The Killing was director Stanley Kubrick's first major film effort -- though, like Kubrick's earlier films, it was economically produced with an inexpensive cast. In a variation of his Asphalt Jungle role, Sterling Hayden plays veteran criminal Johnny Clay, planning one last big heist before settling down to a respectable marriage with Fay (Colleen Gray). Teaming with several cohorts, Johnny masterminds a racetrack robbery. The basic flaw is that all the crooks involved are losers and small-timers who find themselves in way over their heads despite their supposed cleverness. None of the participants is more pathetic than George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr.), who is goaded into the robbery by his covetous and far-from-faithful wife (Marie Windsor). As in a Greek tragedy, Johnny's best-laid schemes go awry. Prominently featured in the cast of The Killing are offbeat character actors Tim Carey and Joe Turkel, who'd show up with equally showy roles in future Kubrick productions. The Killing is based on the novel Clean Break by Lionel White.
by Hal Erickson synopsis