NUDE IN A WHITE CAR. Champs-Élysées Productions, French, 1958. Original title: Toi … le venin. Also released as Blonde in a White Car. Robert Hossein, Marina Vlady, Odile Versois, Héléna Manson. Based on the novel C’est toi le venin… by Frédéric Dard. Director: Robert Hossein.

   Back when I was a teenager in Columbus, Ohio, one of the local TV stations seemed like kind of a slap-dash affair, particularly on weekends, when the station was apparently run by the town drunk and the village idiot, and anything might turn up in the afternoon or late at night, regardless of what was listed in the paper.

   What did turn up generally started at the wrong time and, if it was a movie, came on cut to ribbons, flickering across the little black-and-white screen like a bruised and battered prize-fighter trying to hold up to the last round.

   I particularly recall one Sunday when a Fritz Lang movie was supposed to start at 2:30 PM. Knowing how things were on Channel Six and not wanting to miss any, I tuned in at two o’clock and was treated to thirty minutes of silent footage showing a kid hitting a paddle-ball, followed by the movie promptly starting at 2:30—with the first thirty minutes cut out! Such were weekends at Channel Six.


   So I don’t know if they ever actually showed Nude in a White Car, but they listed it in the paper every six weeks or so, always on a Sunday night/Monday morning at 1 AM, which was quite beyond the viewing grasp of the High School kid I was back in the 60s.

   And I can best leave to your imagination the effect those words Nude in a White Car in tiny print buried in the Sunday Paper TV section had on the fantasies of a tawdry youth like myself. Suffice it to say that the film became something of an obsession with me, and I finally found a DVD of it last year, nearly a half-century after those thrilling days of yesteryear.

   Well, I wasn’t expecting a great deal, and I found the movie (titled Toi, le venin, which loosely translates to “You, Venom!”) rather a mixed bag, with an edgy, hard-boiled attitude, a fascinating premise and somewhat slack execution.


   The premise: Pierre (Robert Hossein) an out-of-work “celebrity” walking the beach at Nice one night gets picked up by the eponymous babe. Following a dark-and-steamy encounter, she forces him from the car at gunpoint, then tries to run him down.

   Well we’ve all had relationships like that, but Pierre is determined to repay the favor. He tracks down the car to an elegant mansion shared by two wealthy half-sisters, Helene and Eva (Odile Versois and Marina Vlady): both blonde, both beautiful and both obviously interested in getting to know him better.

   Which is the one from the car? Well one has been in a wheelchair since she was a teenager and the other just doesn’t seem the type, so it’s Pierre who must get to know them better, then decide what form his retribution will take.

   Up to this point, Nude has been tense, amoral, riveting and sexy. But it soon degenerates into merely sexy as Pierre literally dicks around trying to decide which sister he can trust and which one is a psycho who tried to kill him.

   After awhile, even the sexy bits pale (this was filmed in 1958 after all) and all we get is a domestic triangle, with the attempted murder pushed way in the background. It all gets a bit wearisome, but I have to say the ending is a shocker that caught me off-guard, grimly poetic and just plain nasty, and it’s worth getting around to.