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on August 1, 2003
Sex runs rampant throughout Billy Wilder's films. One can only wonder what they would have been like if he had continued past the sexual revolution of the late sixties. As it is, this little set piece of the swinging sixties shows a tolerance, if not sanction, of the stray, recreational encounter, while celebrating the bond of devotion.
Dean Martin and Kim Novak are dead on as the swinging idol and the experienced escort, but the centerpiece of the movie is a loving couple. Ray Walston has been criticized as being too serious and energetic as the jealous husband, a part originally created for Peter Sellers just before a heart attack forced the casting change. Sellers would have added the right comic touch to keep the early jealousy scenes from getting uncomfortably realistic. But this character requires Walston's strong emotional depth to make his sudden love and protection of an imposter wife hired for the id-driven singer believable. Plus, Walston's broadway musical background doesn't hurt when he ends up singing the unfamiliar Gershwin tunes he has supposedly written and is trying to sell to the lusting Dino.
Felicia Farr has the pivotal role of the beautiful wife with a healthy enough spirit to tolerate and correct her husband's foibles, and find a way to support him by indulging in some recreational fulfilment. She is the embodiment of early sixties sophistication.
Good, not great. Better than any sex comedy you are likely to encounter any time soon.
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on September 2, 2006
I saw Billy Wilder's neglected KISS ME, STUPID (1964) two weeks ago on letterboxed DVD and cannot get it out of my head. I have a special fondness for this movie that was panned by critics originally and condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency. So some of my readers will find this sex farce smutty and unfunny; it has a PG-13 rating.

You can probably tell from these sentences whether you will enjoy KISS ME, STUPID, which was filmed in B&W Panavision: in the desert town of Climax, Nevada, Orville J. Spooner (Ray Walston) and Barney Milsap (Cliff Osmond) run the local gas station, give piano lessons, and are failed songwriters; Felicia Farr is Orville's likeable and patient wife. Walston and especially Osmond are riotously funny. And Kim Novak (in one of her best roles) plays waitress (and prostitute) Polly the Pistol at the Belly Button Cafe. Location filming, for all of my Department of Defense friends, was done at Twentynine Palms, California one or two years after Stanley Kramer and company tore up the place for IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD,MAD WORLD.

Many of Wilder's best comedies are adult masquerade sex farces, which is what this one also is. Dean Martin (in a devastating self parody) basically plays himself to perfection. His "Dino" is a Vegas entertainer with car trouble who gets waylaid in Climax and forced to listen to failed Gershwin songs (which are quite good, including "Oh the Live Long Day and the Long Lonely Night" and "Oh, Sophia, Be Mine") from Orville and Barney.

The action gets hilarious (for me) when Polly becomes Dino's sex customer of sorts for the night, but later Dino ends up in Polly's trailer, where Mrs. Spooner is posing as Polly. Unlike Wilder's flawed THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955), where we don't believe Tom Ewell really sleeps with Marilyn Monroe, the sexual overtures are more satisfying here. I believe that Dino does sleep with both Polly (at the Spooner home) and Mrs. Spooner (inside Polly's trailer). In the cold light of dawn, as in the best Ernst Lubitsch masquerade farces, everyone goes back to their right partner and all eventually seems forgiven.

Something about KISS ME, STUPID appeals to me, makes me laugh out loud as I watch it and listen to both Dean Martin's wisecracks and to the underrated (and previously unpublished) Gershwin songs, and especially enjoy Cliff Osmond's screwball dialogue. All of the actors are wonderful and the script, by Wilder and Diamond, is refreshingly adult. 1964 was a time when the censorship board was starting to crumble. The masquerade motif is skillfully handled, and the wide-screen compositions on DVD are excellent.

KISS ME, STUPID is a wonderful and underrated comedy that certainly won't appeal to everyone, but I as least love it. And if I make it sound funny, then it is probably an enjoyable Netflicks rental for you.
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HALL OF FAMEon June 13, 2008
Billy Wilder's most notorious flop, KISS ME STUPID (1964) was one of the first mainstream Hollywood movies to deal with the risque subject of partner-swapping. Dean Martin is the top-billed star (his character is very much a supporting one); but the film belongs to the sublime comic talents of Ray Walston and a surprisingly mellow, downbeat Kim Novak.

In the small town of Climax, Nevada, struggling songwriter Orville Spooner (Ray Walston) and his friend Barney (Cliff Osmond) attempt to trap visiting singer Dino (Dean Martin) into covering one of their pop songs. To sweeten the deal, Orville sidelines his wife Zelda (Felicia Farr) and substitutes local good-time gal Polly "The Pistol" (Kim Novak). Complications arise when Orville and Polly start taking their married couple act a little too seriously; and a drunken Zelda accidentally spends the night with Dino!

Wilder injects the story with equal parts hilarity and heartache. Kim Novak in particular will haunt you with her downbeat performance as the local floozy aching to enjoy the kind of stable, loving life which Orville's wife takes for granted. Novak's chemistry with Ray Walston is delightful, and their performances really cement this as one of the best romantic comedies of the 60's. As one would also expect from Wilder, the ending is very bittersweet but appropriate for the characters. I suspect this was another reason why the movie flopped with audiences during it's original release.

The DVD is sadly devoid of extra features. KISS ME STUPID is a brightly-written, intelligent romantic comedy (remember them?), and is highly-recommended from this corner.
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on February 13, 2014
Kim did a fantastic job, although I was not fond of Dean Martin in this. Considering she was filming with a bad back injury, you would never know it. I wondered about the scene that shows her leaning on a pole in the background and figured it was helping the pain. This is a very funny movie and shows how versatile Kim could be.
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on October 27, 2013
To me, this movie is just slapstick silly and funny. Don't take it seriously. Yes, the adult topic could offend some, that is why I say, take it in a light-hearted way. All the actors do a superb job, and I just ended up laughing out loud at so many parts of it.
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on July 16, 2003
Do yourself a favor and ignore the negative reviews. This movie is hilarious. Kim Novak is a living doll in her role as 'Polly the Pistol' and Dean Martin's self-parody is worth the price of admission!
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on June 16, 2012
"Kiss Me Stupid" seems to divide Billy Wilder fans like no other film of his. There are quite a few who think of it as a failed misfire (including Wilder himself), and then there are others who see it as a masterpiece. Put me in the latter category. Billy Wilder's films can be ranked A-level, B-level, and C-level. In the A-level, I would put "Sunset Boulevard," "Some Like It Hot," "The Apartment," "The Lost Weekend," "One Two Three," "Ace In The Hole," and most certainly, "Kiss Me Stupid." [Along with Midnight (Universal Cinema Classics), which Billy Wilder wrote, but which was directed by Mitchell Leisen.]

"Kiss Me Stupid" is a very dark (and funny!) comedy about desperate people doing desperate things in pursuit of a desperate dream. It's not an easy film to watch in some ways, because what's happening on-screen is frankly ugly, it's not sugar-coated, and "Kiss Me Stupid" shows people at their worst. I think, in a nutshell, this is why so many people don't like this movie. Not because it isn't funny (which it is--in spades), but because it's very uncomfortable. While the situation from which the plot emerges might be a bit contrived, what's not contrived is the lengths to which the central characters (principally Orville Spooner, played by Ray Walston, and Barney, played by Cliff Osmond) are willing to go to pursue their dream (however shallow it may be, and however destructive their actions may be).

The plot is clever and layered, and I won't give it away. The story has great depth, and "Kiss Me Stupid" has a lot to say. The casting of Dean Martin as a lecherous alcoholic mega-star singer (in effect playing himself) is not only brilliant, but frankly, I wonder how Dean Martin ever agreed to appear in a part which portrays "himself" so unflatteringly. Cliff Osmond is excellent as Barney, Felicia Farr is excellent as Orville Spooner's wife, Zelda, and of course Kim Novak plays "Polly The Pistol" with unexpected warmth and dimension. A lot of people feel Ray Walston was miscast as Orville Spooner. Peter Sellers was originally cast as Spooner, and at the end of the sixth week of shooting, Sellers had a massive heart attack (off the set) and had to withdraw from the project, forcing Wilder to re-shoot from the beginning. Wilder desperately searched for a replacement, and it's no secret that Ray Walston wasn't even close to his first replacement choice. I frankly like Ray Walston in this part, and find him credible and convincing.

But let's face it, "Kiss Me Stupid" is a nasty movie. This is not nice stuff. It's an ugly but very funny movie that has a lot to say about how we live our lives, what's important to us, and about social stratification and morality. But for me at least, it makes quite an impact, and I have to say, I go back to this movie a lot more than Billy Wilder's other A-list movies, both because it is funny and entertaining, but also because this is an important film with a lot on its mind.
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on December 10, 2013
Whenever you combine the great Dean Martin with all his talent and the lovely and gifted Kim Novak along with a Billy Wilder script, you're sure to enjoy it. Ray Walston also did a great job. I thought it could have been funnier, but overall, it was time well spent.
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on November 28, 2014
Five stars - but not for Dino!

Never seen this one before, but as an impulse purchase, I won!

Ray Walston as a song writer and an extremely jealous one, along with Kim Novak (hey, any excuse to see Kim Novak - "Bell, Book and Candle", etc).

Martin's role was obnoxious - totally so. Don't know if it was true to life (say it isn't so, Bill Cosby [Nov/2014]) but he played the vain, self-centered entertainer perfectly.

Kim Novak's hooker with a yearning heart was delightful and Ray Walston's wife's (Felicia Farr) straight-forward (implied) bedding down with Martin (so that Ray's song would be picked up and broadcast) was very surprising to me - again, based on the year of production (1964).

It also surprised the Catholic Legion of Decency and they condemned the film, which got United Artists to release it through their subsidiary, Lopert Pictures (like Disney does with their more adult films, through the Touchstone and Miramax labels).

I enjoyed Farr, Walston and, of course, Novak - Dino, not so much.

Still, the whole thing works as entertainment and it ended well.

Worth the investment, says I.
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VINE VOICEon March 5, 2011
THE CHARACTERS.

KISS ME, STUPID is a black and white movie from 1964, starring, Ray Walston, Cliff Osmond, Dean Martin, Kim Novak, and Felicia Farr. Ray Walston, who played the Devil in movie DAMN YANKEES, is the main character of KISS ME, STUPID. Cliff Osmond plays a gas station owner and mechanic, and is Mr.Walston's side kick. Mr.Walston and Mr.Osmond are a team of two budding songwriters, hoping for eventual recognition. In fact, that is the consistent theme of KISS ME, STUPID, that is, the quest of the two songwriters to get recognition. Ms.Novak plays a hooker who works at a brothel called The Belly Button, while Ms.Farr plays Mr.Walston's doting and devoted wife. In my opinion, Felicia Farr is much more pretty than Kim Novak. Felicia Farr is just as pretty as Barbara Eden.

THE PLOT.

The film begins with the camera focused on the side of a truck with writing that reads, "LAS VEGAS SIGN CO." This is very clever, that is, to show a sign on the truck, rather than an actual neon sign. Then the camera pans upwards, and we see a huge marquee that announces Dean Martin's show. Then, the viewer is treated to about ten minutes of Mr.Martin's actual stage show. His spiel goes, "Last night she was banging on my door for 45 minutes, but I wouldn't let her out." (This is a funny and clever line.) The character (Dino) then slips and falls on the stage. (This is funny in view of Mr.Martin's actual reputation as an alcoholic.) Then, Mr.Martin provides another joke about alcoholism, "I have an 85year old mother who no longer needs glasses, she drinks right out of the bottle." Between Mr.Martin's jokes, the camera shows a line of waiters in back of the theater, all of them hysterically laughing, except for one waiter in the center. This waiter is stoney-faced and never laughs. (This is another very clever part of this movie.) Then, the plotline goes back stage, and the showgirls file past, while Mr.Martin speaks with the stage manager. Two of the stagegirls invite Mr.Martin upstairs for hanky-panky, but Mr.Martin declines, in view of the fact that he must drive to Los Angeles for another performance. (This part of the film shows Dean Martin to be decent and self-effacing, just as his self-effacing jokes about alcoholism. Mr.Martin is likeable during the entire movie.)

Mr.Martin is shown driving a desert highway, but he encounters a roadblock, and he must take a detour through a dirt backroad, leading through the town of Climax. At this point, KISS ME, STUPID resembles several episodes from the TWILIGHT ZONE, where drivers taking a back road encounter bizarre adventures in a desolate town. And this is exactly what happens to Mr.Martin in the town of Climax (bizarre adventures). In Climax, we see Barney (played by Cliff Osmond) manning his gas station. A truck driver stops for gas, but only for filling up his cigarette lighter. Mr.Osmond complies. When the truck driver motors away, Mr.Osmond cries out, "You forgot your green stamps." (This particular episode is extremely clever. It seems lifted right out of the Andy Griffith Show. Mr.Osmond is a bit like Jim Nabors -- both of them are good singers.)

Next to Barney's Service Station is the home of Orville Spooner, a piano teacher played by Ray Walston. Mr.Walston is busy giving a piano lesson to a 14-year old boy. Then comes yet another clever joke. Mr.Walston's wife slips both of her hands underneath Mr.Walston's shirt, and wiggles her hands around. "NOT NOW!" exclaims Mr.Walston. but the wife was only after a pen, because she needed to write a note for the milkman.

So far, the film is a clever, light-hearted comedy. But then, the film takes a turn towards the dark side. Mr.Walston accuses the boy of going after the wife, and Mr.Walston gets violently angry with the boy and chases him out. Then, Mr.Walston accuses his own wife of hanky-panky with the milkman, and hanky-panky with her dentist. During these accusations, the soundtrack plays deep-throated cello music and gothic harpsichord music (reminiscent of the ominous harpsichord music in Twilight Zone's psychodrama, PIANO IN THE HOUSE).

At 21 minutes into the movie, Mr.Martin pulls into Barney's Service Station, and is immediately recognized by Mr.Osmond. Mr.Osmond immediately cooks up a plan to persuade Mr.Martin to spend the evening at Orville Spooner's house, with the goal of auditioning his songs -- songs of Mr.Osmond and Mr.Walston -- for Mr.Martin. Most of the time consumed in KISS ME, STUPID is spent on this particular goal.

Then, the plot thickens. The song-writing duo (Mr.Osmond and Mr.Walston) realize that they must get rid of Mr.Walston's wife, and replace her with a hooker posing as the wife. Eventually, they succeed. Mr.Osmond goes to a nearby brothel, The Belly Button, and fetches Kim Novak. Mr.Walston succeeds in getting rid of his wife, by focusing his psychotic melodrama at her. She leaves for her mother's house. Mr.Walston had to get rid of the real wife, because his goal was to use Kim Novak (posing as the wife) to entice Mr.Martin, and to help persuade Mr.Martin to purchase a couple of tunes from the song-writing duo.

The second half of the film takes place in Orville Spooner's home, where Mr.Walston and Mr.Osmond, with the cooperation of Kim Novak, focus their attention on persuading Mr.Martin to listen to their compositions. The songs are actually rather good. The lyrics are clever. During this time, there are jokes about doing it (we hear the bedsprings squeaking, but it is only Mr.Martin hopping up and down alone on the bed). There are jokes about weenies (Kim Novak poses with a breadstick, and does suggestive things with the breadstick). There plenty of cheesecake scenes in this part of the story. The film concludes with a surprise ending. Actually, there are two surprise endings, occurring at the same time, one involving an array of television sets in the window of a hardware store, and the other involving Kim Novak driving away in a second hand automobile. The two surprise endings are in the tradition of the finest Twilight Zone episodes.

ANALYSIS.

Although one might expect this movie to be a light comedy, it is actually not a comedy. This movie is a melange that contains:

(1) Happy elements reminiscent of a typical Broadway musical movie, such as SINGING IN THE RAIN;

(2) Psychological torment, such as is found in MISERY starring Kathy Bates, and also found in the Twilight Zone episode PIANO IN THE HOUSE; and

(3) Bawdy themes, such as those found in abundance in SIXTEEN CANDLES by John Hughes or in ANIMAL HOUSE.

In other words, KISS ME, STUPID could reasonably be characterized as a schizophrenic movie. While almost every minute contains bits of script that are extremely clever, the storyline tugs you first to one way and then the next. The end result is confusion. Is this mainly a story about budding song-writers? Is this a bawdy movie about hookers? Or is this a Twilight Zone episode, with typical Twilight Zone themes such as: (1) A road trip where a character encounters a weird town while driving the back roads, (2) Where a character is a psychopath, and (3) Where there is a surprise ending. KISS ME, STUPID contains all of these three Twilight Zone themes. The surprise ending is an excellent one. But the psychological melodrama of the jealous rages of Mr.Walston detracts from the overall tone of the film, and causes the message of KISS ME, STUPID to be somewhat muddled.

HOW TO REPAIR THIS MOVIE. Any freshman college student can tell you how to fix this muddled movie. First, leave out the parts where Mr.Walston goes psycho, and replace these parts with something else (ANYTHING else!). Second, leave out the part near the end where Mr.Martin does it with the wife. With these two things left out, the movie would become more coherent. Once the parts where Mr.Walston goes psycho are removed, these parts can be saved, and then used as a basis for a new movie, that is, for a psycho-thriller movie.
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