Tuesday, June 29, 2010

THE UNSEEN - Killer's Kiss (1955)

Stanley Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss was made for THE UNSEEN. For one, it’s a typically forgotten entry in the director’s respected filmography, frequently overshadowed by his other work, including the subsequent and similarly titled The Killing. And while the movie may not be perfect, you should give Killer’s Kiss a chance because it’s only a bit longer and a whole lot better than those reality shows filling up your DVR.

As his second feature, Killer’s Kiss was Kubrick’s attempt at a film noir, released in 1955 when the genre was at its peak (two essential noirs, Night of the Hunter and Kiss Me Deadly, were released the same year). Working on location in Manhattan with a miniscule budget, no-name actors and no permits, Kubrick handled most of the production himself, credited as director, editor and cinematographer.
A lean film noir – too lean, in fact – Killer’s Kiss is about Davey (Jamie Smith), a washed up boxer who gets in over his head when he rescues his neighbor Gloria (Irene Kane) from her employer/lover, gangster Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera). Davey and Gloria quickly fall in love and plan to flee the city, hopefully before Rapallo and his goons can catch up to them.
Although Killer’s Kiss featured many of the noir trimmings – shadowy lighting, an urban setting, brooding voiceover narration, and a case of mistaken identity – it was missing something: a script. No writer is recognized in Killer’s Kiss’ credits, except for a story attributed to Kubrick. It was as if he was merely marking off a checklist of the genre’s essential elements, with only the loosest of plots to tie them together. There was also a noticeable absence of suspense and mystery until the climactic chase when the characters end up at a mannequin factory. Though superfluous, the factory provided the potential for plenty of eye catching shots, something Kubrick used to his full advantage.
The lack of a strong plot and developed characters made the movie seem longer than the short running time suggested, but that’s okay because Killer’s Kiss was more of an outlet for Kubrick to play around with a variety of techniques and styles. The individual parts were better than the movie as a whole, and it’s easy to see the budding genius at work throughout. As with any Kubrick film, there was no shortage of interesting shots and camerawork. Fans should be able to recognize techniques and themes that Kubrick would go on to utilize in future films, such as a spooky tracking shot through a dance hall (The Shining), the seedy New York setting (Eyes Wide Shut) and a dream sequence in film negative (2001: A Space Odyssey). Killer’s Kiss may not be Kubrick’s best, but it is an essential piece of his legacy. And considering the filmmaker made only thirteen features during his career, I’ll take whatever Kubrick I can get.

1 comment:

Myerla said...

I agree, visually it was quite impressive, there were moments of quality, the boxing match for instance (which is similar to that of Raging Bull) had a touch of quality the story did not have.


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