Wednesday, February 27, 2013


(September 1955, U.S.)

By all practical accounts, KILLER'S KISS is the first Stanley Kubrick film that is available for viewing in the United States. His very first feature film was called FEAR AND DESIRE (1953) and Kubrick was, apparently, so dissatisfied with it that he chose to withdraw if from circulation. Over the decades, it's managed to disappear from the public view, though I did manage to catch a single airing of it on Turner Classic Movies about a year ago. Like many Kubrick films, it very likely required additional viewings to allow the director's true artistry to come through.

Although being his second full-length feature and released by a major studio (United Artists), it still has all the feeling and flavor of an experimental student film. The film noir story revolving around Davey Gordon (played by Jamie Smith), a welterweight New York boxer at the end of his career, and his relationship with his neighbor, taxi dancer Gloria Price (played by Irene Kane) and her violent employer Vincent Rapallo (played by Frank Silvera) seems barely minimal as a feature-length plot and the dialgoue is clearly post-dubbed. On the other hand, this is the early work of the great Stanley Kubrick and that speaks ten times more than the average Hollywood filmmaker, in my opinion. Still fresh off his early career as a photographer for Look Magazine, Kubrick uses black and white cinematography to capture the hustle and bustle of 1950's New York City, particularly Times Square at night with its lights, traffic, movie theaters and dance halls. The photography is also notable for its location shots in the old Penn Station, which was demolished in 1963. At other times, the outskirts of the city is dead quiet and very foggy to perfectly mix with violent climaxes when Davey is forced to rescue the woman he loves from Rapallo, whom I might also add, is particularly desperate and psychotic as he desperately swings an axe at Davey, trying to kill him without mercy.

There is one particular scene that stands out well involving a long dance solo of a ballerina as Gloria narrates a story of her family to Davey. The story is a rather tragic one that ends in the death of two people, but we're focussed on the passion of the dancer known as Iris to draw us away from tragedy and remind us of how this woman's dancing was her escape from life's disappointing turns.

At best, KILLER'S KISS may be considered an exceptional "warm-up" for Stanley Kubrick's extraordinary talents that would inevitably lead up to early cinematic triumphs as PATHS OF GLORY (1957), LOLITA (1962) and DR. STRANGELOVE (1964).

Favorite line or dialogue:

Vincent Rapallo: "Like the man said, "Can happiness buy money?"

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