Jun 27, 2014

Review: The Killing (1956)

The Killing is without a doubt Stanley Kubrick's breakout film. His previous film, Killer's Kiss shows its low budget roots pretty obviously and is probably only worth seeing for Kubrick completionists. The Killing has a slightly larger budget and more studio support from United Artists though Kubrick had to forfeit some of his creative freedom.

What really sets The Killing apart is how unique the storyline is set out. It's told in a non-linear storyline which everyone is familiar with from Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. Non-linear storylines are pretty much accepted now by everyone but back in 1956, people weren't used to non-conventional storytelling at all. Kubrick was forced to re-edit the film to be linear but apparently the results were even more confusing to follow. Sadly, The Killing was released as it was and failed to make a profit.

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Genre: crime, film-noir, thriller
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
Produced by: James B. Harris, Alexander Singer
Written by: Stanley Kubrick, Jim Thompson
Music by: Gerald Fried
Running time: 83 minutes
Production company: Harris-Kubrick Productions
Distributed by: United Artists, Art Free, Chapel Distribution, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $320,000
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Ted de Corsia, Joe Sawyer, James Edwards, Timothy Carey, Joe Turkel, Jay Adler, Kola Kwariani, Dorothy Adams
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Synopsis

 

A team of criminals get together to plan a race track heist. Everyone is given a role and everyone is to keep their mouth shut until the big day. However, George Peatty's (Elisha Cook Jr.) wife Sherry (Marie Windsor) finds out about the operation and spills the beans to Val Cannon (Vince Edwards), her lover on the side. Things fall into place until the big day at the track when things don't go as expected.

Review


The storyline of The Killing is easy enough to follow and the characters are all unique enough to differentiate. I especially like how the climax is shown several times through the eyes of different crooks. The repetition never feels dull and the resolution is quite a thrill as well.

You can really see just how much Quentin Tarantino was "inspired" by Kubrick. Reservoir Dogs clearly traces its origins to this film and any Reservoir fan owes it to themselves to see The Killing. This is not the greatest film-noir ever made but it's most certainly one of the most important ever made, one which had an enormous impact on film later on.

Compared to Killer's Kiss, The Killing never really reveals its low budget-ness. Kubrick is a little less wild with his camera work but this time, he has a very competent group of actors who play their roles pretty well. Elisha Cook Jr.'s acting has aged the worst but it's easy to get by. There's some narration that also seems unnecessary but was forced onto Kubrick by United Artists to make it easier for the audiences who weren't used to fractured storylines. 

It's a real shame that Kubrick's visionary effort didn't light up the box office. He attracted attention from the most important people though in Kirk Douglas and Marlon Brando who who give him his next job, director of Paths of Glory and paved his way into Hollywood. As his best solo work before achieving mainstream success, The Killing is worth seeing.

Rating


8/10