Kubrick-fest 02 - The Killing

We have come to a great film. On his third time at bat, Kubrick delivers a timeless film. To those who have said “Well, I like X film and X film, but I don’t like Kubrick”, or “I’ve seen this Kubrick or that Kubrick and will wait to comment”, I highly recommend you watch this film.

Do you like film noir? Stuff like The Maltese Falcon or Scarlet Street? Do you like well put-together crime films, where all the pieces fit together into a surprise to the viewer? Do you like amazing cinematography and unique storytelling, in the script, the use of the camera to tell that story and the editing? Don’t miss this film.

Its available for rental at every major online streaming service globally. Not worth posting a billion links.

Below are 6 reasons to watch this film in images:

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Reason 6

The way this thread works is simple - when you finish watching the film, feel free to comment and discuss here.

If you don’t want Spoilers, stay away until you’ve watched the film.

Future threads will be the same and I’ll be getting them up on Thursdays, giving those who wish to keep up a full week kinda starting with a weekend to watch that week’s film(s). That next thread will be posted here.

Alright. I was going to join in at Paths of Glory, but I probably need to watch this guy. I’ll report back!

So many Kubrick threads lately?

It’s a week by virtual week Film watching fest - so a thread per week.

Yeah, this is a great film. Sterling Hayden has never been more … Sterling Hayden-y. Elijah Cook is great too. It sometimes amazes me that some people say Kubrick couldn’t work with actors (he may have terrorized them, but that’s a separate issue). I think the deliberately desaturated performances in 2001 and Barry Lyndon may have impacted his reputation on that front.

Then there’s that N-word scene which to me packs a hell of an uncomfortable jolt 60+ years later.

It would do the same thing today - the character uses it to specific effect in the scene (microspoiler - it isn’t because the character is racist, necessarily, but because he wants to get something via the use of the word). The script is amazing.

He says it as a sort of calculated distraction, doesn’t he? I haven’t watched it in a while.

You need to join the rewatch!

And The Shining/Duvall thing…and McDowell’s lukewarm comments (which he later relents on - he had a very close relationship with Kub but then was kind of jilted by the fact it disappeared after the film was completed).

I am pending my copy from the library. Unfortunately the wildfire smoke has caused them to close the last few days. I’m going to try and get a copy of Paths of Glory at the same time.

We’ll see when I get them.

Also I am quite looking forward to the next few, since I will be watching all for the first time until we get to one of the all time greatest/ most quotable/ most memorable comedies ever.

Paths of Glory might be my favorite Kubrick after 2001. I go back and forth on Kubrick films. But it’s one hell of a movie.

“Hello, soldier. Ready to kill more Germans?”

This is where Kubrick fully comes into his own as a director, and is notably also his first outing with a respectable studio during production. It’s one of my favorite heist films, thought I guess because of the Sterling Hayden connection, I’ve seen a few people confuse it with Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle. There’s a brilliant audio interview somewhere with Kubrick chatting in the 60s brustling at the comparison with the latter, especially its tacky ending where Sterling uses the last of his strength to return to his childhood farm. No sentimentality in The Killing. Absolutely love the caustic ending where the take gets blown away. For some reason, I still can’t picture a mid-20s Kubrick sitting down with a jaded crime-fiction master Jim Thompson to write this or Paths of Glory

Just finished and I’ll have more tomorrow, but it was Marie Windsor who made the biggest impression on me. That first scene with her just tearing her husband down with every line! Also: gee, she’s tall!

(Also, I don’t know if anyone happened to bring up the Amazon trivia during the wrestler’s melee scene, but apparently Rodney Dangerfield was an extra in the crowd—his first screen performance.)

I enjoyed it, but I have to say once again the voice-over didn’t do it any favours, but maybe it hit differently at that time when voiceovers were much more common. These days you’d just have a timestamp, if that. I also can’t say it really surprised me narratively, and some of the scenes were probably unintentionally comical (particularly the impromptu royal rumble - another scene you couldn’t do now, for other reasons). My final beef is the character of George’s wife, who’s almost cartoonishly fickle and whose scheming is so transparent even George should see through it. Sure it’s a trope of noir, but it can be handled better.

I should have something more comprehensive up today or tomorrow. I have a mild pinched neck nerve thingee that is making my right arm hurt; typing and mouse usage hurts.

UA was afraid the unique time-sequencing of the visual narrative would confuse audiences; hence voice over. Take that out and the film is better I think.

Oh! They Bladerunnered it!

I was thinking about it as I watched whether they could entirely take it out, but I do think in at least some of the cases it would be REAL confusing. I came up with the same answer as Ginger–titles with timestamps. But what’s really helpful is just them saying “This is earlier” or “this is an hour later.” These days some particularly clever directors (like a Nolan) would construct visual cues in the first bit of the scene that really drive it home. “Oh, the sun is reflecting off the street sign–it must be afternoon again.”

I’m not so sure. Reservoir Dogs worked. Once the narration was insisted on it’s gonna effect the editing process, as you’ll cut knowing that will be there. I think Kubrick could’ve cut it a little differently, probably would’ve cut it a little differently, and it would’ve worked fine without the narration. Tarantino certainly thought so & borrowed a lot of the techniques for three films from this one.

Edit-Doing all that may have been resultant in something that went way over the heads of the 1956 popular US audience however.

Oh, sure, a slightly different cut would help, too. I was thinking if I watched this again I would be more able to understand why Kubrick felt like he had to jump around the way he did. I couldn’t immediately see the sense to it (early on was it just introducing the characters in a preferred way? Or is it about building the suspense of what these guys are up to?), but I wasn’t familiar yet with where it was going or what it was trying to tell me.

I think both. But if you imagine it without the narration, then like the Tarantino examples I gave above, it’s the kind of film you’d wanna see several times, looking for subtle cues regarding the pacing/chronology.

Right, definitely challenging for an audience in 1958, I’d guess, but it could work. Honestly, I haven’t seen Reservoir Dogs since those heady post-Pulp Fiction days, so I forget exactly how it plays with time.

It seemed like he just wanted to give each character’s part of the job a single coherent narrative, rather than interweaving them to keep it chronologically consistent. There’s actually remarkably little overlap between them - off the top of my head I can only recall the bar fight (at least in terms of being seen from different perspectives, it overlaps with Johnny’s initial sequence too), and the policeman catching the duffelbag, which is barely an overlap as he’s outside the whole time. It’s no Rashomon.