July 9: #25, The Killing
"Now, we just have to board the plane with this cartoonishly large briefcase of money. What could go wrong?"
I was going to watch ten Kubrick films and then decided that I might as well watch his first three, as well. If anything, it would give me a chance to get back on pace a bit since they're all 85 minutes or less. Kubrick owed me that at least after I sat through several three-hour epics in a little over a week.
The killing is a black and white heist drama made right before Paths to Glory. It's also a good exercise in film noir as hard lessons are learned all around about such poor choices as marrying above your station and trusting anyone whatsoever.
The Killing sets a brisk pace, putting all the characters in place and setting the wheels in motion for a daring racetrack heist very quickly. Among the actors, you get a caricature of a 1950s gang leader played by Sterling Hayden and George, a cowardly husband played as wooden on purpose by Elisha Cook. The character who stands out most is the delightfully snarky Sherry Peatty, who is played exceptionally by Marie Windsor. Some of the best moments in the film are when she's casting shade at her hapless husband or manipulating him with ease.
You get a lot of old-timey detective film dialogue, but that's okay as it's to be expected for the time period and genre. What is a bit of a letdown is the rather weak ending, which relies on some really stupid luck and ridiculous coincidences even by noir standards.
Kubrick is coming into his own in this one, as he stages shots carefully, such as when he films an upward angle of the crew answering the hideout door so that you can't see who's barging in when the door opens. In that sequence, which is where plans really start to unravel, there's also a great moment where Kubrick goes into first person perspective as the hideout's lone survivor surveys the wreckage, breathing heavily. Overall, The Killing is an enjoyable, if rather forgettable heist drama.