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The Killers - Criterion Collection
The Killers - Criterion Collection
Actors: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien
Directors: Aleksandr Gordon, Andrei Tarkovsky, Don Siegel, Marika Beiku, Robert Siodmak
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
UR     2003     3hr 16min

Studio: Image Entertainment Release Date: 02/18/2003 Run time: 196 minutes


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Movie Details

Actors: Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien
Directors: Aleksandr Gordon, Andrei Tarkovsky, Don Siegel, Marika Beiku, Robert Siodmak
Creators: Aleksandr Gordon, Andrei Tarkovsky, Anthony Veiller
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Classics, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 02/18/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 08/28/1946
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 3hr 16min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 29
Edition: Special Edition,Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

First rate Film Noir
Gregory Olsen | San Ramon, CA | 03/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Killers from 1946, Burt Lancaster's debut movie, is fantastic. It is one of the finest in the noir genre. Ava Gardner is a truly devilish femme fetale. The plot is full of twists and turns. The film begins with the ending so to speak, like Sunset Boulevard. The mise-en-scene is stylish and dark. I highly recommend this film for fans of film noir. The DVD is an excellent print. It is sharp and the soundtrack is well restored. The "remake" for TV (1964) starring Lee Marvin and co-starring Ronald Reagan (as a heavy no less) is included. It bears little resemblence to the original. The film focuses on the killers this time, rather than an insurance detective. The killers are a preview of the kind of characters we would see thirty years later in Pulp Fiction."
Unlikely pairing -- rewarding package
Clark Dimond | Gardner, CO United States | 02/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Despite the commonality of the source material, one would not expect these movies to be joined at the hip like Siamese twins. The 1946 Siodmak is definitive noir: black and white, contrasty, artfully lit, with William Conrad and Charles McGraw in the title roles, played almost as extras -- shadowy figures spouting Hemingway dialogue in an Eisneresque diner in a mythical New Jersey. The 1964 Siegel version, brightly-lit in color, casts the killers as the central characters, played not-quite-for-laughs in over-the-top characterizations by a prime-of-life Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager, (a very funny actor, who has also recorded a sensitive commentary) the philosopher hit-man and the health-food nut -- precursors perhaps of the Travolta and Jackson characterizations of Pulp Fiction. There's an excellent and knowledgeable reading of the Hemingway story by Stacy Keach, a poorly read excerpt from Don Siegel's autobiography, an interview with Siegel's biographer, a radio play with Lancaster and Shelley Winters (!) and for completists of Tarkovsky, a risible but competent student film. All in all a grab-bag that even includes an uncredited appearance of Charles "Ming the Merciless" Middleton as the farmer in the 1947 version. Marvin is hot, Gulager is a hoot, Lancaster a hunk and Ava a beauty. Then there's an Edmund O'Brien performance that's as subtle as the one he would give in The Wild Bunch. And for the political, John Cassavetes decks Ronald Reagan, who gives a cold, professional performance, and gets to slap Angie Dickinson. A great package, the sum worth more than the parts."
A Must have for any collector of classic entertainment.
Trevor William Douglas | Gorokan, NSW Australia | 11/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"What more can I add to the reviews below? The Clu Gulager interview is absolutely fantastic. He reveals some very interesting facts regarding the filming and makes strong positive comments about his co-stars and the director. The Stacy Keach reading is also excellent."
A first-rate crime noir from 1946; a flawed and dated crime
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 12/16/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Killers (1946) - How do you make an interesting movie when the character the movie ostensibly is all about is just a dumb lug, as interesting as a boiled potato? The Swede stumbles into one situation after another, willing to believe in true love or lies. For me, director Robert Siodmak and screenwriters Anthony Veiller, Richard Brooks and John Huston (the last two uncredited) solve this problem three ways.

First, there is the great look and style of the movie. I think it's impossible to say one movie looks better than all others, especially when it comes to noirs, but The Killers nails as well as any the dark, foreboding feel of cheap hotel rooms, shadowy streets and close-ups of white, worried faces. Second, all the flashbacks in this movie create the sense of a complex jigsaw puzzle slowly being solved. The story not only becomes complicated and interesting, it's great fun to see what the next piece in the puzzle is going to show us. And what helps make all those puzzle pieces interesting is the cast of characters who take turns in the flashback spotlights. There's not a dud actor in the lot. And third, for me, is the sourness of the ending. No, not the last scene of a smiling Edmond O'Brien jauntily leaving his boss's office. It's the revelation of what a nasty piece of work Kitty Collins really was and how far out of her league was the Swede. He was just a big, thick-eared guy who, in other circumstances, might have gone straight, but he didn't have a chance when he saw Kitty that first time at the party sitting next to the piano player. I don't think this was what Rodgers and Hammerstein had in mind when they wrote about seeing a stranger across a crowded room.

Besides, "I did something wrong once" is a great line to power a crime movie with.

What also struck me is the simplicity of the logic behind Jim Colfax' decision to unleash the two hit men onto the Swede. At first, it seemed so much smarter just to let things coast by. But Colfax's reasoning holds up if you think about it, and that logic powers the action of the movie. What doesn't hold up is the motivation of the two hit men's behavior in the diner. How much easier it would have been to walk in, sit down and order a couple of cups of coffee. Then mention they were in town to pay back some money to the Swede but they don't have his address. Anybody know where he lives? Someone would have said, "Why, sure. He lives at Ma's boarding house just a couple of blocks from here." I know, this more practical approach would have gutted the foreboding and nervousness of the movie. I'm not advocating this, just suggesting that it's a little bothersome when a great plot device has a flaw.

The Killers (1964) - You know there's a problem when the extras on the DVD disc are more interesting than the movie itself. The excerpts from the memos written by whoever worked at Hollywood's Department to Avoid Naughty Situations are great fun. What is sadder are the memos and notes from director Don Siegel pointing out the weaknesses in the 1946 version and how they needed to be avoided...then seeing how he managed to turn out a movie considerably less interesting than the original.

Siegel was making a TV movie, then saw it released on the big screen when the violence seemed to be too extreme for home viewing. The movie has that flat, clear look that says "television." The back-screen projections are even worse than Hitchcock's. The racing sequences seem to go and on, looking both artificial and silly...actors who wear racing goggles end up looking as out of place as politicians who let themselves be photographed wearing helmets. The Sixties look has dated the movie mightily. When I saw the two bad guys, Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager walking around with their sunglasses on, I thought I was watching an Ackroyd/Belushi skit. (Marvin quickly set me straight on that.)

On the plus side, depending on how much you respond to vicious bullies, Lee Marvin does a fine job. The last third of the film, starting when the robbery takes place and then into the last two flashbacks and the conclusion, picks up a nice head of double-crossing steam. The last fifteen minutes or so, starting when Marvin and Gulager show up in Ronald Reagan's office, are so good I wished the whole film had reached that level. I suspect that without this movie sharing the same title as the 1946 film, and without Criterion resurrecting it to accompany the 1946 film, Siegel's version would be forgotten.

The Killers (1946) is a first-rate movie. The Killers (1964) is not. It's amusing to be able to see them side-by-side. Both have first-rate film transfers and a multitude of extras. Thanks, Criterion."