Tuesday, March 16, 2010

#72 The Killing: A great big dollar sign there where most women have a heart

1956. dir. Stanley Kubrick, starring Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Marie Windsor.

Seen it before? No.

Movies like this are why I'm doing this project - this is a great movie, and I had never even heard of it until now. Before Stanley Kubrick became Mr. 3-Hour Snooze Fest Serious-Artiste, he worked on low-budget crime movies like this one, which tells the story of a daring robbery at a horse track. Sterling Hayden, best known to modern audiences as Gen. Jack D. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove or Capt. McCluskey from The Godfather, stars as Johnny Clay, who organizes the whole affair. It's a fairly ingenious plan, sort of like a mini-Ocean's Eleven, but he makes two key mistakes. One of them is picking the wrong inside man - he is thoroughly henpecked by his wife (Marie Windsor) and he tells her about the plan. (I won't spoil the other mistake, but it's pretty obvious when it happens.)

This movie is pretty inventive in the way it jumps back and forth in time to show the pieces of the heist moving into position. Kubrick almost seems to be playing with film-noir convention here. Some of the characters and plot devices are so over the top that they almost seem to be parodies. I couldn't really take Sterling Hayden's character seriously, for example. The dialogue is great, particularly Marie Windsor and Elisha Cook as the domineering wife and ineffectual husband.

Definitely see this if you're a fan of Quentin Tarantino (he appears to have gotten a lot of ideas from this) or heist movies in general.

Position on the list: 180
Hey! It's that Guy: Supposedly Rodney Dangerfield appears briefly as an extra, but I couldn't spot him.

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