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Category:    Home > Reviews > Film Noir > Crime > Drama > Heist > The Killing (1957/Criterion Blu-ray w/Killer’s Kiss (1955))

The Killing (1957/Criterion Blu-ray w/Killer’s Kiss (1955))


Picture: B+     Sound: B-     Extras: B+     Film: B+



All great filmmakers start somewhere and for Stanley Kubrick, it was actually as a still photographer for Look Magazine, Life Magazine’s top competitor at the peak of grand magazine production.  After making a film he later distanced himself from (Fear & Desire), Kubrick became a formidable filmmaker by making two of the best late Film Noirs in the classic Noir period 1941 – 1958.  Criterion has issued his brilliant heist film The Killing (1957) and added Killer’s Kiss (1955) as a bonus film, making this release a double feature by default.


Based on Lionel White’ book Clean Break and co-written by Kubrick and the great crime novelist Jim Thompson, Sterling Hayden leads the cast in a tale of a complex attempt to rob a horse race track of a small fortune in cash.  A group of men plan the robbery to the last detail, time it, work it out, plan it well in advance, observe the site, find out as much about it as possible and then execute the plan, wearing the same bizarre masks so they cannot be seen and hide their identity.


Though they have been smart and clever, furthering their determination and confidence in the plan, things still do not quite run as expected.  However, this is also a character study, a bleak look at the underbelly of the world they inhabit and one of the best, most honest such portrayals in all of crime film history.  Acting is exceptional, the world dense and with this film, Kubrick beings his reign as one of the all time masters of filmmaking.


The film has been constantly imitated and ripped-off (like all of Kubrick’s films at this point) yet it offers many surprises and holds up extremely well after over half a century.  If Kubrick had not moved on to make a series of masterworks, this would have been enough to show his superior talent, but the more successful later films (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket, et al) have unfortunately held this gem back a bit, but this remarkable new Blu-ray of the film should finally help to rectify that situation.


Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Ted DeCorsia, Marie Windsor, Timothy Carey, Elisha Cook and Joseph Turkel (Blade Runner) also star.



The 1080p 1.66 X 1 digital black and white High Definition image transfer is from a recently restored 35mm camera negative in 2K progressive scan HD from a Scanity film scanner resulting in stunning playback that began the distinct look that would mark and identify a Kubrick film as one of his films with exceptional lighting and depth of field.  Director of Photography Lucien Ballard, A.S.C., delivers some of the best work of his great career with amazing, unforgettable, clear depth, stark shots that make this one of the last great Film Noirs and many of the shots are still imitated to this day.  The PCM 1.0 Mono comes from the original 35mm magnetic soundmaster and is the best the film has eve sounded down to the underrated Gerald Fried’s great, ironic music score.


Extras includes the usual nicely illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and two essays on the film, while the Blu-ray adds Original Theatrical Trailers, new video interview with Producer James B. Harris, excerpt from a French TV interview with star Sterling Hayden from the series Cinéma Cinémas, new video interview with Poet Robert Polito on author Jim Thompson, a (as noted) new HD transfer (at 1080p 1.33 X 1, looking terrific) of Kubrick’s remarkable 1955 Film Noir Killer’s Kiss (about a boxer dealing with a doomed life) and a new video appreciation of Kiss by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien.


That makes this one of the must-have Blu-rays for all serious film fans and collectors.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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