The Killing (1956)
"The Killing" wasn't Stanley Kubrick's first movie, nor was it the one that launched him into stardom. I think many people would argue that "Paths of Glory" was the movie that truly began Kubrick's odd career. Because after directing Kirk Douglas in the anti-war film it was soon after that Kubrick made a big splash with "Dr. Strangelove".
Watching "The Killing" it's important to keep in mind the controversial movies that Kubrick would make later and where he had previously come from. Kubrick was a photographer before making movies and "The Killing" reflects the artistic side that the director had.
Shot in black-and-white, the film begins with the planning of a heist. Men assemble a team to rob a racetrack during one of the more expensive races. The loot—$2 millions dollars, a lot by 1950s standards....not quite so much now.
Inside this team are the bar tender for the race tracks as well as one of the tellers/cashiers.
The teller, George, has a wife, Sherry, who is a gold-digger, there's really no nice way of putting it. She sits at home all day long and mopes and whines about not having enough money. She is not a typical "good wife"; she doesn't cook her husband dinners and doesn't wait on him hand and foot. He doesn't exactly mind this, because he's crazy for her, but she does bring him down a time or two.
Trying to impress his wife, George alludes to the robbery and how rich the couple will be after it is completed and Sherry eats this up. She's cheating on George and tells her lover of the plan...naturally, complications will arise from this.
The man heading up the scheme is Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden, who Kurbick later used as the "precious fluids" obsessed General Jack D. Ripper) and he is always on time if not ahead of everyone else.
"The Killing" is satirical and makes fun of the stereotypical noir relationships. There is "the nice couple", but the wife is sick in bed and the movie suggests that she might be overdosing herself with medication. These pleasant scenes where the man and the woman are together and everything is fine are contrasted with the scenes of George and Sherry and the heist scenes themselves. Even the ending of the movie would suggest that Kubrick was making one last jab towards those who demand a happy finale.
"The Killing" only contains two women, Fay (Johnny's girl) and Sherry, and neither of them are very flattering. I kept finding similarities between "The Killing" and "Dr. Strangelove", particularly in how women are shown on screen.
A sense of time is crucial for "The Killing"...it has an unnecessary narrator who tells the time when a scene changes. A ticking clock is the background noise for an entire scene, almost drowning out the dialogue.
The movie is also surprisingly sexual, though nothing is actually shown on screen. It's yet another reminder of the controversy of Kubrick. So now we see some similarities between "The Killing" and his later works "A Clockwork Orange" and "Eyes Wide Shut".
It doesn't contain the mania that is in "The Shining" or the epic space of "2001: A Space Odyssey"; but "The Killing" is a straight-forward crime drama and it's very good at being just that.
"The Killing" is a work that would later inspire the dreadful "Vantage Point"; but it is the first one its kind. It goes back and forth in time to show what happened when and leads up to the explosive finale.
The movie is slow to begin, even though it's a parody of some sort it doesn't separate itself far enough from the subject material to do any good.
It's very entertaining, I'll give it that...but then again, you could have just watched "The Sting".
Score: 3 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones