"The Killing" (1956) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #63 Gem Mint 10.0


“The Killing“ (1956)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Writer: Stanley Kubrick (screenplay), Jim Thompson (dialogue), Lionel White (novel, 'Clean Break')

Starring: Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr, Timothy Carey, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, Joe Sawyer, Kola Kwariani

Rated: Approved (which I don't fully understand but I'd give it a PG-13 for some violence and sexual references)

Runtime: 1h 24min

Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Country: USA

Language: English


Crook Johnny Clay assembles a five man team to plan and execute a daring race-track robbery.


You might like this if you like: Crime Films, Dramas, Film-Noir, Stanley Kubrick('s work), Action Films, Heist Films, Christopher Nolan('s work), Gangster Films, "Scarface" (1932), "Little Caesar" (1931), Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr, Timothy Carey, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, Joe Sawyer, Kola Kwariani


"The Killing" (1956)


My personal favorite of Stanley Kubrick’s. I’m a big fan of heist movies and I’m always interested in the different locations films use to rob from. What’re they gonna rob this time and where are they going to rob from are the two questions in that genre I love exploring.

Kubrick’s remains one of the best amongst the genre even to today. I thought Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” (2020) played a nice small homage to it in his opening sequence. I just loved in “The Killing” (1956) Kubrick chose a horse race. Now I no nothing about horses let alone have gone to any horse races but I thought it was a really interesting choice and was fascinating to see through Kubrick’s eyes.


Marie Windsor in "The Killing" (1956)


My favorite aspect though was the cast, characters and acting. Brilliant performances especially by Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr., and Marie Windsor. I loved that we got to see all the loose ends each character wanted to tie up before the big day and getting to see the intricate anxieties, planning and plotting it takes to do a big heist.


Elisha Cook Jr. in "The Killing" (1956)


Kubrick blends drama, suspense and action so well together he shows he could do any of three on their own and be just as strong. Showing you can get emotional performances out of your actors, put people on the edge of their seat and deliver heart pumping action is something you don’t see in every director.


Something I always admire in a filmmaker is when they can show that even if they chose a certain genre as their main one to play in, almost every film has a suspenseful moment and some sort of action moment or a laugh or two, they’re bound to lean into other genres even if it’s only for one scene. I just love when there’s a comedy that is supposed to have a scary scene or the characters are supposed to be scared IS actually scary and not clearly some comedian trying to do a horror movie for a second. I think “Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein” (1948) was one of the earliest films I saw that does that which I love!



"The Killing" (1956)


It’s a wonderful ensemble in a dramatic thriller. One of my favorite emotional looks at the behind the scenes of a criminal heist. Timothy Carey is an extra treat in this film. I know him from a David Carradine's “Kung Fu” episode and “Peeper” (1975) starring Michael Caine and of course Kubrick’s other classic; “Paths of Glory” (1957). One of my favorite endings!


Written by Sam Gall on 09/28/20


CGC Grading: Gem Mint 10.0


"With intelligent characters, a singular plot, and a practically perfect ending, it's a brilliant early entry for one of cinema's most influential directors." - Mike Massie, Gone With The Twins


"Unequivocally represents the genesis of Kubrick's insightful mindset. It is a living, breathing laboratory of precision and control." - David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org


"One of the undisputed high-water marks of the American crime film whose reverberations can still be felt in a number of ways." - Tim Brayton, Antagony & Ecstasy


"Underneath The Killing's clockwork violence is a pungent layer of irony, something Kubrick would further explore many times later in his career." - Glenn Heath Jr., Slant Magazine


"At 27 Writer-Director Stanley Kubrick, in his third full-length picture, has shown more audacity with dialogue and camera than Hollywood has seen since the obstreperous Orson Welles went riding out of town on an exhibitors' poll." - TIME Magazine


Official Trailer:


Available to watch on various VOD platforms


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