Tuesday, August 23, 2011
DVD of the Week: The Killing
During the fifth race at a horse track several incidents occur, which are seemingly unrelated to the casual observer but, of course, are all part of a masterful plan as conveyed by the knowing looks between a number of men. Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) is the de facto mastermind of the job and a savvy crook who understands the odds: “Anytime you take a chance you better be sure the rewards are worth the risk because they can put you away just as fast for a $10 heist as a million dollar job.” He plans to take his cut and fly off with his girlfriend and childhood sweetheart Fay (Coleen Gray).
Kubrick skips around chronologically to introduce all the significant players in the drama: bartender Mike O’Reilly (Joe Sawyer); track cashier George Peatty (Elisha Cook) and his shrewish wife Sherry (Marie Windsor); as well as her lover Val (Vince Edwards); gambler Marvin Unger (Jay C. Flippen); with two hired hoods – sniper Nikki Arcane (Timothy Carey) and brawler Maurice Oboukhoff (Kola Kwariani). Like most heist films, everyone has their own agenda and nobody can be trusted. Kubrick establishes these characters, shows their roles in the job and their respective fates in its aftermath.
Like most film noirs, The Killing chronicles the inevitable countdown to the doomed finale for all involved. We know it’s coming, we just don’t know how and one of the perverse thrills is watching as everything goes horribly wrong. An early film in his career, Kubrick already demonstrated a masterful touch as he orchestrates a meticulously plotted heist film with the confident hand of a seasoned maestro. He also shows his knack for observing human behavior – in this case that of the criminal mind as he illustrates how a carefully planned job is ruined by greed and jealousy.
On the first disc is an interview with producer James B. Harris who talks about working with Stanley Kubrick and, of course, The Killing. Harris recounts how he met the director and the genesis of this film. He gives a nicely detailed account of several aspects of the production and his contributions.
Also included are excerpts from a 1984 interview with actor Sterling Hayden for French television. He talks about working in Hollywood and with Kubrick. Quite the colorful character, Hayden is refreshingly candid about his experiences making films.
“Polito on Thompson” features Robert Polito, author of Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson, talking about the legendary writer’s relationship with Kubrick and the problems he encountered while working in Hollywood. Kubrick was a great admirer of Thompson’s books, especially his knack for writing dialogue, and wanted to utilize this strength in The Killing. Polito recounts how the two men met and their collaboration on this film.
There is a theatrical trailer.
Film critic Geoffrey O’Brien talks about Killer’s Kiss. He compares it to a student film in the sense that it was done for very little money, was an opportunity for the young Kubrick to experiment, and demonstrates his promise as an aspiring filmmaker. He points out that there is a loose, almost improvisational quality that would be less evident in later films as Kubrick became a more skillful director.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.