Movie Critique – Killer's Kiss

Stars: 4 / 5

Recommendation: A film filled with Manhattan showed in it's full glory in the night; a tough boxing match of a fading boxer; a ballet dance interlude; and an interesting climax with the mannequins. This is most certainly 67 minutes of genius we see of a young Stanley Kubrick.

Killer's Kiss is a 1955 American crime film noir directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick, distributed by United Artists. The film stars Jamie Smith, Irene Kane, Frank Silvera and Jerry Jarrett among others. Screenplay was also written by Stanley Kubrick with uncredited support by Howard Sackler. Morris Bousel co-produced the film.

Davey Gordon (portrayed by Jamie Smith) is a middleweight New York boxer who is at the end of the line in his career. He is attracted to Gloria (portrayed by Irene Kane) who is tired of working as a taxi dancer. One day Gloria Price is attacked by her employer Vincent Rapallo (portrayed by Frank Silvera). He comes to her rescue. They both decide to leave New York. But are pursued relentlessly by Vincent making their escape harder and harder. 

The film is notable for on location shooting, giving viewers a front-row seat of glimpses into New York from the 1950s - old Penn Station (which was demolished in 1963), Time Square and some of the Brooklyn streets and SoHo areas.

Irene Kane who plays the female lead, Gloria Price, is a real-life writer and journalist named Chris Chase. Irene Kane is her stage name and Irene Greengard her birth name. This film role is her only notable one among the few acting credits she had. Since Kubrick had decided to post-dub the entire film, Irene's voice was given by radio actress Peggy Lobbin, s Irene was not available for the post-dub. Having never seen any of her movies or TV shows, Irene certainly looked very familiar. 

Jamie Smith, the male lead playing Davey Gordon, unfortunately did not have a successful career on screen. Just like his onscreen character Davey Gordon's career is described as "one long promise without fulfillment", Jamie's career seemed to be the same. He had a short 10 year stint on TV and films between 1952 and 1963.

And we don’t hear anything about him after that. He however is credited to have acted in one episode of a long-running Dutch TV series called Goede tijden, slechte tijden (Good times, bad times) in 1992, 30 years after he left the film world. Wonder what happened to him!

Kubrick's wife, Ruth Sobotka, a famed ballerina in her own rights, performs a long dance solo for her character Iris. It was choreographed by David Vaughan. You can see a framed photograph of Ruth Sobotka in Gloria Price's apartment in the film. 

The opening credits are shown on a backdrop of old Penn Station with Jamie's Davey Gordon waiting for someone with his luggage. Interestingly Frank Silvera gets top billing. It continues to show the film in a flashback mode with Jamie doing the narration. 

When the film aired on Turner Classic Movies (TCM), host Eddie Mueller showed the film poster of the film before the movie.

The original ending of a sad note was changed to happy ending because of the pressure from the studio heads. Kubrick agreed to change the ending because studio was paying him $100K and also funding his next film, the 1956 American film noir The Killing. These are the beginning films by Kubrick when he was still learning, thus considered "student presentation".

The film does bring out Kubrick's talent as a director, cinematographer and editor, even though the film takes more on a documentary look. We can see how he ended up being one of the famous film visionaries as well as influencer in world cinema. 

Despite censor board having a concern about the nudity of the mannequins in the climax, that scene was pretty much intriguing enough for Kubrick to reprise it again in his 1971 American dystopian crime film A Clockwork Orange, a good 16 years later.

A film filled with Manhattan showed in it's full glory in the night; a tough boxing match of a fading boxer; a ballet dance interlude; and an interesting climax with the mannequins. This is most certainly 67 minutes of genius we see of a young Stanley Kubrick.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. This is the second feature film by Kubrick. His first one was 1953 American anti-war film Fear and Desire. 

b. In 1983, Matthew Chapman directed an America drama which was essentially the making of Killer's Kiss.

c. Scenes from this movie are seen in the 40 second montage, Open All Night, for Turner Classic Movies. You can see on TCM channel frequently.

d. Kubrick uses the negative image of the actual developed footage for the dream sequence in the movie.

e. In the various scenes of Manhattan we see several film posters on the marquees - 1953 American war movie Cease Fire partially visible on the marquee of the Criterion Theater; the 1931 American all-talking pre-Code gangster film The Public Enemy; 1953 American romantic comedy How to Marry a Millionaire on the marquee of the Globe Theater; 1953 British thriller The Man Between; 1952 Italian adventure film The Queen of Sheba on a movie theater; 1954 American drama film Flame and the Flesh on a movie theater; 1949 Hollywood compilation of comedy scenes Down Memory Lane on the marquee of the Embassy Newsreel Theater; 1954 American technicolor war film Beachhead on the marquee of Globe Theater; 1953 American war film Take The High Ground! on a huge billboard.

f. Tony Curtis who is seen on the marquee in the film would later appear in Stanley Kubrick's 1960 American epic historical drama film Spartacus.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. The letter that Davey reads on the subway, and the narration you hear in the background are totally different. 

b. He opens the conversation with his uncle on the telephone addressing him as "Uncle George", but as the call progresses, Davey calls him "George" instead later. 

c. The two bags that Davey packs at his apartment are different from the ones we see with him at the end of the film.


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