|Nov 12 2022
Sometimes it's better if you don't go all the way.
Above is another case where the foreign promo material for a film surpasses the domestic version, something that happened increasingly as U.S. studios gave up on painted art, while foreign distributors kept on with the traditional ways. These two Italian promos were made for Quando baci una sconosciuta, which was produced in the U.S. as Once You Kiss a Stranger. The film stars the lovely Carol Lynley, so the odds of ending up with a nice domestic poster were high, but Warner Brothers flubbed it. Have a look at their effort below and we think you'll agree it's almost disgracefully bad. Meanwhile the Italian promos were painted by Tino Avelli, someone whose we've highlighted before, and while these don't rise to the level as some of most magnificent posters from Italy, they're still pretty nice.
Once You Kiss a Stranger is a reworking of Patricia Highsmith's 1950 novel Strangers on a Train, but with a woman in one of the leads. These days many would complain that this is evil “gender swapping,” but dramatic plotlines are finite in number, therefore freshening up old material in this way has always been attractive to Hollywood. They're doing it a bit more of late because today there are fewer new ideas than ever, and because ticket buyers—by which we mean the diverse people under age thirty who actually fuel profits—like it and put down good money to see it.
Lynley plays a deranged woman who intends to exchange murders with a golf pro played by Paul Burke. Lynley is about to be permanently committed to a mental institution, while Burke always finishes second in his tournaments to Phil Carey. Lynley offers to solve that problem by killing Carey, and expects Burke to kill her psychiatrist in exchange. Just as in the novel, as well as Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 cinematic adaptation, the key to making this plot device work is the protagonist not believing what he's being told. Once You Kiss a Stranger makes that part more realistic than either Highsmith or Hitchcock by simply having Burke agree to anything that gets the tanned and toned Lynley into bed. This is where casting a woman pays dividends. The entire entrapment is now in shorthand because everyone in the cinema understands the visceral need to get inside Lynley. Hell, for her we'd promise to rope the moon. We'd swear an oath while covered in goat's blood. We'd swim a lake of fire.
Point is, you can understand Burke's attitude being, “Uh huh... I hear you... murder... understood... can you take off your panties real slow?” However, Burke being led by his dick into trouble is the only improvement Once You Kiss a Stranger manages over what came before. The rest is a pale imitation of two scintillating sources, and done on a level dialogue-wise that Mystery Science Theater 3000 would epically mock. We can't recommend it, but speaking only for ourselves, we'll watch anything with Lynley. Full stop. Once You Kiss a Stranger, with her, Burke, Carey, and the lovely Martha Hyer aged forty-five and looking fantastic, premiered today in 1969.
ItalyQuando baci una sconosciutaOnce You Kiss a StrangerStrangers on a TrainCarol LynleyPaul BurkeMartha HyerPhilip CareyPeter Lind HayesPatricia HighsmithAlfred HitchcockTino Avelliposter artliteraturecinemamovie review