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A clever and engaging film, but the plot is a little garbled.
on March 5, 2011
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 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.
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.