+++ Nigel Dennis has a plan. A perfect plan. He is going to blackmail the rich and famous, threatening to expose the skeletons they have in their respective cupboards. And by posing as a gossip journalist, he intends to minimise the risk of being successfully prosecuted as a common blackmailer.
Mr Dennis is a man with no scruples and no ethics. Some of his victims commit suicide or die from stress, but he doesn’t care. Some of his victims, however, decide to strike back. And as they try to get rid of him by any means necessary, their plans are beginning to interfere with each other, causing confusion and mayhem. +++
As the plot description may have made clear, The Naked Truth is a dark comedy of errors. It is similar in style and tone to The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets, but does perhaps not entirely reach their level of quality. That being said, director Mario Zampi’s black & white film is well-directed and well-shot, with a solid script by Zampi’s frequent collaborator Michael Pertwee and great performances by a great cast.
The Naked Truth stars Dennis Price as the callous Mr. Dennis, and Peter Sellers, Terry-Thomas, and Peggy Mount as his main adversaries. Further roles are filled by character actors Miles Malleson and Kenneth Griffith, Goldfinger’s Shirley Eaton, Georgina Cookson, and most prominently Carry On’s Joan Sims.
Mount is the least well-known of the leads, mainly because she spend a lot of her career on stage. Dennis Price is well known amongst fans of horror B-pictures, but his struggle with alcohol-addiction overshadowed his talents so that his career never reached the heights that it should have. In this film, however, he is perfectly cast and gives a great performance as the cold and calculating blackmailer.
The film’s main draw for audiences were certainly Terry-Thomas as the bumbling member of the upper class, and Peter Sellers as the equally bumbling and considerably deranged television host. Arguably, Sellers is given more to do here, with a number of ludicrous tangents only included to give his character enough room to employ the bad impersonations and costumes he normally uses on his TV show. This bumbling fool employing impersonations, accents, costumes, fake noses and false moustaches is a direct predecessor of Sellers’s Inspector Clouseau who would first grace the screen six years later.
In this case, however, the situation seems to have more depth. Sellers’s character is a (supposedly) Scottish TV host whose public persona (and Scottish accent) are as fake as the other identities he employs on stage and off. Furthermore, he himself seems to be unsure of what is real and what is not, and seems to think that slipping into a costume also means that you can change your personality. Sellers plays his character in the related moments as equally sad and deranged.
I find it fascinating that the idea that television is fake and that TV-personalities can be very different people in real life is something that is already explored here (in 1957) so early on when television is still quite young.
All-in-all this film, which for some reason is known in the US under the title Your Past Is Showing, is a very enjoyable comedy that can easily be rated at 8 out of 10.