemaLit Films

Oct 23 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon of The Bigamist (1953) 80 min
October 2020: Women of Noir

Nov 6 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) 71 min
November 2020: Comic Relief

Nov 13 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1943) 99 min
November 2020: Comic Relief

Nov 20 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Ball of Fire (1941) 111 min
November 2020: Comic Relief

Dec 4 - 6:00pm

Zoom Salon - Charade (1963) 113 min
December 2020: CinemaLit Season Finale