A Boxer’s Dilemma

Director Stanley Kubrick was forced to dub Killer’s Kiss’ audio. All of it. At times, it gives Killer’s Kiss a feeling out of time, a surrealist’s touch even, as if a film captured at the dawn of cinematic sound. Ancillary car horns, men playing a harmonica, and boxers railing on gym-hanging punching bags are akin to effects being played on a synced record nearby, before sound was added to actual film.

Yet the rest of Killer’s Kiss comes across as unnervingly authentic, the freed camera and rogue filmmaking techniques bizarrely placed circa 1955. The images are set low, high, from the street, at distance, in ways that feel wholly unprofessional, truly voyeuristic. Art is born though limitation; Killer’s Kiss is pure in its example.

Art is born though limitation; Killer’s Kiss is pure in its example

Without Kubrick’s name, it’s easy to see Killer’s Kiss falling off alongside countless studio noirs from this period (and certainly before). The imagery evocative and the story seedy, neither leaves a distinctive voice. Seeing New York raw, as it was, and from the eyes of a farm boy boxer comes through as inherently American, right in Kubrick’s birth city too.

Davey (Jamie Smith) is just too plain a hero though and antagonist Vinnie (Frank Silvera) a stock character. Femme fatale Gloria (Irene Kane) can do little other than take abuse and swoon for these men. Killer’s Kiss doesn’t alter formula, and seems more interesting, from Kubrick’s perspective, to merely be made at all. The perfectionist Kubrick became isn’t here. Instead, there’s a filmmaking appreciation from a director desperate to grain notice, to earn attention for his wide-ranging skillset; Kubrick’s dazzling compositions make certain someone will respect his work.

Watching Killer’s Kiss, just watching, not even listening, is absorbing. The shadows, the nuance, the cramped interiors, and overbearing exteriors; it’s splendidly visual in purpose. It’s often lonely too, a story so insignificant to the city’s function, but a few people find themselves engaged. Killer’s Kiss acknowledges these things happen, daily even, to the most average people in major urban hubs. But a handful ever truly care. The same goes for most movies like this too.


A unique grain structure hangs over Killer’s Kiss, dazzlingly precise via the encode, and quite prominent as well. The imagery swims in this low-grade film stock’s effects, and it’s gorgeous for it. A true 4K scan of this negative reveals every nuance in the source.

Spectacular sharpness lets Killer’s Kiss breathe on this format, making full use of the resolution. It’s astonishing really, considering the low budget roots, age, and overall condition (spotless). There’s not a scratch left over on this negative and where possible, detail thrives. Facial texture pops in close, while the city streets look their most organic.

Dolby Vision adds further zest and life to this transfer, whether it’s New York’s lights or the seedier noir shadows. Gray scale is immense, best-in-class material considering the range on display. All gradients in-between vary and do so smoothly, truly flawless.


Recorded in post-production (dialog and sound effects alike), a DTS-HD mix handles the mono audio well. If anything, the dubbing method allows the dialog better quality than anything recorded on set, plus a consistency. Music struggles a touch in the upper registers, of little concern overall, an issue but a handful of times total.


Kino brings in historian Imogen Sara Smith for a commentary track, joining the original trailer as the bonuses.

Killer's Kiss
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras


Plodding and distinct, creative but limited, Killer’s Kiss earns note due to its Stanley Kubrick credit but it’s otherwise a forgotten b-tier noir.

User Review
3 (3 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 37 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD:

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