A Weekly Educated Movie Recommendation by Shaun Smith

Per the request of my In Your Face counterpart, I have been given the task of passing along an underrated or lesser known Stanley Kubrick film for this week’s edition.

Being the Kubrick novice that I am, I willingly took the challenge and took mere seconds to decide which film of his to recommend.

Killer’s Kiss, released back in 1955, was Kubrick’s first feature length film and his attempt at creating a 1950s film noir (followed by 1956’s The Killing, which is on the line between a noir and normal drama).

The film’s story is rather basic considering the plots usually found in old seedy noir films.

A New York prize-fighting boxer named Davey Gordon, played by Jamie Smith, recalls the entire film in flashbacks and subtle voice-over while standing around a train station.

In the flashback, Gordon meets a private dancer named Gloria Price and saves her from a beating at the hands of her employer and possible lover Vincent Raphello.

Raphello is played by early Kubrick collaborator Frank Silvera.

Gordon falls in love with Gloria, much to the displeasure of Raphello. The high power boss sends his goons to kill Gordon but they accidently kill Gordon’s best friend.

Eventually Raphello ends up kidnapping Gloria and forces Gordon to rescue her.

Kubrick’s style is in true form here and even incorporates the noir aspect effectively throughout.

Killer’s Kiss is probably best known for the ending sequence within the mannequin warehouse. For the sake of spoilers I will just leave it at that.

The fact that Kubrick was able to pull off so many inventive and noir-type looks combined with his camera sensibilities is really a testament to who he was as a filmmaker.

Just watching some of the camera angles and scene compositions (mise en scene for you film school students) is truly remarkable considering the time of the film and low budget.

As the story goes, Kubrick apparently had no budget for permits to shoot in New York City so he went total guerrilla-style and was undetected while filming in the city.

Not only was there no budget but there also were no sound recordings while filming due to a mishap with the sound equipment. Kubrick ended up firing the sound crew and rerecorded every piece of dialogue and sound effects in post production.

The lead actress playing Gloria was unable to rerecord her lines in post so instead Kubrick brought in a radio actress to dub the dialogue.

Actually one of the interesting pieces of trivia I learned while doing research on the film is that the broke Kubrick was unable to afford a dolly system so instead used a pickup truck as a makeshift dolly. I personally used this technique for the ending shot of my Film II project.

Even though Killer’s Kiss is on DVD, the film is hard to find unless you search around on sites like Amazon.

However thanks to the brilliant people over at Criterion, the Blu-ray and DVD Criterion release of Kubrick’s film The Killing includes a full restored print of Killer’s Kiss.

I recommend the Blu-ray to really experience the HD conversion done by Criterion for Killer’s Kiss. It looks breathtaking with the just right amount of grain and solid blacks throughout.

I implore students of film to find this hidden gem, especially film noir buffs. Also in case anyone is wondering, I will be teaching Stanley Kubrick 101 at Rowan this upcoming semester.


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