After getting out of prison, Johnny Clay masterminds a complex race-track heist, but his scheme is complicated by the intervention of the wife of a teller (George Peatty) in on the scheme, the boyfriend of the wife, airport regulations, and a small dog. Written by
Andrew Hyatt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On the day of the robbery a scene with the character, Johnny Clay, shows him awake and dressed and says "At seven that morning, Johnny Clay began what might be, the last day of his life". He wakes another character and they talk awhile. This scene is immediately followed by an airport scene in which the narrator says: "It was exactly 7:00AM when he got to the airport". See more »
At exactly 3:45 on that Saturday afternoon in the last week of September, Marvin Unger was, perhaps, the only one among the hundred thousand people at the track who felt no thrill at the running of the fifth race. He was totally disinterested in horse racing and held a lifelong contempt for gambling. Nevertheless, he had a $5 win bet on every horse in the fifth race. He knew, of course, that this rather unique system of betting would more than likely result in a loss, but he didn't...
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One of my five favorite Kubrick films - gets better every time
At the age of 27, Stanley Kubrick's third film, The Killing, took Lionel White's hard-boiled, non-linear story of one man (Johnny Clay, with quick-talking, straightforward ease by Sterling Hayden) and his crew planning and tasking a race-track robbery. It's almost fifty years old, but by this time Kubrick intently defined his style, and somehow the film seems to have themes and characters that are identifiable (and recognizable) with any period. The supporting characters are as sharply drawn (and psychologically involving) if not more so than Johnny Clay. Driving us into this world of schemers shouldn't be dense, and as Kubrick passes by any pretense - and keeps the compositions and material entertaining and absorbing - and it allows a viewer a lot of promise on repeat viewings.
While the story elements are similar to the sort of Kubrick-movie psychology (mostly dealing with men who are head deep in a rather existential crisis of what's against society), what's unique is how the craft is intuitive. On a low budget, and even with a cast that's very good if not excellent, everything is always assured in the style and turns grinding in the plot. I could watch this movie another two times (after three in the past two years or so) and still see shots so detailed yet with the tone that of the most inspired film-noirs. It's questionable as to where Kubrick got influence for some of the compositions, with usage of shadows and the dark (and light shades too), but whether or not it was some famous expressionist or from the 40's film-noirs, the mark of Kubrick uncurling as an artist is evident.
One remark by some is that the narration is sometimes irritating, that the kind of B-movie police drama expository tone, and the information is too much. The voice is not my favorite part of the film, but the narration itself, the information, is an interesting mold in the film's structure. It adds on a layer to that existentialist subtext, as every description makes it sounds like the narrator's a reporter looking back on the past events with a (detached) objectivity. For me, this did make it a little much to concentrate on in the first viewing, however this is a film that demands un-thwarted attention for it's 83 minutes. If you turn away for too long, a piece of the puzzle will be out of sight. It's a great film, and it's gone on to inspire a flock of homagers and imitators in the last half century. A+
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