Killer's Kiss

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Killer's Kiss
Theatrical release poster
Directed byStanley Kubrick
Screenplay byHoward Sackler (uncredited)
Story byStanley Kubrick
Produced by
  • Stanley Kubrick
  • Morris Bousel
CinematographyStanley Kubrick
Edited byStanley Kubrick
Music byGerald Fried
Minotaur Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release dates
  • September 21, 1955 (1955-09-21) (New York City)
  • October 1, 1955 (1955-10-01) (United States)
Running time
67 minutes
CountryUnited States

Killer's Kiss is a 1955 American independently-produced[2] crime film noir directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Kubrick and Howard Sackler. It is the second feature film directed by Kubrick, following his 1953 debut feature Fear and Desire. The film stars Jamie Smith, Irene Kane, and Frank Silvera.

The film is about Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith), a 29-year-old middleweight 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).


Davey Gordon is a middleweight boxer near the end of the line who is set to fight a top upcoming talent, Kid Rodriguez. He sits alone in his meagre apartment, brooding away the time till he meets Kid Rodriguez. Across the courtyard, Gloria, an attractive but world-weary taxi dancer, is getting ready for work. Each steals stealthy glances at the other, but their eyes never meet. Walking out of the building, they run into each other but say nothing. Gloria is picked up by her boss, gangster Vincent Rapallo.

As Davey is dropped by one knockdown after another, Gloria is fending off Rapallo's persistent pawing. That evening, after losing the fight and deep in a disturbing dream, Davey is awakened by a scream coming from Gloria's apartment. He rushes to the window and sees that Rappalo is attacking Gloria. He rushes to save her, but Rappalo hears him coming and makes his getaway. Davey comforts Gloria and offers to stay with her as she drifts off to sleep, silently but curiously inspecting her keepsakes and hanging lingerie before leaving.

The couple reunites for breakfast at Gloria's, where they share their life stories. With nothing holding either to New York, they decide to go to the Seattle ranch of Davey's aunt and uncle, who have repeatedly invited him to return.

While Gloria quits the dance hall and seeks her final pay, Davey meets with his manager to collect his share of the fight purse. When Rappalo hears Gloria is leaving, he tries to wheedle her plans from her. When she stonewalls him, he first threatens to kill her, and then tells her to get out. Waiting for Davey, she stands outside the entrance next to a man she doesn't know. Mistaking the man for Davey, Rappalo sends two goons to rough him up. They go too far and kill the man, who happens to be Davey's manager, Albert.

Rappalo kidnaps Gloria and holds her in a rundown hideout in a brick wasteland. Police suspect Davey of Albert's murder and search his room. Davey tries to rescue Gloria, but Rappalo's men beat him up. He escapes, leading to a chase and confrontation in an abandoned warehouse full of mannequins. During the ensuing struggle, Davey kills Rappalo, then returns with the police to free Gloria. Davey is cleared of all charges. He buys a train ticket to the West Coast. He assumes Gloria will not join him, but at the last minute she arrives at the station and they kiss.


  • 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


This was Kubrick's second feature. Kubrick removed his first film Fear and Desire (1952) from circulation over his dissatisfaction with it. Kubrick directed that film between the ages of 26 and 27, and had to borrow $40,000 (equivalent to $441,000 in 2022) from his uncle Martin Perveler, who owned a chain of drug stores in Los Angeles.[3]: 78  Killer's Kiss, originally titled Kiss Me, Kill Me,[4] was also financed privately through family and friends, but because Fear and Desire did not recoup its production budget, Perveler did not invest this time. 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, as was common practice in Hollywood. However, frustrated by the intrusion of the microphone into his lighting scheme, Kubrick fired his sound-man and decided to post-dub the entire film as he had with his first film.[5] The film is notable for its location shots in the old Penn Station, which was demolished in 1963, as well as Times Square, and the run-down streets of both the Brooklyn waterfront and of Hell's Hundred Acres – the nickname at the time for Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood.

Ballerina Ruth Sobotka, Kubrick's wife at the time, was the art director for this film, as well as for Kubrick's next, The Killing. She is also featured in a long dance solo, playing the role of Iris. Then-model and future writer and television journalist Chris Chase, using the stage name Irene Kane, made her acting debut as the female lead.

Against Kubrick's wishes, United Artists required the film be recut with a happy ending.[6] United Artists paid $100,000 for the film and also agreed to provide $100,000 for Kubrick's next, The Killing.[7]

The film features the song "Once", written by Norman Gimbel and Arden Clar.[8] It is one of Gimbel's earliest contributions to a film, although his lyrics do not actually appear in the final version.[8]


Critical response[edit]

Killer's Kiss film trailer

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 83% of 29 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.6/10.[9]

When released, the staff at Variety magazine gave the film a mixed review, and wrote:

Ex-Look photographer Stanley Kubrick turned out Killer's Kiss on the proverbial shoestring. Kiss was more than a warm-up for Kubrick's talents, for not only did he co-produce but he directed, photographed and edited the venture from his own screenplay [originally written by Howard Sackler] and original story...Kubrick's low-key lensing occasionally catches the flavor of the seamy side of Gotham life. His scenes of tawdry Broadway, gloomy tenements and grotesque brick-and-stone structures that make up Manhattan's downtown eastside loft district help offset the script's deficiencies."[10]

In a 2003 review for The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote:

Killer's Kiss brought the director onto more conventional territory, with a film noir plot about a boxer, a gangster and a dance hall girl. Using Times Square and even the subway as his backdrop, Mr. Kubrick worked in an uncharacteristically naturalistic style despite the genre material, with mixed but still fascinating results. The actress playing the dance hall girl, billed as Irene Kane, is the writer Chris Chase, whose work has frequently appeared in The New York Times. Jamie Smith plays the boxer, whose career is described as 'one long promise without fulfillment.' In the case of Mr. Kubrick's own career, the fulfillment came later. But here is the promise."[11]




In 1983 Matthew Chapman directed Strangers Kiss, a film that portrayed the making of Killer's Kiss.

Home media[edit]

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray as a special feature of The Criterion Collection's release of Kubrick's The Killing.[13] A UHD Blu-ray was released by Kino Lorber on June 28, 2022.


  1. ^ Stafford, Jeff. "Killer's Kiss (1955) - Articles". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  2. ^ The Criterion Channel's July 2023 Lineup|Current|The Criterion Collection
  3. ^ a b LoBrutto, Vincent (1999). Stanley Kubrick: A Biography. New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80906-0.
  4. ^ Castle, Alison; Kubrick, Stanley (2005). The Stanley Kubrick Archives. Taschen Deutschland GmbH. p. 76. ISBN 978-3-8228-2284-5.
  5. ^ Hughes, David (2000). The Complete Kubrick. Virgin Publishing Ltd, pp. 26-27.
  6. ^ Merritt, Greg (2000). Celluloid Mavericks: The History of American Independent Film. Basic Books. p. 139. ISBN 9781560252320.
  7. ^ Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company That Changed the Film Industry, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p. 157
  8. ^ a b Gengaro, Christine Lee (2012). Listening to Stanley Kubrick: The Music in His Films. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 15, 18. ISBN 9780810885646.
  9. ^ "Killer's Kiss". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved February 21, 2023. Edit this at Wikidata
  10. ^ "Killer's Kiss". Variety. January 1, 1955. Archived from the original on March 13, 2009. Retrieved February 21, 2008.
  11. ^ Maslin, Janet. Ibid.
  12. ^ "Winners of the Golden Leopard". Locarno. Archived from the original on July 19, 2009. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  13. ^ "The Killing". The Criterion Collection.

External links[edit]