Filmsite Movie Review
The Killing (1956)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Saturday - The Day of the Heist

There were a number of events that occurred four days later - the morning of the heist, often described by the third-person narrator to seemingly provide continuity, although the sequence was still confounding, disorienting, sometimes out of chronological order, and not showing the entire context. At first, the sequence of events for the heist went off without a hitch, but then everything began to go horribly wrong.

The Sequence of Holdup-Related Events - As Per the Narrator
7:30 am George's apartment

Over breakfast, the two-timing greedy and scheming Sherry again nagged her nervously wide-awake and restless husband George about their poverty-stricken lifestyle: "It's just, I can't stand living like this, a crummy apartment and a hamburger for dinner," although she was encouraged by the fact that they would soon be rich after the robbery: ("But things are gonna be different, you'll see. When we get all that money, we'll have so many nice things. I'll stop thinking about myself so much. Your problems will be my problems"). She suspected, from George's odd, upset and unusual sleepless behavior, that it was the day of the robbery, and badgered him: ("It's today, isn't it?...I know my Georgie. He can't fool me. I'm right, aren't l, darling? Today is the day we get all that money"), but George denied it. He reminded her of Johnny's threat to her: "You heard what Johnny told you. To stop butting in, mind your own business, or he'd call this whole thing off." She assured George that she wouldn't interfere - and then added how Johnny had also hinted at physical violence: "That if I did butt in, as you and he choose to call it, that he'd break my neck." She also hinted, with lots of feigned hesitation, that she had flirtatiously helped George (but also betrayed him) by defusing Johnny's anger. She falsely confessed that she had succumbed to Johnny's physical advances: "I tried to stop him. I pleaded and I struggled," but added: "It doesn't matter, does it, darling? The only thing that really matters is how I feel about you now, isn't it?" And then she again asked: "It is today, isn't it?" George nodded. She now could set in motion Val's plan to steal the money from George and his associates after the heist.

5:00 am Racetrack Red Lightning was fed a half portion of feed, in preparation for the 7th race that afternoon - the $100,000 Lansdowne Stakes.
7:00 am Unger's apartment

(Narrator: "At 7 that morning, Johnny Clay began what might be the last day of his life.")

[Note: In retrospect, this was entirely inaccurate. Johnny was the only survivor of the holdup!]

Johnny bid goodbye to an awakening Marvin, and expressed confidence: ("Everything's all set. Should go perfectly, but if it doesn't, and everything goes wrong, why, just don't talk about this with anyone. You'll be in the clear for everything except being short on your books"). Johnny was regretful that they might never see each other again following the split of the dough that evening, and he wished Marvin a good life: ("We'll probably never see each other again after we split the money and break up tonight, but in my book, you'll always be a stand-up guy"). Marvin responded and described their friendship with some homosexual insinuations: "Johnny, I- I don't know how to say this, and I don't even know if I have the right, but - I've always thought maybe you're like my own kid...You've had a lot of rough breaks and maybe you've made a few mistakes, but after today, the good Lord willing, you'll be a new man, a rich man, and that can make a lot of difference. You've got a lot of life ahead of you, a lot of people to meet. People of quality and substance"). Marvin suggested that they go away together, instead of Johnny wedding Fay: ("Wouldn't it be great if we could just go away, the two of us, and let the old world take a couple of turns and have a chance to take stock of things? It can be pretty serious and terrible, particularly if it's not the right person. Getting married, I mean"), but Johnny wasn't interested. Marvin was explicitly instructed to keep away from the track: ("Go to a movie or something"), especially around the time of the momentous 7th race, at about 4:30 pm. Johnny expected to be back at about 7 pm.

8:15 - 8:45 am Airport
Florist Shop Motel
Bus Station

(Narrator "It was exactly 7 a.m. when he got to the airport.").

[Note: The narrator deliberately created confusion by stating this inaccuracy. Johnny was in Unger's apartment at 7 am.]

At the airport at the American Airlines counter, Johnny pre-checked a personal bag for his 9:00 pm flight to Boston that evening. Then, on the way, he bought flowers (placed in a large flower box) from a florist, and stopped by the motel cabin (Narrator: "He arrived at 8:15"). He spoke to Joe, the motel manager, and told him he would be back to pick up a bundle after it was dropped off for him by a uniformed cop (Kennan) in a patrol car at about 6:30 pm (after the heist). In the cabin, Johnny removed his rifle from the dresser drawer and transferred it into the long flower box along with another hand-gun, then drove to a bus station about a half hour later ("He reached the bus station at 8:45"), and placed the flower box (with weapons) in a locker.

9:20 am Mailbox Outside O'Reilly's apartment

(Narrator: "It was 9:20 when he arrived at Mike's apartment.").

Johnny's next stop was O'Reilly's apartment, where he deposited the bus locker key in Mike's outside mailbox.

11:15 am Inside O'Reilly's apartment (Narrator: "Mike O'Reilly was ready at 11:15 am.").

O'Reilly dressed and then said goodbye to his wife Ruthie, who was not eating her breakfast. Before leaving for work, he promised that they would soon be rich and she would receive better medical care: ("Ruthie, things are gonna get much better for us...I know I've made a lot of promises in the past, but this time it's not just talk. We're gonna be rich, and soon. You're gonna have a fine house, and doctors that'll make you well again"). He announced he would return late, at about 10:00 pm, after a "little get-together" with some fellas. She advised him not to drink too much beer, and he said he wouldn’t be drinking. His mother would be over later in the afternoon to fix Ruthie's dinner. O'Reilly opened his outside mailbox to get the bus locker key and his mail, before leaving.
11:29 am Bus Station

(Narrator: "He reached the bus station at 11:29.").

O'Reilly entered the bus station, and had just enough time to retrieve the flower box (with the hidden weapons) locked inside a bus station locker where Johnny had stashed it. Then, he ran over to a departing Race-Track Special bus, barely missing it, en route to the track.

12:10 pm Race-Track
Employees' Locker Room

(Narrator: "At 12:10 as it was his custom, he arrived at the track.").

To his nosy, meddlesome co-employees in the locker room who were teasingly asking: "Who's the girlfriend, Mike?", O'Reilly claimed that the flowers in the box were for his wife ("These posies are for my wife"). He was barely able to get his co-workers to leave him alone, and had to refuse to accept their well-intentioned assistance to refrigerate the flowers. He slightly offended his helpful friend Bill (Richard Reeves) and had to insist: "These flowers are going in my locker!" O'Reilly placed the flower box into his own locker - planted there for Johnny's use later. Between another row of lockers nearby, race-track teller/cashier George was listening to Mike's conversation. He opened his own locker to retrieve a pistol out of his lunch box, and then pocketed the weapon. O'Reilly changed his clothes, and observed uniformed men wheeling something into the payroll office across the hallway. The first race of the afternoon had just finished - the winner was Second Ending.

After the 1st Race Racetrack Bar and Environs

At the racetrack bar where he was specifically ordered not to hang out by Johnny, Marvin arrived drunk and continued to drink heavily. He was cautioned by O'Reilly to moderate his intake after he ordered a double bourbon: ("Don't you think you've had enough pal?").

3:32 pm Police Telephone on Street Corner

(Narrator: "At exactly 3:32 that same afternoon, Officer Randy Kennan set in motion his phase of the operation.").

To avert suspicion later on, policeman Kennan telephoned his headquarters to fictitiously report a radio malfunction in his squad car. As he was about to drive off in his patrol car to the track, he ignored a woman's (Mary Carroll) cry for help to investigate a domestic violence incident: ("Come quick, they're killing each other!"). If he had been delayed getting to the track by ten minutes, he would have thrown off the carefully-executed plan. (Narrator: "Ten minutes late would be fatal"). He drove into the track area as the 7th race was just starting. He parked his car below an open window of the race-track building.

2:30 pm Chess Club (Narrator: "Earlier that afternoon, at 2:30, Maurice was at the chess club. He was to be at the track in position at 4 o'clock just before the start of the 7th race.")

Maurice asked for his friend Fisher to make a phone call for him, if he wasn't back by 6:30 pm. The call was to be made to Mr. Stillman ("...and tell him Maurice requires his services"). During the conversation, Maurice offered an allegorical mystical story when Fisher became too inquisitive: "There are some things, my dear Fisher, which do not bear much looking into. You have undoubtedly heard of the Siberian goatherder who tried to discover the true nature of the sun? He stared up at the heavenly body until it made him blind. There are many things of this sort, including love and death, and my business for today."
4:00 - 4:23 pm Racetrack Bar Area

As Maurice was arriving around 4:00 pm - to start a brawl at the bar area, the start of the 7th race was also being announced and shown. He ordered a bottle of beer from O'Reilly. Maurice noticed Johnny positioned outside a "NO ADMITTANCE" - 'employees only' racetrack office door. To start the brawl, Maurice yelled at O'Reilly: "Hey, can I have some service, you stupid-looking Irish pig?" When O'Reilly approached and asked what was the matter, Maurice knocked the bartender to the floor and fought off a group of racetrack officers during a major commotion and fight, as Johnny watched from afar. George also nervously looked on - and then left his $5 dollar teller window, and opened the payroll office door to provide access to Johnny. Eventually, Maurice was overpowered, restrained, and dragged out of the bar by seven guards.

(Narrator: "It was exactly 4:23 when they dragged Maurice out.").

In the confusion caused by the brawl, the unobserved Johnny slipped through the open payroll door.

11:40 am - 12:30 pm Farm and Racetrack Parking Lot

(Narrator: "At 11:40 that morning, Nikki left his farm. He arrived at the track at 12:30.").

Nikki drove from his farm (with a guitar case hiding a sniper rifle), and arrived at one of the racetrack's closed parking areas at 12:30 pm - too early - in his open sports car roadster. He was diverted by the black parking attendant (James Edwards) to a different parking lot, because the lot wasn't open yet. Nikki falsely claimed he was a disabled veteran (from the Battle of the Bulge), and would watch the race from his parked car. After a patronizing bribe was offered, however, he was allowed to park in the lot adjacent to the track. The friendly attendant brought Nikki a race program during the 2nd race. When asked, Nikki advised him to bet on 'Red Lightning' in the 7th race.

Race # 7 Racetrack Parking Lot

As the 7th race was about to begin, the attendant came over to thank Nikki for the race tip, and gave him a horseshoe for good luck, but the anxious Nikki refused the gift, to try to get the talkative and bothersome attendant to leave before the race commenced: "Keep your junk and leave me alone, will ya?" When the attendant innocently asked: "Somethin' wrong?", Nikki was compelled to deliver a racial slur and call the attendant a 'nigger': ("You're wrong, nigger. Be a nice guy and go on about your business"). The attendant answered: "Sorry, boss. Sorry to have bothered you. My mistake." As he marched away, the attendant tossed the horseshoe in disgust to the ground, just behind Nikki's car.

During Race # 7 and at 4:24 pm Sniper's perch near parking lot

Nikki aimed his rifle and shot Red Lightning during the 7th race as it turned the corner after the stretch. As Nikki backed up to drive off in his car, he was shot dead by a track police officer. His body was sprawled next to the back tire that had been punctured by the horseshoe - a symbol of luck gone bad.

(Narrator: "Nikki was dead at 4:24").

(Death Toll Total: One)

At the same time, the race-track had erupted into confusion following the downing of Red Lightning.

2:15 pm Luggage Shop

(Narrator: "At 2:15 that afternoon, Johnny Clay was still in the city. He knew exactly how long it would take him to drive to the track, park his car, and walk to the grandstand. He planned to arrive just before the start of the 7th race").

Johnny emerged from the front of a luggage store with a briefcase.

Just Before Race # 7 Racetrack

Johnny walked by the grandstand's teller windows, gesturing toward the scared-looking George behind the barred $5 Win ticket window. Standing near the payroll door, Johnny spotted drunken Marvin leaning against a wall. He walked over to the racetrack bar area, gestured toward O'Reilly, and saw Maurice waiting at the bar for his appointed time to start a brawl. He walked back to the payroll door, awaiting the chaos at the bar created by Maurice. Once the barfight commenced, the "money room" was notified of the need for more guards, and two guards rushed out.

With the chaos in the bar area, Johnny slipped through the payroll door, earlier opened by George.

Johnny ascended a spiral staircase, and first went to the employees locker-room to retrieve the rifle (planted in O'Reilly's locker in a flower box), and then donned a grotesque, grinning rubber clown mask (over his face) and gloves.

The Actual Heist:

As Race # 7 (deliberately commencing more than once during the above sequence), the four clerks / accountants in the track's back counting or "money room" of the payroll office were held up by the disguised Johnny, and robbed of $2 million in cash. The guards that normally were present in the room had rushed off to help control the bar-fight. One of the cashier-clerks was ordered to place cash on the back table into a large white laundry-duffel bag ("Fill that bag up just as fast as you know how"), while the others were disarmed and told to face the wall. The clerk with the duffel bag was also ordered to continue filling the bag with cash from the safe. In the background, the race announcer was heard describing the spill of Red Lightning and how the jockey Danny Freed was unhurt. When the duffel bag was stuffed to the brim with cash, Johnny ordered the floor clerks into the employees locker room across the hall. Then, Johnny placed his disguise (mask, gloves, coat, and shirt) and the weapon into a large duffel bag, and tossed the heavy, bulky bag out an open window.

As Johnny exited the payroll door, an armed policeman confronted him, but was knocked down. He was able to cooly walk out of the racetrack building with crowds of people.

The Gang Members' Rendezvous in Maurice Unger's Apartment:

More news about the robbery at the racetrack was conveyed on the radio, after the surviving gang members (George, Mike, Randy and Marvin) had assembled and were waiting at Unger's apartment - the rendezvous site for the accomplices at the appointed time of 7:00 pm - to split up the cash and get their shares of the loot. It was reported that the horse sniper (Nikki) had been fatally shot in a racetrack parking lot. The tense group awaited nervously for Johnny to appear, drinking and listening to the radio, but heard no news of the main bandit's escape with the duffel bag of money:

"In one of the most daring and carefully-executed hold-ups in criminal history, a lone bandit wearing a rubber mask today took an estimated $2 million stuffed into a large duffel bag from the offices of the Lansdowne Racetrack. The robbery occurred during the running of the seventh race and was apparently timed to coincide with the shooting of Red Lightning, just as the horse, valued at $250,000, was leading the pack at the far turn. The jockey, Danny Freed, escaped with minor injuries. A man identified as Nikki Arano, who allegedly shot the prized thoroughbred, was himself fatally wounded by track police as he attempted to shoot his way out of the track parking lot. At this time, the most baffling mystery that still plagues the authorities is just how the bandit managed to successfully get away from the track with the bulky duffel bag containing the money. A painstaking search of the track grounds is being conducted on the theory that the money may still be hidden there."

After the radio news report, bruised-faced O'Reilly was surprised the scheme had worked so well: ("No one saw the duffel bag come out of the window"). Kennan confirmed everything went smoothly, claiming to the others that he had retrieved the thrown duffel bag from the window ("Ah, that part of it worked OK. Landed right at my feet"), but was anticipating being punished (with a 30-day suspension) by his police Captain, and accused of being drunk:

"I reported my radio out of order before I went out to the track. But the Captain ain't buyin' it. He's convinced I was holed up somewhere, drunk. And if the Captain's convinced, there ain't nobody that can un-convince him. Besides, no one's gonna think anything of seein' a cop at the racetrack. I mean, they won't get any funny ideas about it and tie it in with the robbery. Anyway, if they do, it won't cut any ice. Captain knows I was drunk. And he ain't a man you can argue with. So I guess I'll just have to break down, admit it, and take my punishment."

When it became later and later than the "timetable" had called for, a 7:00 pm rendezvous, it was now 7:15 pm (according to George), and the foursome began to wonder why Johnny had not shown up. Kennan assured them that Johnny would soon get there as planned: "Don't worry. He'll get here. He had to pick up the dough at the motel where I dropped it." As planned, Kennan had driven the bag to Johnny's motel, and deposited it in Johnny's rented cabin room. George was anxiously skeptical about why Johnny hadn't arrived: "Everything else runs on a timetable until it comes to payin' us our shares. Then the timetable breaks down."

The Unexpected Arrival of Mobsters - A Deadly Shoot-Out:

At around 7:15 pm when they heard the elevator, the group was ready to welcome Johnny, but were surprised instead by the arrival of Val Cannon (with accomplice Tiny (Joe Turkel)), who at gunpoint held up the gang members: "It'll be a massacre if you don't keep those mitts up." When Val demanded to know about the stolen cash and Johnny's whereabouts, a deadly shoot-out or gunfight ensued. From a back room, George appeared and shot Val and Tiny, but all were gunned down and killed (and viewed as a pile of strewn corpses while Latin music played on the radio), except for the seriously-wounded George, who struggled to get to the door and twist the knob (from his POV).

(Death Toll Total: Six)

Johnny's Arrival at the Rendezvous Location:

[Note: The narrator then stated two confusing time-frame references. He announced that "40 minutes before (the gunfight), at 6:25, Johnny reached the motel" - but that was an inaccurate statement. '40 minutes before 7:15' would have been 6:35 pm. And then the narrator announced that Johnny was "15 minutes behind schedule" due to heavy traffic around the track.]

At the motel, Johnny - at first - almost mistakenly entered the wrong motel room. He retrieved the duffel bag that had been brought there by Kennan, plus the guitar case. When Johnny arrived at the apartment for the 7:00 pm rendezvous, the narrator provided another false statement:

Narrator: "Johnny arrived at the meeting place at 7:29, still 15 minutes late." [Note: Johnny was actually almost a half hour late.]

After parking in front of the apartment, Johnny saw (from his POV that was filmed from the backseat) the bloodied George stumble out of the apartment front door, fall over the hood of his car, and then cross the street to his car after an apparent gun battle. The group's agreement was that if plans went awry, the one who possessed the money could flee, and then later divide the cash with the others. Johnny was forced to take the money - as described in voice-over:

Narrator: "It had been prearranged and agreed to by all that in the event of an emergency before the split, the money was to be saved by whoever had possession of it at that time without any consideration of the fate of the others, the money to be divided in safety at a later date. After what he had seen, and not knowing the cause or the circumstances of the others, Johnny had no choice but to save himself and the money. Ten minutes later, he bought the largest suitcase he could find."

After purchasing a large old suitcase at a pawn shop at 7:39 pm, Johnny drove to a deserted country road and stuffed the cash into the suitcase (but significantly, he couldn't secure the case because of the inoperative locks).

[Note: It must be stated that after all the meticulous planning, why didn't Johnny pre-purchase a functioning suitcase?]

George's Fatal Confrontation with His Faithless Wife Sherry:

After staggering home to his apartment, the sole-surviving, determined yet fatally-wounded George heard his wife from the back bedroom calling out - thinking it was Val: "I'm back here, Val, darling. How'd it go, dear?" He stumbled into the room - looking like Nikki's paper target after it had been shredded with gunfire - and confronted his faithless and scheming wife Sherry with a plaintive question: "Why did you do it?" He suspected her of desertion, but she had a pre-planned alibi - she claimed that she was preparing clothes for the cleaners, but she was obviously packing a suitcase to run away with her co-conspirator Val. Sherry believed that the money would bring her out of poverty and revitalize her life. She insulted George for his continuing stupidity in getting himself shot - and then tipped off George that Val would be arriving soon, to run off with her:

"So you had to be stupid. You couldn't even play it smart with a gun pointed at you. Well, you better get smart fast and get outta here while you can still walk....You better get out of here before he gets here."

About to expire, George denounced her for associating with Val, but first requested that she call an ambulance for him, but she coldly refused: "The door's behind you. Take a cab." He vowed his love for her: "I love you, Sherry," but then as she continued to urge him to leave: ("George, you better go on and go. You look terrible"), he blasted away and shot her in the abdomen - no longer impotent. As she died, she bemoaned her unfair luck:

"It isn't fair. I never had anybody but you. Not a real husband. Not even a man. Just a bad joke without a punch line."

George fell dead, tumbling forward and knocking over the parrot cage - a symbol of his pitiful, enclosed life. Her loudly-squawking, shrieking bird mimicked her line: "Ain't fair."

(Death Toll Total: Eight)

Johnny's and Fay's Fateful Airport Escape:

Johnny met his girlfriend/fiancee Fay at the airport - with pre-purchased tickets for a 9 o'clock DC-7 flight to Boston, for their assumed names: Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Preston. At the check-in counter, an airline desk clerk (William Benedict) denied Johnny's vehement requests to take his prominently-bulky suitcase on board, and insisted that he check the oversized bag due to airline regulations. The friendly clerk offered to retrieve his earlier checked bag to transfer the contents to smaller bags, but Johnny said that wouldn't work. When Johnny suggested to Mr. Grimes (James Griffith), the obliging supervisor, that he couldn't make the trip without the bag, he was offered two full ticket rebates if he decided not to fly, and then was offered free insurance by the clerk for the valuable large piece of baggage if he did decide to travel. Realizing that he was making a scene, the apprehensive Johnny was finally forced to capitulate ("Check it through"). The camera focused on the bag as it was loaded onto a conveyor belt and disappeared.

There were further doomed circumstances for the heist when Johnny and Fay were standing behind fencing on the tarmac at the departure gate. They watched in horror as a baggage-cart driver swerved to the right to avoid a rich woman's (Cecil Elliott) spoiled poodle-dog named Sebastian that had escaped from her arms and ran into its path when frightened by the airplane noise. (The woman was awaiting her husband's flight arrival at a nearby gate on the tarmac.) The jostled cart sent Johnny's checked heavy suitcase of stolen money tumbling onto the tarmac where it broke open and flooded the airstrip with the cash - there was the incredible visual shot of an airplane propeller blowing away the fallen suitcase's contents of stolen cash that whirled all over the runway.

[Note: The scene paid direct homage to the conclusion of John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) when the wind blew hard-earned gold dust across the desert to merge with the desert soil.]

Stunned by the sight of the money blowing around, Johnny and Fay decided to walk calmly back into the terminal and flee from the airport. In the final few moments of the film, Mr. Grimes was alerted by phone to the opened suitcase of cash on the runway, while he simultaneously noticed the unusual sight of the couple slowly walking by the check-in desk toward the terminal's glass exit doors.

After Fay desperately tried to hail a few passing taxi-cabs from the curb, she turned and watched through the glass doors behind them, as Mr. Grimes pointed at them and identified them to two armed plainclothes policemen (Charles Cane and Robert B. Williams). The alerted officers approached toward the glass doors to arrest them, as Fay murmured a warning:

Fay: "Johnny, you've got to run!"
Johnny: "Nah, what's the difference?"

The stunned Johnny - demoralized and spiritless, realized it was futile to run, and delivered the film's final existential line to Fay. They both turned to face the two authority figures who were advancing through the doors and moving closer to them with their guns drawn.

Previous Page