Jim Thompson

The Killer Inside Me (2016-17)

Jim Thompson's The Killer Inside MeThe Killer Inside Me revels in its degeneracy. There aren’t any happy moments in the entire series–a five issue adaptation of Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel–but the first issue is jarringly, hostilely unpleasant. Writer Devin Faraci does lengthy talking heads sequences–back and forth, back and forth–with artist Vic Malhotra keeping them interesting. Interesting or not, the content is so dark and Faraci dwells in it so much–this content can’t be visually rendered, it’s too dark–the first issue ends up being a tolerance gauntlet. Is all this darkness worth it for the story of viciously smart psychopath Lou Ford, a small-town Texas sheriff who’s got everyone fooled into thinking he’s a dopey nice guy.

Killer is dark noir, but it’s also brightly lighted rural Texas dark noir. There’s not just sunshine, there’s also the precise settings. Those back and forth conversation sequences take place in offices, houses, hospitals, and Malhotra keeps them all compelling. The comic’s tone comes less from the content of Faraci’s dialogue (or is it Thompson’s) than it does Malhotra’s panels.

Lou is not a nice man.
Lou narrates the story, revealing to the reader all the awful things he thinks. Lou’s a relatively reliable narrator–Faraci suggests at some point he’s writing a letter, but the series doesn’t start with that narration constraint. It’s just the awful stuff, ranging from nasty thoughts about the townspeople to fond reminiscences of atrocities committed. About five pages in is when Faraci (and Malhotra) start pushing the ugliness. Lou’s already been somewhat established as a character, his narration’s already been somewhat established, so when he becomes not just a villain, but a reprehensible one… well, like I said, hostilely unpleasant stuff. And then it just gets worse a few pages later. Like, it shouldn’t easily be able to get worse, but it certainly does.

Faraci has some trouble keeping all the characters sorted in the first issue. Killer Inside Me is the kind of book where a character appears on a couple pages in the first issue and won’t be back (or be important) for another issue and a half. It’s something of an adaptation problem; of course narrator Lou can keep everything straight, and maybe it’s paced differently in the novel to add to reader retention, but it’s a lot for a first issue. Especially after all the unpleasantness.

The cheerful banality of the psychopath cop.
The problem sort of goes away in the second issue, which has a strange but phenomenal pacing. Faraci’s breaking points in the story aren’t on natural story beats. The issues come to their closes with the narrative arc still in motion. So while Killer Inside Me is a five issue series, the first issue and a half are “part one.” Part two kicks off over halfway into the second (with the same talking heads participants who kick off the story proper in the first issue). Malhotra has such a great time with the talking heads sequences. There’s a lot of personality in everyone’s expression. Except protagonist Lou, since he’s a vicious psychopath. He’s stone. Everyone else is guarded but Malhotra’s expressions are almost lush. The awkward conversations, their weights and silences, all come through because of the art.

The third issue is where Faraci gets around to making an excuse for Lou. I assume it comes from the source novel and Faraci does get through it somewhat quickly, but it’s a bit of a pothole. Regardless of if it’s in the novel, the comic doesn’t need the rationalizing. It doesn’t slow the momentum, it’s just a little dishonest. Especially once Faraci gets around to revealing all the surprises in the last issue. Killer Inside Me has a number of reveals throughout. The final ones force the reader to question Lou not just as a narrator but as a character. He’s already the villain–though Faraci and Malhotra certainly make Lou’s “nemesis” an unlikable fop–he’s just not the villain he (or the reader) expected.

Flashback: Why Lou isn’t a nice man.
Evil is sometimes banal, though–fifties rural Texas or not–there are some big leaps of logic. Faraci doesn’t pay any attention to them, apparently fine leveraging the adaptation status.

The third and fourth issues–excuses aside–are the best in the series. Faraci is sailing with the narration. The too big cast is somewhat under control (it’s easier to remember murder victims than soda jerks) and the unpleasantness has died down. Going so big in the opening, Faraci and Malhotra don’t tone it down as much as avoid it. Lou is far more ominous after the reader has already seen the monster loose.

Artist Vic Malhotra has a great sense of depth when composing his panels.
The finale is a mess of summary storytelling with a fantastic last scene. Malhotra is almost able to pull it off completely, almost able to pave over all the potholes Faraci tries skipping over and can’t. Killer Inside Me is one of those stories–maybe even back to the source material–where it’s far more interesting in how it isn’t told than how it is told. Sure, Lou’s one heck of a narrator, but his narration doesn’t end up being the most interesting part of the story. And Faraci avoids dealing with it. It’s too bad because it’d be something to see how Malhotra would’ve handled it.

It’s a strong, sometimes stomach-turning read, with some lovely art. Faraci just needed an editor who’d let him break more with the source material. Shocking first person narration might not have been passé when Jim Thompson published the book in 1952, but it’s not 1952 anymore. And given the final narrative reveals, however, the creators’ more hostile choices are questionable. Still, Killer mostly works out.


Writers, Jim Thompson and Devin Faraci; artist, Vic Malhotra; colorist, Jason Millet; letterer, Christa Miesner; editor, Denton J. Tipton; publisher, IDW Publishing.

Paths of Glory (1957, Stanley Kubrick)

Paths of Glory takes place over four days, runs just under ninety minutes and has thirteen or so significant characters. It’s hard to identify the most significant character–Kirk Douglas’s protagonist the viewer’s way into the film, but he’s not the most significant.

The film opens with George Macready (who, along with Wayne Morris, is my vote for most significant character) and Adolphe Menjou. The film then moves on Morris’s story (with Ralph Meeker); Douglas shows up in this period too. At no point is the film’s second half, a court martial trial, forecast. Director Kubrick and co-screenwriters Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson pace the film brilliantly–everything is immediate. In the penultimate scene, when Menjou proposes to Douglas the idea of the opposite, it confounds Douglas and reveals the cognitive disconnect to the viewer.

Then Kubrick gives the viewer–and Douglas–some hope for the human race in the last scene. He handles it carefully–he and editor Eva Kroll cut Glory sublimely. There’s never a wasted moment, but Kubrick never gives the sense of being too precise or reductive. He just balances it all.

Great photography from Georg Krause.

In the lead, Douglas is fantastic. He gets a big trial scene, but his quiet seething scenes are even better. His often cautious reactions to Macready and Menjou are phenomenal. And they’re both great. Macready more, just because he gets the most to do in the film.

It’s a perfect film. Every moment is spectacular, quiet or loud.



Directed by Stanley Kubrick; screenplay by Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson, based on the novel by Humphrey Cobb; director of photography, Georg Krause; edited by Eva Kroll; music by Gerald Fried; produced by James B. Harris; released by United Artists.

Starring Kirk Douglas (Col. Dax), Ralph Meeker (Cpl. Philippe Paris), Adolphe Menjou (Gen. George Broulard), George Macready (Gen. Paul Mireau), Wayne Morris (Lt. Roget), Richard Anderson (Maj. Saint-Auban), Joe Turkel (Pvt. Pierre Arnaud), Christiane Kubrick (German Singer), Peter Capell (Chief Judge of Court-Martial), Emile Meyer (Father Dupree), Bert Freed (Sgt. Boulanger), Kem Dibbs (Pvt. Lejeune) and Timothy Carey (Pvt. Maurice Ferol).

The Getaway (1972, Sam Peckinpah)

From the lengthy opening credits to the big action finale, it's always clear sound is important in The Getaway. Editor Robert L. Wolfe does some wonderful transitions with sound foreshadowing the cut and the next scene, but there's something more to it. That something more is the isolation theme running through the film–Steve McQueen starts in prison, surrounded by these loud, garish, yet hollow sounds. The action finale, at a nearly deserted hotel, also has loud, hollow sounds. They amplify Peckinpah's composition–particularly for the finish–and reinforce the film's dreamlike quality.

The Getaway is a few things at once. It's a heist picture, it's a revenge picture, it's a seventies relationship drama. That relationship aspect to it, with recently released from prison McQueen and wife Ali McGraw having some big problems, is the film's quietest plot line… if only because there's so much noise around it. But Peckinpah, McQueen, McGraw and screenwriter Walter Hill always keep it present. McGraw's timid, nervous performance works wonders–she's apparently inscrutable, but not really.

She and McQueen have fantastic chemistry, which they need to give their story more gravitas than Al Lettieri's subplot. Lettieri is a opportunist thief who kidnaps Sally Struthers and Jack Dodson in his pursuit of McQueen. Lettieri runs away with a bunch of the film. He's spellbinding; no other word for it. Struthers is rather good as well.

Technically, the film's a marvel. The Lucien Ballard photography is phenomenal, day or night, action or drama.

The Getaway is a fantastic motion picture.



Directed by Sam Peckinpah; screenplay by Walter Hill, based on the novel by Jim Thompson; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; edited by Robert L. Wolfe; music by Quincy Jones; produced by David Foster and Mitchell Brower; released by National General Pictures.

Starring Steve McQueen (Doc McCoy), Ali MacGraw (Carol McCoy), Ben Johnson (Jack Beynon), Al Lettieri (Rudy Butler), Slim Pickens (Cowboy), Richard Bright (The Thief), Jack Dodson (Harold Clinton), Dub Taylor (Laughlin), Bo Hopkins (Frank Jackson), Roy Jenson (Cully), John Bryson (The Accountant) and Sally Struthers (Fran Clinton).

The Killing (1956, Stanley Kubrick)

I first saw The Killing when I was in high school. I had a great video store and one of the employees–lots of the employees were film school students–recommended the film to me, raving about Kubrick’s use of fractured narrative. He didn’t call it a fractured narrative, I don’t remember what he called it, maybe he just described it; I rented it and watched it and loved it. In some ways, it’s the most lovable of Kubrick’s films because it’s so good and requires so little from the viewer. Years later–I learned Kubrick didn’t come up with the fractured narrative. The source novel had it and he liked the structure.

The heist scene, where The Killing (seemingly–did anyone else use a fractured structure to elucidate a heist before this film?) sets such a precedent, comes after the film’s already wowed. The heist scene, beautifully paced, exquisitely directed (I love the way the camera moves at the bus station, with Kubrick using camera movement akin to sentence or paragraph structure), is a blast. Like all good heist scenes, it’s all about the precision and The Killing doesn’t disappoint. It’s a great heist scene–maybe not the best ever (it gets a tad long as Sterling Hayden gets ready in the locker room), but the best stuff in The Killing isn’t the heist. It’s Elisha Cook Jr. and Marie Windsor.

Oh, there’s some other great stuff in the film. Coleen Gray as Hayden’s crestfallen fiancée–with The Killing, Kubrick gives a lot more time to characters than he usually does. It’s a large cast with people having different levels of involvement in the story overall, but the texture of the characters–look at the relationship between James Edwards and Timothy Carey. It takes up maybe four minutes of screen time but it’s exceptional; it has its own arc. Or Jay C. Flippen’s–unspoken–melancholia. It’s all just so amazing, because it’s so un-Kubrick. The Killing runs less than ninety minutes and it’s boiling over with material.

But Cook and Windsor… their relationship–their scenes together–is amazing. Windsor’s performance is spectacular, because she infuses it with such intelligence and evil, but is also able to make the viewer believe other people can buy it when she’s acting coy. Cook’s got the film’s best role and he gives the performance of his career–and Kubrick seems to know it. The Killing‘s got great sound design, both at the race track during the fractured heist scene, but also during the conversations between Cook and Windsor (Jim Thompson’s dialogue is fantastic). Kubrick holds the camera on Cook, letting him go through a whole range of emotions and thoughts in just thirty or forty seconds. It’s a brilliant moment of cinema.

Then the heist goes on too long and the film starts to slip a little.

Kubrick brings it all back together at the end though, as he infuses an action-oriented sequence with the characters’ unspoken misery. It’s a great big downer, but it’s such a beautifully made film–and it’s near impossible to truly identify with any of the characters outside of enjoying their actions–it works.

Hayden’s great, Ted de Corsia’s good, Joe Sawyer’s good. Gray’s very good in the few minutes she has of screen time. Kola Kwariani’s hilarious in a smaller part. He’s got these great monologues and, with his thick Russian accent, it’s hard to understand what he’s saying, but he’s foreshadowing the entire story for the viewer.

It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking.



Directed by Stanley Kubrick; screenplay by Kubrick and Jim Thompson, based on a novel by Lionel White; director of photography, Lucien Ballard; edited by Betty Steinberg; music by Gerald Fried; produced by James B. Harris; released by United Artists.

Starring Sterling Hayden (Johnny Clay), Coleen Gray (Fay), Vince Edwards (Val Cannon), Jay C. Flippen (Marvin Unger), Elisha Cook Jr. (George Peatty), Marie Windsor (Sherry Peatty), Ted de Corsia (Policeman Randy Kennan), Joe Sawyer (Mike O’Reilly), James Edwards (Track Parking Attendant), Timothy Carey (Nikki Arcane), Joe Turkel (Tiny), Jay Adler (Leo the Loanshark), Kola Kwariani (Maurice Oboukhoff), Tito Vuolo (Joe Piano) and Dorothy Adams (Mrs. Ruthie O’Reilly).

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