When cineastes think of Stanley Kubrick's film oeuvre, the memories they conjure are usually of Jack Nicholson screaming "Heeeeeere's Johnny" in The Shining...or of Malcolm McDowell, eyelids pried open, suffering through the Ludovico technique in A Clockwork Orange...or Vincent D'Onofrio enduring a beating with towel-wrapped bars of soap by his fellow platoon members in Full Metal Jacket...or Nicole Kidman's ass in Eyes Wide Shut.
That being said, my favorite Kubrick film is one of his lesser-known works: 1956's noir classic The Killing. Starring Sterling Hayden, The Killing is hard-boiled gangster pulp, with great dialogue penned by legendary crime novelist Jim Thompson. Like all great film noir, The Killing's lighting is harsh, the characters are cool and tough, and the story locks you in from the opening frame. Because of the attention that Kubrick has received for some of his more popular (and, in my mind, less successful) films, The Killing is the BM Rant's inaugural "Forgotten Gem".
The plot of The Killing revolves around Johnny Clay (Hayden), a recent parolee who is planning an intricate, complex heist of a racetrack. Clay is looking for that ever elusive "last big score" that will allow him to finally take care of his girlfriend, Fay (Colleen Gray). In an effort to ensure success, Clay has planned the caper down to the finest detail, enlisting a group of men (some of them racetrack employees) to assist him in the caper. Despite Clay's efforts, the plan is hardly foolproof, and is further complicated by femme fatale Sherry (Marie Windsor), the nosy wife of George (Elisha Cook, Jr.), one of Clay's accomplices.
And, of course, there are double and triple-crosses galore.
One of the most ingenious aspects of The Killing is the way that Kubrick plays with the film's timeline. Throughout the picture, different elements of the heist are rearranged chronologically; we witness a particular character's actions during the robbery, then jump back an hour or so to see how another character prepared for the heist. As the disjointed scenes come together, the viewer is left to marvel at how the "perfect" crime might slowly unravel.