The Killing

The Killing (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – These 5 Men Had A $2,000,000 Secret Until One Of Them Told His Woman!

Starring – Sterling Hayden (Johnny Clay), Coleen Gray (Fay), Vince Edwards (Val Cannon), Jay C. Flippen (Marvin Unger), Marie Windsor (Sherry Peatty), Elisha Cook, Jr. (George Peatty), Ted de Corsia (Policeman Randy Kennan).

Released – June, 1956

Directed By – Stanley Kubrick

Produced By – Harris-Kubrick Productions

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Johnny Clay, fresh out of prison, wants to marry Fay and go straight. But, in order to make this dream come true he needs cash. And getting enough cash will mean just one more job, the biggest of his career.

It’s Johnny’s plan to steal $2 million dollars from the cash counting room of a local racetrack during the running of the featured race. It is a sophisticated and detailed job that will require a trusted crew.

Johnny carefully puts together all the necessary pieces… a betting window teller who will provide access to the cash counting room, a corrupt cop, a wrestler to provide a distraction by starting a fight, a track bartender, and a sharpshooter who will shoot the favored horse during the featured race to distract the crowd.

The plan seems flawless, but we all know the saying about “the best laid plans…”

There’s always a weakness, and in this case it’s betting window teller George Peatty. George is a weak man married to a woman out of his class who only married him for the riches he promised her.

George tells his wife Sherry about the robbery hoping to impress her and calm her bitterness toward him. At first, Sherry doesn’t believe the story, but eventually George persuades her the plan is real and the rewards will be great.

Telling Sherry of the plan proves to be a big mistake as she and her lover Val conspire to steal the proceeds of the robbery from the gang for themselves.

The theft goes as planned although the sharpshooter is himself shot and killed by the police. The remaining gang members meet as agreed and wait for Johnny to arrive so they can split up the money. However, Val arrives first and a shootout ensues leaving only one wounded survivor, George.

Realizing that Sherry has betrayed him, George returns to their apartment and kills her before dying himself. Johnny arrives, takes the money, and he and Fay head for the airport. So close, but still so far from freedom.

NOTABLE: The Killing is one of director Stanley Kubrick’s first major films that would lead to him being requested to direct for Marlon Brando and Kirk Douglas.

The Killing took only 24 days to shoot.

Actor’s Jack Palance and Victor Mature were both considered for the role of Johnny Clay before it was given to Sterling Hayden.

United Artists originally released the film as the second half of a double feature. The Killing would go on to become a film noir classic.

Marie Windsor was cast for the role of Sherry Peatty after director Kubrick saw her performance in another celebrated film noir titled The Narrow Margin.

Frank Sinatra had expressed interest in the project, but when he hesitated the film rights went to Kubrick and James Harris.

Director Kubrick and producer James Harris had intended to shoot the film around the New York area. However, they could not find a racetrack that would allow the filming of a robbery to take place at their track. The production was moved outside of San Francisco and filmed at the Bay Meadows racetrack.

Personal Note: Easily one of the top film’s noir and on my list of personal favorites. Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir, has rated The Killing #15 on his list of the top 25 film’s noir. The film is also included on critic Roger Ebert’s list of “Great Movies.”

Excellent performances all around.


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