Killer's Kiss by Stanley Kubrick
Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars
Blurb: A nightclub dancer is befriended by a down on his luck boxer after he saves her from a beating at the hands of her boss and lover. The jilted lover is a mentally unstable gangster who seeks vengeance for this slight.
Thoughts: A boxer nearing the end of his career, a dancer in a seedy nightclub and her sinister gangster boss and patron come together with some style in Stanley Kubrick's second feature. It's 63 minutes of low budget experimentation with the noir form by a director who would go on to achieve great things starting only two years later with The Killing.
The plot leaves a lot to be desired, in that there's hardly any of it and what is there hardly makes much sense. I've never noticed an hour long movie start to feel interminable before but Kubrick takes essentially ten minutes of story and stretches it out just a little too far with his interesting stylistic choices.
The man waiting at the train station telling how he got there in flashback is a pretty decent framing device but from there the flashbacks become more and more blunt as the movie goes on. This is not a lush Hollywood production he seems to be stating by drawing our attention to his tools in such a way. In other hands you might call it bad directing but in hindsight it's easy to see a master experimenting and doing things other film makers wouldn't. In one flashback the dancer tells an absurd story about her father and sister, a ballet dancer, in voice over; what Kubrick offers us visually during this sequence may be more bizarre and more unusual than in any other noir film, especially this kind of B-movie, a ballet dancer performing alone on stage in stark light and the blackest shadows.
The ballet sequence isn't alone in being visually impressive; throughout there are breathtaking moments of framing, use of light and shadow that would put the German Expressionists to shame, use of negative film stock for a surreal nightmare sequence, excellent use location shooting and a final showdown with an axe wielding gangster in what appears to be a mannequin factory.
A must watch for fans of noir and fans of Kubrick.