Arts & Entertainment

The Killers: Film Noir at its Best

flix66.comThe men drive into town and enter a small diner. One of them (William Conrad, who would go on to narrate the TV series THE FUGITIVE) announces he and his partner (Charles McGraw, 1944’s THE IMPOSTOR) will kill a man named Swede (Burt Lancaster, in his debut) when he arrives at 6:00. The Swede is warned, but refuses to run from the gunmen, saying, “I did something wrong. Once.” Moments later, he is riddled with bullets.

What Swede did wrong is revealed through flashbacks, with a series of events that involve his boxing career, a stint in prison and a femme fatale named Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner, who would later appear in another Ernest Hemingway adaptation, 1952’s THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO). Further details—partly in the present courtesy of the appearance of an insurance investigator (Edmond O’Brien, who would appear alongside James Cagney in 1949’s WHITE HEAT)—include a robbery and a $250,000 payout.

This first adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story is directed by Robert Siodmak (THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE). Collaborating with cinematographer Woody Bredell (whose next feature would be Michael Curtiz’s THE UNSUSPECTED), screenwriter Anthony Veiller (with uncredited work from Richard Brooks and John Huston) and a supporting cast that also includes Albert Dekker, Sam Levene and Jack Lambert, Siodmak has concocted one of the essential film noirs: the film is exquisitely shot, with Bredell creating the shadows and depths that the genre thrives on; Veiller expands on Hemingway’s short to development the characters and story while avoiding bloating; and the cast lives the characters as if they believe every word.

THE KILLERS was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Music. It lost all four to THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.

THE KILLERS (1964)

The men enter a school for the blind. One of them (Lee Marvin, who earned a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor) announces he and his partner (Clu Galager, who would appear in Peter Bogdanovich’s THE LAST PICTURE SHOW) wants to see a man named Jerry. Jerry, who is really a man named Johnny North (John Cassavetes, who had three director credits at this point), is warned, but refuses to run, saying, “It’s all right. I know them.” Moments later, he is riddled with bullets.

 

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