Two early Kubrick films on a Criterion Blu-ray disc.The Killing (1956)
, directed by Stanley Kubrick.
An intricately planned race track heist, with one of the greatest "the gods have a cruel sense of humor" endings I can remember. The crew is businesslike about the operation, but something always goes wrong. Too many people know about it and, as is often the case, letting a wife weasel out the details is bad luck. Especially when she has a boyfriend.
The structure is odd and at times bewildering. The time line jumps back and forth and we see the horse race several times from different points of view. It certainly increases the tension, but at the cost of comprehension. I've seen it before, but still don't understand why Sterling Hayden didn't just give Ted de Corsia the custom shotgun rather than making him pick it up in a bus depot locker.
A fine cast, including Elisha Cook Jr. I like the little bits with Timothy Carey (always weird) as the rifleman who shoots the racehorse (had that happened in movies before?) and James Edwards (always dignified) as the security guard. Hostile, then friendly, then hostile again with race conflict.
Hard charging score. I don't know if the documentary-style narration was Kubrick's idea or whether the studio insisted. The dialogue tends to explain the plot, much like a radio play.Killer's Kiss (1955)
, written, produced, photographed, edited and directed by Stanley Kubrick.
I am only a modest fan of Kubrick, but the early talent he displays here is very impressive. At age 26 the tone and composition of his little shoestring film, only 67 minutes long, is heads and shoulders above many studio pictures of the period. The elegance of his designs is apparent here near the very beginning of his career, starting with the film titles.
It's a simple tale, like a short story from pulp fiction. A boxer and a dance hall girl get mixed up with gangsters. We still have time for stories within stories told with flashbacks. Who do you trust, and what would you do to survive?
It builds to a running and fighting segment culminating in a surreal battle among the naked mannikins in a warehouse. It's funny and brutal at the same time: the bad guy has an axe.
Lush classical score. Real NY street locations. The exciting boxing segment is finely photographed, much more realistic than many others. No natural sound at all.
The studio insisted on the improbably happy ending. The point of film noir is "we're screwed" but maybe that doesn't sell tickets.