Moore Not Less - The Naked Face
he neared the end of his long run as James Bond, Roger was approached
by Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan of Cannon Films to discuss making a
film together. Cannon Films were thrifty but shrewd low-budget chancers
who made a lot of action films in the eighties featuring Charles
Bronson and Chuck Norris. However they also financed an eclectic range
of projects away from action fare. They had always wanted to make a
film with Roger Moore (it would obviously be a coup for the studio to
make a film with the then current James Bond actor) and Cannon seemed
happy enough when Roger suggested that Sidney Sheldon's novel The Naked
Face might make a good film.
perhaps, Roger was eager to do something away from the action genre and
play a more vulnerable and normal character for a change. The last
thing he wanted to do was make a daft action film for Cannon. Roger
even persuaded Cannon to allow his old friend Bryan Forbes (director of
films like Whistle Down the Wind and The Stepford Wives) to direct the
film and adapt the screenplay. Production on The Naked Face took place
in between Octopussy and A View To a Kill. This period in the
mid-eighties marks the last era when Roger was a busy film actor. After
the release of A View To a Kill, Roger was more of an occasional actor
and more interested in his charity work.
decent cast was assembled for The Naked Face besides Roger with Elliott
Gould, Rod Steiger and Anne Archer taking supporting roles. Roger's old
friend David Hedison also took a part in the film. Unfortunately, the
production was not a happy one it seems. Cannon (who were in financial
trouble) slashed the budget and cut the production schedule from twelve
to eight weeks. The loss of this precious time and money obviously made
it a lot more difficult for Bryan Forbes to deliver the sort of film he
was trying to make.
further problems when Roger had to fly from Chicago (where the film was
shot) to England when his mother was taken ill. When he returned to the
set and learned that the producers had been angry at Forbes for
releasing him to fly to his mother's bedside, Roger was understandably
annoyed. Cannon Films and Globus and Golan could get knotted as far as
Roger was concerned. It was not the happiest of experiences.
Roger believed The Naked Face was a decent film he felt the 18
certificate it was lumbered with wrecked any chances it may have had of
finding an audience. Cannon didn't help matters either by spending
almost no money at all in promoting the film. While this is far from
the most obscure film of Roger's career it isn't especially well known
either. This is another one of those Roger Moore films that I have no
memory of ever encountering on television.
Naked Face has Roger (with HUGE spectacles) as Dr Judd Stevens - a
psychoanalyst who becomes the prime suspect when some of his patients
start being murdered. When his secretary is killed, Stevens realises
that he might be the killer's true target. But what is the motive?
Judd's problems are exacerbated by the keen interest the police are
taking in him - especially Lieutenant McGreavy (Rod Steiger). McGreavy
seems to have a grudge against Judd because of an old case where the
psychoanalyst gave testimony that stopped a police killer who murdered
his partner from going to prison. Can Judd clear his name and - most
pressingly - stay alive long enough to do so?
Naked Face is a watchable enough thriller that allows Roger Moore to
shed his Bond image and play a much more human and vulnerable
character. He even gets beat up in the film, something which is rather
unusual for an actor known for playing action heroes of varying kinds.
Roger could always play a straight role somewhat better than he was
ever given credit for. Roger seems to be enjoying the sedate nature of
much of the film and while his performance is hardly Oscar worthy he's
quite believable in the part.
same can't quite be said for Rod Steiger. Steiger seems bored by the
film and gives a ripe performance that borders on the eccentric. Well,
it doesn't border on the eccentric, it crosses the border and plants a
flag with ECCENTRIC written across it over the border and then orders
some fruitcake. Steiger seems intent to steal the film from everyone
else as if it's a competition to see who can overact the most but he
seems unaware that no one else has entered the competition in the first
place and it's not even that sort of film anyway. In his autobiography,
Moore wryly noted that Steiger was famous in the profession for his
scenery chewing antics. He also said that make-up had a tough time with
Steiger on The Naked Face because he'd come straight from his plastic
surgeon and still had blood on his mush from a face lift.
Naked Face sometimes feels like an episode of Tales from the Unexpected
or Hammer House of Mystery & Suspense but with an American setting
and an overlong running time. You could imagine one of those old
anthology TV shows having this plot done and dusted in 50 minutes and
feeling no less complete. It's a watchable sort of film but you can see
why it's been almost completely forgotten over the years. There is
nothing that distinguishes The Naked Face or makes it lodge in the
While Steiger rants and
raves with some sotto voce spliced in for good measure, Elliott Gould
underplays it as his fellow police detective Angeli to the point where
you almost forget he's in the film sometimes. Anne Archer is solid
though as Ann Blake, a key character who to say too much about would be
to give the story away. Art Carney deserves a mention too for his
performance as the weary Morgens. Although The Naked Face doesn't make
an awful lot of sense when you think about it afterwards it passes the
time decently enough while it plays and there are a few twists and
turns and a couple of tense scenes.
Forbes, although a long way removed from his salad days, does a
competent job in producing a watchable little thriller with the tight
eight week shooting schedule. One criticism, and it's obviously not the
fault of Forbes given the lack of time and money, is that you never get
much of a look at the city (in this case Chicago) that the film takes
place in. I'm sure with more money and time at his disposal Forbes
would have given the picture a better sense of location and this would
undoubtedly have provided a nice gloss over the finished film and made
it look more expensive.
Face is nothing special but strangely watchable for the different sort
of role taken on by Roger if nothing else. The twist at the end is
faintly ludicrous though and probably could have been lost. This is a
modest little thriller that passes the time but never threatens to do
much more than that.