Killer's Kiss is Stanley Kubrick's fifth film project and his second feature. Like Fear and Desire, it's only a little over an hour and was produced with very lean means. Kubrick wasn't pleased with his first feature which he pulled from circulation. Killer's Kiss was his chance at redemption.
Imagine though, it's the 1950's and you're working in a time where studios had a lot of control. Making an independent movie at the time probably wasn't too easy and Kubrick was actually forced to change the ending of his film to United Artists' liking. Money talks though and Kubrick got $100,000 from UA and another $100,000 for his next film as a result.
Davey Gordan (Jamie Smith) is a veteran boxer who's had a middling career. He's nearing the end of his boxing days and he waits in his apartment before his match. In the building across from him lives a taxi dancer (dance partner) named Gloria Price (Irene Kane) who has a bit of a thing going on with her employer, an older man named Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera). After Davey's match against a much younger opponent, he oversees Vincent physically abusing Gloria. He rushes next door to help her while Vincent flees the scene. The two become attached and make the decision to leave town for a while.
Killer's Kiss doesn't have the most interesting story in the world but its real weakness is the dialogue as well as the acting. On many occasions, the lines that the actors deliver are just so bland and there's hardly any emotion put into them. Kubrick didn't record sound on set because he was unhappy with the sound crew's interference. I think the fact that the actors dubbed their lines in a studio after filming is one of the reasons why the actors' delivery is so poor.
All the same, I do like the contrasts that are made between the two main characters. Davey is grizzled and comes from a humble background of farming. Gloria on the other hand comes from a rich family and her sister was a ballet dancer. This is demonstrated by Davey getting showcased in a well filmed boxing match while Gloria's sister displays her ballerina talents in a scene narrated by Gloria.
The cinematography of Stanley Kubrick deserves full credit though. The boxing match between Davey and his younger foe is exciting and it's just beautiful. Even the scene where Davey waits patiently at his apartment before his match is interesting. I particularly love the shot where he's feeding his fish and you see his face through the fishbowl as fish food sinks down into the water.
The masterpiece sequence though is the gritty, concluding fight between Davey and Vincent in a mannequin workshop that is worth the wait.
With a couple of tense moments and some exciting sequences, Killer's Kiss is basically a good tease of Stanley Kubrick's talent. The story and dialogue aren't quite up to par but this is essentially a solo effort that Kubrick did for practically nothing. If you're willing to forgive the weaker parts, Killer's Kiss delivers some masterful filmmaking that only Kubrick is able to do.