It goes without saying that film fans know that Stanley Kubrick was a master of his art. All masters though have a starting point where they were learning and in some respects were yet to evolve into the legends that they would become. With the Arrow Academy release of The Killing on Blu-ray, which also includes Killer’s Kiss we get to see a director who had a vision, but was yet to perfect his style.
The Killing is a heist movie that when it was first released didn’t make that much of an impact, but not surprisingly when it comes to Kubrick’s work has grown to be respected and revered as a true classic of the genre. Influencing films such as Reservoir Dogs it feels definitely ahead of its time though in some respects lacks the polish that you come to expect from Kubrick’s work.
With the inclusion of Killer’s Kiss with The Killing we are able to see two early films from Kubrick that show he was very good at the framing of the film, and this comes down to his origins as a photographer. What he lacked in Killer’s Kiss though was a strong story to go with those perfect shots that he created. Yes, the film is good and for film geeks the shots do look outstanding, but the dialogue and actual story just feel weak. Moving to The Killing though where dialogue is much more of a focus we see that Kubrick grew strong fast and saw where his weakness was. The Killing has all the noir elements that you come to expect, in fact in a very in your face way…to the point that sometimes they feel forced.
In this almost obsessional way of getting the heist right though The Killing is actually a film that is made stronger by what should really be a weakness. Kubrick focuses on getting the characters right, whether it is Marie Windsor’s portrayal as the femme fatale, influencing her husband George (Elisha Cook Jr.) the weak link in the heist or it is the character of George himself as the typical loser these characters are perfectly created, though very stereotypical. This feels to be the whole point of The Killing though, an obsessional eye on getting the film perfect and for style Kubrick really does hit all the right notes, especially the unforgettable downfall in the finale.
Special features for the release include Killer’s Kiss of course, as well as interviews from Critic Michel Ciment and Ben Wheatley the director of Kill List. They show a love for Kubrick’s early work and give an insight in how these films influenced not only fans of Kubrick but also Kubrick himself in the way he moved on to make more well-known work such as A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Spartacus and The Shining among others. I particularly like how Wheatley points out Kubrick’s strength in creating films that are quite simple, but makes them feel complicated, and how the director strived to make the best films of a type that he could (which is shown with The Killing).
The Killing and Killer’s Kiss aren’t Kubrick’s best work but they show a director who was building up to becoming a master. They are classics and for fans of film they show a director who even at this early stage had certain master strokes, especially with the creation and setting of a scene and the framing used. Killer’s Kiss at points does seem basic but it never stops being impressive, and The Killing shows an understanding of what Killer’s Kiss was lacking, and that is what is impressive with Kubrick’s work. These are two similar films and for fans who want to understand more about the art of making a film they feel like perfect examples of what can be learnt during the evolution of such a talented director like Stanley Kubrick.
The Killing and Killer’s Kiss are out on Blu-ray in the UK now.