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THE KILLING OF AMERICA (1982) ****

Of all the mondo movies released in the wake of Faces of Death, this is probably the best. It’s more in your face than Faces of Death, but it somehow feels less exploitative, if that makes any sense (probably because none of the sequences are fakes). There’s an unapologetic cynicism that runs throughout the picture that is unrelenting. You’ll need a cynical viewpoint to in order to stomach it all. Even then, even the most cast-iron stomachs will probably walk away a little queasy from this one. You know the filmmakers have accomplished what they set out to do when you feel like you need to take a shower after you see their film.

The long sequence that focuses on political assassinations is equal parts fascinating and horrifying. We see the Zapruder film. We see newsreel footage of Reagan being shot. We see George Wallace shot down. We see RFK moments before being gunned down. (Sirhan Sirhan is interviewed.) It’s scary how lives can be altered, ended, and the country irreparably changed in the matter of a couple of seconds.

From there, the film focuses on the rise of mass murderers. Snipers like Charles Whitman and cult leaders like Jim Jones are featured. Surprisingly, they don’t spend a whole lot of time on Charles Manson. (Maybe because they thought he was too easy of a target.) The movie draws a direct line from these sorts of crazies to full-blown serial killers like John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy.

The film concludes with a segment on gun mania. The statistics for the number of guns in this country is astounding and has gone up exponentially over time. The flick ends on a hopeful note as camera crews follow a vigil for the recently-slain John Lennon while “Imagine” plays on the soundtrack.

The Killing of America was co-written and co-directed by Leonard Schrader, the brother of Paul. You have to wonder if Paul’s script for Taxi Driver had any influence on the sequence involving hookers on Hollywood Boulevard. Because of that, the two films would make for an ideal double feature, especially when you consider that John Hinckley tried to assassinate Reagan because he saw Taxi Driver too many times.

Some of this is indefensible. Some of this is off-putting. All of it is gripping, intense, and unrelenting. If you don’t want to be appalled, don’t see The Killing of America. However, if you thought that Faces of Death and Mondo Cane didn’t go far enough, then this should be right up your alley.

AKA: Violence U.S.A.

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