The Killing Floor Restored In 4K

The Killing Floor. Courtesy of Film Movement.

The Killing Floor, an essential piece of Black, labor, and cinematic history, is now available on Blu-ray following a 4K restoration.

It may have take the UCLA Film & Television Archive but the 1985 Sundance Special Jury Prize winner is now available on both Blu-ray and DVD for the first time in North America.  This is also another one of those parts of history in which I knew nothing about while growing up.  To be fair, I did grow up in Kentucky.

A Black sharecropper, Frank Custer (Damien Leake), from Mississippi gets a job on “the killing floor” of a meetpacking plant.  He’s one of many thousands to make the journey north during World War I.  All of them were looking for the racial equality that could not be found in the South.  Frank also manages to succeed in getting his wife Mattie (Alfre Woodard) and family to relocate up north.  Things get dire when Frank starts speaking out in favor of the union and his friends soon turn on him.

With the conversations that have been taking place since this summer, The Killing Floor is certainly worth a watch for its focus on race and class.


Praised by The New Yorker as “a revelatory historical drama” and by The Village Voice as the most “clear-eyed account of union organizing on film,” THE KILLING FLOOR (1984/1985) is the first feature film directed by Bill Duke and explores a little-known true story of an African American migrant in his struggle to help build an interracial union in the Chicago Stockyards. The screenplay by Obie Award-winner Leslie Lee is from an original story by producer Elsa Rassbach and is based on actual characters and events, tracing ethnic and class conflicts seething in the city’s giant slaughterhouses, when management efforts to divide the workforce fuel racial tensions that erupt in the deadly Chicago Race Riot of 1919.

Bonus Features

  • Introduction by director Bill Duke
  • Q&A with Damien Leake and Elsa Rassbach
  • The Making of The Killing Floor: Pandemic Era Conversations with Damien Leake, Clarence Felder and Bill Duke
  • Interview with producer-writer Elsa Rassbach
  • Booklet with new essays by Professor James R. Barrett, University of Illinois and Professor Joe William Trotter, Jr., Carnegie Mellon University

DIRECTOR:  Bill Duke
CAST:  Damien Leake, Alfre Woodard, Clarence Felder, Moses Gunn, Dennis Farina, Ernest Rayford

The Killing Floor is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.