APES ON FILM: KARLOFF — The Quiet Maniac

Posted on: Jan 3rd, 2023 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

 

MANIACAL MAYHEM: THE INVISIBLE RAY, BLACK FRIDAY, and THE STRANGE DOOR — 1936, 1940, 1951
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Frances Drake, Stanley Ridges, Anne Nagel, Charles Laughton, Richard Stapley, Sally Forrest
Director: Lambert Hillyer, Arthur Lubin, Joseph Pevney
Rated: PG
Studio: Eureka Entertainment
Region: B
BRD Release Date: October 17, 2022
Audio Formats: English: LPCM 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 230 minutes total
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Anytime the name Karloff is blasted across a film’s title card in big, scary letters, audiences can pretty much count on a degree of the macabre to grace their forthcoming entertainment.

“Karloff” is such a fitting name to correlate with horror, it seems strange that it was devised before the fame of Universal’s FRANKENSTEIN came to Boris Karloff. If it weren’t for the name belonging to the actor, “Karloff” could very well be its own title for a horror film; in fact, it is sometimes seen before or bigger than the titles of the films it’s featured in. The name evokes the exotic and mysterious, and is strange enough to warn viewers that they’re not in Kansas anymore. The name so easily rolls off the tongue that it seems a miracle of marketing; a perfect conceit designed to transmit its associations exactly.

William Henry Pratt chose the Boris Karloff pseudonym at the beginning of his acting career with the very intent to assert an exotic sensibility. The name Karloff is said to be derived from the Pratt family’s Slavic roots; however, this is just one of many theories regarding the moniker. At any rate, “Karloff” was good enough for Universal to bill the actor for several years so garishly. The final instance of Karloff’s singular label occurred in 1936 with the movie THE INVISIBLE RAY, which is the first of three Boris Karloff films in Eureka Entertainment’s new MANIACAL MAYHEM collection.

[Invisible Ray]

THE INVISIBLE RAY is the textbook mad scientist tale of Dr. Janos Rukh who is intent on harnessing the power of an ancient element known as Radium X. Rukh invites a group of colleagues to his gothic laboratory, and using a powerful telescope and the ancient light rays of the Andromeda galaxy, demonstrates that Radium X exists in the form of a meteorite that crashed in southern Africa millions of years ago. There are probably less convoluted ways to go about discovering an ancient radioactive element, but where’s the fun in that?

Once Rukh is able to exploit the power of Radium X, he’s not only melting rocks and scaring the local natives, but he’s also glowing in the dark and losing his temper. Rukh’s precarious condition becomes compounded by a little IP infringement and good-natured infidelity, sending him into a murderous mindset. Upon pursuing his colleagues to a conference in Paris, the maddened doctor becomes hellbent to use his rock-melting ray gun to dispatch the expedition team that did him so wrong.

As if “Karloff” alone wasn’t enough to get asses into seats, Universal doubles down in THE INVISIBLE RAY and casts Bela Lugosi as Rukh’s contemporary, Dr. Benet. Playing against type, Lugosi’s Benet is cool and collected and only wants to help his comrade. Benet is one of Lugosi’s most reserved and mature performance, demonstrating what he could be capable of aside from the usual demented heavies and crazed monsters. And despite being equipped with the kitschy traits of a Batman villain, Karloff never takes his performance over the top, but does convey an elevated sense of the maniacal. He’s frantic and harried, but never as nutty as rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the next step of his scheme. Rukh comes across more troubled than downright evil.

[The Invisible Ray]

With more plot than the story needs, THE INVISIBLE RAY is a brisk account of too much science in the hands of an emotionally driven individual, which is usually bad for characters but great for entertaining. And showcasing just the right amount of weirdness with impressive special effects, this Karloff vehicle is a thrilling entry in Eureka’s MANIACAL MAYHEM collection.

The title BLACK FRIDAY may evoke some sort of interstitial holiday-themed horror about a bloodthirsty mob of Christmas shoppers. Instead, the 1940 film is a switcheroo tale that has little to do with the penultimate weekday aside from an unfortunate accident involving a carload of gangsters and a literature professor occurring on a Friday the 13th.

Karloff is Dr. Ernest Sovac, seen at the very beginning of the movie being escorted to his execution. On his way to the chair, Sovac shares his final notes with a newspaper reporter, retrospectively permitting the audience to learn how the good doctor arrived at this mortal predicament.

Essentially told in flashback, BLACK FRIDAY is more a story about Sovac’s colleague than Sovac himself. The doctor’s journal reveals the tale of how his friend, literature professor George Kingsley (Stanley Ridges) suffers severe brain injuries after being on the business end of a carload of gangsters

in hot pursuit of rival thug Red Cannon (also Stanley Ridges). Cannon and Kingsley are both injured in the accident, and Sovac being the doctor on scene, tends to the two men.

Once Sovac learns that Cannon is privy to a hidden pile of cash to the tune of five-hundred thousand bucks, the doctor starts daydreaming about the kind of laboratory that amount of money could buy. This, of course, steers Sovac into concocting a little surgery, transplanting the good parts of Cannon’s brain into the dying parts of his friend Kingsley’s in hopes that the mixing of minds will reveal the location of the gangster’s secret stash.

Sovac’s procedure saves Kingsley’s life, but before long, the dweeby, good-natured professor begins to exhibit unsavory proclivities. Sovac gets more than he bargained for as Cannon’s personality sporadically takes over Kingsley and sets about exacting revenge on the group of gangsters that ran him down. From this point on, Sovac is not only desperate to achieve his original motives, but he’s at the mercy of a gangster gone wild. And much like Dr. Frankenstein, Sovac has created a monster.

[Black Friday]

Karloff basically plays second fiddle to Ridges for the rest of the film, which unfolds like a Jekyll and Hyde story. There’s hardly any redeemable characters, especially since Karloff’s motives are so misguided to begin with. He doesn’t perform crazy experimental brain surgery to save his friend, he does it in hopes to uncover a gangster’s ill-gotten gains. What’s more, is Sovac had to anticipate some degree of identity crisis in order to learn where Cannon hid his money. This puts Sovac in an even more diabolical role for risking his friend’s mental state. Yet, somehow, the film seems to want to audience to sympathize with Sovac. Sure, he’s in a mess, but it’s a mess of his own making under the guise of a really troubling rationale.

BLACK FRIDAY pairs Karloff with Bela Lugosi in the credits once again. This time, Lugosi is one of Cannon’s adversaries and never really engages Karloff in the sense audiences might expect. The role of Sovac was originally written for Lugosi, but Karloff showed interest, so the part went to him instead. Lugosi, however, may have been better suited as Sovac considering the scheming nature of the part. Lugosi’s Marnay is a pretty stale character, and doesn’t demonstrate the actor’s strengths. Lugosi is fine in the role, but any actor would have been just as suited for it.

BLACK FRIDAY is another example of science gone mad; however, the film doesn’t know quite know what it wants from its audience. It’s easy to sympathize with poor professor Kingsley who never asks for anything that happens to him. Meanwhile, Karloff’s reserved disposition doesn’t villainize him, yet his dubious motives are the driving force of conflict in the film. And while Karloff and Lugosi may be enough to get the audience’s attention, it’s Stanley Ridges’ cracking performance as he darts between the mild-mannered Kingsley and the disreputable Cannon that viewers won’t want to miss.

The third and final film in Eureka’s collection is the 1951 gothic period thriller THE STRANGE DOOR. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s short story “The Sire de Maletroit’s Door,” Universal’s adaptation stars Karloff in a supporting role next to the scene-devouring Charles Laughton who portrays the film’s heavy.

[The Strange Door]

In yet another story of elaborate revenge, Sire Alain de Maletroit (Laughton) entraps local high-born scoundrel Denis de Beaulieu (Richard Stapley) in a barroom brawl that stages him as a murderer. Beaulieu makes a break for it, and in his escape from the pursuant mob, he happens across the de Maletroit estate secured by its “strange door.” Beaulieu finds more than the refuge he bargained for inside, falling right into de Maletroit’s trap.

In the spirit of big gestures, it’s revealed that Alain’s snare is part of a much larger, longer grudge against his brother Edmond (Paul Cavanaugh) who he’s secretly locked up in a dungeon for the past 20 years. The duplicitous Alain intends to force his niece Blanche (Sally Forrest) into marrying de Beaulieu as an insult to her father Edmond, with the underhanded arrangement of holding the couple prisoner on the de Maletroit estate. This is all part of Alain’s over-baked revenge directed at Edmond for marrying his unrequited love who died giving birth to Blanche. It’s a lot to process.

Karloff plays the family servant Voltan, who spends most of his time tending to Edmond and sneaking around the mansion peeping through holes in the walls. At one point, Edmond asks Voltan to kill de Beaulieu, but de Beaulieu isn’t quite the scum everyone thinks he is, and he and Blanche eventually fall in love causing big problems for Alain’s once air-tight plans for vengeance.

THE STRANGE DOOR is a wonderful show of excess on several fronts, with a scene-chewing Charles Laughton leading the way. Laughton picks this film up and runs away with it; it’s a shame he didn’t have a mustache to twirl to make him all the more devious. From sets and costumes to Laughton and his band of bloused bullies and their meticulous scheming, this movie is a delightful cartoony extravagance that will give viewers a heart-racing case of the wim-wams in its final anxiety-inducing moments.

Eureka Entertainment presents these three Universal horrors in high-definition as an exciting two-disc, Blu-ray set, packaged in a limited-edition slipcase. Special features include three chatty and insightful commentaries from film historians Stephen Jones, Kevin Lyons, Kim Newman, and Jonathan Rigby, along with three radio adaptations of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Sire de Maletroit’s Door.” A limited-edition booklet with new essays from film writers Andrew Graves, Rich Johnson, and Craig Ian Mann is also included in the first 2000 copies.

Invisible rays, a gangster with two brains, and a ruthless patriarch, MANIACAL MAYHEM never falls short of deranged individuals making everyone’s life a living hell, yet Karloff’s performances throughout evoke a quieter madness: something more troubling that greed or revenge. These films boast Karloff’s subtle abilities as a performer, oddly with roles that are seemingly more fit for an over-the-top talent. This Eureka collection offers a revelation of Karloff as he taps into the internal, tortured aspects of these disturbed characters, and conveys the unspoken human elements of maniacal movie monsters.

 

 

 

When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.Related: slDxB, voPT, EeQV, mFVBRj, sfu, tBFB, wgoBd, xLyb, wOXiYk, tMsV, HTHQv, jdl, ZvmSP, RZm, fTiG,

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APES ON FILM: Blonde On Blonde On Blonde — Desire, Identity, and Sacrifice in DRESSED TO KILL

Posted on: Dec 13th, 2022 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

DRESSED TO KILL – 1980
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen, and Keith Gordon
Director: Brian De Palma
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: 4K UHD Blu-Ray and 2K Blu-ray, Region Free
BRD Release Date: October 25, 2022
Audio Formats: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono and 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265 (70.00 Mbps)
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Run Time: 104 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

The lament of the sexually frustrated housewife gets everyone rooting for adultery. It’s never not a shame to see a beautiful woman carnally neglected or subject to something as mundane as “married sex,” or in the case of Angie Dickinson’s Kate Miller, obligatory sex. But where there’s smoke there’s fire and where there’s a sexually frustrated housewife, there’s a split diopter and a cross-dressing maniac with a straight razor, eventually making us all complicit to murder. Brian De Palma spells out the consequences of this particular instance of infidelity in his 1980 thriller DRESSED TO KILL.

Kate Miller has needs just like everyone else, the extent of which is luridly expressed in the film’s opening scene as her fantasy of being violently ravaged in the shower unfolds before revealing a two-pump chump reality. Kate is not a satisfied woman. That’s not to say her husband isn’t a good-looking man. He’s quite handsome, but he’s not a guy who’s really into “needs.”

It’s no surprise that Kate 1) sees a therapist who very openly, yet somehow very professionally, confesses that he’d like to sleep with her, and 2) that she’s willing to side-step a few Commandments when Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome takes a seat next to her at the art museum.

In what amounts to a horny game of cat-and-mouse, Kate and her handsome stranger pursue each other through the labyrinthine museum, culminating in a sultry cab ride that puts Kate in Mr. Handsome’s bed without her panties. Mr. Handsome’s name is Warren Lockman (Ken Baker), and at least part of Kate’s apprehensions are realized when she discovers Mr. Lockman has a venereal disease after pilfering the man’s desk drawer while he sleeps. This is only the beginning of a fatal exacting of Murphy’s Law for poor Kate.

Her walk of shame is interrupted when she goes back to retrieve her wedding ring from Lockman’s apartment. At this point Kate is feeling pretty low; she’s going to be late getting home, she’s cheated on her husband, and she may have a gnarly venereal disease pulsing through her veins. Things couldn’t get much worse—that is until she winds up on the business end of a straight razor at the hands of a strange blonde woman in sunglasses in a near verbatim remake of the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO.

Witness to Kate’s murder is hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold Liz Blake (Nancy Allen). Liz is mid-escort when the murder occurs, which sends her client running. During the fracas, Liz catches a glimpse of the killer, immediately conscripting herself into the role amateur detective and dramatically changing the film’s tone from sordid romance on the down-low to a bona fide murder mystery of the giallo variety. From this point forward it’s Liz’s movie as she teams up with Kate’s nerdy teenage son Peter (Keith Gordon) to track down the mysterious blond-haired butcher, and tries not to get herself killed or arrested in the process.

The problem with the traditional murder mystery is there’s only so many people who can be the killer. Anyone with half a brain and an astute sense of empathy and narrative can pin down whodunit with relatively little difficulty. This is one instance where the saying “Italians do it better” rings true. The typical Italian giallo film will have audiences guessing to the very end with any number of red herrings at varying degrees of coherency along the way. And usually, it’s not the person you least expect, rather, it’s the person you least, least expect, like the paraplegic who’s been laid up in a bed the entire movie.

Once it’s revealed that Kate is in danger as she leaves the museum, De Palma mostly ditches the Hitchcock vibe he was working with and leans more into the giallo aesthetic. All the right pieces are there: a black-gloved hand, a weird cutting tool, a pretty blonde, and a bad disguise. Narratively, however, the director plays it safe and sticks to a pretty standard murder thriller.

This movie in any other director’s hands would be dangerously close to coming across like a made-for-TV film (not that there’s anything wrong with that). DRESSED TO KILL isn’t really about being a murder mystery, though; it’s about the thrill of a murder mystery, the shock of revelation, and the vicarious event of watching other people endure terror. It is an experience, and conclusively, it’s an opportunity for De Palma to play around in that old Hitchcock sandbox and lay down some of the distinct visual style for which he’s known.

De Palma’s critics corner him as misogynistic for his treatment of women in his films. DRESSED TO KILL, in particular, is an example of implicating a woman in a dangerous situation where arguably her own decisions lead to her death. What’s really happening in this film is more along the lines of satire. At face value, sure, Kate Miller does bad things, and as a result, bad things happen to her; but what about the bad things Kate’s husband is guilty of? If only he were more attentive in the way Kate needed him to be, she wouldn’t be compelled to do the bad things that get her killed. The lack of attention from Kate’s husband empowers her to go find what she feels she deserves.

Furthermore, if there were any doubt about De Palma’s intentions, one needs to look no further than the occupation of Liz Blake, who could have been a schoolteacher or a bank teller, but in a story where a woman searching for sex is murdered, what better hero than a sex worker? How appropriate that Kate’s husband is exactly the type of man with which Liz so often works. And while Kate’s husband isn’t interested in the needs of his sexual partner, Liz reciprocates this particular theme as someone who is only interested in the needs of her sexual partners. Liz, the expert on the needs of others, becomes empowered to find Kate’s killer. Liz, the sex worker — not the schoolteacher or the bank teller — is a hero. Liz’s role is emphasized in the final moments of the film that finds her waking in terror in the very bed in which Kate was having all that unsatisfying sex. Kate’s marital bed — curiously missing Kate’s husband, but involving Peter as a comfort to Liz—represents the thematic stakes of the movie. The prostitute is the sacrificial lamb of chilly sex, making Liz not only the hero of the film, but the Patron Saint of passion.

The killer’s confused sexual identity certainly adds to the film’s sexually charged dynamic, but seems to be employed mostly as a red herring device. Kate’s murderer is driven by the male side of jealously, but acts as a female. It seems that a true case of sexual identity crisis would work better if the killer were a woman killing as a man. In the case of what occurs, the psychological implications lean more into a dual identity disorder. The killer’s motivation and identity crisis are particularly interesting because the script for this film was originally written for CRUISING (1980) until that project went to William Friedkin. De Palma repurposed the script into DRESSED TO KILL.

DRESSED TO KILL is presented in Ultra High Definition on 4K UHD disc by Kino Lorber. New and legacy supplementary features, including multiple interviews and documentaries, are featured on a bonus Blu-ray disc. The UHD disc also contains a new commentary by film critic and author Maitland McDonagh.

Brian De Palma is eager to let audiences know what a Hitchcock fan he is, almost to the point of overdoing it. DRESSED TO KILL is textbook De Palma and holds up as one of the director’s best films. Here, De Palma isn’t interested in satisfying anyone’s need to solve a murder so much as he’s looking to thrill with good old-fashioned sex and violence with a troubling twist that’ll have you hankerin’ for a stick of Doublemint gum.

 

 

When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

 Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Size Matters in THE KILLING

Posted on: Aug 15th, 2022 By:

By Lucas Hardwick
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems, and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

THE KILLING – 1956
5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook Jr., Vince Edwards
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Rated: Not Rated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: Region Free UHD
BRD Release Date: 07-26-2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: HEVC / H.265
Resolution: Native 4K (2160p)
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Run Time: 84 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Few things in this world are as invincible as the bulletproof bureaucracy surrounding the size regulations of carry-on luggage, specifically designed for your “comfort and safety” while flying the friendly skies. And in a narrative twist too big for an overhead compartment, Sterling Hayden’s Johnny Clay realizes where he went wrong in what was otherwise an airtight plan to knock over a horse track in Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 classic, THE KILLING.

If you’ve seen one heist movie, you’ve seen ‘em all, the only difference in most being whether bold bad guy ingenuity leads to a successful getaway, woven together with almost childlike simplicity, or the simplicity of a mistake resulting in 25 to life. Regardless, most heist movies have the same ingredients: a hefty score, a team with a diverse skillset, a little side muscle, and most importantly, a man (or woman) with a vision who can rally the whole thing together with the logistical precision of a SEAL team operation.

At face value, the title The Killing refers to specific deaths that occur later in the film, including the execution of a horse. Metaphorically, The Killing also represents the large sum of cash at stake in a textbook heist orchestrated by ex-con Johnny Clay. If Clay pulls off this heist, he’ll make a killing, a great example of a perfect title.

Fresh off a five year stint in the slammer, Clay is ready to get right back in the mess and run off with his girl Fay (Coleen Gray) and a two million dollar take from the local horse track. The mechanics of the operation are so basic that the film’s non-linear structure hardly has any bearing on the audience’s ability to follow the plot. This story is about the characters and the peculiar morality of their motives.

In spite of looking like a gang of Dick Tracy villains, none of Clay’s conscripts are actual criminals. The corrupt police officer in debt up to his eyeballs (Ted de Corsia) is the closest any of Clay’s crew comes to being morally bankrupt. It’s even difficult to judge the entire operation as malicious especially considering that horse tracks rely on people willing to blow money.

The worst thing that happens to any “victims” in the robbery is Clay waving his gun around, and wrestler Kola Kwariani tossing a few police officers. The highest cost for the job is paid in full by Red Lightning — the racehorse that makes the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of sharpshooter Nikki Arcane (Timothy Carey). To Clay’s point, is knocking off a horse even a crime? “…that’s not first-degree murder. In fact, that’s not murder at all. In fact, I don’t know what it is.” And with that, the film has only one criminal and bunch of regular joes that rip off a place that rips off people, all for the legally ambiguous price of a dead horse.

The worst indignities that occur, though, have nothing to do with stealing money, killing horses, or waving guns around, but are rather the crimes of passion exacted by Sherry Peatty (Marie Windsor) upon discovering puny husband George (Elisha Cook Jr.) is in on Clay’s deal. George is the horse track window teller tasked with putting Clay in the same room with the money. But Sherry’s mascara isn’t even dry before she’s running her mouth to lover boy Val Cannon (Vince Edwards) who plans to hijack Clay’s operation. This makes Sherry’s sin the deadliest weapon in the film and results in a pretty gnarly climax for Clay’s gang. This, however, doesn’t prevent Clay from making his score, but in a denouement that would make Larry David blush, Johnny Clay seals his own fate when it becomes apparent that he failed to read the fine print for what’s considered an acceptable size for carry-on luggage. “Eh, what’s the difference?” uttered by Clay in the final seconds of the film sums up its themes on morality.

And while the film advances on misguided morality, the key relationships within are equally as strange and circuitous. As George Peatty unloads the details of the horse track job to wife Sherry, she proceeds with putting on makeup, clearly preparing to go out for the evening in spite of feigning a stomachache. George offers no argument about why Sherry’s gettin’ dolled up or where she’s going, and only asks her why she married him. Exasperated, Sherry replies, “Oh, George, when a man has to ask his wife that, well, he just hadn’t better, that’s all.” Why doesn’t Sherry just lay it all out for him instead of waxing poetic? George doesn’t take the hint, and continues trying to win Sherry’s affection with the rented promise of loads of money from Clay’s score.

Another instance of dubious companionship is between Johnny Clay and Marvin Unger (Jay C. Flippen). Unger provides Clay a place to lay low after being released from prison, and shares his sympathy for Clay regarding the tough break he’s had. Unger also claims to think of Clay as a son, but then goes on to confess rather affectionately, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could just go away, the two of us, and let the old world take a couple of turns, and have a chance to take stock of things?” Sounds a little more romantic than a parental dynamic, doesn’t it? Later, when the gang is holed up waiting for Clay’s return from the job, Unger appears girlishly gleeful when he thinks he hears Clay outside.

If the film’s purply, hard-boiled dialogue — most being rattled off at a whip-crack pace by Sterling Hayden — isn’t fierce enough to get the viewer’s heart rate up, the claustrophobic photography and incessant, pounding score is most certainly anxiety inducing. Though Lucian Ballard is credited as Director of Photography, Kubrick himself set up the shots. Inside Unger’s and the Peatty’s apartments, the visuals are low and crowded, often obstructed by objects and furniture in the foreground, almost as if the audience is eavesdropping while being made privy to the film’s unsavory goings-on.

To add shortness of breath on top of everything else, composer Gerald Fried provides an auditory beating that doesn’t let up for the entire film. Fried would eventually compose the turbulent score to the Kirk and Spock fight-to-the-death scene in the STAR TREK episode “Amok Time.”

A pesky voice-over narration by uncredited Art Gilmore announces the whens and wheres throughout the film for anyone bothering to take notes. Viewers are likely to find it a bit unnecessary as it simply clarifies the film’s non-linear structure. It’s also a bit confounding since the narrator remains unidentified and we’re never told why it’s pertinent within the story.

Kino Lorber presents THE KILLING for the first time in beautiful 4K Ultra High Definition, with film grain intact. Special features include a brand-new commentary by author and film historian Alan K. Rode and a theatrical trailer. The disc comes packaged with reversible sleeve art and an eye-popping slipcover rendered with a rare version film’s original poster art.

For a heist movie that’s not really about the heist, THE KILLING reveals the human, though heightened, backdrop of a big money score, and the fuzzy morality that makes troubled people do bad things. It also makes no bones about the consequences of the decisions its characters make, delivering a fable that’s both thrilling and thoughtful.

 

 

 

 

When he’s not working as a Sasquatch stand-in for sleazy European films, Lucas Hardwick spends time writing film essays and reviews for We Belong Dead and Screem magazines. Lucas also enjoys writing horror shorts and has earned Quarterfinalist status in the Killer Shorts and HorrOrigins screenwriting contests. You can find Lucas’ shorts on Coverfly.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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