Killer's Kiss

Overview

Stanley Kubrick's second feature film, Killer's Kiss was made on a budget of $40,000, all raised by Kubrick's relatives. The black-and-white drama was shot principally at night in a variety of seedy Manhattan locations. The plot, told in an extended flashback, covers two days in the life of boxer Davy Gordon (Jamie Smith) -- he meets nightclub dancer Gloria Price (Irene Kane); the two fall in love, and decide to make their futures somewhere other than New York City. But Gloria is lusted after by her ex-employer, ...
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Overview

Stanley Kubrick's second feature film, Killer's Kiss was made on a budget of $40,000, all raised by Kubrick's relatives. The black-and-white drama was shot principally at night in a variety of seedy Manhattan locations. The plot, told in an extended flashback, covers two days in the life of boxer Davy Gordon (Jamie Smith) -- he meets nightclub dancer Gloria Price (Irene Kane); the two fall in love, and decide to make their futures somewhere other than New York City. But Gloria is lusted after by her ex-employer, Vince Rapallo (Frank Silvera), who not only won't take "no" for an answer but has no intention of losing her to a two-bit boxer. His machinations lead to murder, a police manhunt, and revenge in the best film noir fashion -- the very best, in fact, as Kubrick's use of real New York settings (and very ominous and sleazy New York settings at that) gives the action here a startling verisimilitude, as though we're watching a documentary, or the unfolding of actual events. The violence escalates as Davy and Rapallo find themselves going one-on-one, to the death if need be, with a climax in a warehouse filled with department store mannequins and their various component parts. Director-writer-photographer-editor Kubrick wasn't pleased with the studio-imposed ending added by its distributor (United Artists), but that compromise was a lot more logical and satisfying than the filmmaker's intended denouement. Irene Kane, who played the female lead, subsequently achieved success as TV commentator and journalist Chris Chase; also appearing in the film is Kubrick's then-wife Ruth Sobotka. And Frank Silvera, who plays the villain, was among the most prominent black actors working in theater and films during the 1950s, and eventually achieved stardom on television a dozen years later with his role on the NBC series The High Chapparal.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Stanley Kubrick revealed himself a master of visual storytelling in Killer's Kiss, his second film (and his first to get a fairly wide release, through United Artists). The pictorial aspect of the movie is beyond reproach, whether he is shooting in a squalid rooming house in Times Square or the old Penn Station, or in some of the darkest, most forbidding alleyways and rooftops that he seemingly could find. And he is also very good at moving his actors around in front of the camera. What he had a lot to learn about -- as is evident throughout Killer's Kiss -- was working with dialogue; the two leads are very stiff and unconvincing whenever they open their mouths; to be fair, their inadequacies as actors here, and Kubrick's difficulty in dealing with dialogue convincingly (which he would overcome in his next movie, The Killing), may be accentuated as a result of how brilliantly he handles the visuals; if he weren't so good at the latter, the dialogue might not seem so awkward at times. Had this movie been shot as a silent (or without dialogue, in the manner of Russell Rouse's The Thief), it might have fared far better critically. As it is, the photography by Kubrick (who handled his own camera here) is so striking that the movie holds up on that basis alone, even 50 years later, and demands to be seen. Further, the movie's most famous scene, in which hero Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith) and villain Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera) battle almost to the death in a warehouse filled with mannequins, is still extremely effective and notably eerie, which is another tribute to the director's visual sense across a half-century. The movie's full impact, however, as with most of Kubrick's work, can only really be appreciated on the big screen, although -- at the risk of belaboring a point -- the drawback in that setting is that the stiffness of the dialogue (especially between Smith and Irene Kane) also comes through in larger-than-life fashion.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/1/1998
  • UPC: 027616231031
  • Original Release: 1955
  • Rating:

  • Source: Mgm (Video & Dvd)
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Frank Silvera Vincent Rapallo
Jamie Smith Davy Gordon
Irene Kane Gloria Price
Jerry Jarret Albert, the Fight Manager
Michael Dana Hoodlum
Felice Orlandi Gangster
Ralph Roberts Gangster
Phil Stevenson Gangster
David Vaughan Conventioneer
David Vaughan Conventioneer
Alec Rubin Conventioneer
Technical Credits
Stanley Kubrick Director, Cinematographer, Editor, Producer, Screenwriter
Morris Bousel Producer
Gerald Fried Score Composer
Howard O. Sackler Screenwriter
David Vaughan Choreography
David Vaughan Choreography
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