It’s always fun to see a director’s humble beginnings and recognize imagery that crops up in later, more famous output. Killer’s Kiss, Stanley Kubrick’s feature debut from 1955, shows that his distinct talent for framing shots was already in place. In addition, this film noir has a couple of visual cues that are too striking to go unnoticed by the seasoned film buff.
A short, solarized dream sequence, in which the camera moves through empty New York streets, is a clear precursor to the tunnel of light/Star Gate in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The fight at the end, meanwhile, is of even greater interest, at least to horror fans. As Frank Silvera’s villainous dancehall owner grabs an axe from the wall, intent on killing the virtuous boxer played by Jamie Smith, it’s hard not to be reminded of Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
The finale to Killer’s Kiss manages its own brand of surreal creepiness, however, thanks to the highly unusual setting—a cavernous storage room full of mannequins. Legs, torsos and heads fly in a surprisingly brutal brawl, observed by an impassive, more or less sexless audience. And although Killer’s Kiss is a gritty crime drama, you might get a bad dream or two out of it if you suffer from pediophobia.