The Killing (1956)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Stanley Kubrick (screenplay), Jim Thompson (dialogue), Lionel White (novel)

Stanley Kubrick gave us the greatest science fiction film of all time with 2001: A Space Odyssey. He gave us the greatest war movie ever made with Full Metal Jacket and the unforgettable Gomer Pyle. He created the best apocalyptic movie on the planet with Dr. Strangelove, destroying said planet in the process. He also filmed the greatest horror movie in history with The Shining.

Now these things are arguable, of course, but the fact that they’re arguable is the achievement. Expectations for today’s viewing were quite high.


The Killing is film noir all the way. Sterling Hayden leads the crew and he’s rock solid, as a complicated heist at a racetrack is executed step by step and parties are assigned to and perform their specific jobs like clockwork. But a femme fatale inserts herself into the situation and (scientifically speaking) jacks it all up, so a beautiful plan devolves into catastrophe.


The score by Gerald Fried helps to heighten the tension right up to the point that by the end you’ll be either holding your breathe or sitting rigid like a stone, leaning forward. Or both.

Kubrick’s legendary, carefully crafted shots are evident, so much so that picking grabs to include here was a chore—not because they’re hard to find, but because they’re everywhere, even this early in his career. It’s gorgeous; anyone interested may want to go straight for the Criterion Blu-ray.


Using both a dictionary and a thesaurus to properly express reaction to the movie, I have to say: It’s awesome. Ridiculously awesome.

So Kubrick has also given us one of the best of the true film noirs.

“Waiting for you all those years and staying by myself it was like, not that you were locked in, but I was locked out.”

5- stars

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