Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 3, 2012)
After years of producing Candid Camera, Allen Funt took the series’ notion to the big screen – and provided footage that couldn’t be shown on TV back in that area. 1970’s What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? takes the program’s concept and adds a factor not seen on the tube: explicit nudity.
Like Candid Camera, Lady shows ordinary people put into unusual circumstances. Filmed by hidden cameras, we see a series of folks as they’re confronted by sudden, unexpected nudity. For instance, a naked woman gets off an office building elevator and asks for directions.
In addition, Lady includes shots of audiences as they react to the film’s footage and chats with “average people” about sex and related topics. We hear kids discuss their thoughts about reproduction, and we find adults who relate their opinions of an interracial couple.
Whereas the TV series existed as pure comedy, Lady often seems to want to be something of a cinematic Kinsey report. It’s Funt’s attempt to take the nation’s sexual pulse and discern attitudes at that particular time.
As a time capsule piece, it offers some merit, but it lacks the sociological depth to which it appears to aspire. The movie never attempts any real seriousness, as Funt clearly wants to stay with his comedic bread and butter. Perhaps he felt that social truths went down more easily when digested with a dollop of humor, and he might be right, but the scattershot nature of the material doesn’t serve it well.
Editing becomes a major issue. There’s no rhyme or reason to the way the movie progresses; we leap from one scenario to another with no smoothness or logic.
Often we don’t even any form of set-up, and that makes some situations more confusing. For instance, we see a scene in which a blonde babe stands at the top of a ladder and guys stare up her skirt. The unanswered question: does she wear panties or not? Perhaps some would argue it doesn’t matter, as the focus is on the guys who ogle the woman’s undercarriage, but it seems like the segment would have more potential comedic impact if we knew she went commando; that’d take the upskirt image into the realm of the remarkable.
In another sequence, we see a young guy at a pharmacy. He asks the female pharmacist if there’s someone else who can help him, but he gets stuck with her. Why does he so separately seek alternate assistance? I assume because he wants to buy condoms and is too embarrassed to ask for them from a woman, but the movie doesn’t tell us this. We’re left to guess, and that undermines any potential comedy; rather than snicker at the guy’s awkwardness, we’re left to wonder what his problem is.
While the film does present a lot of skin, you won’t find as much as the title might imply. Long stretches pass without any nudity at all – and these often even avoid the standard Candid Camera framework. I understand why Funt opted to include these elements, as I figure he correctly determined that 86 straight minutes of “hidden camera” gags would get old. However, he veered too much in the other direction and used too much of the time for banal comments from “average people”; these don’t add much of interest and they’re not amusing.
Funt also clearly manipulates material to match his ideas. In one, we’re shown an underwear-clad woman in a room exposed only by a keyhole-shaped opening; street passers-by can peek through this to gawk at her, and they do so.
The film then takes the same woman – in the same outfit – and sends her onto the city streets, where we’re supposed to believe no one pays any attention to her. The idea? People get aroused when they see something “off-limits”, but when it’s out there for all to view, they don’t care.
I call shenanigans on that. It seems obvious that Lady edits and shoots around the people who did ogle the woman on the street. Sorry, but any time a good-looking young woman hits the pavement in bra and panties, she’s going to get lots of attention. Funt wants us to believe only a couple of random perves ogled her, but that’s a crock.
Inevitably, Lady really shows its age via the social interpretation viewed here. That’s not a problem in some ways; while the discussion of interracial dating seems quaint at best and offensive at work, it does represent the mindset of the era.
On the other hand, Steve Karmen’s songs are dreadful circa 1970 dreck, and the film often uses them to explicitly spell out what we see. Why? I have no idea, but they become a frequent distraction. (And I still can’t get over the fact they decided to include a song that talks about how “rape isn’t as pleasant as it seems” – what were they smoking?)
Anyone who wants to see nudity would be better off finding the Candid Candid Camera videos from the 1980s. Those included more skin and more entertaining scenarios. As I mentioned earlier, Lady doesn’t come with as much nudity as one might expect, and in a disheartening choice, by far the most graphic situation features a male model. We see a long sequence in which he reclines with legs open and all exposed, but full shots of female models tend to be more modest.
A higher level of nudity certainly would’ve added to the value of Lady, but I don’t think they would’ve saved it. The film appears to think it’ll engage us with 86 minutes of sex talk and occasional skin, but it doesn’t. The movie might’ve been risqué enough to cause attention in its day, but as of 2012, it’s stale and limp.