The Killing Screen 5 articles

The Killing

1956

The Killing Poster
  • Cahiers du Cinéma: Jean-Luc Godard
    February 1958 | Godard on Godard (p. 69)

    This is the film of a good pupil, no more. An admirer of Max Ophuls, Aldrich and John Huston, Stanley Kubrick is still far from being the bright boy heralded by the excited publicity surrounding this little gangster film which makes even The Asphalt Jungle look like a masterpiece by comparison... I shall not mention Ophuls, who would have nothing to do with the matter except that Kubrick claims his influence through irritating movements of the camera resembling those beloved of [Ophuls].

  • As the mistakes pile up, making a once carefully modulated plan on paper turn to dust, The Killing constantly threatens to fulfill such genre conventions. But Kubrick withholds the expectation of capture, betrayal, or death until the last possible moment, stretching out Jim Thompson's bullying and brilliant dialogue sequences, juxtaposing them with hypnotically fluid long takes through clogged interior spaces.

  • To critics at the time, it was a fairly standard low-budget crime drama, though a very good one with a dash of stylistic pizzazz. The fractured narrative and multiple perspectives made audiences’ heads hurt, however, and the picture bombed in theaters. Today, apart from being thought of as “that early Kubrick movie,” it’s generally considered, yes, a fairly standard late noir heist picture, if a very good one with a dash of stylistic pizzazz. But it’s much more, and more subversive than that.

  • So much has been written about Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, (1956) and for good reason, it’s a masterpiece. The young director’s third film, The Killing is frequently deemed the pioneering triumph of Kubrick’s career – his first great film. A film noir, a heist picture, filled with noir veterans, it could be classified simply within those two genres, but Kubrick always tweaked genres upturning convention with something harder, funnier, more philosophical, beautiful and ugly.

  • Kubrick's first masterful film is partly indebted to its time, partly ahead of it, but that just shows how masters have to work within trends before shattering them. It's a crackling triumph whose perverse touches make it the first fully Kubrickian microcosm: a delusional battle of order against chaos. As bonus, producer James B. Harris was at the screening to tell stories about when Stanley was young and hungry.

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