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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jul 4, 2021



STANLEY KUBRICK is one of the most respected American writer-directors and his films are held in high esteem but ironically, he never won an Oscar. 

He was nominated twice for writing: best adapted screenplay in 1965 for “Dr. Strangelove” (also won as best director) and best original screenplay in 1969 for “2001: A Space Odyssey” (which won for best special effects.) 

“The Killing” is based on the novel, “Clean Break”, and it’s his first major Hollywood film. Made in 1956, this gangster story is about a well planned heist that goes awry. 

It garnered much critical acclaim. This was followed by the anti-war film, “Paths of Glory” in 1957, and the costume epic about the Roman slave, “Spartacus” in 1960, both highly praised. 

In 1961, after differences with Hollywood producers, he moved to England where he lived the rest of his life. 

He gained full control over his films and did more acclaimed work like “Lolita”, “A Clockwork Orange”, “Barry Lyndon”, and the horror classic, “The Shining”. 

“The Killing” is an early work he made when he’s 28 years old, but you can already see the genius of Kubrick as a filmmaker. 

The film is told in a non-linear manner, with the time frames going back and forth with the help of an omniscient narrator whose matter-of-fact voice charts the progress of the heist. The film runs for less than an hour an a half and very fast paced.

The story is about a low-level criminal, Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), who’s just been released from jail. He now plans to do one last operation before going straight and marrying his girlfriend, Fay (Coleen Gray.) He aims to steal no less than $2 million, the total earnings of the day, from a Los Angeles race track. 

The film shows the detailed moment-to-moment planning of the daring heist while Johnny recruits his team members, including a corrupt cop who will help transport the loot, a window teller in the racetrack to help him gain access in the money room, 

a scheming bartender, a sniper to shoot the favorite horse and a wrestler who provokes a fight to help distract the people during the heist. Each of them has a personal reason for joining the heist.

Things start to go wrong when the window teller (Elisha Cook Jr.) tells his wife (Marie Windsor) about the plan and she, in turn, informs her lover (Vince Edwards, who’d later hit it big in the medical TV series “Ben Casey”.) 

The robbery is a success but just as the conspirators are about to divide the loot among themselves, things get from bad to worse and to say that the whole house of cards ends in tragedy will be a big understatement, specially for the mastermind, Johnny. 

The film is full of irony and the final image of millions of paper bills being blown in the wind shows that there’s really an uncontrollable force that is working against the fates of the desperate Johnny and his cohorts. As Murphy’s Law says: if anything can go wrong, it will.

Sterling Hayden and the rest of the male cast all do well in their respective roles, but it’s Marie Windsor who gets the juiciest role as the teller’s vampy, unfaithful wife who manipulates her husband while slyly insulting his weak masculinity. 

The movie was shot in black and white, vividly reflecting heaven and hell in its play on brooding light and shadow typical of film noirs of the era.