BBFC Classification: PG
Director: Robert Siodmak
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O’Brien, Albert Dekker, Sam Levene, Vince Barnett
One of the movies that can justifiably claim to have kick-started the film noir genre, this 1946 adaptation of Enernest Hemingway’s short story stars Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster (From Here to Eternity) in his debut movie role as Ole ‘The Swede’ Andreson, a boxer who was forced to quit the ring due to a hand injury who turns to a life of crime. One dark night, a pair of hitmen arrive in the small town of Brentwood with the intention of killing Andreson. Andreson is warned that the men are on their way to kill him but he makes no attempt to escape and stays in his bed as the two assassins open fire on him, which causes the investigating insurance officer Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) to piece together what happened as he learns about Andreson’s involvement with local criminals, crime boss Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker) and the beautiful Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner – On the Beach).
Much like Don Siegel’s 1964 version of the story, The Killers goes in several different directions as the details about the events leading up to the murder are revealed. But coming 18 years before that film this version is definitely the more groundbreaking, as having the murder of the main character happen in the first few minutes and then having the details of what led up to it drip-fed to both the characters in the film and the audience at the same time was quite a unique way of doing things back in the ’40s.
Not only does The Killers have the distinction of being a forerunner for film noir but it also has one of the most tense and gripping opening scenes of any crime thriller ever as the two mysterious hitmen make their presence felt at the local diner as they wait for The Swede to turn up. Director Robert Siodmak (Son of Dracula) manages to create a magnificently dense atmosphere that, along with Miklos Rozsa’s score, pretty much defines the crime thriller for the next decade or so but the performances are also a big part of what makes the film work. It may be Burt Lancaster’s big screen debut but he also gets top billing above everybody else and his star quality shines through as he brings a brooding intensity to proceedings, setting himself up nicely for his next role in tough prison thriller Brute Force.
A masterpiece of crime cinema, The Killers is a superbly put together film that keeps you guessing all the way through as to what is coming next. Even without such a strong opening scene the film would still weave an engaging thriller with its uses of flashbacks to tell its story but with that scene the film easily justifies its classic status and what better way to view a classic than on such a good looking Blu-ray packed with such interesting extras?
Special Features: Frank Krutnik on The Killers – a video piece by the author of In a Lonely Street, which introduces the film and offers a detailed commentary on four key scenes, isolated music & effects soundtrack to highlight Miklós Rózsa’s famous score, Heroic Fatalism – a video essay adapted from Philip Booth’s comparative study of multiple versions of The Killers, three archive radio pieces inspired by The Killers, stills and posters gallery, trailers, reversible sleeve featuring one of the original posters and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw, collector’s booklet containing new writing by Sergio Angelini and archive interviews with director Robert Siodmak, producer Mark Hellinger and cinematographer Woody Bredell, illustrated with original production stills.
UK Release Date: 8th December 2014