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KILLER'S KISS

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Frank Silvera, Jamie Smith, Irene Kane, Ruth Sobotka
Director:  Stanley Kubrick
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  MGM/UA
Features:  Theatrical Trailer
Length:  67 Minutes
Release Date:  June 29, 1999

 Film ***

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 unsettling.

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.

Video **1/2

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. 

Audio **1/2

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.

Features *

Only a trailer.

Summary:

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.