Tagline: These 5 Men Had a $2,000,000 Secret Until One of Them Told This Woman!
Pizza: Pizza Italia
Preshow Entertainment: BEST LEGS IN THE 8TH GRADE
BUT IT SURE IS HIS COOLEST
THE KILLING (1956), no relation to the TWIN PEAKSian show on AMC or the CD by Danish metal band HATESPHERE, is the first studio-funded film made by Stanley Kubrick. Make no mistake, though THE KILLING went south when it was (barely) released, it garnered enough attention from the right people to send young Stanley on his way to making his movies - PATHS OF GLORY, SPARTACUS (which Kubrick himself disowned: "The only film I don't like is SPARTACUS"), LOLITA, DR. STRANGELOVE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, BARRY LYNDON, THE SHINING, FULL METAL JACKET and EYES WIDE SHUT. Not only are all of those movies (except that last one, says me) spectacular (not sure about the spectacular-ity of BARRY LYNDON, as I've yet to see it...but my friends Lou and Max love it, if that means anything to you!), but, aside from his two pre-KILLING non-studio movies, that list is his entire body of work. Yes, you had to wait for his movies, but they were almost always worth it. Not that I knew this. Although I saw my first Kubrick film in high school, I never really appreciated him until later on. "About five years ago," he sheepishly confessed.
This noir entry opens at a racetrack, which, thanks in part to Gerald Fried's appropriate score, is turned into a suspenseful menace. This is a place that should be exciting, thrilling. Instead, we can feel the impending dread. Something's up. Something big. Something...not too nice. It's 3:45pm.
And now...it's 2:45pm. And now it's 7pm. And now it's 6:30pm. That's the kind of movie THE KILLING is. It moves time around like checkers on a board, jumping to where it sees a good opportunity. And though I can't recall a film that did this (to this extent) before THE KILLING, I can sure think of plenty of pulpy, fictional movies that have done so after. More on this later, because now we jump back in time to the story...
When we first see Johnny, he is with his girl Fay (Coleen Gray), who has waited for him during his five year stay at the state farm. Johnny explains to her (and us) - make sure the risk is worth the reward, because they can "put you away just as fast for a ten dollar heist as they can for a million dollar job." That's Johnny Clay for ya. He must have something up his sleeve. Maybe, just maybe it's a...
If you've guessed that the caper involves the racetrack, then you are right. But you won't guess the who, what, where, when and how. Nothing's telegraphed. It unfolds like an actual caper - with precision and a 100% chance of unpredictability.
And now a few words about Sterling Hayden's sterling performance as Johnny Clay. Hayden (you know, Captain McCloskey, the guy Michael shoots in the neck in THE GODFATHER) commands the players (and the movie) with cool, cocky defiance. I can see why people like Johnny so much ("There's nothing I wouldn't do for Johnny." - Marvin). Hayden's performances in movies fly in the face of the man himself, who as it turned out, was a nut. This was a man who got into acting accidentally, considering it a less than virtuous profession (okay, maybe he's not a nut). "You don't need talent to star in a motion picture. All you need is some intelligence and the ability to work freely in front of the lens." He was a man who named a name or two to the FBI and HUAC and regretted it until the day he died. He was a gruff guy who made movies only so he could make money to buy...wait for it...sea vessels. You read that right. Sterling Hayden's true love was being a skipper. But if you ask me, even in his movies he was always a little piratical.
In a way, Kubrick rehearsed for THE KILLING a year earlier with KILLER'S KISS, a short (67 minutes) movie that started off slow and, like THE KILLING, got better as it went along. He shot it himself (he was a photographer for LOOK magazine before he was a filmmaker). In THE KILLING, his knowledge of photography coupled with his creative boho style and sense (much of it unseen and misunderstood at the time, making it an honest-to-goodness trailblazer) would create friction with cinematographer Lucien Ballard.
Though THE KILLING was based on the novel CLEAN BREAK by crime reporter/author Lionel White, it sure looks like we'll never know how much was written by Kubrick, and how much by pulp writer Jim Thompson, who Kubrick had commissioned. When it was released, Kubrick got the writing credit while Thompson got "additional dialogue by". So I can't really say which one of them wrote the one line of dialogue that made us all gasp.
IS A PRODUCT OF ITS TIME.
BUT IT'S ALSO A PIECE OF SHIT.
An odd and sucky 48 minute (seemed like 1hr 48m to me) one-act play shot on video, THE BEST LEGS IN THE EIGHTH GRADE fails beyond compare. The acting is awful, and the writing by Bruce Feirstein, who wrote on some Bond films and the book REAL MEN DON'T EAT QUICHE, is worse. I don't know whose idea it was to put this on video, or for that matter, on stage in the first place.
It's Valentine's Day, 1981, and an asshole named Mark (Tim Matheson) has done something romantically rotten to Rachel (Annette O'Toole), and it's going to take another asshole, St. Valentine, to help him. St. Valentine (James Belushi playing James Belushi) appears in Mark's living room, and after a few parlor tricks proffered as proof, Mark realizes it's really St. Valentine. Me, I'd get out of Dodge if St. Valentine magically appeared in my living room. Hell, I'd run like hell if James Belushi magically appeared in my living room.
I dare you: http://tinyurl.com/3k8mzyn