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  What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? Funt Of All Knowledge
Year: 1970
Director: Allen Funt
Stars: Allen Funt, Joie Addison, Laura Huston, Martin Meyers, Karil Daniels, Donna Whitfield, Richard Roundtree, Susanna Clemm, Norman Manzon, Joan Bell
Genre: Comedy, Sex, DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Candid Camera was a television programme invented by writer Allen Funt where he created the whole idea of the hidden camera comedy show, and after its heyday in the nineteen-sixties (it had been running since 1948) he decided to branch out into movies; What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? was the result. The subject this time was not a random collection of funnies, but a theme which ran through the sketches, and that was the modern American view of sex, so what was on offer was a selection of the more traditional hidden camera stunts and interviews.

Funt was an interesting character in the television landscape, and his influence on entertainment around the world has been considerable, in Britain alone right up to Jeremy Beadle, Noel Edmonds, then the Sacha Baron Cohen spoof documentaries and beyond; it's practically a guarantee that anywhere there is TV, there will have been a Candid Camera-style show broadcast on it at some time, possibly even right now, and carrying that brand name. As for Funt, he was a complex man who according to his staff extended his zeal for recording people unawares to actually spying on them, those who worked for him, although on the screen he was the picture of the goodnatured prankster rather than unhinged and paranoid.

That ease with the public translates into the business dealt with here as we are informed at the beginning that all the victims here were utterly unaware of the lenses and microphones pointed at them, and from the number of times that Funt emerges from behind a door (or a disguise) and the amazed subject will ask "They won't show this on TV, will they?" you can well believe this is true. It wasn't wall to wall nudity, as Funt appeared to have a social commentary to relay, so there were such sequences as the interracial couple (one of whom is future Shaft star Richard Roundtree) kissing affectionately in a shop and he asks the public if they think that's right; it seems as many people don't have a problem with it as do.

That said, it was the naked ladies of the title which generated the publicity, leading this to become the most financially successful documentary of all time up to that point, aside from a few concert movies which grossed higher. Funt knew his audience, so there were plenty of set-ups such as the one which opens the film as a nude woman bumps into a man walking around the corner and keeps going, leaving him noticeably discombobulated. But his obsession with recording those who were unaware of their situation even extended to that audience, where a screening room full of punters are quizzed on their reactions to what they have just seen, extending from amused to outright outraged.

This is meant to be funny as well, and it's true there are a good few laughs here what with naked ladies emerging from elevators and nude men posing for paintings, then getting up and interacting with the women Funt has been interviewing to gauge their response. There are even, dare you say it, interesting observations to be made both before the subjects are aware they are being pranked and indeed afterwards, almost all of them chuckle and are pleased to be part of the movie. Some of this seems rather cruel, as when the teenagers interviewed about their sexual experiences are then commented on by their parents, or the girl who is auditioned about taking her clothes off for the project just to show how easy the actresses are to convince (though Funt doesn't go as far as getting her to strip off right there and then). But cruelty of a sort is part and parcel of this form of entertainment, and if you can ignore your misgivings there was a fascination with human behaviour here that was difficult to dismiss, however reluctantly. Music, consisting of comic songs, by Steve Karmen (the rape one being a low point).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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