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Author Topic: The Kill-Off (1989) Jersey Noir  (Read 1216 times)
cigar joe
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« on: August 03, 2014, 04:12:30 PM »

*** the screen caps are digital camera shots of paused video tape***

<some spoilers>

A run down Jersey Shore amusement park in the dead of the off season and adjacent fly speck town (Keansburg) are the setting for The Kill-Off an excellent, off the radar, low budget, Neo Noir based on Jim Thompson’s novel of the same name. The story is updated to post code late 1988, Newbie Director Maggie Greenwald does a fantastic job re-creating a Neo Noir milieu effectively, with limited sets and aside from Jorja Fox (Myra), William Russell (Rags), and Cathy Haase  (Dannie Lee), for the most part a majority of great but career-wise, comparatively flash-in-the-pan actors. Produced in 1988 by  Palace Pictures.  

The cast of practically all looser slime balls include, Luane (Loretta Gross), a bed ridden hypochondriac, a black widow who has sat for years in the center of a web of telephone lines. Her poison tongue gossip and innuendos about the various denizens of the town results most recently, in the twin suicides of  a brother & sister when she suggests that the sister has her siblings “bun in the oven“.  The telephone Luan holds is a powerful weapon in the hands of a skillful equivocator.


clockwise from top left, title, tel-web, gossip, Luane & Ralph, suicide, Luane

Ralph (Steve Monroe) is Luane’s the slow on the uptake “stupe” of  husband. Pete (Jackson Sims) is  the owner of The Pavilion a boardwalk skid row dive bar who needs money, Rags (Russell ) is Pete’s on the wagon, head bartender, Myra (Fox) is Pete’s rebellious daughter, Bobbie (Andrew Lee Barrett) the “skell” drug pusher after Myra  who is dealing out of The Pavilion. And  the last to be introduced is a full figured ex prostitute turned stripper, Dannie Lee (Hasse) who is wonderfully spot on as one of the femme fatales who triggers The Kill Off.


clockwise from top left, Myra & Bobbie, Myra & Jersey Shore, Rags & Bobbie, Dannie Lee & Pete, Rags & Pete, Pete in The Pavilion office.

The story un-spools as follows,  years ago Luane’s dead father scams $10,000 from Pete but dies before he can spend “the sugar“. The money is never recovered and Pete strongly suspects Luane of holding out on him. Pete and Rags decide that the best way to get The Pavilion off the skids is to turn it into a strip joint so Pete takes off down the Garden State Parkway  looking for a stripper. In some industrial section he spots local  talent Dannie Lee selling her ass on the street. Pete pulls over, gets out and  looks her over. Dannie Lee gets apprehensive as Pete physically twists her about checking her various assets, and asking  her if she ever took dancing lessons. She indignantly tells him to f-off until Pete responds by asking “how would you like to make money standing up for a change”? Meanwhile, Bobbie scams Ralph out of his maintenance job at the Park and gets Myra hooked on horse.


Clockwise from top lt. The Pavilion entrance light box sign busted out, Ralph dressed up to watch Dannie Lee's debut, Rags hitting the bottle, detail.

Ralph married at 18 to Luane who was in her 30's have a bizarre open marriage, Ralph has one night stands with local teeny boppers and as long as Ralph tells Luane the details she’s cool with it, cool with it until Ralph gets bounced by Dannie Lee. You watch the train wreck unfolding with rapt interest. There are poignant yet equally touching moments throughout the film especially Dannie Lee's learning curve as a stripper and the love story that develops between her and Ralph. Also watch for the sequence where Luane vamps about her bedroom as Dannie Lee strips.


Dannie Lee's strip routine.

Every aspect of the film hits on all cylinders, the script based on Jim Thompson’s novel by Maggie Greenwald is ripe with good one liners. The music by Evan Lurie (Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle) tongue & grooves with the environs of the story well. The noir-ish cinematography by Declan Quinn (Leaving Las Vegas) enhances the dreary winter Raritan Bay seaside atmosphere and the low class bungalow interiors, especially when filtered through a murky old Xenon Entertainment Group VHS official release, (the screen caps are digital camera shots of paused video tape) the film can only improve with a proper DVD release. Film 10/10 VHS 6/10


South Raritan Bay-scape clockwise from top lt, Bobbie & Myra in bungalow ghetto,  Ralph along shore dunes, Myra, Speedway


from IMDb:

Jim Thompson's dark malice brought to screen in Maggie Greenwald's assured film debut

Author: bmacv from Western New York
27 December 2002

Spoiler Alert In The Kill-Off, her directorial debut, Maggie Greenwald brought off a nasty - and terrific - piece of work. Its obscurity probably owes to the fact that it's a `little' film with a cast of unknowns - the kind of project that doesn't inspire huge media campaigns no matter how good it is. Greenwald also adapted the script from the 1957 pulp novel by Jim Thompson (Coup de torchon and The Grifters also came from his writings, and he worked on a couple of Stanley Kubrick's early movies).

The third of a century between novel and film also worked to Greenwald's benefit in showing what Thompson could only imply (though he was a fair hand at slinging innuendo, the 1950s were still buttoned up pretty tight). So the shantoozie `Danny Lee' is now a stripper, and some puzzling references in the book are here plainly called incest. And while Greenwald takes some liberties with the original story, streamlining and improving it, she defers to Thompson's suggestive murk, forgoing the rhymed, clockwork plotting so ill-advisedly in vogue today.

The Kill-Off is about milieu as much as it is about its characters, who seem to have sprouted out of it during the night. (Director of photography Declan Quinn employs one of the inkiest palettes ever seen on film, though he aims his lights with a marksman's precision.) It's all set in a dead-end town on the Jersey shore where an old amusement park is dying a lonely death - a stagnant backwater where malice breeds like mosquitoes out of boredom and despair. Queen of the mischief-makers is Luane (Loretta Gross), a bedridden hypochondriac who amuses herself by gossiping on the telephone all day; the movie opens with one of her targets hanging herself.

Luane's doting and simple husband Ralph (Steve Monroe), 17 years her junior, works as a janitor around town -- until a scheming young drug-dealer (Andrew Lee Barrett) ousts him out of his job. Luane and Ralph enjoy an open relationship: He comes home from his one-night stands and tells her all the details - until he sleeps with the stripper (Cathy Haase). Here, Greenwald excels in a nifty sequence cutting between the stripper's debut, ogled by Ralph among the beer-guzzling louts, and Luane, alone, vamping around her boudoir. When Ralph keeps mum about that indiscretion, Luane knows it's serious - and starts thinking he's going to kill her.

But everybody wants to kill her, among them the strip-club owner whom her father chiseled out of $10-grand; his daughter, who wants her to keep quiet about the heroin habit the drug-dealer supplies; or any of the others stung by her venomous chatter. (Against all odds, Greenwald and Gross manage to scrape up some sympathy for Luane, pointedly lacking in the novel.)

The characters keep intersecting, separating and recombining until the inevitable, of course, occurs. The denouement is downbeat - this is, after all, Jim Thompson's terrain - but the assurance and integrity of the film making are uplifting.

« Last Edit: August 08, 2014, 06:29:19 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2014, 08:45:04 AM »

Added more VHS screen caps to original review.  Afro

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cigar joe
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« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2014, 07:53:00 AM »

Ok found a very decent DVD of this @ Oldies.com not perfect but an improvement over the VHS

I will go and replace all the screen caps in the above review.

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