U.S.A. • 1956 • BLACK AND WHITE • 35MM • 84 MIN

A racing-track robbery is executed with clockwork precision but then founders through human fallibility.

The film’s most unusual feature is its narrative structure, which avoids strict chronology in order to follow the thieves as they approach the crucial hour. In this way, time itself becomes a major protagonist, playing with losers who are ‘killing’ time prior to their bid for a new life but for whom time is running out. Fate intervenes: a runaway lapdog that strays across Sterling Hayden’s path will become a typical Kubrick symbol of blind chance which invariably upsets man’s best-laid plans. It also recalls Elisha Cook Jnr’s lapdog husband, in thrall to a treacherous Marie Windsor and whose jealousy is the weak link in the chain of an otherwise perfect crime. To those critics who claimed it imitated John Huston’s classic The Asphalt Jungle, Orson Welles replied briskly: ‘Yes, but The Killing was better… Kubrick is a giant.’

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