Killer’s Kiss was one of the first films made by the great auteur Stanley Kubrick. As a big fan of his filmography, I was thrilled to finally catch up with where he started out. Man did he come out swinging. This film drips with film noir conventions and yet seems to be fresh and interesting. I envy anyone who got to see this on its first movie theater run. They would have a seen a genius just being born.
The story is an easy one to predict for anyone who is at all familiar with film noir. A failed boxer rescues a helpless woman from an evil bad man, only to be thrown into the trouble himself. The story doesn’t matter. Neither do the performances which are good not great. It is what Stanley was able to do with the camera on such a low-budget. For example, our hero has a nightmare where he travels down a towering New York City street. He shot it normally and then used the negative of the shot and made it jerk around like it was out of someone’s mind. It was such a small and forgettable aspect of the film made memorable by his techniques. Another example of his great camera work is setting the climax of the chase sequence in a room full of mannequins. The hero and the evil man fight with limbs, heads and torsos, each grappling for the upper hand and the ability to get out of the claustrophobic room. This room provides Stanley with insanely iconic shots. At one point in the room, the hero hides out underneath a bunch of hanging plastic hands. He looks back and you can see the hands barely grace the top quarter of the screen. C’est magnifique!
Of course I can sit here and grip about all the horrible inconsistencies, the holes in the plot and the voiceover that was never charming. But I don’t want to. These things don’t break the film for me. In fact I think it adds to its uniqueness. This film is not perfect, but I don’t care.
Years before he becomes a master, he was already thinking like one. It is wonderful to know that a man who has made such an impact on my viewing life was always a genius, even when he was living on welfare and forced to hide his filming because he didn’t have the proper permits. Whether he has the budget of millions or hundreds, he can make a film that takes my breath away. Good job, Mr. Kubrick.