Cast & Crew
As welterweight boxer Davey Gordon paces in New York's Grand Central Station, waiting for the train to Seattle, he reminisces about the events of the past few days: Three days earlier, Davey is in his small apartment, preparing for his bout with Kid Rodriguez. Across the courtyard, taxi dancer Gloria Price gets ready for work at the Pleasure Land dance hall. Although their windows are directly opposite the other, Davey and Gloria rarely notice each other. After they walk out at the same time, Gloria is picked up by her boss, Vincent Rapallo, who teases Gloria about the washed-up Davey being her boyfriend. As the bout begins, Rapallo calls Gloria into his office to watch the fight on television. At twenty-nine, Davey is older than his opponent, and his years of boxing have been frustratingly unsuccessful. As happens whenever he has an important match, Davey's "glass jaw" proves his undoing, and he is knocked out by Rodriguez. Although Gloria is nauseated by the slugging, Rapallo is excited, and soon turns his lustful attentions to Gloria. That evening, Davey receives a call from his uncle George, who urges him to come home to Seattle for a vacation. Despite his deep disappointment in his life, Davey demurs, and soon falls into a nightmare-filled sleep. He is awakened by screams coming from Gloria's room, and when he looks out, sees that Gloria is being attacked by Rapallo. Davey runs across the rooftop and down the stairs to Gloria's room, frightening away Rapallo. Davey then comforts Gloria, who relates that Rapallo had come over to apologize, although for what, she does not explain. Rapallo promised Gloria a secure life and assured her of his undying love, but Gloria, unable to forgive him, ordered him to leave. Rapallo then attacked her, prompting the screams that woke Davey. Davey tucks Gloria in, then as she sleeps, looks over her belongings, including photographs of a man and a woman. The next morning, Davey, instead of asking Gloria what Rapallo was sorry about, which is what really interests him, asks her about the people in the photographs. Gloria tells him that they are her father and older sister Iris, who was a ballet dancer. Gloria relates that her mother died when she was born, and that as the years passed, Iris and her father grew closer, often excluding her. Gloria began to hate Iris, especially after she became an established dancer. Iris was proposed to by a wealthy older man, but when her suitor insisted that she give up her career, Iris turned him down. Iris was forced to accept him, however, when their father grew ill and required expensive medical attention. Gloria, who was a teenager at the time, lived with Iris and her husband on his Long Island estate, where Iris was constantly by their father's side. On the day of their father's death, the hysterical Gloria accused the seemingly calm Iris of never loving their father. Hours later, Iris' husband found her body after she committed suicide. Soon after, Gloria began work at the dance hall, which she calls a "human zoo," and there immersed herself in the dehumanizing atmosphere to forget her grief. The couple spends the day together, and Davey is pleased to hear Gloria laugh for the first time. Gloria's somber mood resumes, however, when Davey tells her that he has decided to return to Seattle for good. Upon their return to Gloria's apartment, Davey realizes that he has fallen in love with her, and Gloria responds to his kiss. Gloria agrees to accompany Davey to Seattle, and the couple organizes their finances. Davey calls his manager, Albert, and asks to meet him outside Pleasure Land that night to cash his check from the fight. Albert agrees, and at the dance hall, while Gloria goes inside to ask Rapallo for her final wages, Davey waits on the street for Albert. Furious at being spurned, especially when he looks out the window and sees Davey, Rapallo refuses to pay Gloria. Meanwhile, Davey's scarf has been stolen by two high-spirited conventioneers, and he chases them. Albert arrives after Davey runs off, and Rapallo, determined to have Gloria, orders two of his henchmen to beat up the man waiting on the street. While the henchmen are mistakenly beating up Albert in an alley, Rapallo calls Gloria into his office and pays her. When Gloria returns to the street, Davey is waiting, and they decide that Albert must have come and gone already. The couple goes to their respective apartments to pack, and when Davey goes to Gloria's, he discovers that she is missing. Davey then peeks through Gloria's window as the manager lets two policemen into his apartment. The policemen reveal that Albert was beaten to death, and that Davey is the prime suspect. Retrieving a gun from his suitcase, Davey returns to Pleasure Land and follows Rapallo after he leaves in the morning. When Rapallo stops at a stoplight, Davey jumps into his convertible and demands to know where Gloria is. Rapallo drives him to the warehouse where Gloria is being held by two hoodlums, who soon overpower Davey. As Davey pretends to be unconscious, he hears Gloria promise to do whatever Rapallo wants if he will spare her life. Suddenly, Davey jumps out the window and runs, followed by Rapallo and one of the thugs. Davey climbs a fire escape to the rooftops, and when a henchman tries to follow the fleeing boxer, he injures his leg. Davey eventually finds an open door and descends into a mannequin factory. As Davey hides, Rapallo enters and knocks out the curious owner. Armed with a fire axe and pole, the two men battle each other among the mannequins, until Davey impales Rapallo with the pole. Back at the train station, Davey finishes his thoughts by remembering that the police judged Rapallo's death to be self-defense and cleared him of Albert's murder after the two hoodlums confessed. Davey ponders having fallen in love with a girl he knew for only a few days, and realizes he will never see her again. Just as he is about to board his train, however, Davey hears Gloria calling his name, and eagerly embraces her.
Howard O. Sackler
Clifford Van Praag
Killer's Kiss evolved from an original story Kubrick developed with Howard O. Sackler entitled Kiss Me, Kill Me and featured a New York boxer as the central character. This was a milieu Kubrick knew well having photographed such prizefighters as Walter Cartier and Rocky Graziano while working as Look magazine's photographer. After a Bronx pharmacist named Morris Bousel put up $40,000 (Kubrick gave him a producer credit), Killer's Kiss became a reality. In the biography, Stanley Kubrick, author Vincent Lobrutto wrote that, "Kubrick worked on the city streets, guerrilla-filmmaking style. Scenes of the main characters in their tenement apartment were shot in a small studio. All the camera equipment, laboratory, editing, and dubbing costs were arranged on a deferred-payment basis. The actors worked for a modicum, including Frank Silvera, who had appeared in Kubrick's first opus, Fear and Desire (1953). Kubrick shot the film in twelve to fourteen weeks, a long schedule for a low-budget production. 'Everything we did cost so little that there was no pressure on us - an advantage I was never to encounter again,' Kubrick told (writer) Alexander Walker. 'Photography and postproduction were completed over a period of ten months.'" Although Kubrick had planned to shoot Killer's Kiss in sync-sound, he was forced to post-sync all the dialogue and sound due to budget and time constraints.
With the exception of Frank Silvera, the cast of Killer's Kiss was largely non-professional. Irene Kane, who plays Gloria, is actually the stage name for Chris Chase, a well-known journalist. Ballet dancer Ruth Sobotka - Kubrick's girlfriend at the time - is featured prominently in a flashback sequence involving Gloria's doomed sister. According to Lobrutto's biography, "The Times Square sequence, where two conventioneers tease Jamie as he waits for Gloria, was shot on a cold New York night, but the actors had to dress for a warmer night as portrayed in the film. 'It was a freezingly cold night,' actor David Vaughan recalls. 'Stanley really kind of left the street scene to me. He told me afterwards he thought I was a great comic actor, but I was a little embarrassed by doing it. I wasn't used to doing that kind of improvised work out in public like that.'" Nevertheless, New York City streets became Kubrick's set, even though he had done nothing to get permission to shoot there. Everything was shot quickly and on the cuff like the sequence where the camera follows the two conventioneers down Broadway during the stolen scarf chase (Kubrick achieved the panning shot by riding along the curb in a truck with a concealed camera).
The completed film was sold to United Artists who released it as the bottom half of a double bill in selected markets. Though Killer's Kiss was mostly ignored by critics at the time, Kubrick viewed it as a personal success. He later told biographer Alexander Walker, "To the best of my belief, no one at the time had ever made a feature film in such amateur circumstances and then obtained worldwide distribution for it."
Producer: Morris Bousel, Stanley Kubrick
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick (story), Howard Sackler (uncredited)
Cinematography: Stanley Kubrick
Film Editing: Stanley Kubrick
Original Music: Gerald Fried
Cast: Frank Silvera (Vincent Rapallo), Jamie Smith (Davy Gordon), Irene Kane (Gloria Price), Jerry Jarret (Albert, the Fight Manager), Mike Dana (Gangster).
by Jeff Stafford
Unable to record the film's dialogue on-set due to technical problems, Kubrick was forced to post-sync all of this film's dialogue and sound effects. Veteran soundman Nat Boxer was hired to record sound. But, after his boom mic and pole created many shadows, the inexperienced Kubrick was forced to fire Boxer and his sound crew. Actress Irene Kane was unavailable to add her dialogue later, so the voice of another actress was used.
Many scenes were photographed with a springwound Eyemo camera, which holds 100 foot loads of film. The Eyemo was borrowed from friend Max Glenn and was subsequently stolen from Kubrick's car! For many tracking shots, Kubrick and company used the back of a pickup truck in place of a dolly. Kubrick was on welfare during the making of this film. DIRECTOR'S TRADEMARK: Kubrick uses a brief shot of a negative image during Davey's nightmare, which instantly evinces scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
characters are photographed from both sides of the stageline, making them appear to be (for instance) looking in the same direction, when they are supposed to be looking in opposite directions. Watch the Davey Gordon and Rapallo ax fight at the denouement for an example. This film and Fear and Desire (1953) are the only two Kubrick films not based upon novels or previously published works.
In one scene lead actress Irene Kane was supposed to walk across 42nd street, but a truck driver repeatedly blocked the way with his vehicle. The driver agreed to clear the area only if Kane would later meet him for a drink. She agreed and the scene was shot, but to this day no one knows if the rendezvous actually took place
Working with practically no budget and largely without on-location filming permits, Kubrick had to remain unnoticed while shooting in the nation's busiest city, sometimes secretly shooting from a nearby vehicle. -To shoot the scene in which the fight manager is murdered in an East Side alley, Kubrick had to first negotiate with five transients who had set up a makeshift home there and were unwilling to relinquish their turf. -All dialogue was re-recorded and because Irene Kane was not available for these post-synch sessions, radio actress Peggy Lobbin voiced her role. -For the dream sequence, Kubrick imaginatively used the negative image instead of the developed footage. This scene has been likened to the space corridor of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The last film directed by Stanley Kubrick that was written as an original screenplay (i.e., wasn't based on a previously published novel or short story).
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.
Released in United States 1996
Released in United States Fall November 1955
Released in United States on Video June 5, 1991
Stanley Kubrick's second feature.
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "Stanley Kubrick" August 10 - September 1, 1996.)
Released in United States on Video June 5, 1991
Released in United States Fall November 1955