Throughout my sophomore year I was assigned to adapt scenes from films, stories, or whatever I thought was worthwhile, and churn out an adaptation in about a week or two. I'd primarily gravitated towards the horror, action, and comedy genres with my previous work, but felt like it was a good time to shift gears. I thought to do a neo-noir would be challenging and exciting. I'd been watching a lot of Jules Dassin's work, notably Night and the City and Rififi and felt eager to start working in a world full of seedy criminals and thieves, femme fatales and brutes.
So when it came time to produce this noir short, I looked through a number of titles. I sought to maintain a very classic feel to the film, so as not to stray too far into what most modern noirs are doing nowadays with always hand-held shooting and booming, jungle-drum scores. Instead I thought to keep it rooted with a lot of classic noir tropes like a swinging jazz score, cobblestone streets, warehouses and shamelessly expressive shooting. As for keeping within the parameters of the assignment, I was required to produce a "Crisis-Conflict-Resolution" scene.
About a week before I had to start shooting, Killer's Kiss grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. I was really blown away with the ambition of it all. I felt like it was very much confined to its b-movie archetypes and plot, but I still found it extremely unique in its execution — especially in the photography. Having lived in New York for about eight years, I really appreciated the film's beautiful and decrepit landscape. It's rare — especially today — that I see a film exploit such an amazing setting like New York so effortlessly, in what felt at times like a neo-realistic approach. Shot on location, the film carries with it an intimidating and engaging authenticity. Also, in reading up more on the film, I admired the fact that it was produced on such a low budget, something that I could very easily (and still can) relate to, and couldn't help but be inspired by.
"It's so formulaic. So simple, yet so clever," I thought. "It's the classic damsel-in-distress scenario." With that approach, I felt less intimidated to fill such big shoes. My biggest fear was to take myself too seriously and be considered pretentious by adapting a Kubrick film, but I tried my hardest to make it my own. I borrowed a lot from the film, but tried to maintain a hopefully original and modern approach to such classic and enthralling material.
Shot in two days on $700, it stands out as one of my best-produced films. We shot our exteriors in blisteringly cold weather one day, and then for hours in a sound stage the next.
It has its flaws, but I love it still. Kubrick's original film really inspired me to be resourceful — to take what I had in front of me and run with it. Killer's Kiss remains to be one of my all-time favorite Kubrick films. A raw, inspiring, on the dime tour de force.