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drinkanddestroy
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« on: April 08, 2012, 10:18:39 PM »

The Killing (1956)





first I will copy the previous posts on this movie in the Film Noir Discussion/DVD Review Thread:

First post is by redyred http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg16344#msg16344

Keeping the ball rolling, here's my review of Kubrick's The Killing:

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The Killing (USA, 1956)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Jim Thompson
From the novel Clean Break by Lionel White.
Produced by James B. Harris
Runtime: 81 minutes.

Reviewed copy: MGM/UA Region 2 DVD

 

The DVD

Typically of DVDs from MGM/UA, there are no extras with this release (the back of the case tauntingly lists “Interactive Menus” and “Scene Selection” as being Special Features – don’t you just hate it when they do that?). However the transfer and sound quality are fine. As far as I can tell this is an uncut version.

Synopsis

Fresh out of jail, professional criminal Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) puts together a team of “ordinary” people to pull off a meticulously planned racetrack heist. The job goes without a hitch and the police are none-the-wiser. However, one of the gang, insecure bookie George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr.) lets on details of the plan to his avaricious femme fatale wife Sherry (Marie Windsor), who then plans with her lover (a young, handsome crook) to steal the loot. From then on everything falls apart and Johnny and his gang are doomed.

Review

Generally regarded as Kubrick’s breakthrough film, The Killing follows an almost identical plot to earlier heist-noirs such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Rififi (1955). Where it differs most sharply from those films (and perhaps what it is most famous for) is its fragmented story structure. While the events leading up to the day of the heist and its aftermath are told in a more or less straightforward linear fashion, the robbery itself is related through a series of overlaps and backtracks, zipping back and forth throughout the day as we see each character’s individual part in the operation. Each scene is introduced by a narrator giving the time and an explanation. Ironically, rather than being confusing this device actually provides the best way in which to tell what is itself a fragmented story – with different characters working alone in different places towards the same goal.

Kubrick’s direction, while clearly not quite up to the standard of his later work, is still at the very least highly competent. He makes good use of single source lighting, giving the whole film a dark, grim feel. This is most effective in an early scene where the gang are sat round a table planning the robbery – as the non-professionals hunch forward their faces become eerily illuminated, while their leader Sterling Hayden slouches back and appears as a silhouette.

One problem with this film is that there are occasional cases of bad acting. The worst offender here is Elisha Cook Jr. who delivers his lines somewhat flatly. Sterling Hayden and Marie Windsor both play their roles brilliantly however. There are also some great bit parts – Timothy Carey (later to star in Kubrick’s superlative Paths of Glory (1957), and in my opinion an underrated talent) plays a laid back professional hitman. And, in a memorable performance, real-life professional wrestler Kola Kwariami indignantly starts a fight in the racetrack bar and proceeds to floor half a dozen security guards.

A classic film noir, intelligent and stylish, The Killing is recommended viewing for anyone getting into the genre. It should also be of interest to Kubrick fans who haven’t seen his earlier work.

My rating: 8 out of 10.

Allmovie page: http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=1:27318
IMDb page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049406/

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« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2012, 10:22:47 PM »

Next post is by Leone Admirer http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg16347#msg16347 :

Good review Redy! Am actually quite tempted with that one!

-----------------------------------------------

 Two Kinds of... http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg16361#msg16361 :

So far you've listed two of my favorites, I recommend them to all!   Keep them coming!

------------------------------------------


dave jenkins:  
http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg150358#msg150358 :



The Killing (1956) - 8/10. First Blu-ray viewing. The quintessential heist-gone-wrong flick with the quintessential film noir cast: Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Coleen Gray, Jay C. Flippen, Vince Edwards, Jay Adler, Timothy Carey, Joe Turkel, Dorthy Adams . . . In a new interview on the disc, producer James Harris confirms that Kubrick was responsible for the casting (with the exception of Edwards, who was Harris's friend). Kubrick went to movies and he knew who to go after. He also knew enough to get Lucien Ballard for the photography and Jim Thompson for adapting the source novel (in another interview extra, Thompson's biographer explains how Kubrick screwed Thompson out of his proper screen credit). The thing that attracted Kubrick and Harris to the material was the way the story was told, so the shuffled chronology was retained even against later objections by the studio (there was a last-minute attempt, quickly adandoned, to re-order the story in linear form). Somebody get Tarantino on the horn--In 1956, Harris-Kubrick were able to organize their time-displaced scenes without the use of chapter headings!

------------------------------


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« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2012, 10:30:43 PM »

I thought the ending for this movie was as bad as it gets.

SPOILER ALERT

I mean, after all the precautions taken by the professional played by Hayden, he actually would be so dumb as to check in the bag at the airport? REALLY? Heck, with all that money, he could hire a friggin' limo to take him and his girl to wherever he wants to go. And then, after all that, it ends when the little dog scares the guy driving the luggage and that suitcase (and ONLY that suitcase, of course) falls and spills the money?? Are you kidding me? This sounds like the writers were sitting around with the script but were just stumped and couldn't think of an ending, and just said, Fuck it, we'll do anything. I appreciate the irony that of all the planning by the one professional, and all the possible screwups by the amateurs involved, it is the professional's screwup that ultimately costs them. But this particular ending is fitting for a kids book. Like Curious George or Clifford the Dog. (Sure, if you're like cj and are more than happy to watch a movie for it's lighting and noir elements, you'll be orgasming. But if you're like me and don't let a movie get away with bullshit just because it has a dark alley and low-angled lighting), this ending was beyond ridiculous  Roll Eyes Roll Eyes

(If you can somehow exclude the last scene, this movie is a 7/10). Overall, it gets no more than a 6/10, the ending is that bad. This isn't the first movie that had a terrible ending (Red River comes to mind) but with Red River, I am able to forget the ending and enjoy the first 95% of the movie. With The Killing, the ending just left a terrible taste in my mouth, perhaps because the story matters more in a heist movie (besides, The Killing wasn't nearly as good as Red River anyway).

Very, very disappointing.


p.s. I hated Sterling Hayden after watching Johnny Guitar, and said some nasty things about him on these boards. But then I re-watched The Godfather after not having seen it in over 10 years, and I liked him there; and now I liked him very much in The Killing as well, so I take back what I said about him. (Heck, Johnny Guitar was such an awful movie, perhaps it just brought out the worst in everybody  Wink)

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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2012, 04:28:18 AM »

I thought the ending for this movie was as bad as it gets.

SPOILER ALERT

I mean, after all the precautions taken by the professional played by Hayden, he actually would be so dumb as to check in the bag at the airport? REALLY? Heck, with all that money, he could hire a friggin' limo to take him and his girl to wherever he wants to go. And then, after all that, it ends when the little dog scares the guy driving the luggage and that suitcase (and ONLY that suitcase, of course) falls and spills the money?? Are you kidding me? This sounds like the writers were sitting around with the script but were just stumped and couldn't think of an ending, and just said, Fuck it, we'll do anything. I appreciate the irony that of all the planning by the one professional, and all the possible screwups by the amateurs involved, it is the professional's screwup that ultimately costs them. But this particular ending is fitting for a kids book. Like Curious George or Clifford the Dog. (Sure, if you're like cj and are more than happy to watch a movie for it's lighting and noir elements, you'll be orgasming. But if you're like me and don't let a movie get away with bullshit just because it has a dark alley and low-angled lighting), this ending was beyond ridiculous  Roll Eyes Roll Eyes

(If you can somehow exclude the last scene, this movie is a 7/10). Overall, it gets no more than a 6/10, the ending is that bad. This isn't the first movie that had a terrible ending (Red River comes to mind) but with Red River, I am able to forget the ending and enjoy the first 95% of the movie. With The Killing, the ending just left a terrible taste in my mouth, perhaps because the story matters more in a heist movie (besides, The Killing wasn't nearly as good as Red River anyway).

Very, very disappointing.


p.s. I hated Sterling Hayden after watching Johnny Guitar, and said some nasty things about him on these boards. But then I re-watched The Godfather after not having seen it in over 10 years, and I liked him there; and now I liked him very much in The Killing as well, so I take back what I said about him. (Heck, Johnny Guitar was such an awful movie, perhaps it just brought out the worst in everybody  Wink)

You have to remember these films were a still lot of times flawed by and purposely altered by the dictates of the studio,  Breen, and the Hayes Code who took the films out of the original creators hands had final script approval.  Afro

« Last Edit: April 09, 2012, 04:52:21 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2012, 05:15:38 AM »

You have to remember these films were a still lot of times flawed by and purposely altered by the dictates of the studio,  Breen, and the Hayes Code who took the films out of the original creators hands had final script approval.  Afro

I very much doubt that the dog-causing-the-driver-to swerve-causing-the suitcase-to-fall-and-spill-the-money had anything to do with the the Hays Code. My problem is not that something went wrong; we KNEW that was bound to happen. And when all the amateurs screw up but the fatal mistake comes from the professional, that makes it all the better. But my problem is in the HOW. That old lady and the dog with the suitcase spilling the money out sounds like the ending to a Curious George book, not a crime drama.

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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2012, 05:40:18 AM »

You should probably stop watching Noirs then, lol. Cool

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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2012, 06:10:32 AM »

In the Noir world, Fate sticks its big foot out for the hero to trip over. The more ostentatious the trip, the better. Fate is a show-off.

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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2012, 06:57:19 AM »

You should probably stop watching Noirs then, lol. Cool

You got that straight, pal. You are the one who recommended all these noirs to me (and therefore wasted a lot of my time and expectations  Wink) I just watched The Narrow Margin ; I am sure it was in my netflix queue on your recommendation. I haven't looked at any of that movie's threads on these boards yet, but all I could think of as I was watching it was, "trains and shadows.... boy, what I wouldn't bet that cj rated this piece of shit a 10/10!" Wink) There are some really great noirs which would be great movies even if it didn't have a single noir element, (eg. Ace in the Hole, Sunset Boulevard, In A Lonely Place or a movie like Out of the Past, where the heavy noir elements added to an already-terrific movie. Those 4 are among my all-time favorite movies. Then there are those which rely almost solely on the noir stuff (eg. The Set-Up, Act of Violence ) which to me is bulllshit. A femme fatale and noir lighting can at best add to a movie, but cannot MAKE a movie. So when I get a response like dj's above -- which I am not saying is incorrect -- that essentially comes down to "well this is how noir works," then yeah, I agree with you cj, I gotta start phasing Noir's Noirs outta my life. I think I'll do just fine with my Westerns, Action, and non-noir Dramas and Thrillers  Wink

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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2012, 07:03:48 AM »

In the Noir world, Fate sticks its big foot out for the hero to trip over. The more ostentatious the trip, the better. Fate is a show-off.

That's all well and good. I have no problem with that, if done properly. But the dog and the suitcase ending was just ludicrous.
I mean, couldn't Hayden have instead perhaps had his car run out of gas or something? There are a million and one ways I can think of better than what happened. (And that is without even getting into the almost equally ludicrous notion, that someone in Hayden's position would have checked that suitcase into baggage. I don't give a damn what the alternative was, there ain't no friggin' way in hell he would do that. But the ending was so damn ridiculous, it almost made me forget about that part  Wink)

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« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2012, 08:52:45 AM »

I should add one thing: considering how harcore Noir's Noir fans like cj & dj evaluate Noir's Noirs so differently than they do other crime dramas (including ones that use some noir elements but to a lesser extent), I am starting to believe that you guys should actually perhaps consider Noir as a new genre (or sub-genre) after all, rather than as merely a specific Style of the Crime Drama Genre. Because there one thing that is true in every drama/thriller (including crime dramas/thrillers) is that the Story matters. In Dramas and Thrillers The Story matters; more so, in fact, than in perhaps any other film genre.
Along comes a new set of films, calling themselves films noir. though they are considered a subset of the crime drama genre, they actually introduced not just ADDITIONAL elements (eg. lighting, dark characters) but they also introduced the NEGATING of previously important elements -- the Story. A crime drama/thriller without an important story is not a drama thriller at ALL!!!I can accept a good crime dramas with stylish elements added added noir lighting; I cannot accept a story that is not really a movie unto itself, but only survives as a means for the DP to use all these lighting and to show these dark characters etc.

once you have reached the point where you no longer care about the plot-- eg. The Set-Up, or Act of Violence, or the Narrow Margin--  but just care about the noir lighting and femme fatale), this can no longer be called simply a style of the Crime Drama Genre; I think this indeed has to actually be called an entirely new GENRE

CONGRATS, CJ! YOUR NEW GENRE HAS BEEN BORN!!!!

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« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2012, 09:03:21 AM »

once you have reached the point where you no longer care about the plot-- eg. The Set-Up, or Act of Violence, or the Narrow Margin--  but just care about the noir lighting and femme fatale),
Nobody here is doing that. Plot is still important, which is why I like The Set-Up and Act of Violence, but abhor The Narrow Margin.

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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2012, 05:13:41 PM »

Nobody here is doing that. Plot is still important, which is why I like The Set-Up and Act of Violence, but abhor The Narrow Margin.

well, we can argue about the specifics of the case by case (I actually think there is more story in The Narrow Margin than there is in The Set-Up), and perhaps I unfairly grouped you together with cj on this matter; maybe you are less of the Noir's Noir enthusiast than he is (and maybe you are more). But by and large, I still think that when you have a whole group of movies in which the importance of specific stylistic elements (lighting, femmes fatale, specific traits of the characters, etc.) overtake the importance of the story, I don't see how it can be in any really be considered a drama/thriller.

I started thinking about this cuz I watched a few minutes of William Friedkin's commentary to The Narrow Margin, in which he used the term "genre" to refer to film noir, rather than "style." My initial reaction was that (based on the definitions I've heard discussed on these boards), he is wrong. But the more I think about it, hardcore Noirs are different than (other) dramas/thrillers in more ways than not, if you the kind of noir fan like cj who judges those movies almost entirely on stylistic elements.





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« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2012, 05:16:36 PM »

Maybe I am just wasting my time here with semantics, who knows. But when I am discussing a movie, and some of you focus on how the movie fits in with conventions of specific stylistic elements which you rarely hear mentioned when discussing other types of movies; and you don't point out nearly as much about the more "standard" elements involved in these movies (eg. story), it gets me thinking.....  Azn
I'll give three examples (out of many):

1) When I criticized the ending of The Killing, dj responded how this sort of thing is a convention of Noirs, rather than defending it on its own merit.

2) When discussing Ace in the Hole, dj criticized it very strongly because you felt that at the end, Douglas's character acts in a way that no good noir character should act. Again, dj did not criticize his actions in that they didn't make sense on their own, but that they didn't make sense for a noir charcater.

3) When I once mentioned how I felt that the narration style was inappropriate in a specific movie (I remember it was Double Indemnity for sure, and possibly some others) because it took a good story and gave away the ending up front, dj and/or cj responded how this was a Noir convention (as I recall, dj may have also defended this one on its own merit, but a large part of his and/or cj's response including discussion of Noir conventions).

I am sorry if I misinterpreted/misquoted cj or dj here in these specific responses; please forgive me if I did. But I do think that there is more that divides than unites Noirs from other dramas/thrillers. Again, maybe I am just wasting my time with semantics. But hey, wtf else do we do around here?  Wink

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« Reply #13 on: April 10, 2012, 02:56:26 PM »

I'll repeat, you should stop watching Noirs then, the stuff that most people love about them is is exactly the things you don't like, lol.

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« Reply #14 on: April 10, 2012, 03:02:47 PM »

I'll repeat, you should stop watching Noirs then, the stuff that most people love about them is is exactly the things you don't like, lol.

It's not that I don't like it. It's that it doesn't add anything, and doesn't make the movie. I consider it neither an asset nor a detriment. (Somewhat different than hot shots of Rhonda Fleming, which are indeed an asset, but still do not make a movie  Wink )

All these noirs I am watching are based on your recommendations; I am gonna have to go clean out my netflix queue now   Wink  (Oh well, I guess we still share a love of Westerns  Wink ).

« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 03:06:39 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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