Dr Judd Stevens (Roger Moore) is a psychiatrist for some of the top patients of New York, as well as assisting on criminal cases when required. Yesterday he visited the grave of his late wife to lay flowers there, unaware that as he did so, someone was aiming a rifle at him and he escaped being shot by the skin of his teeth. Today he has gone to his office and heard a few patients attending his therapy sessions, including Ann Blake (Anne Archer) who is very cagey about her specific issues, which Stevens suspects is down to her husband. But when one of his patients is murdered...
And not only murdered, but done in wearing the doctor's anorak which he had lent him because it was raining, which might give one thoughts that this was a case of mistaken identity, unless you were investigating officer Rod Steiger, that was. He played Lieutenant McGeary, who has a grudge against Stevens after the shrink managed to get the murderer of his cop partner on what he saw as a lighter insanity conviction, therefore apparently he's so professional that McGeary needs to arrest the psychiatrist just to get his own back on the namby pamby mental health industry. If this sounds like you should be settling down for so bad it's good fun, however, think again.
For the most part, The Naked Face was extremely boring, so although the opening twenty minutes indicate director Bryan Forbes, here with his final cinema movie, was turning into quite the Michael Winner type thanks to the producers of this effort being Cannon, a studio not best known for their subtlety and refined taste, the way the rest of it played out was leadfooted and humdrum, this in spite of a bunch of people getting threatened and even killed in the process of the plot. During that opening, we don't only see Steiger behaving offensively towards homosexuals and psychiatrists, but Stevens' secretary lying naked and dead in his ransacked office, which the lieutenant claims the doc did himself.
If you were not worn down by the grinding tedium that somehow erupted after such a promisingly trashy start, there were minor points of interest. One was Sir Rog attempting to break away from his James Bond persona by playing a far less capable character, which was certainly within his range yet watching him essaying the lead in a Sidney Sheldon adaptation was not exactly the biggest stretch he could have brought us. Nevertheless, there was a slight novelty in that Stevens runs away and gets beaten up in a very non-Bond manner, and doesn't get to romance anyone, not even Ann Blake who hovers in the background in a manner that suggests she has more to do with the attempts on her therapist's life than she's letting on.
In fact, there's one reason The Naked Face is recalled, if at all, and it's not to do with any nakedness, facial or otherwise. It's the last few seconds of the movie, which sticks with everyone who sees it, either because they think it's a shocking way to end the proceedings, or more likely because it's hilarious, especially after how grim and serious the rest of the plot has been. It was in no way supposed to be funny, but something about its abruptness and the immortal line "Bastards!" barked by a narked Rog triggered a lot of laughter in those who happened to catch it on late night television or wherever - you can't imagine many watched it in the cinema - and embedded it in the minds of the select few who braved its yawnsome plodding. Or happened to see its last couple of minutes before the programme they wanted to watch was broadcast. The explanation for all this kerfuffle was not especially interesting after all that build up, more suited to an in one ear and out the other TV movie - ah, but that ending! Music by Michael J. Lewis.