Film Noir Classic Review: The Killers!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Robert Crawford, Jan 12, 2002.

  1. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Sorry for the length but I was motivated to write this review after watching and super vcr taping this Universal film release shown for the first time on Turner Classic Movie Channel. The film elements TCM used in this showing were excellent and I hope this means that this film will eventually end up on dvd. Before I write my review of the film, I will first offer some background information about the film and the people who participated in "The Killers" production.
    The film "The Killers" was based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway that was expanded into a screenplay by screenwriter Anthony Veiller with some additional help from Hemingway and an uncredited John Huston. If you look at the production credits of this film there is little doubt to question the artistic greatness of this film. The producer Mark Hellinger was once a famous newspaper reporter before he became a screenwriter and producer. The director Robert Siodmak had a good Hollywood career after leaving Nazi Germany. He directed the following films which includes some very good film noirs.
    • Phantom Lady
    • The Suspect
    • The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
    • The Spiral Staircase
    • Cry of the City
    • Criss Cross
    • The Crimson Pirate
    Screenwriter Anthony Veiller was nominated for two AAs and was known as a very good screen writer. For trivia purposes, Veiller was the son of actress Margaret Wycherly who played a couple of famous mother roles to Gary Cooper and Jimmy Cagney in "Sergeant York" and "White Heat". The following is some of his screenwriting credits:
    • Stage Door
    • The Stranger
    • State of the Union
    • Moulin Rouge
    • The List of Adrian Messenger
    • The Night of the Iguana
    The musical score was done by the great Miklos Rozsa who was known as one of the greatest film composers of all-time. The film score of this film received a AAN for Best Score and it contains an original four-note piece of music that was repeated and made famous by the television series "Dragnet" which is "Dum-de-dum-dum". The four notes are played in the film whenever the title characters showed up in the film. Rozsa was AAN 16 times and won AA's for three films. The following are some of his best known:
    • A Double Life
    • The Lost Weekend
    • Spellbound
    • The Naked City
    • The Asphalt Jungle
    • Ben-Hur
    • King of Kings
    • Lust for Life
    • El Cid
    The cast of "The Killers" is also very impressive. This film was the screen debut of Burt Lancaster and he received excellent acting support from Ava Gardner (Hubba, Hubba, a real babe), Edmond O'Brien, and such great character actors like Albert Dekker, Sam Levene, Jack Lambert, Jeff Corey and playing the title characters Charles McGraw and a much slimmer and younger William Conrad who later became "Cannon" of television fame.
    Now, that I've setup the production crew and cast, let's talk about this "1946" classic film noir. "The Killers" starts off with the arrival of two contract killers to a small town. They're there to carry out a contract killing of a man named Pete Lund better known as "The Swede". Peter Lund who's real name was Ole Anderson was a gasoline station attendant who's sorted past finally caught up with him.
     
  2. Mike_S

    Mike_S Stunt Coordinator

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    Robert, The Killers is just a fantastic example of Film Noir at it's best. I've got a great Burt Lancaster "double bill" on laserdisc: THE KILLERS and CRISS CROSS. If you think The Killers is great, I think that Criss Cross (with Lancaster and Yvonne DeCarlo) is it's equal. Just a matter of time before these two film noir classics are released on DVD.

    -Mike
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    As you know "Criss Cross" has some of "The Killers" participants in it's production such as Lancaster, Siodmak, and Rozsa. A great film in it's own right.

    Crawdaddy
     
  4. Mike Kelly

    Mike Kelly Stunt Coordinator

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    I also watched "The Killers" on TCM for the first time in over 10 years. Glad they added it to their Noir library. The first thing that struck me was its similarity in structure to "Citizen Kane". In both films the protagonist dies at the beginning, and his life is told in a series of flashbacks as reported by 'witnesses.'

    Two scenes of interest were highlighted by Robert Porfirio in The Film Noir Reader. The fluid 2 minute crane shot of the robbery of the Prentiss Hat Company, though ordinary by today's standards, was clever in the way the camera beat the robbers upstairs to the payroll office, then beat them downstairs and waited for them to run out of the building.

    When the same hit men used against Lancaster, made their move on O'Brien, the accompanying jazz piano music built to a frenzy. It recalled the fantastic jazz as sex sequence Siodmak used earlier in "Phantom Lady."

    Now if Turner will broadcast "T-Men", "Raw Deal", and "The Big Combo", I will have seen just about every important noir of the classic period.
     
  5. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    Robert, thanks for the review. I'll be checking the TCM listings to see if it's playing again anytime soon.
     
  6. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

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    Was the 1964 Lee Marvin version a remake? I've seen both versions in the 50s and 60s, my memory is somewhat vague, but do remember both were very good.
     
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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  8. Thi Them

    Thi Them Producer

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  9. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Turner Classic Movie Channel is showing "The Killers" again on Saturday, January 26th at 10:00 a.m. ET.
    Crawdaddy
     

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