The Killing is tough, taut, tense—and one of the greatest crime thrillers ever made. With fascinating detail, legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange) lays bare the inner workings of a bold racetrack robbery. Among the crooks are Sterling Hayden (The Asphalt Jungle, Naked Alibi) as the deadly cool mastermind, Elisha Cook Jr. (The Maltese Falcon) as a shy teller and Timothy Carey (Paths of Glory) as a puppy-loving sharpshooter. The plan is set. Nothing can go wrong. Or can it? With co-writer Jim Thompson (The Getaway) and cinematographer Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch), Kubrick pieces events and characters’ points of view into a stunning jigsaw puzzle of the almost perfect heist. Also starring Coleen Gray (Nightmare Alley), Vince Edwards (The Devil’s Brigade), Jay C. Flippen (The Wild One), Ted de Corsia (The Lady from Shanghai), Marie Windsor (The Narrow Margin) and Joe Turkel (The Shining), The Killing electrifies with an innovation and intensity found only in the best film noir classics.
For thoughts on The Killing, please check out our discussion on The Video Attic:
The Killing appears on 4K UHD Blu-Ray courtesy of a stunning new 4K scan of the Original Camera Negative in 2160p/Dolby Vision that will knock your socks off. The Criterion Collection previously released this film on Blu-Ray restored in HD, but the difference between the two is pretty substantial. Kino is going all out with their Stanley Kubrick releases, giving the director a spotlight with an impeccable transfer. On a simple filmmaking level, the improvement in technique from Killer’s Kiss to this feature is readily apparent. The shot composition and lighting really invite you in with its style, and what you are treated to leaves you with no doubt that this film has been treated to a proper 4K presentation. This is what you want film noirs to look like.
The transfer eradicates any trace of dust specks or print damage that showed up on previous releases. Every shot presents with some excellent depth to the image which makes each location feel more three dimensional, from cramped apartments to the wide-open horse track. The moody black and white cinematography has never looked better with controlled gradients and subtle textures in the backgrounds. This transfer maintains the desired filmic quality of the picture with film grain that is well resolved giving way to rich details. It always looks natural with nothing veering into noise or compression artifacts. Black levels are appropriately deep without any pesky nuisances such as crush or banding even during the darkest portions of the film. Be prepared for the showcase of sumptuous textural details in the costumes and production design. Kino Classics has once again made Kubrick fans really happy.
The 4K UHD Blu-Ray comes with a great DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track that delivers in all the desired ways. Dialogue holds up well and comes through clearly even with some of the more stylized noir-ish dialects. It complements the background noises well so everything renders in perfect harmony. The environmental effects are quite formidable and crisp, such as some key gunfire that happens towards the end of the film alongside some engines that try to roar to life quickly. The track does not fall victim to much age related wear and tear such as hissing and crackles. Thankfully, the music also mostly avoids instances of distortion along the way. There are optional English subtitles included for the feature film. We have no notes for this great track.
- Audio Commentary: Author/Film Historian Alan K. Rode provides a deeply informative commentary track in which he discusses how this film fits into the career of Stanley Kubrick, the ways in which this film exemplifies his style and stands apart from it, the beginning of his legendary reputation for being meticulous with his shots, the background of the performers, the impact of the Production Code, changes from the source material, the music of the film and so much more that provides some great context to the feature. Rode provides a track with a sly sense of humor that pops in from time to time.
- Trailers: The two-minute trailer is provided for The Killing. There are also trailers provided for Killer’s Kiss and Paths Of Glory.
The Killing is arguably one of the first classics to come from Stanley Kubrick. He puts his stamp on the film noir genre with a layered tale of crime and betrayal which does not pull any punches as it barrels towards the end of its unraveling narrative. The performances are very strong, especially Sterling Hayden who gets more dynamic as the pressure is put on his character. Stylistically, Kubrick levels up with his compositions and technical prowess, making this a movie you can admire visually in addition to the narrative complexities. Kino Classics has released a 4K UHD Blu-Ray featuring a stunning A/V presentation and a really great commentary track that adds some nice context. If you are a Kubrick fan, you will not want to pass this one up. Recommended
The Killing is currently available to purchase on 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the 4K UHD Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Kino Classics has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.