Killer's Kiss ★★½

"Like the man said, 'Can happiness buy money?'" ~ Vincent Rapallo

Even renowned director Stanley Kubrick had his salad days. He was on welfare during the making of this film, his second feature, which he wrote, produced, directed, filmed and edited. In later years, he would describe this production as his "student level of filmmaking."

All the shooting was conducted in New York City with virtually no budget and without on-location filming permits. In fact, it's been said that Kubrick had to negotiate with homeless people to use an East Side alley for the movie's murder scene.

A borrowed spring-wound Eyemo camera was used for many of the sequences, and it was stolen before production ended. What's more, technical problems prevented the film's dialogue from being recorded on-set, so voices had to be added in a sound studio after filming. It's a wonder this got made at all.

The story is told as a single long flashback by fading professional boxer Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith) as he waits at Central Station for a train to Seattle. He remembers the events of the past few days, losing a comeback bout, meeting a taxi dancer named Gloria Price (Irene Kane), and saving her from a beating by Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera), the owner of the dance hall where she worked.

I can't say there are many glimmers here of the director's genius to come, but Kubrick does set up a climatic fight scene involving a fire axe inside a mannequin factory that's rather eerie and novel. Oddly enough, in 1959 this film was shown at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland and won the prize for Best Director -- a delayed "A" for effort, perhaps?


#3 of 100 in my Top 100 Directors Challenge

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