Posted by: ckckred | November 1, 2012

Killer’s Kiss: Not Fully Thought Out

Stanley Kubrick’s second film is his weakest (that I’ve seen)

Killer’s Kiss was Stanley Kubrick’s second film and certainly one of his weakest.  In years to come Stanley Kubrick established himself as a great director, in my opinion the greatest director.  So I found myself very disappointed when I watched Killer’s Kiss, which displaces Spartacus as my least favorite film by Kubrick.  I’ve loved pretty much all of Kubrick’s movies (and yes, I do like Spartacus, I just think it pales in comparison to Kubrick’s other works), so Killer’s Kiss came as a letdown for me.

Killer’s Kiss is about Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith), a boxer whose career is currently falling apart.  He plans to leave out to the countryside and wants to take along his neighbor Gloria Price (Irene Kane), who works as a taxi dancer.  Gloria’s boss, Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera), repeatedly abuses her, and Gordon secretly loves her and wants to help out her.  Both of them decide to get the money owed to them by their employers before they leave, but soon Vincent has kidnapped Gloria. Gordon then attempts to save her in a action sequence that resembles many of the chase scenes in movies later to come.

Stanley Kubrick was only 26 when the film came out and he had only made one film beforehand, Fear and Desire, which he had removed from circulation.  Killer’s Kiss was made on a remarkably low budget but it I felt the movie seemed very realistic.  Most of the scenes were probably filmed not on sets but in their actual places, making it seem closer to reality.

The movie’s greatest flaw is, sadly, Kubrick’s direction.  This was a warm-up for the director, so I don’t want to be harsh, especially since Kubrick became such a fantastic director later on (his next feature The Killing, in fact, is a masterpiece often overlooked by many).  But there were many problems with his direction here.  I noticed that he broke the 180 degree line very often in many scenes and there were large parts of the film that felt unnecessary and too long (one such segment is when Gloria gives a length discussion to Gordon about her family, which adds nothing to the movie).  There are shots where you can recognize Kubrick’s genius (some of the action shots later in the movie are nicely stylized) but overall the movie can’t really pull itself together.

The acting is okay but not particularly very memorable.  Jamie Smith did a good job but wasn’t enough to pull the film up.  There’s also a nice soundtrack.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t work very well.  It has the same noir-feeling of The Killing but doesn’t execute it as well.

Killer’s Kiss isn’t a bad movie but not a good one either.  I thought it could have been much more.  Kubrick later showed off his talent with one of the most consistent careers in filmmaking and proved himself to be a film titan.  I don’t regret watching Killer’s Kiss but felt disappointed.



  1. This and Fear and Desire are the only two Kubrick films (apart from his shorts) that I haven’t seen and it’s disappointing to hear it’s not up to his usual standard, although being so early in is career it’s kind of understandable.

    • I still need to see a few besides Fear and Desire. It was early on his career, so I guess it’s unfair to judge to his later films but it is disappointing. I think it’s worth watching though to see how Kubrick developed his style. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I watched Fear and Desire yesterday…it’s interesting but ultimately is weak and has an amateurish feel to it.

    • I heard Kubrick removed Fear and Desire from circulation because of his dissatisfaction with it. I still want to see it but haven’t heard too much positive word about it. Thanks for commenting.

      • I’m not sure how true that is, but apparently there are few prints in existence. The blu-ray quality ranges from poor to good, and it’s worth seeing…but you probably won’t enjoy it very much.

  3. Killer’s Kiss was a bit of a letdown, but one must remember the limitations of the production. It is a step up from “Fear and Desire.” I can see traces of the Kubrick brilliance even in his first two films.

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