"Often unfairly dismissed as a minor prelude to Stanley Kubrick's work from his attention-demanding antiwar indictment Paths of Glory onwards, 1956's The Killing finds the master imposing Big Direction on Small Ideas," argues Vadim Rizov at GreenCine Daily. "Instead of the headier themes associated with Kubrick — nuclear war, Vietnam, extraterrestrial monoliths — here is an 84-minute noir, adapted from a Lionel White novel by expert nihilist Jim Thompson, confined to the bare minimum of sets and a few street exteriors. The dialogue has Thompson's characteristic mean-spirited tone: when Sherry Peatty (Marie Windsor) tells her lover Val Cannon (Vince Edwards) about her meek husband George's (Elisha Cook Jr) upcoming involvement in a robbery, he scoffs. 'That meatball?' Sherry corrects him: 'A meatball with gravy.'"
"The first product of the reportedly strained, multi-film collaboration between Kubrick and Thompson, their incendiary script for The Killing remains cinematic legend, lightning trapped in a jar — and their cast conspires to breath sulfur and sadness into every line." Chuck Stephens presents a guide to the "class-act fillies and brick-headed galoots from Hollywood's brightest galaxies of second- and third-rung heroes… Could any other group of actors have come together as such a finely calibrated machine of mirth and menace, or imbued the film's fractured narrative and hell-forged moral nuances with as many scents of poison or shades of existential disarray?"
Also for Criterion, Haden Guest suggests that Lucien Ballard's "meticulous choreography of camera movement in this film introduced the self-consciously autonomous camera that would arguably become Kubrick's greatest star. Equally significant, however, was Ballard's use of single-source lighting to reduce interiors to starkly abstract theatrical spaces, in marked contrast with the film's naturally lit Los Angeles-area exteriors. An important early expression of the stylized antirealism increasingly explored in Kubrick's cinema, Ballard's diagrammatic hot-spot lighting transforms dingy apartments and hidden back rooms into dramatic extensions of the robbers' feverishly claustrophobic lives, while also subtly pointing toward the radical fusing of architectural and psychological interiority in such later films as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and The Shining (1980)."
"The Criterion disc for The Killing comes with one of the more exciting extras of the year — a whole entire other Kubrick film." Bill Ryan: "Killer's Kiss, from 1955, is not Kubrick's very first film, but it's the first film he was willing to acknowledge might be worth anyone's time to watch…. It's part of the tradition that includes Blast of Silence and, actually, a genre switch here, but also Carnival of Souls. You can see the kinship with Blast of Silence, for instance, in the shots of New York, as it was then at that moment — the shop windows with the creepy automaton Santa Claus and the pastries and the wind-up swimming toy, and the rooftop chase."
"Just as hemlines rise and fall, so do fashions in crime — or, at least, its fictional representation — evolve from decade to decade and even from year to year." Dave Kehr in the New York Times: "Bracketing the 1950s a group of four crime films recently released by the Warner Archive Collection suggest just how radical those shifts can be. A pair of films from 1949, Richard O Fleischer's Follow Me Quietly, and The Threat, directed by Felix E Feist, reflect an entirely different set of concerns from two movies produced at the end of the 50s: The Purple Gang (1959), directed by Frank McDonald, and The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960) by Budd Boetticher."
Chris Cabin in Slant on El Topo (1970): "Spiritual violence, class warfare, and plenty of mysticism go into Alejandro Jodorowsky's desert-set whatsit, now readily available in a solid transfer, thanks to Anchor Bay."
DVD roundups. Simon Abrams (indieWIRE), Sean Axmaker (MSN Movies), Gary Dretzka (Movie City News) and Michael Tully (Hammer to Nail).