Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Killer's Kiss (1955)

Killer's Kiss is a film noir made by acclaimed director Stanley Kubrick early in his career. It was produced on a shoestring budget. Legend has it that Kubrick was on welfare while he was filming Killer's Kiss.  Apparently, he did not have all the required permits to film in the city of New York. Accordingly, he shot the film surreptitiously from inside parked cars or wherever else he could be discreet. 

Kubrick found good locations for his movie. Cinematically, he has some amazing camera shots in the film -- an indication of the magnitude of his talent which would be more fully manifested in later films. Kubrick has an innate feel for the use of shadow and light in a black-and-white film.  The movie is only 67 minutes long, but it is a fully realized piece of work. Yes, some aspects of it show a novice's immaturity, but a lot of movies made today don't hold my interest nearly as well as Killer's Kiss does. 

The plot: After a year in New York, boxer Davey Gordon's career is stalled.  Gloria Price is a private dancer who is mistreated by her boss, Vincent Rapallo. After losing a fight, Davey returns home to his apartment and, through his window, sees Gloria being manhandled by Rapallo. Davey goes to her rescue, which angers Rapallo. Over the next couple of days, Davey and Gloria fall in love. Davey decides to return to Seattle to work on his uncle's farm. Gloria agrees to go with him. When Rapallo hears about Gloria's plans, he orders his thugs to kill Davey. However, the thugs inadvertently kill Davey's boxing manager instead, which forces Davey to go on the run and to somehow rescue Gloria. 

The cast was surprisingly good, considering the fact that none of them are well-known names. Jamie Smith plays Davey, and he acquits himself well in the role. Irene Kane is effective as Gloria. The biggest name in the movie was Frank Silvera, who portrayed Rapallo. Silvera was a light-skinned African-American actor who worked throughout the 1950s and 1960s. He often played ethnic rolls of all nationalities. In Killer's Kiss, he is clearly a black boss -- which had to have been highly unusual in films of the 1950s.  Kudos to Kubrick for breaking the color barrier -- he even provided a couple of interracial kisses.

I have never been Stanley Kubrick's biggest fan. Some of his films are excellect, such as Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Lolita, and Full Metal Jacket. Clearly Kubrick would mature into a more  accomplished director, but I love his direction of Killer's Kiss. The atmosphere,  the story,  the characters all come together to make a fascinating little movie. My biggest criticism of the film is the fact that the character of Davey narrates a lot of the backstory. There is also a scene where Gloria is telling Davy about her childhood, and all we viewers see is a ballerina dancing, which is supposed to represent Gloria's sister. Kubrick made wise decisions with the film for the budget that he had.

Killer's Kiss is good, solid film noir.  Its importance to most cinemaphiles is its position in Kubrick's canon.  Killer's Kiss is an important film of Kubrick's because it so clearly shows his directorial talent at a time when he had no money or much filmmaking training. Grade B+.

I watched this film on Netflix Streaming on January 7, 2013.

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