While in many ways The Killing seems to be one of Stanley Kubrick's more
conventional pictures, Big K did offer one unusual technique: a lack of
linear chronology that features many scenes repeated from the points of view
of different characters. While this method didn't catch on with many
filmmakers, I'd guess Quentin Tarantino saw The Killing, because he uses
exactly the same gimmick in pretty much all of his movies; think of the mall
scene in Jackie Brown, for example.
I suppose it's a measure of Kubrick's artistry that this technique - which
is still unusual almost 50 years later - remains in use and seems clever and
daring to this day. So many movies feature only one perspective, so to
depict the same event from a number of points of view is quite invigorating,
and while Kubrick's early use of this method doesn't work as flawlessly as
it does in Tarantino's films, it nonetheless makes for a very interesting
change of pace.
Overall, The Killing offers a fairly compelling but not terribly original
story. It's the same old saw: a bunch of losers try for the big score and
fail. The film seems more melodramatic than those we'd later see from
Kubrick. He was one of the most objective filmmakers ever and rarely
imposed his point of view on the audience; in this instances when he did -
Full Metal Jacket, for example - the movie suffered as a result.
In this instance, it's not so much an example of Kubrick imposing his own
perspective and interpretation on the audience as it is simply a fairly
conventional, uninspired case of storytelling. The movie's interesting, to
be sure, and definitely held my attention. There just wasn't much to make
it stand out from the crowd other than the alteration of linear progression.
While competently acted, the characters rarely rise above the level of
fairly stereotypical, and the frequent use of a heavy-handed narrator bogs
down the film to a great degree; much of this seemed unnecessary and also
made the movie appear more ponderous than it should.
The Killing provides a pretty provocative experience, ultimately, but not
one without flaws. It's a movie that I enjoyed and found interesting but
definitely not one of Kubrick's best, if just because it seems so ordinary
compared to his later works.
The Killing appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on
this single-sided, single-layered DVD; because the dimensions of the
presentation do not require it, the movie has not been enhanced for 16X9
televisions. Despite the advanced age of the material, the film looks
Sharpness generally seems strong, with only a few instances of vague
softness. Some edge enhancement appears, though it doesn't have a terrible
effect on the image; I noticed occasional slightly jagged edges but that was
about it. For such an old film, the print seems to be in very good shape.
Flaws popped up from time to time, but not with great frequency. These
manifested themselves as speckles and spots mostly, with a few scratches as
well. Most of these problems occurred during the shots of the race track,
which looks to be stock footage; that source might be the cause of the
Slight grain can be seen at times during the film, but as with the other
issues, it's a fairly minor distraction. Black levels looked quite deep and
rich, and shadow detail seemed appropriately dense without mucking up the
image. All in all, I found the picture of The Killing to be a very
Also quite good is the film's monaural soundtrack, especially since I
watched The Killing right after Kubrick's Paths of Glory, which boasted
a miserably distorted track. That's not a problem here. Occasionally
dialogue seemed slightly edgy, but no appreciable distortion occurs; the
audio sounds quite clean. Dialogue is always intelligible and reasonably
natural, and music and effects are reproduced accurately given the
technological limitations of the era. Occasional tape noise and popping can
be heard, but this is fairly soft and very rare. I won't kid you - it's
still a fairly flat mono mix from the Fifties. But given the number of
problems such soundtracks often display, this one is very pleasing.
The only true failure of this DVD comes from its nearly nonexistent
supplements. We get a terrible theatrical trailer - it gives away far too
many plot twists - and a four-page booklet with production notes. Is anyone
ever going to release a decent special edition DVD of a Kubrick film?
I can't give The Killing a strong recommendation just because it's a
fairly ordinary film on a fairly ordinary DVD. I liked the film and thought
it was well-executed, but it lacked the spark we'd later see from Kubrick's
work. Picture and sound are good for such an old movie, but the lack of
supplements is a disappointment. Ultimately, The Killing would make for a
good rental title.