Blu-ray Review: The Killers (1964)

The Killers BR CoverDistributor: Arrow Academy

BBFC Classification: 18

Director: Don Siegel

Starring: Lee Marvin, Clu Gulager, John Cassavetes, Angie Dickinson, Ronald Reagan

Adapted from the Ernest Hemingway novel that inspired the 1947 Burt Lancaster movie of the same name and directed by Don Siegel (Dirty Harry), The Killers stars Lee Marvin (The Dirty Dozen) and Clu Gulager (Return of the Living Dead) as a couple of contract assassins in a brooding crime thriller about armed robbery, double crosses, fighting over a woman and the hitmen sent in to clean up the mess.

Johnny North (John Cassavetes – Rosemary’s Baby) is a former racing driver working in a school for the blind when he is shot dead by assassins Charlie (Marvin) and Lee (Gulager). Instead of running North stood still and took all the bullets, forcing seasoned pro Charlie to question why and begin investigating who hired them for the hit, which leads them back to femme fatale Sheila Farr (Angie Dickinson – Dressed to Kill) and her ruthless beau Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan). And then things get complicated…

As a thriller The Killers works tremendously well, the various twists and turns keeping you engaged thanks to some solid performances from all the main cast. For those of us who grew up in the ’80s it is a bit strange seeing former US President Ronald Reagan as the movie actor he was before going into politics but it’s easy to see why the American public was taken with him as he looks every inch the charismatic movie star here, playing a villain for the only time in his screen career, and your eyes are immediately drawn to him whenever he’s on the screen. Lee Marvin solidifies his movie tough guy role as the cold-hearted Charlie but Clu Gulager provides some of the best lines and his background interactions – like wiping his sunglasses on an informant’s head whilst Marvin is interrogating him – make him as fun to watch as Reagan is commanding. John Cassavetes and Angie Dickinson don’t shine quite as much as their co-stars but that’s more to do with the strength of Marvin, Reagan and Gulager’s collective presence rather than their performances.

The film was originally a made-for-television production and as such it feels very cheap, and the repetitive nature of telling the story in flashbacks from various characters does jar the pacing somewhat, but overall The Killers is a decent pulpy thriller which should appeal to lovers of film noir, heist movies and hardcore Tarantino fans (the influence of this film on his work is glaringly obvious), and the Blu-ray transfer looks fantastic.

The Killers

Special Features: Reagan Kills interview with New York Times bestselling writer Marc Eliot, Screen Killer interview with Dwayne Epstein, author of Lee Marvin: Point Blank, archive interview with Don Siegel, gallery of rare behind-the-scenes images, reversible sleeve featuring the original poster and newly commissioned artwork by Nathanael Marsh, collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mike Sutton, extracts from Don Siegel’s autobiography and contemporary reviews, illustrated with original lobby cards.

UK Release Date: 24th February 2014

Arrow Films – Website

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One thought on “Blu-ray Review: The Killers (1964)

  1. Pingback: Blu-ray Review: The Killers (1946) | Ancient Slumber

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