In order to make films, you have to watch films. It helps to watch movies that are made by great directors.
Killer’s Kiss is second feature length narrative film by Stanley Kubrick. It’s a film noir, made in 1955 and shot in black and white. Killer’s Kiss is the story of Davey Gordon, a down-on-his-luck prize fighter who becomes an unsuspecting hero when he sees his neighbor, Gloria, fighting with her mob boss boyfriend. Gordon (Jamie Smith) saves Gloria (Irene Kane) and as a result gets more than he bargained for in this classic film noir. Killer’s Kiss has all the noir elements: the beautiful blond, the reluctant hero, and the seedy underworld and shady characters.
The miracle of Killer’s Kiss is how it came to be. Kubrick made the movie almost entirely on his own. He wrote, directed, produced, shot, edited and even did recorded sound, an amazing feat for anyone making a feature.
While the film is not the visual masterpiece like 2001: A Space Odyssey or an epic like Spartacus, it has a visual style all its own, and it tells a compelling story. It’s by no means Kubrick’s greatest work, but it’s a great film to watch if one wants to learn the craft of filmmaking. Its seams are showing just a bit, and the craft of the film is apparent.
In it we can see the beginnings of Kubrick’s cinematic style, his precise framing and composition, the movement of the actors through the frame. He even uses some primitive visual effects in a dream sequence the elements of which would appear in his later films on a grander scale.
Killer’s Kiss is filmed on location in New York City, and it’s a great street style movie. He often shot without permits and in apartments. Even though the cinematography is stylized in high contrast black and white, you still get a sense of realism. These are real people in a real place going through real struggles.
He was able to sell the film to United Artists and made enough money to make this next picture, The Killing. The snowball effect of this movie resulted in Kubrick becoming a rising star who controlled every frame of his work. He would later go on to revolutionize the the art of filmmaking and influence countless directors, visual effects artists, and cinematographers the world over. Long before Robert Rodriguez made El Mariachi, and taught Generation X filmmakers to be a Rebel Without a Crew, Kubrick was already taking filmmakers to school.