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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama  |  8 October 1977 (Sweden)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 6,993 users  
Reviews: 60 user | 56 critic

A proud strip club owner is forced to come to terms with himself as a man, when his gambling addiction gets him in hot water with the mob, who offer him only one alternative.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Flo (as Timothy Agoglia Carey)
Mort Weil
Robert Phillips ...
The Boss
John Kullers ...
The Accountant (as John Red Kullers)
Al Ruban ...
Marty Reitz
Azizi Johari ...
Virginia Carrington ...
Meade Roberts ...
Alice Friedland ...
Margo Donnar (as Donna Marie Gordon)
Haji ...
Carol Warren ...
Derna Wong Davis ...


Cosmo Vitelli owns the Crazy Horse West, a strip joint in California. He's laconic, a Korean War vet, and a gambler. When we meet him, he's making his last payment on a gambling debt. Then, he promptly loses $23,000 playing poker at an illegal local casino. The guys he owes this time aren't so friendly, pressuring him for immediate payment. Then they suggest that he kill a Chinese bookie to wipe off the debt. Vitelli and the film move back and forth between the double-crossing, murderous insincerity of the gamblers and the friendships, sweetness, and even love among Vitelli, the dancers, a dancer's mother, and the club's singer, Mr. Sophistication. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »




Release Date:

8 October 1977 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

Mordet på en kinesisk bookmaker  »

Box Office


SEK 1,298,042 (Sweden)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (1978 Re-Release)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This was actually a story idea developed by John Cassavetes and Martin Scorsese years previously. See more »


Cosmo Vitelli: I'm a club owner. I deal in girls.
See more »


Referenced in Meurtre d'un broutemécouilles chinois (1998) See more »


After the Ball
Written by Charles Harris
Performed by Meade Roberts and others
See more »

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User Reviews

17 April 2001 | by (Queens, New York) – See all my reviews

A film like John Cassavetes' "The Killing of A Chinese Bookie" is one of those films that Roger Ebert often says "either grabs you or leaves you". This one grabbed me. It is perhaps the least liked film of the precious few Cassavetes wrote and directed, but it's an honest film that doesn't pull any punches. It's kind of a predecessor to "Goodfellas" and "Casino".

While Cassavetes' film lacks the polish of the two Scorsese films, I think that benefits "Killing". This is not a glossy, "high-concept" film that Hollywood prefers (although Scorsese is certainly not "high-concept"); it is a rough, confusing muddle and that is probably one of the reasons the film remains highly unseen by a great many people. However, I like rough, confusing films and one of the great pleasures is trying to figure everything out. The beauty of a John Cassavetes film is that there are no easy answers and he likes you to make your own reading on the film.

As always with a Cassavetes film, he gives juicy parts to his regulars. Ben Gazzara is excellent as Cosmo Vitelli, the nightclub owner who needs to perform the title deed to save his club. Seymour Cassel gives a strong performance as a friend of Cosmo. Cassel and Gazarra are two of those actors whose names you won't recognize, but when you see their faces, you'll recognize them. They love to take risks with their performances and you can see the payoffs for yourselves.

After a half-assed release by Buena Vista in 1989, "Killing of A Chinese Bookie" is finally available on tape and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The transfer is clean and looks great and the letterbox presentation shows that Cassavetes knew how to use his camera, even if the aspect ratio is small.

30 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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