Review: 'Killer's Kiss' a Mood Piece With Visual Flair

by Frank J. Avella

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 28, 2022

Review: 'Killer's Kiss' a Mood Piece With Visual Flair

During the opening credits of Stanley Kubrick's second feature film, "Killer's Kiss" (released in 1955), it's telling that the revered auteur gives himself "Edited, Photographed and Directed by" as well as "Story by" credit, but makes no mention that the actual screenplay was written by Howard Sackler, who wrote Kubrick's first film, "Fear and Desire," and would go onto co-write "Jaws 2."

Perhaps it's best, since the narrative is the weakest thing about this pulp-Noir crime drama — well, that and some of the supporting actors. For the record, Kubrick's films are sometimes loaded with lousy performances (e.g., the entire cast of "Barry Lyndon!").

The one solid actor in "Killer's Kiss" is the lead, Jamie Smith, who plays Davey Gordon, a boxer at the end of his career who is described as "one long promise without fulfillment." Davey meets Gloria Price (Irene Kane), a dance hall girl whose ghastly mobster boss Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera) has her in his grips. Vincent attempts to kill Davey, and from there the plot gets quite complicated — especially for a film that's a little over an hour long.

It's fascinating to watch this early feature where Kubrick was finding his visual style. One can see embryonic versions of moments that would be birthed fully in films like "The Shining," "Eyes Wide Shut," and even "A Clockwork Orange."

The boxing sequence is absolutely enthralling. Martin Scorsese was highly influenced by Kubrick's amazing work for his masterpiece "Raging Bull." Scorsese said, "Like Kubrick, I wanted to be able to look at the fight action, even with the sound removed, and still have it seem legitimate."

In addition, there's a final showdown between the two male characters, in a factory involving mannequins, that is breathtaking to behold.

I wondered if bestowing the 4K UHD treatment on this film was warranted when so many classics have yet to bow on 4K. But watching this gorgeous, grainy disc had me mesmerized. Kudos to Kino Lorber for a top-notch job doing a 4K scan from the original camera negative (and how great is it that it survived!) The sound is terrific, too (despite the annoying and unnecessary narration).

Film historian Imogen Sara Smith provides a nifty commentary track where she discusses Kubrick's style, and how his films are usually strikingly potent to the eye but are lacking script-wise.

"Killer's Kiss" is ultimately a mood piece about two lonely and miserable people who come together. But it's done with such visual flair by a future icon that it's an important viewing experience for any true cinephile.

4K UHD Extras Include:

  • Brand New Dolby Vision HDR Master — From 4K Scan of the Original Camera Negative

  • New Audio Commentary by Film Historian Imogen Sara Smith

  • Theatrical Trailer

  • Optional English Subtitles

    "Killer's Kiss" is available on 4K UHD on June 28, 2022.

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    Frank J. Avella is a film journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He also contributes to Awards Daily and is the GALECA East Coast Rep and a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. Frank is a recipient of the International Writers Residency in Assisi, Italy, a Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship, and a NJ State Arts Council Fellowship. His short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com) and won awards. His screenplays (CONSENT, LURED, SCREW THE COW) have also won numerous awards in 16 countries. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute