The Killing is quite possibly Stanley Kubrick’s most outright entertaining film, and it’s definitely at the top of my list in terms of favorite noir crime thrillers. Released in 1956, this was Kubrick’s third feature film, and was based on Lionel White’s novel Clean Break; Kubrick and Jim Thompson co-wrote the adaptation. The plot centers on a complicated robbery during a horse race and the various double and triple crossings that occur due to everyone in the narrative being extra-duplicitous. Sterling Hayden was super manly, fronting a terrific ensemble which included Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Jay C. Flippen, Ted de Corsia and Timothy Carey.
The stark black and white cinematography by Lucien Ballard was a perfect match for the pulpy material, while the dialogue zings, zigs, and zags with punchy grit due to the stern line readings. The ending is appropriately tragic, never letting anyone off the hook. Despite excellent critical notices at the time of its release, the film failed to secure a traditional release from a major studio, and quickly died with audiences. But many people consider it to be the first film to truly show off some of his more trademark aesthetic touches, and would pave the way for Paths of Glory, which would follow the following year.