The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
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|The Killing of a Chinese Bookie|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Cassavetes|
|Produced by||Al Ruban|
|Written by||John Cassavetes|
Timothy Agoglia Carey
|Music by||Bo Harwood|
|Editing by||Tom Cornwell|
|Distributed by||Faces Distribution|
|Running time||135 minutes
108 minutes (Re-release)
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a 1976 art and crime film directed and written by John Cassavetes and starring Ben Gazzara. A rough and gritty film, the formidable character Gazzara plays was based on an impersonation he did for his friend Cassavetes in the 1970s. This is the second of their three collaborations, following Husbands and preceding Opening Night.
The film, set in California, opens with Cosmo Vittelli (Ben Gazzara) making the final payment on a longstanding gambling debt to a sleazy loanshark (played by the film's producer Al Ruban). To celebrate his long-anticipated freedom, strip club owner Vittelli has an expensive night out with his three favorite dancers ("Margo", "Rachael" and "Sherry"). The evening culminates in a poker game in which Vittelli loses $23,000, returning him to the debtor's position he had just left. Using the debt as leverage, his mob creditors coerce him into agreeing to perform a "hit" on a rival. Vittelli is led to believe that his target is a small-time criminal of minor consequence, the Chinese bookie of the film's title; but in fact, he is the boss of the Chinese mafia, "the heaviest cat on the West Coast." Vittelli manages to kill the man and several of his bodyguards, but is severely wounded before escaping.
In addition to the potentially fatal gunshot wound he sustains, Vittelli comes to realize that his assignment was a set-up: that his mob employers double-crossed him and had no expectation he would survive his debut as a hitman. Forced into a corner again, Vittelli manages to kill or elude his assailants, but the film ends with no indication of whether Vittelli will survive his ordeal, as the show at his club goes on.
- Ben Gazzara as Cosmo Vittelli
- Timothy Agoglia Carey as Flo
- Seymour Cassel as Mort Weil
- Robert Phillips as Phil
- Morgan Woodward as The Boss
- John Red Kullers as The Accountant
- Al Ruban as Marty Reitz
- Azizi Johari as Rachel
- Virginia Carrington as Mama
- Meade Roberts as Mr. Sophistication
- Alice Friedland as Sherry
- Donna Marie Gordon as Margo Donnar
- Haji as Haji
- Carol Warren as Carol
The film's original release, at 135 minutes in length, was a commercial disappointment and the film was pulled from distribution after only seven days. At a May 17, 2008 George Eastman House screening in Rochester, Ben Gazzara said he 'hated' the original cut; 'it's too long', he told Cassavetes.
Eventually, Cassavetes decided to re-edit the film, and it was re-released in 1978 in a new 108-minute cut. The 1978 version is the one that has been in general release since that time, though both versions of the film were issued in The Criterion Collection's John Cassavetes: Five Films box set, marking the first appearance of the 1976 version since its original release.
True to Cassavetes' form, the 108-minute version is not just a simple edit of the 135-minute version. The order of several scenes has been changed, there are different edits of a few scenes, and there are a few segments unique to the 108-minute version. The bulk of the cutting in the 1978 version removed many of the nightclub routines that were in the 1976 version.
- Carney, Ray (1994). The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism, and the Movies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 230-231.
- Brenner, Paul. "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie: Overview: Allmovie". Allmovie. Retrieved March 28, 2010.
- Lopate, Phillip. "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie: The Raw and the Cooked". Criterion. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
- Hardy, Phil (1997). The BFI Companion to Crime. University of California Press. p. 192. ISBN 0520215389. Retrieved December 8, 2012.
- The Killing of a Chinese Bookie at the Internet Movie Database
- The Killing of a Chinese Bookie at allmovie
- The Killing of a Chinese Bookie at Rotten Tomatoes
- Criterion Collection essay by Phillip Lopate
- A Real Director's Cut - an essay from Bright Lights Film Journal by Jason Mark Scott.