Even master Stanley Kubrick had humble beginnings. His second feature length film (just over an hour long), Killer’s Kiss, finds Kubrick at a time when he had yet to develop his craft. It was also the last film where Kubrick had written a completely original screenplay (not adapting the film from a novel or short story). Later in his life, Kubrick would call Killer’s Kiss ‘a dumb story with bad actors.’ I would, to some degree, have to agree with Kubrick’s assertion.
Killer’s Kiss seems to have had a crucial influence on fellow New Yorker Martin Scorsese. The boxing scenes in the film have an aesthetically similar feel to that of Scorses’s Ragining Bull. The boxer also suffers from isolation that haunted Travis Bickle in the Taxi-Driver. The overall visuals of Killer’s Kiss got me thinking about the early films of Martin Scorsese and the crucial impact Stanley Kubrick had on him (and countless other filmmakers).
Of course, Killer’s Kiss lacks the perfectionism and concrete construction that have turned Stanley Kubrick into a household name. I became a Kubrick fan in elementary school before I even knew who he was or what a film director did. The Shining and Full Metal Jacket I would regularly watch on cable television. Killer’s Kiss only interests me as a fan of both Stanley Kubrick and film noir. The film offers nothing new to the film movement except some notable lighting designs (especially during the scene with the mannequins) and an odd negative image (using undeveloped film) dream sequence.
Stanley Kubrick was able to capture the grittiness of New York City streets and characters that reflect it with Killer’s Kiss. The film is nothing special in the way of cinematic achievement or even quality. Killer’s Kiss also features horrible sound quality that can be attributed to post-sync sound. I am sure Kubrick is rolling around in his coffin thinking about all the fine tuning that he needs to do on Killer’s Kiss. Only then will the legendary director rest in peace.