The Killing of America (1982)

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Released 19-Dec-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Notes-Punishment
Trailer-Evil Dead, Beastmaster
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1982
Running Time 91:17
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sheldon Renan
Leonard Schrader
Big Sky Video Starring Chieko Schrader
Leonard Schrader
Lawrence Bittaker
Ted Bundy
James R. Hoskins
Jim Jones
Ed Kemper
John F. Kennedy
John Lennon
Lee Harvey Oswald
Chuck Riley
Jack Ruby
Sirhan Sirhan
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Mark Lindsay

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   My first viewing of The Killing of America was during the film's initial cinema release in 1982. As I recall, the film had an extensive advertising campaign at the time, all of it based on shock tactics.

   The film opens with bold red text informing us: "All of the film you are about to see is real. Nothing has been staged." It then cuts to footage of police shooting a deranged man on the street. If you didn't know what to expect from this film, that should give you some idea of the remaining ninety minutes.

   The premise of The Killing of America is to show how violent and volatile the country has become, due to inadequate gun control. The narrator (Chuck Riley) gives the audience a multitude of statistics relating to gun ownership and violent crimes compared to other countries, all the while showing us the proof of this violence, in the form of extensive archival film and still footage in various forms. Most of the footage seems to be from television news services and amateur cameras.

   Most of the events depicted in the film are infamously known worldwide, including American political assassinations and attempted assassinations, and a frightening collection of American serial killers.

   You can judge from the subject matter that this isn't an easy film to watch. Most of the images are very confronting, and many people may hit the stop button before its completion. However, if you can handle the content, The Killing of America is compelling viewing for the most part.

   The problem with the film lays in its very thin narration. Apart from offering an abundance of statistics relating to the gun problem, the film does not examine why this gun culture exists, or any possible answers to the dilemma. As a compelling documentary, I believe this lets the film down badly. Having said that, I also believe awards in investigative journalism weren't on the producer's agenda when making the film.

   The film was made as an American and Japanese co-production, with an overseas market in mind. It was co-written and co-produced by Leonard Schrader, whose brother, Paul Schrader, wrote the screenplays for Taxi Driver and Hardcore.

   It's an interesting fact that The Killing of America has never had a release of any description in The United States. I can see why this may have been the case in the early 80s, but seeing that recent controversial documentaries have done well there, I'm surprised that it still hasn't had a release to date, although the passage of time and the more recent terrorist activities there have probably weakened its possible impact on an American market.

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Transfer Quality


    As you would expect from this type of documentary, the video quality is a real mixed bag.

   The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1. It is full screen, but is not 16x9 enhanced. I believe the transfer is probably pan and scan.

   The video transfer quality varies on a constant basis, due to the different source material used. Some footage is in relatively good condition, whilst other footage is in very poor condition. It's safe to say that none are of a particularly high standard, but all are very watchable. Most images are very soft and some contain excessive grain. Blacks and shadows are generally quite poor, but again, are watchable. At times, blacks have a slight hint of green in them. I noticed some low level noise at times, but nothing overly problematic.

   Colours are also considerably variable in quality. Most are muted and washed out, although this is inherent in the source material rather than being a problem with the transfer. Bear in mind that most of the footage is around thirty years old, give or take a few years.

   MPEG artefacts are well controlled. There is, however, some slight Gibb effect in the titles. Film-to-video artefacts are also well controlled. There was some minor edge enhancement, but this was infrequent and caused no concern. Telecine wobble occurred a few times, although this may have been inherent in the source footage. One example of this is at 9:47. Film artefacts were constant on a varying scale - these are also probably in the source footage. They mainly consisted of light and heavy scratches. Reel change markings were frequent, occurring at 12:47, 12:54, 32:08, 36:16, 49:43, 49:50, 84:15 and 84:23.

   There are no subtitles at all on the DVD.

   This is a single sided, single layered disc, so there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    As with the video, the audio quality too, is varied due to the source material.

    There is one audio track on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    Dialogue quality is quite good overall. The narration is always clear and easy to understand. Some of the audio with certain footage is a little scratchy, and you may need to increase the volume to hear it clearly. I didn't find this to be too much of a problem, however.

    There appeared to be no problems with audio sync.

    The original music is credited to Mark Lindsay. It is suitably dramatic when required, but is quite dated. Other artists' songs are also used in the soundtrack. John Lennon and Buffalo Springfield are a couple of examples. Their songs work much better in capturing the era.

   The surrounds and subwoofer were not used.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


   There are minimal extras on this DVD, which may be a blessing for some people.

   The menu is a static screen, with no audio, and is 16x9 enhanced. The available options are; play shockumentary, scene selection, big sky trailers and punishment.

Notes: Punishment

  Seven pages of text explaining the punishment handed down to the criminals featured in this documentary. This is a worthy inclusion and makes for interesting reading.

Big Sky Trailers : Two Trailers

  Evil Dead (1:46)   Beastmaster (2:04)  Both are presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).


R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   There is no R1 version available of The Killing of America.

    I did track down an all region PAL UK version, which is missing the punishment notes and Big Sky trailers. This version's only extra is a very brief featurette entitled "A Brief History of Mondo Movies".

   The Australian all region version is the clear winner, due to the minor - but worthy - inclusion of punishment notes.


   The Killing of America is a confronting look into the darker side of American society.

   If you are looking for a comprehensive documentary, or if you are a little squeamish, then you may want to look elsewhere.

   The video and audio quality is far from brilliant, but considering the source material used, it's quite adequate.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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