Here’s an entertaining clip from “What’s My Line?” (as in “of work”), with Alfred Hitchcock as the mystery celebrity. Some detective work might have turned up an exact air date, but I’m too lazy for that sort of thing today. At any rate, since he’s plugging Rear Window, it’s safe to assume that this is from August or September 1954. The great man’s droll manner and indefinable charisma are very much in evidence, but notice the bespectacled wisenheimer who fancies himself a film buff. Golly, did Hitchcock, a film director as famous and recognizable as the stars he employed, really make a habit of appearing in his own movies? Tell me more, oh infinite font of arcane movie lore! Geez.
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 man with an axe.
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.
Another man with an axe, 25 years later.
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.
How would you like to be locked up here for the night?