Review by Michael Jacobson
Silvera, Jamie Smith, Irene Kane, Ruth Sobotka
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Audio: Dolby Digital Mono
Video: Standard 1.33:1
Features: Theatrical Trailer
Length: 67 Minutes
Release Date: June 29, 1999
Stanley Kubrick made his second feature film, Killer's
Kiss, with money borrowed from relatives.
It wasn't a big success, but it landed him one major coup as a young
filmmaker, when it got picked up for distribution by United Artists.
It's low budget, but aside for some stiff acting, doesn't look it.
Kubrick, for financial and artistic reasons, wore many hats on this
production, including director, screenwriter, producer, editor, and cameraman.
The story line is the only aspect of the film that comes
across as amateur: a washed up
boxer falls for girlfriend of local gangster; much mayhem ensues.
But what the film lacks in original storytelling, it more than makes up
for visually. Even at a young age, Kubrick was a master of visual
filmmaking. The voyeuristic shots
of the boxer and the girl through their windows across from each other are
brilliant, with excellent deep focus. Kubrick
also uses mirrors in the rooms to enhance the imagery, as he would in later
films like The Shining.
The boxing match is a triumph of camera angle and editing, and packs
plenty of excitement in just a few moments.
But perhaps the film's crowning achievement is the showdown finale that
takes place in a mannequin factory. The
use of the lifelike plastic figures and various body parts is both beautiful and
All of this leads us to the obligatory happy ending.
But Kubrick can be forgiven for that.
He was only 27, with his best work still ahead of him.
One interesting bit of trivia…the film's ballet
sequence features Kubrick's second wife, Ruth Sobotka, doing the dancing.
This transfer didn't come across as well as MGM's other recent Kubrick releases Paths of Glory or The Killing…perhaps because this film didn't get as much attention paid to it for preservation. It still looks mostly good, with crisp images and very little grain, but the print has a fair share of nicks, scars and burns.
The soundtrack is a serviceable mono, that really comes to
life during the boxing match with extra punch (no pun intended). Dialogue
is clear, noise is minimal, no complaints.
Only a trailer.
Killer's Kiss is the first cinematic clue to the blossoming genius of young Stanley Kubrick. It's a film that will mostly appeal to his fans, or fans of visual cinema, but may not offer much to the casual observer. It remains a fascinating example, though, of how a young filmmaker with a vision can create unforgettable imagery, even with very little money at his disposal.