Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on October 1, 1955
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)