Killer's Kiss Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ February 27, 2012
Kubrick's second feature, and first noir, is a thrill to watch, if only to see the seeds of a budding legend be sown in front of your very eyes. Without exaggeration, Killer's Kiss features some of the best deep focus long shots I have ever seen, and the visual sophistication Kubrick employs (with a keen emphasis on motif, symbolism and mood lighting) demonstrates that even early on, he was worlds ahead of many of his colleagues in terms of directorial aptitude and his command of cinematic language. No one shot is the same, no one angle is replicated. Unfortunately, the scant running time inhibits any real chance at character development (or narrative development, for that matter) but that's okay -- there's more than enough to marvel at.
Super Reviewer
½ September 24, 2011
Vincent Rapallo: Like the man said, "Can happiness buy money?" 

"Her Soft Mouth Was the Road to Sin-Smeared Violence!"

I found Stanley Kubrick's second directorial effort, Killer's Kiss, to be a pretty solid film. I enjoyed watching this early work from Kubrick. It was good and you can see some of his techniques when it comes to camera work, but that's about the only thing that makes it seem like a Kubrick film. Obviously it was made on a small budget with a no name cast, who I thought was actually decent, and all in all it turned out to be a entertaining film. It's just crazy and cool to think about how Kubrick went from this little, low-budget, hour long romance thriller to films like 2001 and The Shining.  To the world of Kubrick fans, this is kind of considered his first true film, despite the fact that he made Fear and Desire. Kubrick, himself, hated that film and didn't even want people to see it. 

There's cool little sequences in this movie, such as the final fight scene that basically mirrors the boxing match. There's a little hint of what is to come from Kubrick. His great foreshadowing was on display here in an early work. The music seems like it belongs anywhere else as long as that place isn't a Kubrick film. This is the only film from him where I didn't particularly care for the score.

This movie is cool in that it shows the start of an immense talent. It shows a starting point for what would become one of the, if not the, greatest directors of all-time. It's cool to see that he always had an eye for cool shots and how to make a scene awesome visually even without a big budget, cool effects and huge set pieces. If you are a fan of Stanley Kubrick, you need to see this movie.
Super Reviewer
½ August 22, 2011
I was really taken aback by "Killer's Kiss;" Stanley Kubrick's ultra-independent second feature. This film is just so obscure, compelling and visceral. The cinematography, by Kubrick himself (he also edited, directed, wrote and produced) is stunning. The film has such an urgent time and place and New York City literally intrudes, seeps into, every frame. Because of this, the film has an energy and uncanny (sort of) cohesion. The film can be spare and abstract but it's fun to see Kubrick working in these perameters, or lack there of. "Killer's Kiss" is chock full is surreal, compelling imagery that stands alongside Jean-Luc Godard and even David Lynch at times.
Super Reviewer
July 1, 2011
This is a solid noir film with a brilliantly staged finale that is not only unique for its time but is tense throughout. It is nowhere near Kubrick's later masterpieces like A Clockwork Orange and 2001, but it is pretty solid for someone only making their second feature.
Super Reviewer
January 19, 2009
Kubrick's style is minimalistic and effective in this narrated noir gem that features nobody I'd ever heard of before or since.
Super Reviewer
½ February 9, 2011
A marvelous and auspicious beginning. The flashback transitions and overdubbing bothered me a little bit, but otherwise, it's definitely a Kubrick film...and a great one at that!
Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2010
A pretty good attempt at film noir from Kubrick, but not as good as his later films. Only see if you're a really big fan of his work.
Super Reviewer
½ May 5, 2007
Holy photography this movie is gorgeous. Kubrick is defiantly finding his signature style...but the script with all of the flashbacks is not quite as sharp as it could have been. Well worth seeing in spite of that...oh and the mannequin sequence is amazing.
Super Reviewer
½ July 24, 2007
Kubrick's noirish second film. great story and performers. a short, fun and bold little gem.
Super Reviewer
½ October 25, 2006
Great early Kubrick. He wasn't there yet but he was well on his way...
The Pieper Review
Super Reviewer
August 17, 2011
"It's crazy how you can get yourself in a mess sometimes and not even be able to think about it with any sense; and yet not be able to think about anything else." - Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith) in Killer's Kiss

Like all great directors, Stanley Kubrick had to start somewhere. After being a photographer for Look Magazine, the young Kubrick began to quench his thirst for filmmaking with two short films. One of them is the very rare to find Fear and Desire (1953), the other is the slightly less rare to find Killer's Kiss made in 1955 by a 26-year -old Kubrick. Though he wouldn't gain any widespread commercial acclaim until 1956's heist feature, The Killing, Killer's Kiss is certainly even more early evidence of Stanley Kubrick's incomparable future genius.

The plot of Killer's Kiss is relatively simple and takes in the tradition of the classic American film noir. The opening credits show the lead, a veteran boxer named Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith) pacing around a train station, eventually kicking the film off with a voiceover hinting that a story's about to unfold. Davey then goes on, on flashback mode, to recount the tale of how he fell in love with a night club dancer (Irene Kane), and faced the wrath of her corrupt boss (Frank Silvera) whose wrath derives from being smitten and insane.

While the screenplay of Killer's Kiss is clean cut noir, the pace can be a bit meandering for a film so short (67 minutes). There are scenes of the mundane that seem to go on much too long, sort of like in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey with just about everything, but this time these mundane activities aren't transpiring in space. Despite these lingering moments, Kubrick still oozes with apparent technique and some innovative shots, especially when he uses mirrors.

The better part of Stanley Kubrick's filmography is incredibly surrealistic but Killer's Kiss, on its shoestring budget, doesn't capture the same surrealism Kubrick's fans value so highly. This, again, does not mean Killer's Kiss is not a fascinating watch, the sole distinction that is in fact a Kubrick envisioned film is a cinematic treasure in and of itself, but it certainly isn't the quintessential Kubrick picture. There is one standout scene in the movie that is haunting and iconic in a way only a great director could muster. The climactic battle between Rapallo and Gordon would be a run of the mill fight scene; if it wasn't in a choicely gothic mannequin warehouse. It also wouldn't be the last time Kubrick would shoot a madman swinging an axe.

Kubrick, always the perfectionist, never wanted the film's ending to be happy and he was completely right in this fact, but artistically raped by the big studio. While a non-Hollywood ending would have made the Killer's Kiss a tad more memorable, cinematic history is much better off with a successful Kubrick rather than an unfulfilled one. Fans of Kubrick's work will adore Killer's Kiss as a film equivalent of a B-side curio by a favorite band and bask in the foreshadowing of the director's future glory.

Grade: C+
Reviewed by Ben Pieper on August 18th 2011
Super Reviewer
November 10, 2011
Not a bad film (it has some interesting techniques), but not an especially great one either. Some shots are unique, but the story was lacking. It would have been a little better if Hollywood didn't tell Kubrick he had to film a 'happy ending' version.
Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ May 27, 2011
"I know it was you Fredo, you broke my heart, you broke my heart!" I'm sorry, but I can't help but think of the kiss of death whenever I see this film's title, but no, people, this isn't like "The Godfather Part II", but its premise does still make me think of Robert De Niro films. It's a black-and-white noir about a boxer who tries to save a [u]taxi[/u] dancer (If you think modern ris-kay dancing is kind of unnerving, they used to prostitute dancing) from violent employers, so this is pretty much a combination of "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull", only, you know, watered down, because this is still the '50s. Well, in all fairness, it may be the '50s, but it's a film by Stanley Kubrick, someone who was so audacious that it would be like him to figure out how to turn a boxing film into a noir thriller. Now, knowing how to make a film that barely made feature length on the other hand, he had some trouble with that, which is probably why he made so many of the films during the body of his career way too blasted long, as irony would have it. Hey, say what you will about the length of the efforts during Kubrick's golden years, I prefer them to the short stuff (I would consider "Full Metal Jacket" the official end of his golden years, because "Eyes Wide Shut" was anything but golden). No, this film is decent, it's just too short, and yet, it still takes plenty of time to fill itself up with some other problems.

Okay, I know that the conclusion to the sentence above seems as though it is to transition out of a discussion regarding the briefness of this film's length, but I should immediately further address this film's being, at only 67 minutes, way too blasted short, taking very little time to flesh out a minimalist story, whose limitations go emphasized by a considerable lack of development. I won't go so far as to say that this film is as underdeveloped as the still admittedly superior "Fear and Desire", but it is, in fact, undercooked, taking little time to expand upon expository depth, yet still taking more time than it should incorporating aspects that serve no real purpose outside of running out the clock. Sure, considering the briefness of this affair, there can't really be too much fat around the edges, but when this film bloats, it really drags its feet as repetitious and somewhat excessive, or at least appears to do so, because if nothing else is bloated in this film, it is, of all things, the relatively quiet moments that have no place in these parts. It's strange enough to say that this film suffers from unevenness in dialogue prominence, and even stranger to say that such an issue is one of the most major ones, but make no mistake, this film's randomly breaking lengthy periods of talk with extended segments of no dialogue at all jar momentum, which, upon shifting, continues to spiral down once we begin to meditate upon quietness that would be duller if Gerald Fried's score wasn't so recurring, but nevertheless distances you from substance's core and blands things into disengaging meanderings. There's certainly enough conversation for you to have some investment in the action (Sorry, Elvis, but sometimes we need more bark than bite), but all of the lulls in dialogue mark lulls in narrative that retard momentum, often to a crawl, and either leave you to drift away or stick with the final product just enough to meditate upon just how thin it really is. There's not really a whole lot to this story, and that makes its issues in pacing and dialogue evenness all the more severe, until you end up with a final product that could have easily slipped into mediocrity, and ends up slipping into forgettable underwhelmingness. Still, before the reel ends, leaving you to walk away barely remembering the picture, there is enough flavor to the final product for it to, pretty much by a hair, pass as decent, or at least stylistically impressive for 1955.

While this film's style is more even than the style of "Fear and Desire", I would consider Stanley Kubrick's first effort more of a rich reflection of his now-legendary talent, no matter what he said about his forgotten debut, though that's not to say that this film wasn't yet another example of what Kubrick was to become: an innovative filmmaking artist with distinct stylistic tastes that could be detected even in this film, whose cinematography, handled by Kubrick himself, plays with lighting in a clever fashion that, like uniquely tight framing, gives you an intimacy with this film, as well as visuals that are about as striking as they could be at the technically limited time. If nothing else, Kubrick delivers on stylish camerawork that comes into particularly fine play during the action sequences, which aren't necessarily spectacular, or even, say, "Spartacus" grade, but impress more often than not, featuring tight choreography and dynamic staging that tenses up the air and is bound to keep plenty on the edge of their seat. Kubrick was too much of a visionary for this time, so his worthy stylistic and action concepts were held back at this time, yet are still worth commenting on, having enough attractiveness to help in selling this story that is, of course, further sold by the performances. Kubrick's then-developing talent for working with performers isn't exactly on glowing display in this film, but most every major performance, whether it be in a subtle way or relatively heavier way, engages adequately with anything from charisma to range that isn't all that dramatically reinforced, but effectiveness to breathe some life into this film's, on paper, drained human factor. The film is so underdeveloped and its dialogue segments are so uneven in prominence, and that distances the human depth that should be driving this drama, yet the performances, underwritten though they may be, do a fair bit in restoring much of the depth to this piece, while Kubrick, as director, really carries this film that he, as irony would have it, holds back so much. Kubrick, as a writer, puts together a fiercely minimalist story, further thinned out by expository shortcomings and even the occasional piece of melodrama, and as director, he can do only so much to compensate for the flaws in his script, yet where a lesser storyteller would have succumb to writing flaws and let his or her effort collapse into mediocrity, Kubrick draws enough intrigue to sustain the final product's decency, making the 67-minute runtime, in a good way, feel longer by keeping up a thoughtful pacing that meditates on what dramatic intensity and liveliness there is to keep entertainment value going just fine, until broken by genuinely effective engagement value. The film is certainly not richly engaging, or else it wouldn't be as forgettable as it kind of is, but when it's all said and done, Kubrick breathes enough life into this both ambitious and messy effort for it to stand as stylish and reasonably intriguing, no matter how underwhelming it may be.

To "kiss" this affair goodbye, underdevelopment and dragging - especially in aimless spells of no dialogue - allow you to meditate upon natural shortcomings, of which there are so many that the final product runs a real risk of collapsing into the mediocrity that it miraculously manages to fend off with the attractive style, decent performances and thoughtfully paced, reasonably engaging directorial storytelling that make "Killer's Kiss" yet another entertaining early accomplishment for Stanley Kubrick, seriously flawed though it may be.

2.5/5 - Fair
Super Reviewer
October 11, 2012
I don't think it's fair just because Kubrick was a young director that's an excuse to over rate this film. Romero, Nolan, and Richard Kelly had possibly there best works in there debut films. This was just wasn't great, Kubrick used some intresting techniques, by just shooting street props for moments of time, but that's not reason to make it fresh. For a 67 minute film it sure is dry, and I for the life of me can't understand what was attractive about that selfish lady, she was just as bad as the one from The Killing. There were also some very clear plot holes in the screen play, ones that were easy to spot too.
Super Reviewer
½ December 29, 2011
Good camera work. The music was a nice aspect to that film because it drives the film forward. An average script with average actors, the dialogue was rather boring. Much of the film is conventional, but at times it loosens up and comes to life. Of course, this is very early Kubrick. Near the end it begins to really come to life in terms of it having that Kubrick feel to it. The final scene where Davey is visciously attacked is shocking and the best moments of the film come after it. When Davey wanders into the apartment with the mannequins, I finally saw absolute proof of this film having shaped Kubrick his unique style. CHEESY ending. He should've cut the film 2 minutes earlier.
Super Reviewer
½ June 10, 2011
The nighttime shots of New York are amazing and fit the mood and feel of the film hand in hand. The story itself is one of hard luck, jealousy, love and of course violence. Kubrick's second feature film is a prototype, albeit itself a wonderful film, to his third film The Killing. Killer's Kiss is a wonderfully dark and edgy noir piece that Kubrick achieved with a mere $40,000 budget and doing most of the work himself! You could see how the director was already gifted even at the age of 28 and this film foreshadows just hot great a director he would be throughout his vast career in film. Highly Recommended, especially if you are a Film-Noir junkie like myself!
Super Reviewer
April 17, 2010
Fascinating early work from one of cinema's masters.
Francisco G.
Super Reviewer
½ November 28, 2012
A very well shot noir story, with some beautiful scenes, like the ballet scene, the last fighting scene amongst others, with a story that's a bit too simplistic but works for the most part.

Feels more like an exercise for Kubrick's to perfect his technique rather than anything else but it works and is a welcome addition to his upcoming masterpieces.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2012
It's understandable why "Killer's Kiss" is left out of the conversation when people talk about Stanley Kubrick. It's his most unremarkable outing; a film that's greatly lacking in several crucial aspects. Poor acting, shallow writing and a painfully slow pace contribute to the film's overall blandness. The photography and editing are unique in places, but for the most part, "Killer's Kiss" is forgettable. I understand that it was a low-budget venture, but since when does having a low budget call for poor craftsmanship?
Critique Threatt
Super Reviewer
April 20, 2010
Stanley Kubrick's early works. If anything the locations of Manhattan caught my eye rather then the characters. Still K'sK deserves a tomato.
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