The Killing (1956)

The Killing 1956

The Killing – IMDb 243/250

My review this week isn’t of a gritty Danish crime drama, but rather of Stanley Kubrick’s film noir The Killing (1956), a crime drama starring the sultry voice of Sterling Hayden playing Johnny Clay, a veteran criminal planning a large scale heist to net him and his fellow conspirators a whole lot of dough (my attempt to sound like a 50s gangster).

With a running time of just over 80 minutes, The Killing moves along at a quick pace giving us an introduction of each character involved before progressing to the eventual heist, with a narrator telling us the story throughout which does take some getting used to but eventually works for the film to tie together nicely.

The main thing I noticed when watching this film was how quickly it made me think of Quentin Tarantino, who himself said Reservoir Dogs was heavily influenced by this movie.

The number of characters, the dialogue, and in particular the rather surprising ending all felt very much like Tarantino, and even the narration of the film made me think of The Hateful Eight.

But without the over reliance on violence I actually found myself enjoying The Killing a lot more than some of Tarantino’s own work.

The interesting relationship between George and Sherry Peaty, where George’s love of his wife borders on obsession rather than love felt very ahead of its time, especially when you contrast it to the ridiculous nature of Johnny Clay’s relationship with Fay (Coleen Gray), whose devotion to him showed that feminism was still in its early stages. ‘I believe everything you say Johnny.’ She wouldn’t go through his phone then.

While The Killing did feel slightly dated (at one stage they go to a Chess and Checkers club) it still was an easy watch, and featured some elements that felt very modern. The ending as I mentioned before really surprised me, and is possibly what the film is most known for and gets it into the top 250.

The Killing reportedly heavily influenced Reservoir Dogs

The Killing reportedly heavily influenced Reservoir Dogs – 77th on my list – I’ll be reviewing it in about 30 years time

There’s also this lovely technique when the heist is taking place where the horse racing commentary links all the characters actions together in time, so for instance you know that Johnny is getting ready for action when Nikki (Timothy Carey) is trying to shoot a horse. That sentence will make sense when you watch the film.

Like film critic Mike Emery says as well ‘the true strength of The Killing lies in its characters and characterizations.’

Possibly putting the clichéd Johnny and Fay relationship aside, the characters really are entertaining, with memorable performances from Georgian wrestler Kola Kwariani who’s in one of the most oddly hilarious fight scenes I’ve seen, and Marie Windsor as the bitter and money hungry Sherry Peaty really steals the show.

Entertaining is the word I would use to describe The Killing, which I really can’t say about many of the older films I’ve watched, which generally require a lot more thought and concentration than some of the films of today.

It’s also very interesting to see the influence it clearly has had over modern cinema, and if you want to see what a Tarantino film might have looked like in the 50s, then I would give this a watch.

My Rating: 6/10



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