…”If I get by, it’s mine. Mine all mine!”–Jane’s Addiction
Gambling in a game of chance has been around since the ancient times. Man, has always liked to test his luck in hopes of winning big. Gamblers can feed their addiction by making bets on just about anything nowadays. Sports, the lottery, and casinos are just some of the tempting options for the gambler. Horseracing is the game of chance that our characters play as they bet against the odds in pulling off a well-orchestrated heist in today’s feature, The Killing (1956).
Johnny, Sterling Hayden of The Asphalt Jungle (1950), is a career criminal and fresh out of the pen. Johnny wastes no time planning his next and last well detailed heist with the intention of retiring from the racket to settle down with his childhood sweetheart, Fay, Coleen Gray of The Vampire (1957). Johnny ambitiously plans to walk away with two million dollars from the racetrack during a featured race. Johnny quickly enlists a crew of a corrupt cop, Randy, Ted de Corsia of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), an inside man and window teller, George, Elisha Cook Jr. of House on Haunted Hill (1959), a sharpshooter, Nikki, Timothy Carey of One-Eyed Jacks (1961) a wrestler, Maurice, Kola Kwariani, and track bartender O’Reilly, Joe Sawyer of The Grapes of Wrath (1940).
Weak willed George spills the beans of the upcoming caper to his money grubbing, manipulative, high maintenance wife Sherry, Marie Windsor of Salem’s Lot (1979). The vindictive Sherry informs her lover Val, Vince Edwards of The Devil’s Brigade (1968), to double cross George’s crew and run off with the stolen money for the both of them to start a new life full of wealth and luxury. The heist is successful, but turmoil, backstabbing, and criminal karma add drama to all involved or know of the robbery.
The Killing is a film noir classic directed by Stanley Kubrick of Lolita (1962), written by Kubrick and Jim Thompson of Paths of Glory (1957), based on the novel, Clean Break by Lionel White. The Killing is a great crime thriller with a unique structure that influenced many film makers (especially the gun in a flower box) and paid homage in such modern classics of Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994). The Killing is visually appealing, the performances dead on, the dialogue are memorable, with narration is reminiscent of Dragnet (1967). The Killing was made for approximately $300,000 and filmed entirely in 24 days around California with a runtime of 85 minutes. Even after 59 years, The Killing stands out against other genre favorites and is far more entertaining than 90% of the films that Hollywood is releasing. The Killing is very neat in the fact that you can see the young master Kubrick honing his craft before becoming one of the most influential filmmakers ever. Also, if you have a keen eye, you can spot a young Rodney Dangerfield as an on looker in a fight scene at the track.
So, if you are a film noir or crime fan, The Killing is definitely for you. Overall, it is a very solid, cool little film that packs a big punch and perfects the craft of storytelling. Gambling and not playing it safe are definitely habits or mindsets that should be avoided. Keep your hard earned money and hold on tightly to your sanity. If you feel you have a gambling addiction, seek professional help before you lose everything…and the house does always win. Just remember what Gonzo journalist and notorious gambler, Hunter S. Thompson shared with us, “Victory is a fleeting thing in the gambling business. Today’s winners are tomorrow’s blinking toads, dumb beasts with no hope.”