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This is an oddly conventional film for Kubrick to make, up until it's final moments I was expecting him to completely subvert the genre he was working in or for some surrealist elements to pop out at me but no it was just a mediocre noir. This was the second feature film Kubrick made after Fear and Desire (1953) and like that film the running time is only slightly over 60 minutes and it shows because his directorial voice hasn't been fully defined yet and although his films look beautiful there is not the sense of any real engagement with the story or the characters. The film's screenplay, written by Howard Sackler, struggles to build meaningful relationships and voiceover shows that the central lovers are falling for one another. This is a clearly flawed film and it is hard to stay engaged in it, like Fear and Desire he clearly still had room to grow.
The main characters in the film are Davey Gordon, Jamie Smith, a struggling boxer who recently lost a major fight, Gloria Price, Irene Kane, a professional dancer who has been abused by her boss Vincent Raphallo, Frank Silvera, who is intent on tracking Gordon down and killing him. Gordon and Price live in the same apartment complex and are directly opposite from one another therefore Gordon witnesses Raphallo's abuse of Price through his window and rescues her then falling in love with her. They decide that they will run away together and Price attempts to collect the money she is owed from Vincent whilst Gordon attempts to extract money from his manager. The men that Raphallo has sent to find Gordon lead to several misunderstandings and disastrous consequences. The film wraps up with a surprisingly happy ending as the two lovers are reunited and will most likely escape together and live happily ever after.
The screenplay, as I mentioned previously, could use some improvement. We take a classic film noir set up, as seen in They Live By Night (1948), with your tough but down on his luck hero and your tragic, fragile blonde but there is none of the snappy byplay found in the greats like Criss Cross (1949) and The Blue Dahlia (1946). Instead of actually building a meaningful romantic relationship between the two people that we are meant to be rooting for we are just meant to assume that they are in love because hey they are both very nice to look at and that's what usually happens in films of this type. I'm not expecting Nora Ephron or Cameron Crowe style dialogue in their interactions but some sense of romance or even attraction beyond the physical would have made this a much more enjoyable viewing experience.
Perhaps it's just that this is not Kubrick's type of film, generally his films express contempt for their main characters and ask you to either watch them be punished or to see them represent some greater idea. His best film 2001: A Space Odyssey contains little dialogue as we are left to marvel at the glorious images he has produced. He seems to be torn between creating a classic noir love story in this film and treating the characters the way he clearly wants to. Having thinly drawn characters, like Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey, doesn't hurt the film if the ideas it interacts with are interestingly dealt with but with a film as traditional as this all of the elements that we've seen before have to be special to have any real resonance and Killer's Kiss does not achieve this.
The positives that I could identify within the film were the cinematography and the performance of Irene Kane as the female leading lady who is rather good when she is given a moment to express emotions instead of directly telling us. The black and white is gorgeous and the shots of Kane's face and the altercation between Kane and Raphallo in the dancehall are stunning and prove that Kubrick had enormous technical even towards the beginning of his career. Kane has Grace Kelly-esque qualities which could be said of so many impersonators but she has a shine to her in this film which you can see in her fearful quivering at the dancehall and her lusty gaze at Gordon towards the beginning of the film.
Not a film that you have to see unless you want to be a Kubrick completest, as I would say of all of his work previous to Lolita (1962), excepting Doctor Strangelove (1964). If you want to see the origin of his filmmaking ability and a good Irene Kane performance then go ahead but the lack of originality and poor screenplay really lets this one down. I believe that this is one of his weakest as most films in his early canon are.
Kubrick's second feature film is an improvement over his first feature and provides his audience with a good noir story.
Quite unique and interesting shooting angles over other movies at that time of years. Having mannequins is also perplexing and stunning display.
A watchable start from the man we know to come.
Good, but not great - far from Kubrick's best. 7/10
A washed-up boxer, Davey Gordon, falls in love with his neighbour, Gloria Price, a dancer. They plan to leave town but unfortunately, her boss is infatuated with her and is determined that she not leave. He is not above using violence to achieve his aims and Gloria and Davey's lives are soon in danger.
Stanley Kubrick's second movie (the first being the unacclaimed "Fear and Desire" of 1953). Written, directed, produced and edited by him, this is a movie of a man still learning the ropes. It's also the movie of a man without fame enough to get a decent budget. The fact that he has so many credits in this movie, especially producer, shows how he had to make do. The lack of a name actor/actress in the cast also shows this, and, to an extent, hurts the movie.
Plot is decent, though quite basic. Seems pretty conventional but Kubrick ramps up the action and suspense towards the end, making it a fairly rewarding story in the end.
Performances are the weakest aspect, largely due, as mentioned, to the no-name actors. Some pretty hammy performances, though, thankfully, the dialogue is quite limited.
What prevents this from being just your average B-grade drama, and probably what ensured that Kubrick still had a career in film, is the cinematography. This is where you can see Kubrick's genius for film (his background was in photography, so not a surprise). Kubrick's camera work carries the movie.
Was torn between giving a 6 or a 7. Went with a 7 in the end - the last few scenes kicked it up a notch.
"Killer's Kiss" doesn't add up to one of the all-time great film noir flicks, but it's better than average: It's quick, nicely shot, and fun to watch. It's the equivalent of a paperback torn through quickly and enjoy, only to find out the author later did some great work.
The beginning of Kubrick. Hints of the genius that made him the greatest director of all time.
Kubrick being my favorite director/moviemaker, it was a real treat to see what he was capable of doing even without a crew and a low budget. It's definitely his most non-Kubrick film meaning that he was still trying out his style with the camera and the way tell the story.
Regardless, it was a pretty interesting story, although short. How about that mannequin factory fight scene, huh? I thought it was really original and interesting and the fight sequence seemed very genuine.
Overall, it was a great movie. It was really cool to see a director and one of my biggest inspirations sort of hone in on his craft and generate his own style almost like watching a genius in the making.
One of the first Kubrick films, film noir, and you can see the master handwriting in this one.
The writing, unfortunately, never lives up to the visionary directing and wonderful cinematography.