The Killing (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Stanley Kubrick|
|Produced by||James B. Harris|
|Written by||Stanley Kubrick
|Based on||Clean Break
by Lionel White
|Narrated by||Art Gilmore (uncredited)|
Jay C. Flippen
Elisha Cook Jr.
|Music by||Gerald Fried|
|Editing by||Betty Steinberg|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||83 minutes|
The Killing is a 1956 film noir produced by James B. Harris and directed by Stanley Kubrick. It was written by Kubrick and Jim Thompson and based on the novel Clean Break by Lionel White. The drama features Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards and Elisha Cook Jr.
Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) is a veteran criminal planning one last heist before settling down and marrying Fay (Coleen Gray). He plans to rob two million dollars from the money-counting room of a racetrack during a featured race. He assembles a team consisting of a corrupt cop (Ted de Corsia), a betting window teller (Elisha Cook Jr.) to give access to the backroom, a sharpshooter (Timothy Carey) to shoot the favorite horse during the race to distract the crowd, a wrestler (Kola Kwariani) to provide another distraction by provoking a fight at the track bar, and a track bartender (Joe Sawyer).
George Peatty, the teller, tells his wife Sherry (Marie Windsor) about the impending robbery. Sherry is bitter at George for not delivering on the promises of wealth he made her at the time of their marriage, and George hopes that telling her about the robbery will placate and impress her. Sherry does not believe him at first but, after learning that the robbery is real, she enlists her lover Val Cannon (Vince Edwards) to steal the money from George and his associates.
The heist is successful, although the sharpshooter is shot and killed by the police. The conspirators gather at the apartment where they are to meet Johnny and divide the money. Before Johnny arrives, Val appears and holds them up. A shootout ensues and a badly wounded George is the sole survivor. He goes home and shoots Sherry before dying.
Johnny, on his way to the apartment, sees George staggering in the street and knows that something is wrong. He buys the biggest suitcase he can find to put the money in (and struggles to lock it properly), and he and Fay go to the airport. At the airport however, they are told that they aren't allowed to take the suitcase along as hand luggage because of its size, and instead have to check it in as regular luggage. Johnny reluctantly complies. While waiting to board their plane, they watch as the suitcase falls off a cart, breaks open and the loose banknotes are swept away by the wind. They leave the airport but are unsuccessful at finding a cab. Fay urges Johnny to flee but he refuses, stating that there is no use trying to escape. The film ends with two officers coming to arrest him.
- Sterling Hayden as Johnny Clay
- Coleen Gray as Fay
- Vince Edwards as Val Cannon
- Jay C. Flippen as Marvin Unger
- Elisha Cook Jr. as George Peatty
- Marie Windsor as Sherry Peatty
- Ted de Corsia as Policeman Randy Kennan
- Joe Sawyer as Mike O'Reilly
- James Edwards as Track Parking Attendant
- Timothy Carey as Nikki Arane
- Joe Turkel as Tiny
- Jay Adler as Leo the Loanshark
- Kola Kwariani as Maurice Oboukhoff
- Tito Vuolo as Joe Piano - motel manager
- Dorothy Adams as Mrs. Ruthie O'Reilly
Three members of the cast, Hayden, de Corsia, and Carey, had appeared together the previous year in the low budget noir film, Crime Wave.
|“||I give Stanley a free hand to create, and he leaves the money problems to me.||”|
|“||We want to make good movies, and make them cheap. The two are not incompatible.||”|
Harris, a "prosperous young television distributor" and Kubrick's "Maecenas," set up Harris-Kubrick Films with the writer/director; the two convinced United Artists to put up $200,000 for the film, with Harris adding $120,000. The film was the first of three on which Harris and Kubrick collaborated as producer and director in a span of less than ten years; Harris got the rights to the novel after Frank Sinatra, who had approached the author before Harris, hesitated during negotiations. Working titles for the film were Clean Break and Bed of Fear.
Critical response 
The film performed poorly at the box office—in spite of Time magazine's prediction that it would "make a killing at the cash booths" and its assertion that Kubrick "has shown more audacity with dialogue and camera than Hollywood has seen since the obstreperous Orson Welles went riding out of town on an exhibitors' poll"—recording a loss of $130,000. However it was critically acclaimed, landing on several critical Top-Ten lists for the year. Rotten Tomatoes rates it 97% fresh, based on 32 reviews compiled retrospectively. A.H. Weiler, film critic for The New York Times, wrote, "Though The Killing is composed of familiar ingredients and it calls for fuller explanations, it evolves as a fairly diverting melodrama. ... Aficionados of the sport of kings will discover that Mr. Kubrick's cameras have captured some colorful shots of the ponies at Bay Meadows track. Other observers should find The Killing an engrossing little adventure." Variety magazine liked the acting and wrote, "This story of a $2 million race track holdup and steps leading up to the robbery, occasionally told in a documentary style which at first tends to be somewhat confusing, soon settles into a tense and suspenseful vein which carries through to an unexpected and ironic windup...Hayden socks over a restrained characterization, and Cook is a particular standout. Windsor is particularly good, as she digs the plan out of her husband and reveals it to her boyfriend."
Years later, The Killing gained a "cult" following. For example, Eddie Muller placed the film at 15th among his top 25 favorite noir films, saying "If you believe that a good script is a succession of great scenes, you can't do better than this. Hey, that scene was so good, let's do it again from somebody else's perspective". In his 1999 book Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, Muller wrote, "With The Killing, Stanley Kubrick offered a monument to the classic caper film, and a fresh gust of filmmaking in one package. Who knew when he wrapped it, that it would be the last amusing movie he'd ever make?"
In 1999, film critic Mike Emery wrote, "Kubrick's camerawork was well on the way to finding the fluid style of his later work, and the sparse, low-budget circumstances give the film a raw, urgent sort of look. As good as the story and direction are, though, the true strength of The Killing lies in the characters and characterizations." The same year, director Peter Bogdanovich, writing for The New York Times, noted that while The Killing did not make money, it, along with Harris-Kubrick's second film Paths of Glory, established "Kubrick's reputation as a budding genius among critics and studio executives.".
On January 9, 2012 Roger Ebert added The Killing in his list of 'Great Movies'. In his opening remarks, Ebert writes, "Stanley Kubrick considered 'The Killing' (1956) to be his first mature feature, after a couple of short warm-ups. He was 28 when it was released, having already been an obsessed chess player, a photographer for Look magazine and a director of 'March of Time' newsreels. It's tempting to search here for themes and a style he would return to in his later masterpieces, but few directors seemed so determined to make every one of his films an individual, free-standing work. Seeing it without his credit, would you guess it was by Kubrick? Would you connect 'Dr. Strangelove' with 'Barry Lyndon?'"
- BAFTA Film Award, Best Film from any Source, USA; 1957.
Home media 
- "Notes for The Killing (1956)". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- "Cinema: The New Pictures". Time. June 4, 1956. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- The Killing at the Internet Movie Database.
- Tino Balio, United Artists: The Company The Changed the Film Industry, Uni of Wisconsin Press, 1987 p 158
- Weiler, A.H. (May 21, 1956). "The Killing: New Film at the Mayfair Concerns a Robbery". The New York Times. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
- "The Killing". Variety. 1956. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
- Muller, Eddie. "Endless Night: 25 Noir Films That Will Stand the Test of Time". Muller's official website. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- Muller, Eddie (May 1998). Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir. p. ?[page needed]. ISBN 0-312-18076-4.
- Emery, Mike (March 15, 1999). "Film review". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
- Bogdanovich, Peter (July 4, 1999). "What They Say About Stanley Kubrick". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- Ebert, Roger (January 12, 2012). "The Killing (1956), Great Movies By Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
- "7 Classic Movies that Influenced Quentin Tarantino". classicfilm. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
- "The Killing". The Criterion Collection.
- The Killing at the Internet Movie Database
- The Killing at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Killing at the TCM Movie Database
- The Killing film trailer at YouTube
- Criterion Collection Essay by Haden Guest
- Stephens, Chuck. "The Killers Inside Me". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved 8 May 2012.