Killer’s Kiss (1955)

“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.”

Synopsis:
A down-and-out boxer (Jamie Smith) reflects on his affair with a dance hall girl (Irene Kane) whose gangster-boss (Frank Silvera) isn’t happy with her decision to leave him.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
In his brief review (which, in a pre-IMDb era, gets the names of the romantic lead actors wrong — whoops!), Peary writes that “Stanley Kubrick’s second feature exhibits flare rather than style, promise rather than skill”. He calls out the “weak story” and notes that the “acting is terrible” — but he concedes that “within this low-budget context Kubrick impresses with dashes of surrealism, strong use of New York locales (when pizza was 10¢), and a wild, medieval fight in a loft full of mannequins.” Along with most other reviewers, I’m pretty much in agreement with Peary’s assessment — though I would argue that the film actually shows plenty of skill and style, and I’m not sure “surrealism” is how I would describe its at-times quirky sensibility. It’s primarily the hackneyed storyline and dialogue that fail us; visually, this one is a consistent stunner.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Powerful cinematography and direction

  • Fine on-location shooting

Must See?
No, though of course all Kubrick aficionados will want to check it out.

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One Response to “Killer’s Kiss (1955)”

  1. Not must-see but (agreed) will (maybe mainly) hold interest for Kubrick fans curious about his early work.

    True, visually it’s rather consistently compelling but it’s still rather sluggish throughout – due to the limitations of the often-drab dialogue and the acting. On top of which… the three main characters aren’t all that interesting to follow, really. The film is just over an hour and feels l-o-n-g-e-r.

    There is one somewhat-clever set-up (involving mistaken identity) but, to get there, there’s some unfortunately forced business having to do with Smith’s white scarf. (Innocuous street performers suddenly turn vindictive? 😉 )

    The main problem with ‘the big action sequence’ near the end is that, up to that point, the film doesn’t seem to have earned it. It does have some punch to it as an isolated scene – but we haven’t really felt all that invested prior to it, so it doesn’t play like a properly cumulative finish.

    Fave bit: It’s amusing when Kane refers to where she works as “that depraved place… a human zoo” when, the few times we see it, it just looks like a very dull dance hall.

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