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The Killing (1956)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 6 June 1956 (USA)
1:34 | Trailer
Crook Johnny Clay assembles a five man team to plan and execute a daring race-track robbery.


Stanley Kubrick


Stanley Kubrick (screenplay by), Jim Thompson (dialogue by) | 1 more credit »
4,023 ( 238)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Sterling Hayden ... Johnny Clay
Coleen Gray ... Fay
Vince Edwards ... Val Cannon
Jay C. Flippen ... Marvin Unger
Ted de Corsia ... Patrolman Randy Kennan (as Ted DeCorsia)
Marie Windsor ... Sherry Peatty
Elisha Cook Jr. ... George Peatty (as Elisha Cook)
Joe Sawyer ... Mike O'Reilly
James Edwards ... Track Parking Attendant
Timothy Carey ... Nikki Arcane
Kola Kwariani ... Maurice Oboukhoff
Jay Adler ... Leo the Loanshark
Tito Vuolo ... Joe Piano
Dorothy Adams ... Ruthie O'Reilly
Herbert Ellis Herbert Ellis ... Second American Airlines Clerk


After just being released from a five year stint in prison, Johnny Clay has assembled a five man team, including two insiders, to carry out what he estimates will be a $2 million heist at Lansdowne Racetrack, that take, minus expenses, to be split five ways. Besides Johnny, none of the men truly are criminals in the typical sense. In addition to the other four team members, Johnny has hired two men external to the team to carry out specific functions for a flat fee, the other four who will not meet the two men for hire or know who they are, while the two men for hire will not be told of the bigger picture of the heist. None involved are to tell anyone, even their loved ones, about the job, each of the five who has a specific reason for wanting his share of the money: Johnny, in wanting to get married to his longtime girlfriend Fay, the two who have known each other since they were kids, realizes that to live comfortably, he has to shoot for the moon instead of carrying out the penny ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Daring hold-up nets $2,000,000! Police baffled by fantastic crime! Masked bandit escapes with race track loot! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The film was effectively dumped by United Artists, premiering as the second half of a double feature; Richard Fleischer's Bandido! (1956) was the main film. However, it made Stanley Kubrick's reputation, and Kirk Douglas and Marlon Brando soon hired him. See more »


Every time Johnny Clay pulls up to the hotel you can see the shadow of the boom mic on the road. See more »


[first lines]
Narrator: At exactly 3:45 on that Saturday afternoon in the last week of September, Marvin Unger was, perhaps, the only one among the hundred thousand people at the track who felt no thrill at the running of the fifth race. He was totally disinterested in horse racing and held a lifelong contempt for gambling. Nevertheless, he had a $5 win bet on every horse in the fifth race. He knew, of course, that this rather unique system of betting would more than likely result in a loss, but he didn't...
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Referenced in 23h58 (1993) See more »

User Reviews

Kubrick's first serious effort packs a punch.
24 June 2012 | by TOMASBBloodhoundSee all my reviews

The Killing is a film whose legacy can still be seen in many films today. This film is not only Stanley Kubrick's first acclaimed film, but it is also credited with inventing the concept of non-linear story telling for the film industry. Some recent films that have used this technique are Reservior Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Go, Wonderland and The Usual Suspects.

The story deals with a motley crew of assorted criminals, inside men, and average joes just looking to get their hands on a large sum of money by stealing it from a racetrack. Sterling Hayden plays Johnny Clay, a hardened criminal who just finished serving a five-year prison sentence. He is the ringleader of the bunch who is determined to only go for the big heists from now on. He figures they can put you away for stealing ten dollars as easily as ten million, so what have you got to lose? The rest of the crew are mostly average people with average problems, as Clay explains early on. Some of them work at the track. One is a crooked cop. Two are hardened criminals added at the last minute to cause diversions. Everything has been timed and planned out to the letter. Of course in a film like this, things never go as planned. It wouldn't be entertaining if they did.

The killing was made on a budget of well below half a million dollars, and it shows. The film looks cheap at times, but the story is more than enough to make you forgive its financial shortcomings. The acting is nothing too special. Hayden is strong and resourceful as Johnny Clay, but he's pretty wooden. Elisha Cook Jr. is pretty good as a hen-pecked husband who is taking part in the scheme to impress his high-maintenance wife. If this film were re-cast today, you'd have to think of William H. Macy to play this character. Timothy Carey is always memorable, even with such a small part like the one he has here. Such a strange-looking guy! He gets the most interesting assignment of all the people in on the heist.

You can really tell this was made fifty years ago. Even though there are hardened criminals and low-lifes in nearly every scene, nobody ever says the F-word! There is, however, a fairly gory shootout in one scene which you normally didn't find in films back then. The killing was ahead of its time in more ways than one, I guess. Please be sure to check this one out! 8 of 10 stars.

The Hound.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

6 June 1956 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bed of Fear See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »


Box Office


$320,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »

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