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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 13 June 2008
This is American independent cinema at it's best. It is one of those overlooked gems that is not only a great film, but a great record of its time, even if it might have more properly been titled The Murder Of A Chinese Bookie. As much as I love the early raw films of Martin Scorsese -- who reputedly thought up this tale with Cassavetes a few years earlier -- no film I've ever seen so perfectly captures the mid-1970s underworld. There is a sense that one can even smell the cheap liquor and cigarette smoke that pervades its images. What set Cassavetes apart from his contemporary American peers was that his films did not mythologize -- they simply depicted. In this sense, he did for modern urbanity what German filmmaker Werner Herzog does for historical films, i.e. brings them down to `eye level realism'. He also depicted his society with the same level of universal realism as Yasujiro Ozu did post-war Japan. Like other (usually US) films The Murder... is disturbing and mesmerizing. The dirty quality of images (in some moments bewilderingly amateurish, ins others incredibly sophisticated), the acting, the disjointed plot, the weirdness of some scenes (like the one in the car parking), Gazzara's sublime acting, the wonderful choice of places and times... it all gives you an impression of the States like they really are, not the sanitized image you find in so many Holy-Wood flicks (not all of them, I admit, but about 85%...). Such a movie is like The Searchers or Taxi Driver or Raging Bull, unfathomable and greater than life, but in some way disturbingly like life. And the character of Cosmo Vitelli is one of those enigmatic figures that leaves you wondering whether you have been shown the story of an idiot or the story of a saint. Unforgettable.
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on 18 August 2003
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie is a great film. John Cassavetes has directed a masterpiece. I throughly enjoyed this film as it explores the L.A. underworld and all it's shady dealings a world which a lot of people are unaware of. Ben Gazzara is Cosmo Vitelli a strip club owner who incurs debts to the Mob and who is given the unenviable task of killing a rival Chinese gangster - a bookie so that he can pay his debt.It's an interesting film as you see how the underworld in LA operates and also as Cosmo runs a strip club it focuses on his relationship with those who work for him and the underworld society around him.In his line of business sex defintely sells! All I can say is this Ben Gazzara is probably the sexiest nightclub owner I've seen on screen.For anyone who wants to see a Cassavetes film, you have to see this one!
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on 15 November 2012
This all region Korean DVD is the 1978 re-edit of the film, not the original 1976 version.

On the off chance you are unaware by what this means let me explain:

There are 2 versions of Killing of a Chinese Bookie.
The first is the 1976 version, which is 135 minutes in length.
The second was released in 1978, significantly re-edited by Cassavetes and 108 minutes in length.
This 1978 version is a significantly different film from the 1976 version.

In the latter (1978) version, the order of several scenes has been changed, there are different edits of a few scenes, and there are a few segments unique to the 108-minute version. The bulk of the cutting in the 1978 version removed many of the nightclub routines that were in the 1976 version.

While Cassavetes has his stamp on both films, the 'vibe' of the original film is noticably different.
Personally I think the languid flow of the 76 version is superior to the re-edit. (Although such a pace in the 76 version is both its strength and its weakness. i.e. its excellent, freeing, but too long.)

Anyway, I was expecting the original 1976 version in the post, so I was dissapointed when I got this version instead.

All other aspects of the DVD are as stated. No extras or anything but the presentation seems adequate.
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on 6 November 2014
The disc I received had both the short and long versions to view. I think a John Cassavetes movie is a real Marmite experience - you either love them or hate them. Nailing my colours to the mast, I think "A woman under the influence" is the greatest proper pure movie ever made so naturally I came to this film with my positive bias specs firmly in place.

The story is very simple - a guy (Ben Gazzara) runs a small cabaret club on Sunset Strip. This is his family and essentially his home and he clearly invests a lot of effort and attention into the enterprise. He loses a lot of money to the mob at a poker game and since he can't pay them back straight away, the quid pro quo is that he has to kill a Chinese bookie on behalf of this particular mafia gang. The mob then try to kill Ben Gazzara (a fairly tense cat and mouse scene in a deserted warehouse). He is shot but makes it back first to his girlfriend's house, where he is turned away and finally back to his "family" at the club. The last scene has him standing on the pavement outside the club gently dripping gore onto the pavement while the show continues inside.

The remarkable thing for me with this movie (as with all the Cassavetes movies I have seen) is the apparent improvisatory nature of the whole thing and the way it is shot - you are right on the shoulder of the characters for about 90% of the time to the point where you can almost smell the greasepaint and the hairspray.

Ben Gazzara, in particular, gives a fabulous 4D performance of a guy with not inconsiderable integrity trying to do the very best he can in less than ideal circumstances. A lot of the other characters were not professional actors (not that I could tell) which for me, simply added to the veracity of the whole enterprise.

I can see how viewers with a penchant for strong story lines and staccato action would find this movie a complete bore. Personally, I like to sit back and savour fine wine by sipping it very slowly, admiring the colour, the smell and all the flavours one by one and at £5.99 this is a steal and a particulalry fine vintage IMHO.

If you are new to Cassavetes I would suggest "A woman under the influence" as a starter for 10 - much stronger story line and knockout performances - it can take a while to accustom oneself to Marmite.
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on 17 October 2015
Scorsese's Means Streets has a similar theme (realistically portrayed 70's gangsters) and the dark atmosphere. But it's easier flowing and more entertaining - as Scorsese generally is. Chinese Bookie is deeper, more demanding and sensitive. It's also ulitmately more rewarding.

Obviously this film is not for everyone.
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on 15 September 2013
I had only viewed the shorter version but the longer version is better in my opinion. A good, sometimes chilling, thought provoking film - Therefore a good one. Blu-ray or Dvd, who cares!!!
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on 6 March 2015
Well worth waiting for definitive versions of this wonderful film. Saw it years ago and have never forgotten it.
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on 14 April 2014
Now I'm the kind of person how can generally find some positive in any film, album, book etc but I'm sorry this is the exception to the rule. The opening sequence to the film makes it look like this is going to be a great film ride but oh no how wrong was I. I watched to extended version which doubled the painful experience so beware on choosing this option. The plot I guess was there somewhere but all the drawn out club scenes of women performing on stage and feeling like your just watching a terribly bad stage show hurt me.
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on 1 April 2015
Possibly one of the most overrated films ever, it meanders for two hours before petering out wih not a great deal happening along the way.
This is not unusual with the over praised films of John Cassavetes. Ben Gazzara wanders through this with a bemused look on his face. It's probably meant to convey the air of a man in the know. It doesn't .
I've seen many pretentious reviews giving this four out of five / nine out of ten.
Really?
A case of the emperors new clothes methinks.
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on 10 November 2015
An absolute bargain at this price (under £10 at time of writing),contains both the 1976 original and the 1978 edit of this wonderful film.
There are English subtitles for the hard of hearing.
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