Barnes & Noble - Gregory BairdIn this classic 1946 crime drama based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway the question is not so much whodunit as why? Directed by Robert Siodmak, The Killers chronicles the investigation into the murder of a reclusive, washed-up boxer (Burt Lancaster) whose demise is somehow connected to an old flame (Ava Gardner) from years before. In classic noir style, the film starts with the hero's death, and then reveals how he came to his unhappy end through a succession of flashbacks driven here by the keen interest of an insurance investigator (Edmond O'Brien). The Killers was Lancaster's screen debut and he scored big, his sotto voce delivery and sad-dog eyes suiting this tragic hero to a tee. Gardner is equally well-cast, her seductive good looks making her a top-notch femme fatale. But The Killers is not a love story, and the chemistry between Gardner and Lancaster remains in large part undeveloped. Instead, a caper story emerges, and with O'Brien's tenacious, solid-as-a-rock investigator holding the film together, it's that story that ultimately holds the key to the hero's mysterious murder. The result is a beautiful blend of plot twists and understated pathos that clicks from beginning to end.
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- Universal Studios
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Killers & Killers based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
One is very tempted to say that film noirs really began when director Robert Siodmak unleashed his adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers" back in 1946. Another director who was considered for the job---but was passed on it---was Don Siegel, who got the chance to make his own version of the movie in 1964. The results were two completely different films on the same subject. Siodmak's version is widely considered a classic. Siegels' version is less than so. The 1946 version of "The Killers" has a lot of things to recommend. It tells the story of a down-and-out ex-con (Burt Lancaster, in his first major role) who falls under the spell of a gun moll (a sultry Ava Gardner) who convinces him to pull the ultimate double-cross. But rather telling the story in a linear fashion, it starts with a murder and an insurance agent (Edmond O'Brien) investigates the crime and winds up with more than he bargained for. Lancaster is superb as the doomed ex-con. You watch Gardner here and you realize why she played femme fatales so perfectly. For me, however, watching the beginning of the film, which involves two hit men in a roadside cafe, with their gradual intimidation of the patrons is the kind of slow-burn tension kind of filmmaking we see from Quentin Tarantino. In other words, not violent but the threat of violence is enough to produce palbable excitement. And yes, that theme song definitely sounds like the theme from "Dragnet". Siegel's version of "The Killers" was supposed to be a made-for-TV film but got yanked after the Kennedy assassination when censors felt it was too violent. So, it went straight to the theaters. This version has almost nothing to do with Hemingway's story. Instead, it tells the story of the murder of a race car driver (John Cassavettes) as told through the murderers themselves (Lee Marvin & Clu Gulager). Siegel's telling of the story has the look and feel of a TV movie but its violence is like a B-movie pulp fiction novel. If Siegel's version of "The Killers" is noteworthy for anything, it is for two things. One of them is Angie Dickinson, playing the bad girl here with almost the same raw intensity that Gardner played back in 1946. And Ronald Reagan is here, too, playing the villian (yes, the villian!) in what would be his final film role. But The Criterion Collection DVD also has a compelling 30-minute version of the story that was made in Russia which is a lot better and more believable than Siegel's film. Siodmak's "Killers" deserves a 5-star rating because it's one of those brilliant films where you sense the excitement and see the influence at the same time. You sure don't get that feeling watching Siegel's "Killers".
The original name for both versions was "The Killers". I have been looking for both versions for years!! The original with Burt Lancaster is a great film noir! The second, I wanted it because I loved Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager in this movie remake . They were great as the two 'killers'. Keep a close watch on Clu, his mannerism is very distracting, you want to watch him all the time. John Cassavetes has the part originally portrayed by Lancaster. It's a great movie to have in your library. I found out the new name of the movie(s), when I purchased "Written on the Wind", released by Criterion. I went on their website, typed in "The Killers", it asked me where did I want to purchase this movie, it gives you some options, including Barnes and Noble. I clicked on B&N, and I was immediately transfered to this website and to the new movie title. I would have never found it otherwise. That's why I hate it when studios change the name of the movies upon re-release. I hope you enjoy both versions as much as I have.