The Naked Face (1984)
“Roger Moore walks the tightrope of Terror.”
I love those trailers from the past when they were narrated as opposed to today’s styles of coming attractions.
Moore squeezed this murder mystery with an attractive cast in between his final two films as the worlds most famous spy with a license to kill. On the surface it’s got a lot going for it yet if I recall correctly it was one of many 80’s films that somehow just seemed to turn up at the video store bypassing local cinema screens.
Roger stars here as a psychiatrist in this tale adapted from it’s source novel by Sidney Sheldon. Shortly after the opening credits we’re treated to a montage of patients, one of which is Anne Archer while another one is murdered shortly after leaving Moore’s office by a professional hit man. Strangely enough he was wearing Roger’s rain coat.
Into Roger’s life comes Rod Steiger as the detective on the case. Rod is channeling his Oscar winning role from 67’s In the Heat of the Night as a cop with a short fuse and a hate on for Moore’s character. To be honest he did it far better back in the sixties but it is rather fun to see him go wayyyyyy over the top at the drop of a hat far too often. It seems Roger’s testimony in an earlier case years prior to our story got a cop killer off with an insane plea thus escaping the electric chair.
Shortly after Rod’s bullying tactics on Moore, our peaceful psychiatrist’s secretary turns up tortured and quite dead at the office. While Rod is riding Moore hard, his partner on the force, Elliott Gould is playing the nicer half of the intrepid detectives. As the plot moves along in this Cannon Films production, Moore soon realizes that he is the mark that the suspected team of hit men are after. Not trusting Steiger, he goes out and hires himself a private investigator. He’s surprised to find out that his choice via The Yellow Pages is an aging Art Carney and even more surprised to see that old Art has plenty of street smarts that just might keep Moore alive to the final reel. Truthfully, Carney comes off pretty good in this all too brief role.
If you noticed Anne Archer in that earlier montage than you know that a leading lady of her stature isn’t in their by chance with the other bit players. In other words, she surely must be the key to the whole mystery. Now if only Rod Steiger would open his eyes and look beyond his seething hatred of Moore, he just might figure out that there’s more going on here then one might suspect.
While Cannon Films did gather a decent cast here, the film still comes off as somewhat of a time filler for the “B” circuit. The advent of home video made this an easy release for local stores featuring Moore on posters and the VHS box cover in glass shattering detail.
Bryan Forbes served as director and writer on this, his third film with leading man Moore. The others being The Man Who Haunted Himself and Sunday Lovers. Forbes’ most popular title of his directing career is probably The Stepford Wives though I do have a real fondness for a 1966 black comedy titled The Wrong Box.
Moore is definitely playing down his Bond persona allowing himself to be brutalized towards the end with little fight in his meek, far too civilized character. Still, he does fine with it and I found him believable. Steiger was by this time learning to chew the scenery extensively and Forbes couldn’t seem to reign him in and bring it down a notch.
But what the hell. I loved it.
Overal this is far from memorable and more or less a footnote in the careers of those involved. The ending is sure to leave one cold with a hokey add on but I must say that the camera loves Anne Archer and it’s too bad she didn’t have more to do this time out.
Like many films of the VHS era, this one all but disappeared till recently when Kino Lorber picked it up for a blu ray release.
I just had to have it.