DVD Review: One of Stanley Kubrick's best gets better

Stanley Kubrick's third feature was his first great film and remains to this day my favorite Kubrick movie (with the possible exception of “Dr. Strangelove”). It also captures the very essence of the film noir worldview, with only “Kiss Me Deadly” and “D.O.A.” in the same league.

Famously, this story of an intricately planned racetrack heist unfolds out of chronological order, as did Lionel White's novel “Clean Break,” from which it was adapted. This daring structure was an obvious major influence on Quentin Tarantino's first three features.

The 2001 MGM DVD release was labeled as being in the right aspect ratio and being 89 minutes long; it was in fact in the wrong aspect ration and was (as it should be) 85 minutes. Criterion's new edition corrects these gaffes and provides a more faithful look, with less contrast-boosting.

In addition, the package includes one of the best batches of extras of the last year — most amazingly a restored print of Kubrick's second feature, “Killer's Kiss” (accompanied by a nine-minute appraisal by critic Geoffrey O'Brien). A 20-minute 2010 interview with Kubrick's longtime producer, James B. Harris, provides a concise and fascinating history of the project and of his other work with the director. Jim Thompson biographer Robert Polito explains Thompson's career and his dismay at Kubrick reducing his screenwriting credit to a dubious “additional dialogue by” (18 minutes). Best of all is 24 minutes culled from a series of 1984 interviews with star Sterling Hayden. The actor is a fabulous raconteur, remarkably open about the low points of his career. Fans of Robert Altman's “The Long Goodbye” should watch this (even if they don't care for “The Killing”) to see how much the real-life Hayden sounds like Roger Wade, his character in the Altman film.

The Killing (Criterion, Blu-ray, $39.95; DVD, $29.95)

ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on “FilmWeek” on KPCC-FM (89.3).

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