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Killer's Kiss

Killer's Kiss(1955)

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The working title of this film was Kiss Me, Kill Me. Stanley Kubrick's main onscreen credit reads: "Edited, Photographed and Directed by Stanley Kubrick." He also receives an onscreen credit for story. The film does not have an onscreen credit for screenplay, but according to a May 23, 1954 New York Times article, Kubrick's friend, Howard O. Sackler, co-wrote the screenplay with him. Voice-over narration by Jamie Smith, as "Davey Gordon," is heard intermittently throughout the film. During the sequence in which "Gloria Price" describes her early family life to Davey, Gloria's narration is heard over footage of Ruth Sobotka, as "Iris," dancing. According to modern sources, because Kubrick was romantically involved with dancer Sobotka at the time of production, the dance sequence featuring her was included. The couple later married and divorced.
       As noted by contemporary reviews, the film was shot entirely on location in New York City. Reviews commented on the picture's extensive use of outdoor location sites, such as Times Square, city streets and rooftops. According to modern sources, Kubrick borrowed most of the picture's $75,000 budget from a relative, co-producer Morris Bousel, and could not afford filming permits. In order to avoid being arrested for shooting without a permit, Kubrick used hand-held cameras and sometimes photographed street scenes from the bed of a moving pickup truck. The May 1954 New York Times article reported that the climactic fight sequence in the mannequin factory took two weeks to film and destroyed $15,000 worth of mannequins.
       Modern sources add the following information about the production: Nat Boxer was originally hired to record sound for the picture, but Kubrick, inexperienced at set lighting, was irritated by the shadows resulting from Boxer's microphone placements and fired him. Kubrick was later forced to re-record all of the film's dialogue after filming. Because actress Irene Kane did not like the looping process, radio actress Peggy Lobbin recorded her dialogue. In a letter to her sister, quoted in a biography of Kubrick, Kane complained that several endings to the picture had been shot, and she no longer knew how the film was going to end. [Irene Kane was the stage name of writer Chris Chase, and Killer's Kiss marked her screen debut.] Alexander Singer served as the picture's still photographer.
       According to information in the film's file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, Killer's Kiss was already completed when it was submitted to the PCA for approval in March 1955. On March 22, 1955, office head Geoffrey Shurlock informed United Artists, the picture's distributor, that the film would not be approved unless three items of concern were re-edited: the cutting of the "unmistakable indication of a sex affair between the prizefighter and the girl" in the sequence in Gloria's apartment after she spends the day with Davey; the depiction of a young man viewing an apartment as "a pansy"; and the fight sequence in the mannequin factory. Shurlock stated that "certain portions of these scenes seem to go too far in their exploration of the nudity of the mannequins." On May 18, 1955, Kubrick wrote to the PCA Office, informing them that the required edits had been made, and asking for a Code seal of approval, as his deal with United Artists was predicated on the obtaining of the seal. The certificate was awarded on 23 May 1955.
       On July 27, 1955, Variety reported that United Artists picked up the film for distribution because "the distrib's execs want Stanley Kubrick to align with UA and the way to nab him was to buy out" Killer's Kiss. The article stated that the purchase would help Kubrick repay his investors, and that he would be "cut in on the Kiss revenue after UA recoups its investment." Killer's Kiss was Kubrick's second feature film, and his previous feature film, the 1953 release Fear and Desire, as well as his work on shorts and as a photographer for Look magazine, had captured the interest of United Artists. According to modern sources, a few brief scenes from Kubrick's 1950 short documentary Day of the Fight were included in Killer's Kiss. Kubrick also re-used much of the visual imagery from Day of the Fight. The Variety article noted that "on the basis of his past limited picture work, UA execs figure they have an unusual film-maker talent in Kubrick."
       Reviews of Killer's Kiss were mixed, although most commented on Kubrick's unique and energetic approach to filmmaking. The Variety reviewer stated: "His was a nice try at taking on most of the major chores, but this picture attests anew the hazards of such an attempt." The Motion Picture Herald reviewer asserted: "The most unusual aspect of this somewhat trite melodrama is the fact that it was virtually put together by one man....In each of these directions Kubrick shows some promise of talents that deserve encouragement."
       Killer's Kiss marked the last time that Kubrick had to obtain private funding for a film, and also the last time he made a picture based on an original story instead of previously published material. Several modern sources note that Kubrick was unhappy with the picture and preferred that it not be shown after its initial release.