Posts Tagged ‘Heist thriller’

The Killing (1956) | blu-ray release | Kubrick’s early classics

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Jay C Flippen, Marie Windsor,

85min   Thriller  US

Kubrick had started his career in the late 1940s as a magazine photographer honing his framing expertise and camera techniques. At 27, THE KILLING was his third feature and another chance to demonstrate his photgraphic skills for this exacting genre. He based his fractured narrative on Lionel White’s book ‘Clean Break’ and called on paperback pro Jim Thompson (The Killer Inside Me) to help him co-write the script with a documentary style employing a voiceover narration (from veteran commentator, Art Gilmore) to create distance. During the robbery sequence, the action shifts back and forth showing the event from the different perspectives of the perpetrators.

Following on from Killer’s Kiss it was technically his first full feature-length film; the former running for just over a an hour and opens on the New York’s Bays Meadows racetrack as a group of hardened criminals prepare to stage a horserace heist. Sterling Hayden leads as the ringleader Johnny Clay, a glibly handsome and fast-talking pugnacious crook, fresh out of jail.  Elisha Cook Jr’s shifty racetrack bookmaker plays his sidekick George Peatty who’s slightly back-footed by his wife Sherry’s ongoing infidelity. Using his forthcoming windfall as a bribe to win back her affections, he divulges too much about the robbery and Sherry tells her lover who tries to grab a share of the action.

The tone is dark and menacing and pacing echoes that of Wilder’s Double Indemnity ten years previouslycommunicating the urgency, greed and depravity of all concerned and reflecting the country’s nascent economic doom. This richly textured noir thriller contains a scene in local chess lounge (Kubrick loved the game) where Johnny meets the Russian wrestler Maurice Oboukhoff (Kola Kwariani) who is instrumental in the heist and there is a clever turn from cult actor Timothy Carey as the “paraplegic” man who fires the shot on the racecourse. The clown-like robbers’ masks will appear again later in Clockwork Orange adding a note of cognitive dissonance to the thriller tropes. Kubrick has planned the action in his mind and gradually gives the clues away while the tension tightens until the nail-biting airport climax, which every traveller can appreciate. MT


Point Blank (1967) ****

Director: John Boorman

Cast: Angie Dickinson, Lee Marvin, Keenan Wynn, Carroll O’Connor, John Vernon.

92min    US   Thriller

John Boorman’s 1967 Hollywood debut Point Blank was quite exhilarating even by American standards even though the 50-year-old-thriller does now feel quite dated and very sixties: It’s always the soundtrack that gives it away but Johnny Mandel’s original music was highly innovative for the time.

The coordinated ‘futuristic’ interiors by Oscar-winner Henry Grace (North by Northwest and The Man From U.N.C.L.E) and Philip Lathrop’s strikingly modern visuals of LA cityscapes must have been quite exciting for European audiences of the time. A prolific cinematographer, Lathrop also worked on sixties titles The Pink Panther and They Shoot Horse Don’t They?

Then there’s Angie Dickinson’s mini-skirts and geometric hairstyle by Brit, Sydney Guilaroff, credited with making Lucille Ball a redhead and giving Claudette Colbert her bangs; and that tell-tale frosted lipstick, not to mention the eye-liner that was all the rage back then and screamed “Mary Quant” and “Courreges”: all high-profile icons of the era back in the UK and Europe.


Using a dream-like fractured narrative Point Blank centres on Lee Marvin’s Walker, who has been stitched up by his partner Reese (John Vernon) during a heist and then left for dead in Alcatraz prison off the coast of the San Francisco Bay. He pursues his partner, aided and abetted by a strongly sensual Angie Dickinson as his sister-in-law, and the strange figure of Yost (Keenan Wynn) in order to recover a sizeable amount of money from a syndicate of crims called “The Organisation”. Sharply-scripted and intensely gripping, this is a real sixties classic and not to be missed.The Curzon Mayfair would be the perfect place to screen this movie with its ‘iconic’, futuristic interiors that have thankfully survived a refit up to now.  MT




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