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Once You Kiss a Stranger



Imagine if "Fatal Attraction" were made in 1969, but featured way more golf. That's "Once You Kiss a Stranger" in a nutshell (emphasis on "nut), yet that's not to demean the little-known thriller, now available as a manufactured-on-demand disc from Warner Archive. Despite "? or perhaps because of "? its datedness, this remains one fun film.

Carol Lynley owns the screen as Diana, a cute, pixieish, spoiled brat of a schizophrenic who'd love to see her supervising shrink dead so she can get her hands on her ailing aunt's inheritance sooner. In the midst of a golf tournament, she cozies up to one of the pros, Jerry (Paul Burke), during a moment of vulnerability. Before long, they're in bed, but before she'll give up the goods, she coos and purrs and gets him to promise to kill the doc if she'll get rid of his real cad of an opponent on the links.

Thinking she's joking, Jerry agrees. She's not, and runs over his nemesis with a golf cart a few times (in the most unconvincing day-for-night shots in film history) before putting a putter in his skull four times just to be sure. Then she eats a hamburger, because midnight murder makes one famished, I guess.

Jerry's stunned, but hey, a deal's a deal. Besides, Diana surreptitiously videotaped their pillow talk and, um, everything else, and is more than happy to share the footage with Jerry's wife and/or the police.

While behind the times with misogynist ideas about a woman's place is beside her man and nowhere else, "Stranger" also was ahead of its time in its seduction-by-psycho plot that would later spark one hot subgenre in the late '80s when Glenn Close boiled rabbit, and continued well on into the early '90s when Sharon Stone skinned beaver.

Unlike those films, "Stranger" is squeaky-clean in all departments, really, relying on story rather than shock and sex to keep viewers entertained, and it does that awfully well. The characters' hairstyles and clothes may be long gone, but seeing every color in the rainbow pulsing within the same frame is kind of a kick. Overall suspense is thin, but it's there, taking its inspiration from "Strangers on a Train."

Lynley, however, is the real star of the show, turning in a pouty performance that never veers toward camp. You know she's going to be bad news in a good way when the first scene has her harpoon a kid's beach ball for the fun of it. Why isn't her turn more heralded? Why isn't this "Kiss" better-known? As she tells one of many schlubs she takes advantage of, don't think about it "? just pucker up. "?Rod Lott


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