The Killing of America is an infamous - though seldom seen - shockumentary made during an era when the so-called Mondo genre was at its apex. Unlike blatantly exploitative and voyeuristic films like Faces of Death, this one purports to be a serious study of the rising epidemic of gun violence in the United States. But while the tone is indeed deadly serious, it often contradicts its own supposed lofty intentions in order to revel in sensationalistic mayhem.
Accompanied by ominous narration, The Killing of America is mostly a collection of murders and shootings caught on camera, starting with the JFK assassination, which the film suggests is the catalyst for the nation’s descent into a culture of violence. For a brief time, considering the current debate over gun control in this country, the message seems more timely than ever.
However, the film eventually shoots down its own argument (no pun intended) when it becomes obvious there really is no agenda other than shocking the viewer. Footage of suicidal jumpers, autopsies-in-progress and a street execution in Vietnam have nothing to do with the film’s supposed theme. While such issues such as racial discrimination and economic hardship are briefly mentioned, there’s no real ‘study’ of violence, nor any unity tying this footage together in any profound way. And even though a few law enforcement officials provide some fleeting commentary, we spend far more time listening to various apprehended serial killers as they go into lurid detail of their atrocities (accompanied by hideous crime photos), with little insight to their mindset or motives.
Disturbing and relentlessly graphic, The Killing of America is well-made for what it is and certainly better-produced than other shock-docs made at the time. Ultimately, though, its actions speak louder than its words. Despite all the narrative bluster to the contrary, it’s still just a non-stop parade of death and violence presented as spectacle.
Individual Interviews with Director Sheldon Renan, Editor Lee Percy and Mondo Movie Historian Nick Pinkerton.
Audio Commentary by Renan
Violence USA: Japanese Cut of the Film
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