The Killing of America (1982)
By: J.R. McNamara on July 29, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Big Sky Video (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 91 minutes
The Movie
Director: Sheldon Renan
Starring:Chuck Riley (Narrator), Ed Kemper, Sirhan Sirhan

Written by: Chieko Schrader, Leonard Schrader
The Killing of America was the film that every fifteen year old in 1984 wanted to see. When hiring any Roadshow release, the two films that stuck out in our minds from the trailers were The Never Dead and The Killing of America.

The Killing of America wants to be a mondo film or an exploitation film but never reaches such lofty heights. This film leads us on a trail from the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King, through to the Vietnam War, to Charles Manson and Ed Kemper, and eventually the demise of John Lennon at the hands of Mark David Chapman. At times this film revels in its explicit violence and other times, barrages you with facts and figures. Full of obscure footage such as Ted Bundy at his trial, and new interviews with infamous characters like Sirhan Sirhan, the murderer of Robert Kennedy.

Producer Leonard Schrader (writer of Kiss of the Spider Woman) co-directed (not credited, with Sheldon Reman) and co-wrote this 'shockumentary' with his wife, Cheiko. He first came upon the idea when he read an article stating that in the first sixty years of the 20th century, the murder rate in the USA was fairly constant, but after the death of President Kennedy, steadily increased every year. This film is presented very matter-of-factly by co-director Sheldon Reman (Aids: What Everyone Needs to Know). This film is mainly a collage of news footage, with some new interviews added and an informative voice-over.

This film is no Faces of Death or Mondo Cane, it is however a genuine documentary about the fall of American standards and morality and the violence that reflects that. There appears to be no staged sequences and the deaths are all too real.
Due to the fact it is mainly made up of news footage, the picture quality is quite poor. The 4:3 image is never unclear, but the film has various blemishes through the entire film. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the grittiness of the subject matter suits the film perfectly. If anything, digital restoration would probably destroy the legitimacy of this film.
Narrated clearly by Chuck Riley, the stereo treatment is all this film needs. As with the video, it is mainly made up of poor quality news footage, and the sound reflects that.
Extra Features
Not much in the way of extras here. Two Big Sky trailers: one for Evil Dead and one for The Beastmaster. The other extra, titled 'Punishment' is a text feature, a 'Where Are They Now' article featuring the current whereabouts of the real villains incarcerated and how long they will stay there.
The Verdict
The Killing of America is an interesting document of violence from the early sixties to the end of the seventies. Does this documentary hold its own today however? Unfortunately the answer is no. Its bare style cannot hold it's own against the glossy productions of gonzo documentarians like Mike Moore and his ilk. The effects of a post-911 world and our own desensitization to violence have dulled the sharp edge of this film.
Movie Score
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