Naked Obsession (1990): The Kink… And How to Get it

Matty knocks boots with Dan Golden’s awesome erotic thriller.

Consistently funny, often surreal, and occasionally deeply disturbing, the wonderfully pulpy NAKED OBSESSION is, without question, one of the best kept secrets of ‘90s genre cinema; a sensory-driven B-flick that teems with wit, energy, and an impish desire to shock and provoke with some of the finest ribald naughtiness this side of John Waters.

Following a repressed city councilman’s walk on the wild side, this charismatic amalgam of absurdist comedy, trashy horror, and lurid titillation feels like a spiritual successor to both Brian DePalma’s Body Double (1984) and Ken Russell’s Crimes of Passion (1984). Working from a smart, twisty screenplay he co-wrote with Robert Dodson (a name that reeks of being someone’s pseudonym — Naked Obsession is “Dodson’s” sole film credit), Dan Golden’s remarkably accomplished directorial debut is also preemptive of Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down (1993). As well as being built around the same notions of rugged individualism, Naked Obsession likewise alludes to the same social and political tensions that were bubbling in Los Angeles at the time, until they came to a head in the city’s 1992 riots.

Performances range from serviceable to excellent, with the interplay between lead William Katt and the scene-stealing Rick Dean (as the potentially supernatural catalyst to Katt’s emotional awakening) the film’s strongest suit. Maria Ford makes a good fist of her limited screen time, even if her part exists solely to fill the nudity quotient and thrust Golden’s eyebrow-raising plot — which involves urban renewal, strangle-fucking and murder — forward. Not that the plot needs anymore pushing, mind you. Briskly paced, Naked Obsession is a dizzying whirlwind that barely pauses for breath. Loosely inspired by a 1986 case dubbed ‘The Preppy Murder’, Golden’s colourful plunge into the depths of depravity is structured and presented like the sort of dreams you get after a hard night on the sauce, when last night’s decadence starts giving way to panic stricken sobriety and you can’t tell the difference between what you’ve dreamt in a drunken haze and what you actually did. And in the rare moments where something sexy, weird or out and out nightmarish isn’t happening, Golden and cinematographer Dick Buckley ladle on so much vibrant aesthetic gravy that, at the very least, Naked Obsession works as a perpetually engaging feast for the peepers. Bonus points, too, for being kind of uplifting, albeit in its own uniquely seedy way.  

Bankrolled by Roger Corman and apparently playing theatrically in Burbank for a week in December 1990, Naked Obsession slid to U.S. tape in early 1991 via Vestron, and popped up over the years on Showtime in censored form before being shown in all its uncut glory on Cinemax. Criminally, it remains unreleased here in the U.K.

USA ● 1990 ● Erotic Thriller ● 85mins

William Katt, Rick Dean, Maria Ford ● Dir. Dan Golden Wri. Robert Dodson, from a story by Dodson and Dan Golden

Naked Obsession (1990)

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