I have to start off with 5 F-Bombs with the last F-Bomb being stretched right out to last at least 10 seconds. How can a film be so devastatingly filled with brooding sadness and doom but equally hit you with such incredible deep innocent sweetness? It shouldn’t be possible but somehow director and writer Charles Burnett creates the impossible with Killer Of Sheep.
The film is a black and white photographers dream, every shot perfectly staged but beautifully natural. You feel you are there, in the kitchen, in the dirt and rubble outside, feeling the pain and dread as our hero Stan, tremendously played by Henry G Sanders, goes off to work in the slaughterhouse.
A man destroyed by the horrendous tasks he has to endeavour to support his family, he can’t sleep, insomnia has taken hold of him and his emotions are devoid. Life goes on around him as his family and friends whirl around him. His wife (Kaycee Moore) taking the strain of the loss of love and tenderness from her husband. His children play on, his young daughter (Angela Burnett) sweet natured and innocent, his son (Jack Drummond), still a child but feeling the burden of having to become a man before his time.
The film is filled with scenes from the children playing in the derelict wastelands of a broken town, holding on to their youth, popping reels of caps with bricks, spinning tops, fighting, building camps, jumping roof tops and throwing stones. Friends pop around to see Stan, some for friendship and a coffee, some, try and entice him into crime. Luckily his wife keeps an eye out for him.
Against the horrors of the slaughterhouse the soundtrack is expertly picked to feature music to throw you to the left side and back again. Such depressing scenes joined together by beautiful voices of sad odes and poignant sounds. Just another bout of punches to the soul and jabs to the heart.
Watching Stan’s journey is hard, you are pulled in close by his performance. The aching sadness makes it a tough watch but I promise this film will be worth every second you spend with it. You will be rewarded by the smallest things. One of those things comes in from the cutest little girl, a real scene stealing star. From standing staring under a dog mask to sitting in her bedroom singing to her doll as she spins records, to the moment she puts her hands on her dads face, giving that heart melting love that a daughter can do. Lucky this type is on a computer and not on pen and paper as it would be sure smudged by my falling tears hehe.
Can Stan get his mojo back for his adoring wife, can he come to terms with the horrors of his job and most important, can the poor man get some damn sleep?
The beauty of this story is Charles Burnett made this low budget film over weekends for his Master Of Fine Arts at University of California. I’m assuming the guy got a distinction for his efforts? Doing the directing, writing and camera work, Charles created a work of pure genius but because of no licensing for the music rights and being on 16mm film it never really got released. Not until 2007 when funding came in to pay for the upgrade to 35mm and to clear the music rights. The soundtrack is so perfect that you couldn’t imagine they could of changed it in any way!
Now the film is classed as one of the 100 essential films by the Nation Society Of Film Critics and is praised by many critics worldwide. I am so pleased to have seen it as I caught a section of it on television some years back, staggering in from the boozer, but hadn’t a clue what it was. It was quite the buzz when I realised it was the film I had been looking for.
If you like deep films then please get on this one. Damn man they don’t come much deeper. Thanks for reading. Big love from the Wolfster
PS This review was originally posted on the 30th of July 2017.
Now to sing us out is Dinah Washington – This Bitter Earth.