Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


Marie Windsor and Vince Edwards
THE KILLING (1956). Director, co-screenplay: Stanley Kubrick.

Ex-con Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) has gathered together a motley group to rob a race track: bartender Mike (Joe Sawyer); cop Randy (Ted de Corsia of The Big Combo); sniper Nicky (Timothy Carey); front man Marvin (Jay C. Flippen), muscular Maurice (professional wrestler Kola Kwariani); and track employee George (Elisha Cook, Jr.). But George, who wants to participate so he can buy things for his unfaithful wife, Sherry (Marie Windsor), is unaware that she has taken a lover, Val (Vince Edwards), and when these two learn about the robbery they cook up their own plans ...

Elisha Cook Jr. and Marie Windsor
The Killing is Kubrick's third theatrical film (aside from some documentaries), and it is one of his best. He managed to get excellent performances from the cast, with Windsor being a stand-out along with Elisha Cook, Jr., [House on Haunted Hill] who here is given one of the best roles of his career and runs with it. The other cast members are all on the mark, including Dorothy Adams as Mike's bedridden wife, Ruthie. Colleen Gray gets only a few moments as Johnny's girlfriend, but she's fine, and Carey makes a weird and effective Nicky, who literally shoots horses. Lucien Ballard's cinematography is first-class, and Gerald Fried's musical score adds to the film's taut and suspenseful atmosphere.

Sterling Hayden with Jay C. Flippen 
Jim Thompson's dialogue is occasionally forgettable ("she has a dollar sign where her heart should be"), but there's also an interesting interchange between Marvin and Johnny in which the former tells the latter that he practically thinks of him as a son, but then virtually suggests that they run away together, although the implications of this go unexplored. The film has an ironic, knock-out ending that really delivers a wallop. The movie is generally filmed in long cuts and the tension would have been increased with sharper editing. As good as this is, I would have loved to see what this would have been like had Hitchcock directed it. Another interesting Kubrick film is Eyes Wide Shut.

Verdict: One of the best caper movies ever made. ***1/2. 


angelman66 said...

This is one I must see...have read about it for years. Love Hayden and Windsor and of course, Kubrick, and this seems to have a noir feel that I would love.
- Chris

William said...

Highly recommended! It's a winner all the way! And a great cast, too!