Killer’s Kiss (1955): Kubrick’s Second Feature

Originally under the title “Kiss Me, Kill Me,” and then “The Nymph and the Maniac,” Killer’s Kiss is a 67-minute film noir about a young heavyweight boxer’s involvement with a woman being abused by her criminal boss.

Like Fear and Desire, it was privately funded by Kubrick’s family and friends, with some $40,000 put forward from Bronx pharmacist Morris Bousse.

Kubrick began shooting footage in Times Square, and frequently explored during the filming process, experimenting with cinematography and considering the use of unconventional angles and imagery. He initially chose to record the sound on location, but encountered difficulties with shadows from the microphone booms, restricting camera movement. His decision to drop the sound in favor of imagery was a costly one; after 12–14 weeks shooting the picture, he spent some seven months and $35,000 working on the sound.

Hitchcock’s Blackmail (1929) influenced the film with the painting laughing at a character.

Scorsese has, in turn, cited Kubrick’s innovative shooting angles and atmospheric shots in Killer’s Kiss as an influence on Raging Bull (1980).

Actress Irene Kane, the star of Killer’s Kiss, observed: “Stanley’s a fascinating character. He thinks movies should move, with a minimum of dialogue, and he’s all for sex and sadism”.

Killer’s Kiss got limited commercial success and made little money in comparison with its production budget of $75,000.

Reviewers have praised the film’s visuals, but its acting and story were criticized.