Starring Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Vince Edwards, Coleen Gray, Jay C. Flippen, Timothy Carey

The Killing (1956) | The Criterion Collection

(9-Great Film)

Lean. Ferocious. Exciting.

Johnny Clay: None of these men are criminals in the usual sense. They’ve all got jobs. They all live seemingly normal, decent lives. But, they’ve got their problems and they’ve all got a little larceny in ’em.

Not a Stanley Kubrick scholar or a filmmaker, I can’t see much connection between The Killing (his first feature-length film) and the classics he made subsequently. Where his most famous films like The Shining or 2001: A Space Odyssey are epic and ambiguous, The Killing is almost the direct opposite. It’s a testament, then, to his skill that he directed these films, and that each one is, in its own way, a great one. The Killing follows a group of men, led by Johnny Clay (Hayden), who plan to knock off the local horse track in the middle of a race. Their planning is thorough, but even the best laid plans go astray, especially in crime flicks. This is one of the best; perhaps, it is the best. Efficient, striking, low-key, with the perfect faces to fit each role. Marie Windsor is rightfully famous among film buffs for her femme fatales. She’s just so hateful. Not a minute seems wasted on the way to a poignant finish.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,037)

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