Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 6/18/99
1956 (1999) - MGM/United
review by Todd Doogan,
special to The Digital Bits
Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-//B+/B
Specs and Features
89 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered,
Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, 4 page production
booklet, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects, scene
access (32 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles:
English & French, Close Captioned
If you're a Kubrick
fan, and you haven't seen The Killing
-- well, shame on you. Double shame. In my humble opinion, The
Killing is one of Kubrick's three best films. Of course,
Kubrick's oeuvre was so diverse, that it's easy to argue with me.
So, to avoid the e-mails, I will state right now for the record -
The Killing is MY personal
favorite Kubrick film. We all have our own, but this one is mine.
It's also, without much question, the number two best heist film
ever made, next to Rififi. NOW
you can argue with me.
The Killing has to be one of
the most tense, well structured, and superbly clever films ever
made. Tarantino recognized this, and took/homaged much of his style
for Pulp Fiction from this
well-crafted film. Unfolding like a documentary, with a jigsaw like
timeline and shot-on-location footage, The
Killing follows the heist of 2 million bucks from a horse
track, by a gang of small time crooks. Masterminded by Johnny
(played by one of the greatest B-movie actors ever, Sterling Hayden
- a sad participant of the Hollywood Red Scare), the whole thing
goes down with nary a hitch. That is until the end. Ya know... since
the film is about the execution of the heist, I will leave the plot
at that. The Devil's in the details, as they say.
The Killing is Kubrick's first
truly "professional" film (made with backers other than
his family), and was his third feature (Kubrick made two short
documentaries with RKO-Pathe: Day of the
Fight in 1950, and Flying
Padre in 1951). Pulling together his first actual
professional cast, The Killing
was the first of two films he would make with the
down-on-his-professional-luck Hayden (Hayden also played the crazed
U.S. Air Force Commander, Jack D. Ripper, in Dr.
Made on a shoestring budget of $330,000 (a very small amount even
in 1956), the film wasn't very successful when first released. That
wasn't exactly a good thing, considering part of the budget included
Kubrick's salary (which he sacrificed for back end participation in
the profits). Oh, well... I'm sure it only hurt for a while. The
Killing still stands as a milestone in American
filmmaking, and a film that, to this day, is riffed on by
contemporary filmmakers. Kevin Smith acknowledges the film in Chasing
Amy, when Ben Affleck refers to others as "patzer"
-- taken from the chess playing Maurice character, as he discusses a
chess game with two other players in the Checker/Chess hall. "Patzer"
was also riffed on by Ben Kingsley's character in Searching
For Bobby Fisher.
The Killing stands as a
welcome entry onto DVD. It's the second of MGM's supplemental titles
to the Warner Kubrick Collection
box set, and it looks pretty good. Released in its original aspect
ratio of 1.33:1, the transfer is nice. The black and white film is
very gritty, again the original look, with muddled shadow and light.
I have seen this film on video, on TV, on laserdisc, at the theater
and on CD-ROM... and of all the different formats, this DVD is by
far my favorite. The detail captured on this disc is fantastic. For
years I wondered what was written on the door of Johnny's rented
bungalow. Now I know -- 78x29 (whatever that's supposed to mean).
The sound is DD mono, and it sounds unnaturally tinny at times,
which is from the source I'm afraid. It's there on my LD, and video
versions as well. It doesn't distract from the experience, but
you'll hear it a few times, especially at the track. Extras include
the usual MGM booklet (with fun facts about the film and Kubrick)
and a trailer that looks okay (but really sucks by giving away half
of the wrap-up of the story - bahh!).
When you go out and pick up that Kubrick
Collection box set, don't you dare forget to grab this on
the way to the register (or shopping cart, you Netizens). The
Killing will not let you down, and deserves to stand
proudly next to his other films. Kubrick may be gone, but these
wonderful films will forever shine in all of our home theaters on
Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD