17 June 2005 | dbonk
Cult Comedy Classic Reaches Climax
In January 1965, I remember reading a TV Guide article bemoaning the immorality depicted in recent Hollywood films. Two movies, in particular, were singled out. The first, THE CARPETBAGGERS, was based on Harold Robbins trashy novel and KISS ME, STUPID, referred to as out and out'smut'by various film critics at the time.
The much maligned and savaged KISS ME,STUPID has aged far better than the previously mentioned title, thanks in large part to director Billy Wilder's razor sharp satiric barbs at the expense of small town America's morals and mores, in this case, Climax, Nevada.
Dean Martin portrays himself or rather a ratcheted up version of his 'Dino' persona. From his killer opening monologue at The Sands in Las Vegas surrounded by a bevy of beautiful showgirls, Martin establishes himself as the ultra cool embodiment of 'The Ratpack.' His comic timing is impeccable throughout this flick.
Kim Novak as 'Polly the Pistol' a cocktail waitress-cum-whore delivers a knock out sympathetic performance. Her physical presence in this film represents girlie magazines of the era such as 'Dude,'Gent,''Rogue,'and 'Nugget' i.e. big dames who are well proportioned. Another of the more interesting aspects watching Kim Novak on screen throughout her career is her facial expression which usually looks like she's in the midst of having sex.
When Martin and Miss Novak are on screen together, the sexual tension is palpable. In one scene, 'Dino' is sitting next to 'Polly' who is wearing a several sizes too tight dress, when he removes one of her high heels and starts lecherously tickling her foot. He then pours a long stemmed beaker of chianti into the high heel stiletto and proceeds to drink from it. During a period when an American sex comedy meant serving up Rock Hudson & Doris Day to titillate audiences, KISS ME,STUPID arrived on the scene like a ribald slap on a pretty girl's primly skirted derrière.
The movie has an alluringly seedy look about it. Debauchery plays much better in black & white than in Technicolor. Ray Walston(already a household name,thanks to "MY FAVORITE MARTIAN") portrays a manic version of a frustrated songwriter who imagines himself to be cuckolded up to a third of the way through the film. Even Walston's hair looks taut, almost spiked to add to his on the brink behavior. Felicia Farr as Walston's wife ,Zelda, provides a perpetually smiling, sometimes naive outlook on her life as one of the residents of Climax. (She was married to Jack Lemmon at the time, a Wilder favorite). Yet she does have the final word in this movie.
In the midst of adulterous affairs with impunity(in itself shocking four years before the MPAA codes were brought in) ultimately,KISS ME,STUPID is a love story. Miss Novak as 'Polly'explains in her husky yet nurturing voice "A woman without a man is like a trailer without a car." Who knows, maybe we can hitch a ride to "The Belly Button" where we can "Drop In And Get Lost."