Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Video review: "The Killing: The Criterion Collection"
Not much in the way of new films coming out on video this week, so let's journey to the past for 1956's "The Killing," the third feature by director Stanley Kubrick and his first studio film. It's a hard-boiled film noir starring the great Sterling Hayden as the head of a gang looking to knock over a horse track for a cool $2 million.
"The Killing" is being released this week by The Criterion Collection. If you're not familiar with the Criterion outfit, they're the gold standard for the serious video collector. They only release films of significant artistic achievement -- though there's been some quibbling about that definition as of late -- and pull out all the stops in terms of the quality of the transfer and sumptuous extra features.
In most cases, a Criterion Collection release includes a restoration or remastering of the film itself, and "The Killing" is no exception. Kubrick's use of shadows is veritably oppressive, and the black-and-white cinematography (by Lucien Ballard) looks exquisite.
Kubrick, who also wrote the screenplay based on a novel by Lionel White, splits his effort between the taut logistics of the heist itself and the various personality defects of the people caught up in it.
Elisha Cook Jr. has a memorable turn as a nebbishy inside man, and Marie Windsor is positively slithery as his greedy, back-stabbing wife whose scheming brings the whole enterprise to disaster.
Interesting note: The title has several meanings, from a colloquialism for a major robbery, to the fact that the gang shoots one of the horses to cause a distraction, and that most of the cast winds up dead.
It's a worthy wind-up by perhaps the greatest filmmaker of the last half-century.
Video goodies are quite good: An interview with producer James B. Harris, archive interviews of Sterling Hayden, a feature about author White, and a booklet with an essay. It even comes with a copy of Kubrick's second film, "Killer's Kiss."
Now that's a steal.
Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 3.5 stars