THE KILLERS

 (Robert Siodmak, USA, 1946) 102 minutes

THE KILLERS

Director: Robert Siodmak
Producer: Mark Hellinger
Screenplay: Anthony Veiller, from a
  short story by Ernest Hemingway
Cinematography: Elwood Bredell
Editor: Arthur Hilton
Music Miklós Rózsa
Burt Lancaster (Ole 'Swede' Anderson)
Ava Gardner (Kitty Collins)
Edmond O'Brien (Jim Reardon)
Albert Dekker (Big Jim Colfax)
Sam Levene (Police Lt Sam Lubinsky)
Vince Barnett (Charleston)
Virginia Christine (Lilly Harmon Lubinsky)

Reviews and notes

Like many artistically ambitious Hollywood movies of the 1940s, The Killers is clearly influenced by Citizen Kane – not just in its Expressionistic lighting, showy camera angles, carefully contrived mirror shots and percussive montage but also in its flashback structure. Its dramatic personae, however, are pure pulp. Less a narrative than a Hollywood neighborhood, The Killers is populated by slang-slinging tough guys with tilted fedoras and dangled cigarettes and gorgeous dames who are not to be trusted. O’Brien is a low-rent Humphrey Bogart. Lancaster is dreamy, dense and doomed. Ava Gardner, in her first major movie, doesn’t do much more than exist. She hardly needs to. Materializing some 40 minutes into the movie in a backless black satin number, she turns from the hubbub of some dubious soiree to face the camera head-on.
– J. Hoberman, New York Times.


"I did something very wrong... once," sighs Burt Lancaster as he waits for The Killers of the title to put him out of his misery. Taken directly from Ernest Hemingway's original short story, it's a haunting opening that unspools a gripping tale of desire, duplicity and double-crossing rooted in a hard-boiled cynicism that's almost nihilistic. With Ava Gardner sizzling as the prerequisite femme fatale and a brilliant robbery sequence shot in one unbroken take, Robert Siodmak's noir is as good as it gets.

The intro is pure Tarantino: a pair of laconic assassins drifting into the small town of Brentwood to terrorise the staff and clientele of a humble diner before heading off to pump some lead into Lancaster's boxer turned crook. Enter Edmond O'Brien's dogged insurance investigator, whose quest to find the beneficiary of Burt's policy enables scriptwriter Anthony Veiller and an uncredited John Huston to reveal his involvement in an unsolved heist.

Through a complex series of interlocking flashbacks we meet his partners in crime and the voluptuous siren who played him for a fool - a devastating turn from Gardner in her breakthrough role. As gripping as the plot is, though, it's the movie's bleak, fatalistic mood - aided throughout by Elwood Bredell's chiaroscuro visuals and Miklos Rozsa's menacing score - that makes it such a compelling, suspenseful experience.
- Neil Smith, BBC, 09 February 2008.




Restoration:

This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit DataCine film scanner from a 35mm nitrate fine-grain master positive. The original monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD, AudioCube's integrated worksation, and iZotope RX 4.

Grain is visible and well resolved. There are no traces of compromising sharpening adjustments. Overall image stability is very good. Finally, large debris, cuts, damage marks, and stains have been removed as best as possible - and the ones that could not be fully removed are effectively toned done. All in all, this is a wonderful organic presentation of The Killers. Miklós Rózsa's dramatic score easily breathes throughout the entire film. Depth and especially clarity are also very good, though dynamic intensity is somewhat limited. The dialog is clear, stable, and easy to follow. There are no pops, audio dropouts, or digital distortions to report.
- adapted from Blu-ray.com, 14 June 2015.

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