KILLER’S KISS (1955) – The Dungeon Review!

“Her Soft Mouth Was the Road to Sin-Smeared Violence!”

Seeing that Stanley Kubrick was the subject of The Large Association of Movie Blogs feature, LAMB’s In The Director’s Chair I decided it was high time I took part in this event. Kubrick has just sixteen directorial efforts listed on IMDB (3 of them are short films). A trim list considering it spans 48 years! But the trim list boasts some pretty impressive titles. I probably should be reviewing one of the two films I am intimately familiar with; Dr. Strangelove or The Shining. I’ve seen both films countless times and could probably whip up a review in no time. I decided however to go with a title I had not yet seen. A close friend is a huge fan of classic cinema and specifically Film-Noir. He has recommended countless titles to me, which I have barely dipped into. One of the titles on his list was Kubrick’s The Killing. Off I went to the best place I know to find classic films, the library. The library had quite a few Kubrick titles but not The killing, so I ended picking up Killer’s Kiss. Killer’s Kiss is Kubrick’s second feature film and was also noted as Film-Noir so it seemed like a reasonable alternative. This will mark the first Film-Noir reviewed in the Dungeon, and it definitely won’t be the last.

We begin our tale with boxer Davey Gordon waiting at the train station. The story is told in a series of flashbacks that begin with Davey getting prepared for a fight. While Davey suffers defeat at the hands of his opponent, in another part of town, Gloria Price is suffering her own humiliation. Gloria is a dancer for hire in a reluctant relationship with her boss Vincent Rapallo. Gloria lives in the building across from Davey, and their two apartments face one another. One evening Davey sees Gloria struggling with Vincent and runs over to help. Vincent is gone by the time Davey shows up and he tucks Gloria in for the night and heads back to his apartment. Davey comes back the next day to check up and the two form a bond over breakfast. Gloria shares an intimate story with Davey that she has never shared with anyone and it is clear that the two lonely people are drawn to one another. Gloria decides that her Dance hall days are over and Davey accompanies her to pick up her last paycheck. Davey has also arranged a meeting with his boxing manager to collect on his last match. But Vincent’s jealous actions put a damper on Gloria and Davey’s hopeful plans of a new start. It all comes to a head in an exhilarating chase and fight sequence.

Killer’s Kiss was filmed in Brooklyn New York and features a trio of characters; a boxer, a dame and a gangster/villain type. The plot of Killer’s Kiss is unlikely to wow anyone. The films greatest asset is its visuals. The film is a time capsule of a New York long gone. There are loads of street shots where Kubrick lingers on store window displays as well as shots of Penn Station, Times Square and countless other buildings and alleyways. The city feels like a giant maze and it was easy to see how a guy like Davey could feel trapped by it. In fact, there is a great scene early in the film as Davey is pacing about his tiny apartment in anticipation of his fight. Davey stops to peer into a fish bowl, which Kubrick shows from the other side distorting the boxers face. Davey is not unlike the fish trapped in the bowl. Moving from the apartment scene to the boxing ring felt like I was watching the man jump from one fish bowl into a larger fish bowl. A likable lug with a career past its expiry date must face a younger more fit opponent. He struggles badly and is easily beaten by the other man in a televised match. We watch on as Gloria is being pawed by her slimy manager as the fight plays on the television. Then a humiliating phone call from Uncle George let’s us know, he too, has watched the fight on TV. He suggests Davey take a rest, inviting him to stay at the horse ranch in Seattle. While Jamie Smith may not have the presence of other Film-Noir leads, he certainly looks the part and does a decent job playing Davey Gordon.

The film’s tagline is “Her Soft Mouth Was the Road to Sin-Smeared Violence!” We learn through a story Gloria tells Davey that her family are all dead. She is alone in the big city dancing with men for money and reluctantly involved with her boss. Being she is a woman of “questionable virtue”, would qualify her as a femme fatale. She does have a rather unflattering moment of self-preservation in the film. But most of the time she seemed more damsel in distress. Irene Kane who plays Gloria Price is very pretty but she delivers her lines so flatly at times I thought she might fall asleep mid-sentence. A little more emotion from Kane would have gone a long way. Not the most dynamic of classic leading ladies but she does an adequate job. The final player is Frank Silvera who plays Gloria’s sleazy boss Vincent Rapallo. He has the most panache and gives the best performance of the trio, but then again he gets to play the bad guy. Silvera doesn’t play it too over the top and like any good boss sends his cronies to do his dirty work. But when the boss is called on to step up, he certainly does finds a whole lot of extra energy to embark in a chase and a duel.

The film is a slow boil and it takes a while to get to the meat. Mind you, the film is only 60ish minutes so when I say it took a while, I’m speaking relatively. While neither the story nor performances in Killer’s Kiss rocked my world, the film still managed to keep me engaged. The interesting visual style and some memorable moments left me feeling relatively sated when it was all over. My favourite scene by far is Davey and Vincent’s fabulous and lengthy chase and fight sequence. They run over rooftops, through streets and alleys, ending up in a mannequin factory where the two lead characters faceoff with an axe and a spear, jabbing at each other and the lifeless mannequins surrounding them. Great stuff! However, following up the awesome chase and fight scene with a bland happy ending was disappointing. Killer’s Kiss was quite watchable, and the magnificent chase sequence alone is worth the price of admission. Lightly Recommended.

Dungeon Rating: 3/5

Directed By: Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Frank Silvera, Jamie Smith, Irene Kane, Jerry Jarrett, Mike Dana, Felice Orlandi

One Response to “KILLER’S KISS (1955) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. goregirl Says:

    I will definitely check out The Killing!

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