Tee-Hee, I'm Naked!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Naked Detective

(1996, 90 min.)

Starring Jim Gardiner, Julia Parton, Greg Tracy, Taylor St. Clair, Camille Donatacci, Ken Dashow, Carolyn Renee Smith, John Altamura.

Written by Ken Dashow.

Directed by Ernest G. Sauer.

A PI goes to a mansion, presumably located in the same vicinity of that legendary farm where they breed models for Playboy, to find out who is trying to kill a very wealthy, very old man (as played by comparatively young man Dashow, who brings some dirty enthusiasm to his role, and who also wrote the script). The suspects include his gold-digger wife (St. Clair), his nurse (Donatacci, and perverse troll that I am, I can’t help but wonder if she and hubby Kelsey Grammer sometimes get it on to the softcore work such as this that she did before they were married), his slow-witted, ant-obsessed son (Tracy), his sly vixen daughter-in-law (Parton), the hot-to-trot maid with a skirt that’s hiked up to just south of her chin (Smith), and the faux Italian chauffeur (Altamura).

The way the sex scenes affect you will depend on your temperament at the time. If you’re in the mood, you’ll find plenty here to keep you interested. If not, well, I tend to think of them along the same lines as the ingénue-juvenile songs from the Marx Brothers movies: annoying, but harmless. That may not seem like a fitting comparison seeing as how the songs in the Bros. movies interrupt the mayhem, the reason why we’re watching the film in the first place, while the sex scenes in movies like The Naked Detective are presumably their raison d’etre. Which in most cases is true, the surprising and welcome difference here being that a remarkable amount of time is spent on the mystery angle of the film. Against all expectations, and I’m guessing against the instincts of director Sauer, perpetrator of such incredible horseshit as Sylvia Kristel’s Beauty School, Dashow has managed to craft an actual whodunit. We’re not talking Conan Doyle, Christie or Chandler, but the story does manage to hold interest, so much so that there were moments when I actually – brace yourselves, kids – got slightly exasperated when one of the ladies began to shed her clothing, because it meant another bump-in-the-road sex scene. (Bear in mind that we’re speaking in strictly comparative terms. Exasperation and impossibly stacked women peeling are usually oil and water.)

Generally in these reviews I won’t comment on the acting. I don’t think it’s fair to the actresses to take them to task for any shortcomings when they’re really not being hired to do anything but coo, preen, giggle, pout, and bounce. This subsequently kind of lets the men off the hook as well, since to not do so would be to hold forth a double standard (and let’s face it, they don’t exactly get much in the way of characterization to work with either). I will however occasionally point out acting that I think deserves some praise, and in that spirit I have to say that the best performance here actually comes from a porn star. Ms. Julia “Yes, Dolly Is My Cousin” Parton displays, among more obvious things, a rather acute sense of comic timing, making her stereotype of a character fun to watch even when she’s not slithering out of her duds.

Bottom line is, there’s a bull market of nudity and sex here, and even the scenes where the characters keep their clothes on are suffused with jiggle, but those who enter expecting just that will find a nice little treat along with it: a surprisingly watchable movie.


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