Written by: Michael Den Boer on March 21st, 2015
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1956 (The Killing), USA, 1955 (Killer’s Kiss)
Director: Stanley Kubrick (Both Films)
Writers: Stanley Kubrick, Jim Thompson (The Killing), Stanley Kubrick (Killer’s Kiss)
Cast: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr., Timothy Carey, Dorothy Adams, James Griffith (The Killing), Frank Silvera, Jamie Smith, Irene Kane (Killer’s Kiss)
BluRay released: February 9th, 2015
Approximate running times: 85 minutes (The Killing), 68 Minutes (Killer’s Kiss)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (The Killing), 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Killers Kiss)
Rating: 12 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English (Both Films)
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £15.99 (UK)
“A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.” – Stanley Kubrick
The Killing: After his latest stint in prison a career criminal named Johnny Clay comes up with a plan to rob a race track. He enlists the help of a few key individuals, who are all integral to his plan to rob a racetrack and one misstep can foil their heist.
The Killing was adapted from Lionel White’s novel A Clean Break. Other film’s adapted from White’s novel’s include, The Big Caper (filmed under the same title), The Snatchers (filmed under the title The Night of the Following Day), The Money Trap (filmed under the same title) and Obsession (filmed under the title Pierrot le Fou). Key collaborators on The Killing include cinematographer Lucien Ballard (True Grit, The Wild Bunch) and producer James B. Harris, whose collaboration with Kubrick would begin with The Killing and end with Lolita.
Content wise, The Killing is firmly rooted in the film Noir genre. And though the majority of the film takes place during the daytime, most notably the tour de force heist sequence which serves as this film’s center piece. The film does a remarkable job retaining the aesthetics which have since become synonymous with the film Noir genre. Also this film is yet another classic example from Kubrick where the protagonist experiences an existential crisis. Other areas where this film excels include it’s meticulously constructed plot and its well defined cast of characters which make the events that unfold all the more tangible.
Where Kubrick’s previous film Killer’s Kiss could have benefited from better performances. The same could not be said of The Killing which features a remarkable cast, who are all exceptional in their respective performances. Anchoring this rock solid cast is Sterling Hayden (The Asphalt Jungle, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) in the role of Johnny Clay. And other standout performances come from Timothy Carey (Paths of Glory, The World’s Greatest Sinner) in the role of Nikki Arcane, the sharp shooter who has been hired to kill a horse during the race and Elisha Cook Jr. (The Haunted Palace, Rosemary’s Baby) in the role of George one of culprits behind the heist. He also has a noisy wife who almost puts the job in jeopardy. Ultimately in terms of overall quality, the leap by Stanley Kubrick from Killer’s Kiss to The Killing is mind blowing.
Killer’s Kiss was the second feature film directed by Stanley Kubrick, a filmmaker who has way too many exceptional films to list them all. With his only let down as a filmmaker being his first feature film foray Fear and Desire, a film which he has since disowned and classified as a work of amateur. Where Killer’s Kiss makes a strong introduction to what is yet to come from Kubrick.
Content wise, Killer’s Kiss would feature many elements that Kubrick would return to time and again throughout his career, most notably the use of voice over. From a production stand point this film did not have the time or anywhere near the resources that all of Kubrick’s film’s which preceded it. And yet despite this short coming he is able to create something that far exceeds its meager limitations.
Kubrick began his career as a photographer, so it should come as a surprise that he would also serve as the cinematographer on Killer’s Kiss. He also edited the film and wrote its screenplay, truly a one man show. From a visual stand point his use of light and shadow are remarkable and he also does an amazing job capturing the grittiness of New York City. The film’s standout moment visually is a dreams sequence where Kubrick used the negative image instead of the developed footage. This is something he would later return too and this technique has since been exploited in many films since Killer’s Kiss.
As strong as the performances are in this film, once has to acknowledge that if they were not pots dubbed that they would have turned out even better, especially this film’s leading lady Irene Kane who unable to come back to overdub her lines. And though this film’s two leads Frank Silvera in the role of crime boss and Jamie Smith in the role of down on his luck boxer. The slightly stronger and more memorable of these two performances goes to Silvera, who hits all the right marks in the role of the villain.
The Killing and Killer’s Kiss come on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The Killing is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. Killer’s Kiss has been flagged for progressive playback and the film is presented in its intended 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The Killing looks excellent as shadow detail is rock solid, contrast and black levels look consistently strong and details look sharp throughout. Grain looks natural, there are no issues with DNR or compression. Killer’s Kiss looks great as details generally look crisp, contrast and black levels look very good throughout. Grain looks intact and there are no issues with compression of DNR. The transfers for this release from Arrow Academy is on par with the transfers used for Criterion’s Region A Blu-Ray’s.
Each film comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in English and removable English SDH subtitles for both films. The Killing’s audio mix is in great shape, as dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced. Range wise things sounds very good considering the limitations of the mono source. Killer’s Kiss’s audio mix is in good shape, as dialog is clear and everything sounds balanced. Range wise things are rather limited. Also both film’s come with a second audio option that allows you to listen to their isolated scores.
Extras for this release include, trailers for Killer’s Kiss (1 minute 46 seconds – 1.33:1 aspect ratio 1080 Progressive) and The Killing (1 minute 48 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen), an interview with actor Sterling Hayden (15 minutes 51 seconds, in English and French with English subtitles) who discusses what he did before acting, how he got into acting and his thoughts on various films that he has appeared in and the acting profession, a video essay with film critic Michael Ciment titled ‘Evolution of a Master’ (25 minutes 42 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) who gives a well-rounded overview of Stanley Kubrick’s 1950’s output and The Killing: An Appreciation by Ben Wheatley (11 minutes 53 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) who discusses what images stood out for him in The Killing, how a lot of the movement in the film are left to right and the look of the film and Kubrick’s relationship to genre cinema. Other topics he discusses include critical reaction to Kubrick’s cinema and his thoughts on various Kubrick’s films.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art option and a forty page booklet with cast & crew credits (both films), contemporary reviews, three essays, the first essay titled ‘A New Boy Wonder: ‘Killer’s Kiss’, ‘’The Killing’ and Stanley Kubrick’s Early Career’ written by Peter Kramer, the second essay titled ‘Lionel White: Hardboiled Master’ written by Barry Forshaw and the third essay titled ‘Snakes and Ladders’ written by Ron Peck and information about the transfers. Overall a pair of Kubrick film’s make their UK Hi-Def debut via a first rate release from Arrow Academy.
Note: Screenshots 1,2,3,6,7 are all from The Killing and screenshots 4,5 are both from Killer’s Kiss.