The Killing – The Peak of Film Noir

Stanley Kubrick‘s future as a film director, was quite promising after 1956. He astonished people with his young age, and yet, large amount of experience, and potential. The Killing was the mouth-watering starter, of a nice film menu.

The filmmaker managed to transform a basic story, into a full of suspense, brilliantly mastered thriller, sprinkled by a noir atmosphere and context. Indeed, the movie deals with a group of men, going to rob a racetrack, for different personal reasons. The mastermind, Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), wanted to escape with his lady, Val (Coleen Gray), the city but also their lousy apartment, to a more luxurious life. George Peatty (Elisha Cook), a betting window teller, was trying to impress his wife, Sherry (Marie Windson) who was clearly not in love, and complaining about their lack of resources. Marvin Vinger (Jay C. Flippen), his character was quite interesting, because Kubrick, established with him, an implicit, and discrete hint of homosexuality. Indeed, Marvin, who was maybe 65 years old, was secretly attracted by Johnny who much younger. As in the 50’s, homosexuality was quite taboo if too much explicit, the young filmmaker managed to make it light, but still very present. Well, there’s left two important characters, including a bartender at the racetrack Mike O’Reilly (Joe Sawyer) who needed money to pay for heir wife’s medical treatment and Randy Keenan (Ted DeCorsia) a gambler cop with a $3000 debt.

The fact that each one had an individual reason to steal that money, shaped the whole film noir concept. That is, based on each one’s sin (except maybe for Mike), life didn’t give them no mercy, therefore one mistake in their meticulous plan, could make everything burst into fire.
And to support the crime thriller genre, Kubrick decided to structure his movie using flashbacks, and focusing on each character when coming to take the plan into action. He added the value of time, in order to accentuate on the fact that, one mistake or lateness could ruin everything.

The Killing describes people that weren’t necessarily muggers, but people desperate to leave the country, hoping to improve their current lives, in parallel with what was going on at that time in America; the Cold War. But unfortunately, uncontrollable forces were creating situations that were grotesques, and really dumb, leading to some fatalistic turnovers. Therefore, the suspense is clearly the motif of why The Killing is a good movie. We, spectators, were craving to know how their plan will be put into action. We assisted to the characters, throwing away their integrity and seeing their, sort of, stability slipping away.


The last thing I wanted to add, not as a feminist, but more with an objective point of view, is that women, even in Killer’s Kiss, are pains in the neck. They are wether, real vicious, manipulative, and liars, or passive and totally depending on their men. And I personally think that this image of the woman, will not really change in his future movies.

In a nutshell, The Killing truly embodies, the concept of film noir and is a great tale of how madness only lead to fatalistic ends.


One thought on “The Killing – The Peak of Film Noir

  1. Film Noir: Translating A Post-War Fear and Instability Among Americans – The Cinema's Space Cake

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