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The Killing of a Chinese Bookie [2 Discs] [Special Edition] [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1976]

Release Date:10/14/2008
The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie has long had a difficult reputation amidst John Cassavetes' body of work; the film received hostile reviews when it was first released in 1976 and was ignored by audiences. Cassavetes himself was dissatisfied with the picture, and pulled it from release (he was distributing it himself) after only a few weeks. Cassavetes then re-edited the movie, shortening it from 135 minutes to 108, and re-released it in 1978, where it fared little better with audiences or the press. While a no-frills DVD edition of the re-release cut of Chinese Bookie was released by Pioneer in 1999 and both versions appeared in the John Cassavetes: Five Films box set issued by the Criterion Collection in 2004, Criterion's 2008 edition finally makes both edits of the picture available in a stand-alone edition. Both versions of The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie have been transferred to disc in widescreen format, letterboxed at 1.85:1 on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic play on 16x9 monitors. The image is similarly clean on both cuts of the film, capturing the deep colors of the nightclub scenes and more realistic hues of Los Angeles at night with sharpness and clarity. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono and retains the slightly chaotic tone of the original sound mix. The dialogue is in English, with optional English subtitles but no multiple language options. In addition to both versions of Chinese Bookie, this set also features the original theatrical trailer, new interviews with leading man Ben Gazzara and producer and actor Al Ruban, excerpts from an audio-only interview with Cassavetes conducted in 1976, a gallery of production stills, and a booklet featuring an original essay by Phillip Lopate. The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie still has a checkered reputation among Cassavetes' admirers, but this set is the best way to study its merits, and Criterion are to be congratulated for going the extra mile on a controversial title.

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    Special Features

    • Disc 1:
    • Restored high-definition digital transfer of John Cassavetes' original 135-minute edit of the film
    • Disc 2:
    • Restored high-definition digital transfer of Cassavetes' 108-minute edit for the 1978 theatrical re-release
    • Video interviews with star Ben Gazzara and producer Al Ruban
    • Audio interview with Cassavetes by film historians Michel Ciment and Michael Wilson, conducted after the films release
    • Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
    • Plus: A booklet featuring as essay by Phillip Lopate


    The Killing of a Chinese Bookie
    John Cassavetes takes a contemporary film noir turn (which he would return to in Gloria) after exploring domestic melodrama in A Woman Under the Influence with The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. Ben Gazzara plays Cosmo Vitelli, the owner of a sleazy Los Angeles strip joint, who loses $20,000 at a mob gambling club owned by a small time gangster (Seymour Cassel). Since Cosmo doesn't have the $20,000, he is forced to murder a Chinese bookie in order to clear his debt to the mob. What Cosmo doesn't know is he's part of a set-up. The bookie is actually a West Coast mob boss protected around the clock by bodyguards. The mobsters figure that Cosmo will be killed in an impossible hit and they can take over his nightclub. But Cosmo proves luckier than the mobsters think -- he manages to kill his target, and now the mobsters have to track down Cosmo and kill him. Initially, at 133 minutes, the movie was subsequently re-edited by Cassavetes to 109 minutes. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • Ben Gazzara
      Ben Gazzara - Cosmo Vitelli
    • Timothy Carey
      Timothy Carey - Flo
    • Image coming soon
      Azizi Johari - Rachel
    • Image coming soon
      Meade Roberts - Mr. Sophistication
    • Seymour Cassel
      Seymour Cassel - Mort Weil

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.