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Ex-con Johnny Clay has a plan, a $2 million plan to knock-off a race track. The plan is perfect; Johnny and his crew go in, they get out with the money, and no one gets hurt. Nothing can go wrong, Johnny has covered all the angles, all but one, a double-crossing, money-hungry dame named Sherry Peatty. Sherry has her OWN plan, and is gonna get what SHE wants, no matter the cost!!!
For more about The Killing and The Killing Blu-ray release, see The Killing Blu-ray Review
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards
Director: Stanley Kubrick
» See full cast & crew
The Killing Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, July 26, 2011
Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing" (1956) and "Killer's Kiss" (1955) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include theatrical trailers; exclusive video interview with producer James B. Harris; excerpts from two episodes of the French program Cinema cinemas featuring actor Sterling Hayden; video interview with poet and author Robert Polito; and video interview with critic Geoffrey O'Brien. The disc also arrives with an illustrated booklet featuring an essay by film historian Haden Guest and a reprinted interview with Marie Windsor. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the two films. Region-A "locked".
The Killing (1956)
A group of men decide to rob a heavily guarded race track. If all goes well, they estimate that they will be able to walk away with approximately two million in cash. After they split the money, the men do not plan to see each other ever again.
The leader of the group is Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden, The Asphalt Jungle, The Long Goodbye), a fast talking perfectionist who has thought about everything. This would be the biggest job he has ever done – and his last one. After it, Johnny will retire.
Track cashier George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr., The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep) is one of Johnny's men. His life has been a disaster, but he has been lucky to share it with a beautiful woman, Sherry Peatty (Marie Windsor, Force of Evil, The Narrow Margin). George is in this deal for Sherry. With his cut of the money, he will finally be able to give Sherry the type of life he always felt she deserves. What George does not know is that for quite some time Sherry has been seeing a younger man.
Mike O'Reilly (Joe Sawyer, Gilda), the track's bartender, has failed his seriously sick wife Ruthie – the two never had the life he promised they would when they first met. Mike feels that it is time that he finally delivered on his promise.
Patrolman First Class Randy Kennan (Ted de Corsia, The Naked City, The Lady from Shanghai) has agreed to help Johnny because he desperately needs money to cover his rather big gambling debts. One of his creditors, Leo (Jay Adler), has just given him two weeks to settle his obligation to him. According to Leo, this time he cannot afford not to.
Marv (Jay C. Flippen, The Wild One, Hot Summer Night) is an old-timer looking for some excitement in his life. He has loaned Johnny a large sum of money to cover various expenses. Marv's apartment is also where Johnny's men discuss their preparation efforts.
Maurice (Kola Kwariani) is a former bouncer with a long record. He is hired by Johnny to take care of "half a dozen private dicks". Nikki (Timothy Carey, One-eyed Jacks, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie), a lonely bachelor, is also part of Johnny's team. He is a terrific shooter who can keep his mouth shut.
On the day of the robbery, a minor detail goes wrong. Johnny's men are forced to improvise and everything starts to fall apart.
Stanley Kubrick's The Killing, adapted from Lionel White's novel Clean Break (with dialog from Jim Thompson), is a strong noir piece that works with familiar for the genre ingredients – transgressive behavior, fatalism, and brutal realism. It is a fast and well calculated film that often feels like a raw documentary.
Though Kubrick immediately makes it clear that the main protagonists in the film are doomed, their actions are fascinating to behold, and the finale quite surprising. The narrative is fractured into brilliantly scripted episodes that allow the film to move at an incredible pace, never dragging or overenhancing looks and moods.
Black humor, which is a key element in Kubrick's body of work, is everywhere in the film. It is, however, kept in check and effectively used. Naturally, the film never comes close to being a parody of sorts.
The acting is excellent. Hayden is brilliant as the perfectionist whose impeccable plan suffers a blow. Sawyer and Windsor are also very convincing. From the supporting cast, however, it is Kwariani who shines as the former bouncer.
Killer's Kiss (1955)
A lousy New York City boxer (Jamie Smith, The Faithful City) falls in love with a beautiful nightclub dancer (Irene Kane, All That Jazz). They plan to leave the city and settle down in Seattle, where the boxer's uncle has a horse ranch. But the singer's boss (Frank Silvera, Lonnie), an aging gangster, decides to keep her for himself. When she tries to get the money he owns her, all hell breaks loose.
Killer's Kiss is not so much about the boxer and the nightclub dancer as it is about the underbelly of New York City. It is raw, notably dark and moody, at times overflowing with melancholy. The film has its fair share of flaws, but it offers an interesting look at the evolving style of a young and obviously tremendously gifted director.
The Killing Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.67:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Stanley Kubrick's The Killing arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The high-definition transfer Criterion have used for this Blu-ray release is simply beautiful. Fine object detail, for instance, is excellent even during the darker sequences from the race track building. Where there is plenty of light, the image is striking. Clarity is also dramatically improved. Where many scenes from the old SDVD of The Killing look soft and hazy, here they convey outstanding depth and fluidity (see screencapture #6). The close-ups are also incredibly well detailed. Edge-enhancement and macroblocking are never a serious issue of concern. I also did not see any traces of overzealous sharpening and filtering. Naturally, there is a prominent layer of healthy, well resolved grain throughout the entire film. The color reproduction is also impressive -- the blacks are rich and well saturated, while the variety of grays and whites have very pleasant organic qualities. Last but not least, there are no large damage marks, debris, scratches, or specks. The only possible issue here is the presence of light chroma noise during certain scenes. However, I was only able to spot its presence after I took the screencaptures for our review, not while viewing the film.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.34:1 and granted a 1080p transfer, Killer's Kiss also looks mighty impressive - perhaps a notch below The Killing, but fine object detail and especially clarity are indeed dramatically improved. Again, I did not see any traces of overzealous sharpening, though partial noise corrections have been applied. Film grain is mostly evenly distributed throughout the film, but is not as well resolved as it is on The Killing. Naturally, selected scenes have a tendency to look slightly softer than others. Lastly, there are no serious stability issues to report in this review, but I did notice a couple of tiny flecks popping up here and there. All in all, the presentation is convincing, easily up to Criterion's high standards.
(Note 1: Please note that screencaptures #1-14 are from The Killing, while screencaptures #15-19 are from Killer's Kiss).
(Note 2: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Killing Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There are two audio tracks on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0 for The Killing and English Dolby Digital 1.0 for Killer's Kiss. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for both films.
The English LPCM 1.0 track boasts a fuller, better rounded and generally better balanced sound. The shootouts, in particular, are crisper than they are on the SDVD release of The Killing, while the dialog is stable and clean. Gerald Fried's score gets a decent boost as well. For the record, I did not detect any disturbing pops, cracks, hissing (which is notably reduced here), or dropouts.
The English Dolby Digital 1.0 track delivers a slightly softer and less condensed sound -- dynamic progressions are not as effective as they are on the English LPCM 1.0 track. The dialog is also not as crisp, but this is not to say that it is in any way disappointing. There are no annoying pops and crack, but some background hiss is present.
The Killing Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Killing Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Criterion have put together a very strong package for director Stanley Kubrick's The Killing and Killer's Kiss. The two films look great on Blu-ray, the best they ever have. Clearly, this is an excellent companion piece for Criterion's equally impressive Paths of Glory release. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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