DVD of the Week: The Killing Kind

I’m on vacation at the moment and enjoying the holiday, but I wanted to briefly mention that Curtis Harrington’s terrific 1973 thriller The Killing Kind was released this week on DVD for the first time and it’s my DVD pick of the week. Harrington is responsible for some of the most interesting and entertaining American horror movies and television productions of the sixties and seventies including Night Tide (which recently made my list of 31 films that give me the willies) as well as Games, How Awful About Allan, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo?, What’s the Matter with Helen? and Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell. The Killing Kind is one of the director’s best films and I’m really happy that it has finally found its way on to DVD thanks to Dark Sky Films, which has been releasing some great movies this year.

The Killing Kind stars John Savage (The Deer Hunter, Hair, The Onion Field, Do the Right Thing, etc.) in one of his earliest roles as a young man named Terry Lambert. Terry is an accused rapist who has recently been released from jail and is out for revenge. Savage is perfectly cast here as a sympathetic loner that you somehow sympathize with, but his innocent demeanor hides a dark and disturbed personality. Other stand out performances in The Killing Kind include Ann Sothern (Maisie, A Letter to Three Wives, The Blue Gardenia, Crazy Mama, etc.) as Terry Lambert’s overbearing mother Thelma. She carries on a strange and unhealthy relationship with her son that hints at sexual abuse. Their unusual family dynamic leads to Terry’s mental disintegration and finally has dire consequences for everyone. Luana Anders, Cindy Williams, Ruth Roman and Sue Bernard also have memorable roles here.

This extremely effective and creepy thriller might seem a little campy to some thanks to Ann Southern’s odd turn as Thelma Lambert, but I think it’s one of the smarter and more interesting movies made in the early seventies that attempted to explore the deranged mind of a sexual predator and killer. The film will remind some viewers of Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), but Harrington brings his own insights and individual style to The Killing Kind.

Dark Sky’s widescreen DVD presentation of The Killing Kind runs 95 minutes long and contains optional English subtitles. It also features an interview with director Curtis Harrington, which unfortunately was his last since Harrington passed away earlier this year due to complications following a stroke. You can currently purchase The Killing Kind from Amazon for $17.99 (it retails for ($19.99) and it should be available for rent at online sources such as Netflix and Greencine.

Below is a clip from the interview with Curtis Harrington featured on the DVD, which also contains some scenes from the film:

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8 thoughts on “DVD of the Week: The Killing Kind

  1. Jonathan Lapper says:

    Wow, I just watched A Letter to Three Wives last night and Ann Sothern sure did change. And John Savage – boy was he young there! I’ve never seen this but think both are terrific actors. I expect it’s well worth watching.

  2. Peter Nellhaus says:

    I’ll be looking forward to seeing this. Now if someone will get Harrington’s experimental shorts on DVD . . . By the way, I tried getting IMDb’s info on Harrington corrected to list his short films and kept on being stymied by their way of documenting the available info. I tried twice and got rejected.

  3. Keith says:

    I’ve never seen this film before, but your blog has me interested in seeing it. I do think it has a fascinating plot. It is intriguing to try to understand why people do the evil that they might do. What makes them tick.

  4. HSB says:

    Very excited indeed to see this finally emerge on DVD, ironically several years after its unofficial sequel, THE ATTIC, had its premiere as the second half of a MGM Midnite Movies double feature (with CRAWLSPACE). Possibly Curtis’ most perfect film — my brain battles itself with this one — WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN (1971) rallies hard for top shelf position. The best thing that can be said for it would be the truly touching character played by Ann Southern (sort of a reworking of her even more perverse part in MY MOTHER THE CAR). Very believable and sad. The best thing that can be said about all his films is that no one else could have made them. He was a genuine stylist who never repeated himself. Now if only someone would have the guts to release his last film, USHER (2002). Though very short, it’s a wonderful and deeply personal film. His passing occurred far, far too soon.

  5. Joe D says:

    My film restoration pals are restoring Night Tide. I’m going to sneak into a screening at their lab and watch it. I’ve never seen it in a theater just on TV a long time ago so I’m looking forward to seeing it.

  6. cinebeats says:

    It’s nice to see so much love for Harrington! I think he’s a terrific filmmaker, but sadly still sort of unknown. I barely read anything about his passing this year, which is a shame.

    I had only previously seen The Killing Kind on video, but the new DVD is terrific and the film looks really good now that it’s been restored and is in widescreen. It’s amazing what a good restoration can accomplish!

    Peter – I don’t know what’s up with IMDB, but I’ve had similar problems when I tried to add tech info and updates for films there. I can only assume that they don’t have the man power to follow up suggestions or something, but I wish they would. I’ve spent hours adding info for Japanese and Italian productions only to have it never show up there.

    Joe – I’m so happy to learn that Night Tide is being restored. I really love that film and its become a favorite over the years. I would love to see it in a theater myself!

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