Blu-Ray Review – The Killing Kind

The Killing Kind is a movie by Curtis Harrington, who viewers will most likely know for Night Tide, a bonafide cult classic starring Dennis Hopper in his first lead role along with Marjorie Cameron (Jack Parson’s wife). Harrington was a friend of Kenneth Anger’s, although they ended up having a falling-out, as well as with Maya Deren, best known for Meshes of the Afternoon, one of the best American surrealist films. Harrington was obsessed with horror movies from an early age, starting with the Universal Monsters series.

Harrington made a string of films starting in late ’50s and stretching up to the end of the ’70s. Like so many others, he ended up working in television later on. The Killing Kind is one of his 1970s movies, and features John Savage (The Deer Hunter) in one of his first roles. Savage plays a deeply damaged young man who seems to have been forced to take part in a gang rape. Released after some time in prison, he moves back in with his crazy cat lady mother (Ann Sothern). Naturally, he may not be completely stable and pretty soon he starts killing people. There is a suggestion of incest between him and his mother. His mother usually takes in boarders who are older women, but then she opts for Lori (Cindy Williams), a young woman (Williams shot this role back to back with The Conversation).

It’s a key movie in Harrington’s career, but many of his films are either hard to find or only available in poor editions. Night Tide is in public domain, but a new restoration has recently been funded by Nicolas Winding Refn and uploaded on his website. The Killing Kind features a creepy performance from Savage, who is one of those actors who should have been much bigger than he was. You can easily see a bit of Shelly Winters in Ann Sothern’s portrayal who had worked with Harrington. It’s really well shot by Mario Tosi, probably best known for Carrie and The Stunt Man. So, it’s an oddball ‘70s movie that’s worth seeing, and it’s good to see an important filmmaker whose work crosses several decades and styles being given some attention again. I hope Vinegar Syndrome will release some more of his work—everyone should check out this film by this neglected film and it’s also just a very fine gory horror thriller.

This version has had a 2K transfer from its original 35mm camera negative. The package includes two excellent archival interviews with Curtis Harrington, one with a bit more on The Killing Kind, the other offering a sort of career retrospective. A commentary track by critics David Decoteau of RapidHeart and David Del Valle of SinisterImage rounds off the package. The release also contains the film on both Blu-Ray and DVD.

★★★★

Ian Schultz

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