THE KILLING OF AMERICA (1981)
Directed by Sheldon Renan and Leonard Schrader
Never distributed, televised or made available in the United States, documentary The Killing of America pulls no punches as it takes a look at some of the violent, cold-blooded murders in American history. Focusing on gun crime, the documentary details everything from mass murders to political assassinations and showcases footage from the actual events that took place, some of which is exclusive to this film.
Narrated by Chuck Riley, we get a disturbing insight into what the gun culture has produced in America. People can be seen arguing in the street and resort to using their firearms on each other instead of talking their way out of an argument. Gunmen and women killing people on the street, strangers passing by, children walking to school, for no apparent reason than their own boredom or grievances with the world. It really makes you glad that here in the UK guns are outlawed as I feel our country would go down the same route if guns were legalised.
The Killing of America features many political assassination attempts, some of which were successful, including Ronald Reagan shot in lung), Bobby Kennedy (shot and killed) and George Wallace (shot and paralysed). The documentary also details the most prominent and shocking of political assassinations, that of John F. Kennedy, and shows footage from the actual event including a close-up during the moments he was shot which horrifically shows JFK’s lower face being blown off. It made me sick to my stomach to witness it but this is the savage brutality of the world we live in and this film is here to show us the grim reality, not to sugarcoat it.
Much of the footage in this documentary is uncensored so if you have a weak stomach, I highly suggest avoiding this film, no matter how important a piece of cinema I feel it is. Whilst there are many scenes of gunmen being shot, innocents being battered by police and Vietnamese being shot in the head at point blank range, all chillingly screened in their entirety, there are some scenes that show the aftermath of attacks such as the Jonestown massacre where bodies upon bodies simply laid motionless after the community’s leader Jim Jones ordered his followers to commit mass suicide by drinking poisoned Flavor Aid.
What causes people to commit these heinous crimes? The documentary attempts to give some background into the mindset of these criminals by showcasing interview footage with some of America’s serial killers including Charles Manson, Wayne Henley, who helped lure and murder boys with rapist Dean Coril, and Ed Kemper, who murdered several women, his grandparents and his own mother. The film also includes footage of Ted Bundy who defends himself in court over the rape, mutilation and murders of many young women.
Without a doubt, The Killing of America is chilling to the bone but delivers a raw experience, thanks to its archival footage, which speaks the truth about the violent history of America. Despite its stomach-turning scenes, the documentary had me gripped to the screen from start to finish with its informative delivery of the country’s startling history. This film, even though it’s 35 years old, is still as valid and important today as it was back then and shows us that things need to change otherwise the mindless violence will continue to spiral out of control.
Severin Films have released The Killing of America on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK accompanied by a few special features including audio commentary, an interview with director Sheldon Renan, editor Lee Percy and movie historian Nick Pinkerton.
Though not a watch for everyone, this savage documentary is an important film that I feel needs to be seen.