Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Killer’s Kiss

Killer's KissCinema Monolith: 7/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!
IMDb: 6.7/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: ** out of 4

Released on October 1, 1955
Not rated
67 minutes

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Written by Stanley Kubrick and Howard Sackler

Cast: Jamie Smith, Irene Kane, Frank Silvera, Jerry Jarrett, Mike Dana, Felice Orlandi, Skippy Adelman, Ralph Roberts, Phil Stevenson, Ruth Sobotka, David Vaughan, Alec Rubin, Jack Curtis (voice)

A later entry in the film noir cycle, but one of the early films of Stanley Kubrick, who for a relative first-timer had a lot to offer when it came to artistry, working with a very limited budget, and using guerrilla filmmaking to get the best out of authentic New York City locations. His noir skills weren’t all that shabby, either, displaying a solid grasp of the style’s typical elements that would come to fruition one year later with his classic heist film The Killing.

Here, the film opens with a man waiting at a busy train station, then through flashbacks we see that he’s a down-on-his-luck boxer, who meets a lonely dance hall girl in the apartment building where they both live; soon they make the decision to escape the grasp of their nowhere lives together, but not before the girl’s hoodlum boss makes things difficult for them. By the time we return to the station, it appears that things aren’t going to end happily…but this time, believe it or not, I went against noir convention and was actually hoping for the story to wrap-up on a high note. These two had been through the wringer, and to me they deserved a positive ending.

Told in a compact 67 minutes, Kubrick did just about did everything right with what he had to work with: a rough-edged story, fantastic use of stark lighting, some well-staged boxing scenes, and many stylistic camera angles, including a great shot of two thugs menacing an innocent man in a back alley…one of the finest noir moments I’ve ever seen. The gritty chase and fight conclusion in a mannequin warehouse wasn’t bad, either, and had a natural, unstaged air about it. Not a bad little noir if you take it at face value, and a must for students of Kubrick’s work.

I first saw this film many years ago, and my feelings towards it then were lukewarm at best. But as my appreciation for noir films grew over time, so did my appreciation for Killer’s Kiss. Granted, it was definitely made on the cheap, and it was obvious that the dialogue and sounds were recorded in post-production (though there wasn’t that much dialogue to begin with), and the film’s 16mm black-and-white documentary look occasionally worked against it…but overall, this was quite an achievement for Kubrick, and a worthy addition to the noir library.   (7/10)

Killer's Kiss - photo final

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6 comments on “Killer’s Kiss

  1. Lindsey
    4/11/13

    Great review, Todd! The only thing we seem to disagree on is the ending. Being the cynic that I am, there’s nothing that I love more than an unhappy noir ending, and I was really glad this one didn’t go the fluffy route. (I did feel sympathy for them, but not enough sympathy to justify any degree of happy ending :P)

    • Todd Benefiel
      4/11/13

      Thanks Lindsey! And yes, I too prefer a dark, unhappy ending for my film noirs…almost every time! With this one, I found myself hoping she would show up at the station, and thankfully when she did it wasn’t a drawn-out, cheeseball wrap-up; just a quick embrace, end titles, and fade out. But what puzzles me is, did you see an alternate ending (the Kubrick ‘savage bloodletting’ cut), or do you consider hugging and kissing a perfectly non-fluffy way to end a movie? Because I just double-checked my disc, and that sure as sunshine looked like a happy ending!

      • Lindsey
        4/11/13

        My disc had a couple of tiny skips (it was a library copy, and apparently the library patrons of Michigan don’t know how to borrow DVDs without ruining them). It must have cut out a few minutes before the actual end! Now I’m bummed. I’ll have to seek out a better copy of it.

      • Todd Benefiel
        4/11/13

        Trust me, Arizona libraries have the same patrons…which is why I don’t often borrow from them. That’s so weird (and funny, to some extent) that your DVD went daft right at that moment: I had a happy ending, and you thought you had a sour one! If you liked your ending better, maybe you shouldn’t seek out a better copy! And coming soon from MGM: Killer’s Kiss with the recently-discovered ‘Lindsey’s Bummer Cut’ alternate ending.

      • Lindsey
        4/12/13

        I usually have good luck at my library because our collection is huge and most people gravitate toward the new releases. This and Adam’s Rib are the only classic discs I’ve ever had major problems with. All of the other skips were 5-10 seconds long though, so I just assumed I missed a few more seconds of him standing alone. Good on MGM for releasing an alternate ending just for me 😛

      • Todd Benefiel
        4/12/13

        Hey, no problem! I’m tight with a few execs at MGM…any happy films you’d now like to see end on a sour note, just let me know!

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