Killer's Kiss, 1955
Dir: Stanley Kubrick
October 13, 2009
The fact that Kubrick actually wrote the script for this is really bizarre because there are no redeeming qualities in the dialogue, or the acting for that matter. He was only 26 when he directed it, and it looks really great, but it is, without a doubt, truly awful. At 66 minutes long, it's over pretty quick, which is something I guess. Like Fear and Desire (1953), he decided that microphones would mess up his lighting scheme so he decided to post-dub everything in after shooting. You'd like to think that maybe he could pull of something Wellesian in that department, but it's just really bad. Unlike his earlier effort, however, he was at least able to make this visually interesting at points, and the film doesn't have a bleached out feel to it. The grimy black-and-white photography actually helps capture a proper noir mood and the seedy elements of city life that it is trying to convey.
Boxer Davy Gordon (Jaime Smith) is washed-up and after losing a fight, gets involved with dancehall girl (Irene Kane) Gloria who lives in his building. Her sleazy boss Vincent (Frank Silvera) is a gangster who wants to make their relationship more personal. Every single scene that pushes the story forward has awful acting and atrocious writing. The only times where there is actually anything interesting is the intermittent scenes that act as buffers between these scenes, where Kubrick focuses on strange things like dolls or drunk guys in Times Square dancing and playing the harmonica and stealing scarfs. The dramatic noir downfall is not even met at the end, and it had the perfect opportunity to take advantage of it. I was just about to give the ending some respect when it was ruined. Gloria's character becomes barely interesting when the gangsters turn the tables on Davy and beat the crap out of him after he had them up against the wall with a gun. With her champion down, Gloria sweet talks Vincent, saying that she never cared about Davy, having only known him for two days, and that she "doesn't want to die." After some awful voice-over, typical noir narration that tells us about "what happened" between then and now, Davy is back in Penn Station, where the film began, expressing his emotions about Gloria. He heard everything that she said, and decides that he couldn't be with a girl like that and thinks that he will probably never see her again. A decent place to end a noir, if you ask me. Main character is still down, life sucks, sometimes it's just like that. But, no, Gloria comes running into the station right before he is about to leave and they make out, 'cause apparently he can be with a girl like that now. Watch The Killing (1956). It's a far better early Kubrick noir effort.