Michael and Roberta Findlay’s Take Me Naked (1966) opens on the sight of a pair of bare breasts while some dialogue regarding the mysteries of sexual origin is spoken. The moment acts as if it’s going to attempt to solve the infinite mystery of physical pleasure but there is something rather acrid in this thought given the people who would be solving this riddle for us are Michael and Roberta Findlay, perhaps the most unqualified people on the planet to explain sex to anyone not already a self-proclaimed degenerate.
Most of Take Me Naked is a dreamlike fugue in support of an ode to overthinking sexual desire and then, abruptly, it takes a left turn in releasing that energy in entirely the wrong direction. A bricolage of semi-arty compositions and a floaty collection of inner-dialogues and dreamy ideas cushioning a thriller, Take Me Naked is a constant rush of very florid descriptions of sexual pleasure that make it sound like the most existentially terrifying thing on earth; often described as if it were so torturous, one would wish it were possible to negotiate it down to something that was equitable to a bad mushroom trip.
The plot is pretty simple even it takes unusual avenues to map it all out. Ultimately, this is not a movie about Michael Findlay’s sad-ass street wanderer who we see in the opening moments but the even sadder wino on which Findlay spies (Kevin Sullivan, first seen in the opening of The Sin Syndicate). The wino, drunk on lust for his neighbor (Roberta Findlay), cheap hooch, and Pierre Louys poetry, goes the long way about things and ends up murdering both of the Findlays in either a drunken rage or delusion. Padded as the film may be, the mix of graphic horror and sex ended up being the perfect gravy train for the Findlays who would perfect the formula over the next couple of years.
The misery of the flotsam of New York is given a good going over via Michael Findlay’s voice-over in the film’s opening moments which matches his pointed and drawn out articulations with some fine street-level photography, all of which looks stolen in the best possible way. And watching the hulking figure of Michael Findlay amble down the rain slicked streets of New York with his thoughts booming over the soundtrack gives this a real proto-Taxi Driver feel in the same way the Findlay’s Flesh trilogy would create the blueprint for the slasher films in the 80’s. The difference between this and its progeny is where it’s all coming from. As brilliant as Taxi Driver is, the neurosis gripping Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader, who was kind of a mess, couldn’t hold a candle to Michael Findlay, who was a true mess. And as misogynistic as all of the slasher films might have seemed to scholars and critics, the kind of curdling hate for the opposite gender meted out by even the most noxious of slasher films paled in comparison to the explicit disdain on display in any of Michael’s works, even those on which Roberta would get a co-credit, as was the case with Take Me Naked (as Anna Riva with an additional credit for the lighting). For in his art was a surrogate for their strange union; libidinous but cursed into a kind of darkness that could only have sprung from backgrounds steeped in religious shame.
How strangely curious was their relationship? Well, in Take Me Naked, Roberta Findlay herself is the lead and, when we first see her, she is the object of a wino’s voyeurism and is immediately described as not having a lover nor friends. Further tying her to this trash derelict, Findlay notes “She is he after all and is alone. Alone to do whatever she wants. And he imagines it in all it’s UGLINESS.” This is after he had gagged and tied her to a pool table in 1965’s Satan’s Bed and before he murders her in the opening moments of A Thousand Pleasures in 1968.
But the Ugliness in Take Me Naked is watching Roberta go through the motions in various states of undress. Despite her proclamation of taking the role out of jealousy for the other models Michael worked with, she really only conveys just how much she would rather be somewhere else other than in front of the camera. Though she was quite a smoke show, a sexploitation figure she was not. Take Me Naked is what society would now consider something of an incel manifesto made demonstratively worse by Michael making Roberta the central figure of scorn while ALSO parading her around with nothing on while she looks like she’s in a hostage video. This would be ok if it weren’t that Roberta Findlay was kind of the antithesis to Lina Romay, the adventurous, romantic partner and later-wife of Jess Franco who was literally down to do anything in front of the camera and with an unbridled zeal that continues to garner her fans by the day.
In Take Me Naked, the Findlay’s filmmaking pieces are on better display than in Michael’s two previous efforts but they feel a little disassembled and not quite as ready for prime time as they would be with their next efforts. It gets an early utilization of the Vaseline lens that became their trademark and one might be tempted to accuse the film of leaning a little too heavily on it in its second half. But ultimately, Take Me Naked is kind of a highbrow poetry slam meets downtown flesh show and while it’s not terribly great at being either of these things, it certainly captures a mood and a specific time. More importantly, it raises a curtain to the slimy underneath that fueled the Findlay’s partnership and informed the state of mind Roberta carried with her a few years later to a more fruitful, Michael-free career.
(C) Copyright 2022, Patrick Crain