Killer’s Kiss (1955): Kubrick’s Second Feature, Film Noir

Killer’s Kiss is a film noir about a young heavyweight boxer’s involvement with a woman being abused by her criminal boss.

Like Stanley Kubrick’s debut, Fear and Desire, it was privately funded by Kubrick’s family and friends.  Production was again made with a virtual one-man crew, Kubrick co-writing the script with Sackler.

The film is about Davey Gordon  a 29-year-old New York boxer at the end of his career, and his relationship with his neighbor, taxi dancer Gloria Price (Irene Kane), and her violent employer Vincent Rapallo (Frank Silvera).

The drama begins with Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith), in his room, preparing for a big fight against Kid Rodriguez. On the other side of the building across the courtyard, he gazes upon Gloria, an attractive taxi dancer, getting ready for work.

Walking out of the building, they run into each other but don’t speak. Gloria is picked up by her boss Vincent.  While Davey is losing his fight, Gloria is dealing with her boss who’s harassing her.

Screams coming from Gloria’s apartment, when she is attacked by Vincent. He runs to her room, but Vincent has made his getaway. Davey comforts Gloria, and she feels better.

However, Vincent proceeds to interfere in their lives. They decide to leave town, Gloria tries to get money from Vincent, and Davey asks his manager to meet him there as well. Vincent sends two goons out to rough Davey up, but they mistake the manager for Davey and kill him in the alley.

Vincent kidnaps Gloria and holds her hostage. Davey returns to Gloria’s apartment and sees the police, who assume he had killed his manager. Trying to rescue Gloria, he is captured and restrained.

In the film’s climax, there is a chase and confrontation in an abandoned warehouse of mannequins. During the struggle, Davey kills Vincent and rescues Gloria, and both are cleared of all charges by the police.

Davey buys a train ticket back to the West Coast. He assumes that Gloria will not join him, but at the last minute, she rushes in.

Most of the initial budget was covered by Morris Bousel, a Bronx pharmacist who was rewarded with a co-producer credit.[3]:95

Kubrick began to shoot the film with sound recorded on location, but frustrated by the intrusion of the microphone into his lighting scheme, Kubrick fired his sound-man and decided to post-dub the film as he had with his first film.

The on location shots include the old Penn Station, Times Square, and the run-down streets of the Brooklyn waterfront and Soho loft areas.

Kubrick’s wife at the time, dancer Ruth Sobotka, was the film’s art director; she is also featured in a dance solo.

Th female lead, Iris, is played by Irene Kane (real life writer Chris Chase, who had contributed to various venues, including the N.Y. Times).

United Artists paid 100,000 for the film but required that it be recut, imposing a happy ending, which very much negates the preceding events and mood.

The good news about it is that the studio agreed to finance Kubrick’s next film, The Killing, which would become his breakthrough.

Although Killer’s Kiss was met with limited commercial success, film historian Alexander Walker notes that it was an “oddly compelling work that tells much about the young Kubrick and explains why he stirred up immediate critical notice”.

The film has some striking aspects, most notably the atmospheric lighting and emotional tone, emphasizing the film’s themes of urban loneliness, melancholy, and alienation.

Jamie Smith as Davey Gordon
Irene Kane as Gloria Price
Frank Silvera as Vincent Rapallo
Jerry Jarrett as Albert (the fight manager)
Mike Dana as Gangster
Felice Orlandi as Gangster

Skippy Adelman as Mannequin factory owner
David Vaughan as Conventioneer
Alec Rubin as Conventioneer
Ralph Roberts as Gangster
Phil Stevenson as Gangster
Ruth Sobotka as Iris/ballerina


Running time: 67 Minutes