The Killing

Title: The Killing
Year: 1956
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Writer: Stanley Kubrick, with dialogue by Jim Thompson; based on a novel by Lionel White
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Ted de Corsia, Joe Sawyer
Music: Gerald Fried
Distinctions: currently #155 on IMDb’s Top 250
Synopsis: a small group robs a racetrack
How I saw it: on video, yesterday (rented from Netflix)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good).
Objective Rating: 7/10 (points off for characters, acting and special effects/design) c. 2.8/4 (Good).

There wasn’t a real problem with the “special effects/design,” it just wasn’t exceptional. The “problems” with the characters aren’t serious, either. It’s a very short movie with a large ensemble, and the characters are as strong as they need to be. The acting is the biggest problem. Sterling Hayden kind of stinks, and a lot of the supporting cast is worse, although a few people (like Elisha Cook as “George”) are great. A couple details regarding the tone: There’s a comically dispassionate narrator with a radio announcer voice, giving you straight facts like the time of day of the following scene. There’s often no music during a scene; instead it stings or quickly fades in/out at the transitions. It’s a somewhat strange movie (although it feels perfectly natural while you’re watching it). On the one hand, it’s a classic pulp crime story in the style of the 30’s and 40’s. On the other hand, it’s an obvious influence for people like Tarantino (especially for Reservoir Dogs).

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