BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE KILLING (1956) AND KILLER’S KISS (1955) / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: STANLEY KUBRICK / SCREENPLAY: STANLEY KUBRICK / STARRING: STERLING HAYDEN, COLEEN GRAY, FRANK SILVERA, JAMIE SMITH / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 9TH
The second feature by legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, Killer’s Kiss is about Davy Gordon (Smith), a prizefighter, who rescues a private dancer, Gloria Price (Irene Kane), from being attacked by her employer and on-off lover Vincent Rapallo (Silvera). This chance encounter just happens to bring the two together and they start to become involved with each other, to the immediate displeasure of Rapallo. It’s not too long that he starts sending men out to kill Davy; but instead they kill his manager and best friend. They then kidnap Gloria, and it’s up to Davy to save her. On the back of that, we also have Kubrick’s third feature, The Killing, which is a heist movie about a small-time crook, Johnny Clay (Hayden), who has got out of prison and begins to mastermind a complex race-track heist in order to use the money to start a new life with his girlfriend. However, Clay’s scheme becomes complicated and soon escalates out of control by the intervention of the scheming, manipulative wife of a teller who’s in on the scheme.
Kubrick has stated that Killer’s Kiss was at a student level of filmmaking, but it’s still a fascinating movie to look back on, as it’s a notable film noir thriller in its own right. It’s a film about isolation and loneliness where the three main characters are all alone, with their roots almost severed due to something that had happened in their past that was once happy, but is now gone from them. In the end, these characters are all solitary in a big city at the end of the line. The film starts with a slow manner that is confident and quiet, and Kubrick uses this as a means to develop the characters and their backstories more, and for nearly half the film you can’t really tell where the plot is going. Yet, Kubrick gives us a way inside the characters’ heads, which allows us to get a deep feeling and understanding of them, even if the character of Rapallo is slimy and warped.
With The Killing, Kubrick appears to have taken everything that he learnt from making Killer’s Kiss and puts that to excellent use, and it’s by this time that Kubrick intently defined his style. It’s nearly sixty years old, but it still holds up and doesn’t look at all dated. Kubrick took Lionel White's hard-boiled, non-linear narrative about this one man (played with quick-talking, straightforward ease by the great Sterling Hayden) and his crew planning and tasking this robbery, and yet, the film seems to have characters and themes that can be both identifiable and recognisable with any period it’s set in. Even the supporting players are as sharply defined and psychologically involving, if not more so, than the main protagonist. What also makes this dark, sprawling and intense thriller shine is its dramatic cinematic direction, a grandiose musical score that produces shivers down your spine, and gorgeous cinematography to die for.
Ultimately, both Killer’s Kiss and The Killing serve as a great noir double-bill that, not only help define film noir cinema, but also define Stanley Kubrick as a true bona fide auteur, even before he dazzled and surprised us with his more recognisable works such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange.
Extras: Ben Wheatley appreciation / French TV extract with Sterling Hayden interview / Trailers / Collector’s booklet