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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Universal International's THE KILLERS (1946) is arguably the finest Noir ever to come out of Hollywood. It certainly has the most effective opening scene of anything that was ever seen in a film of this type before or after. Bright street lighting throws long dark shadows on the street that emanate from the two wanton and pernicious hit men of the title as they stealthily walk to a diner in the small town of Brentwood seeking their prey. With stunning monochrome cinematography by Elwood Bredell and underscored by the ominous pulsating music of Miklos Rozsa it is one of the most perfectly conceived sequences ever seen on the screen. From a short story by Ernest Hemingway THE KILLERS was beautifully adapted and written for the screen by Anthony Vieller and bracingly directed by master craftsman Robert Siodmak. This was the second of three high tension crime thrillers produced for the studio by Mark Hellinger - the other two being "Brute Force" (1947) and "Naked City" (1948)

    A brooding Burt Lancaster, in his first starring role, plays ex prizefighter Ole Anderson known as the "Swede" who has buried himself in the unknown town of Brentwood where he works at a filling station. But the "Swede" is a man with a past! Years before he was involved in a robbery and after double crossing the gang he absconded with the loot. Now it's payback time and two hit men (Charles McGraw and William Conrad) have been sent to Brentwood to "take him out".("Why do you want to kill the "Swede" asks the barman in the diner "We're killing him for a friend" replies Conrad coldly). But the "Swede" doesn't run and is strangely reticent about his impending fate. Even his friend Nick Adams (Phil Brown) warns him about the two strangers in the diner intending to kill him. "Why do they want to kill you" Nick asks........."I did something wrong ......once" responds a resigned "Swede". Later after the killers fulfil their grisly contract (a brilliantly intense heart stopping scene) an insurance investigator (Edmond O'Brien) is assigned to find out the whole story about the Swede. And in flashback we see how he fell in love with the beautiful Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) wife of gang boss (Albert Dekker) and the series of events and double crosses that occurred before and after the heist that ultimately led to his killing.

    Performances are excellent from all concerned. Lancaster is terrific as the ill-fated "Swede" and Ava Gardner never looked more ravishing than she does here. But superb are those in smaller parts such as gang members Albert Dekker, Jack Lambert, Jeff Corey, Sam Lavene as a cop and not forgetting the perfect casting of William Conrad and the chilling Charles McGraw as the title characters. Carrying the whole thing along is the extraordinary nominated atmospheric score by the great Miklos Rozsa. His raw biting music with terse rhythms and musical hammer blows adds immeasurably to the picture. ( Curiously his motif for the two killers was "stolen" and used without permission as the theme for the long running TV series "Dragnet" in the early fifties.) Rozsa'a music for films came in three distinct phases. The first phase was his writing for fantasy films which included "Thief Of Bagdad" (1940) and "Jungle Book" (1942). THE KILLERS came from the second phase which covered his output for psychological and crime thrillers like "Spellbound" (1946), "Lost Weekend" (1945) and "Brute Force" (1947). Then finally his third phase - for which he is best known - covered his work on historical and epic subjects like "Quo Vadis" (1951), "Ivanhoe" (1952),"Ben Hur" (1959) and "El Cid" (1962).These films all had unequalled rich highly textured vibrant scores.

    Rozsa's powerful music is but one aspect alongside editing, cinematography, directing, writing and great performances that makes THE KILLERS an exceptional work of cinematic art. Here is a movie that maintains a palpable dramatic thrust throughout its running time. Few films achieve this. THE KILLERS does ....in spades!
  • Along with Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity," this is the one that established what film noir was all about.

    Robert Siodmak's classic thriller, along with "Criss Cross" are two of his best pieces of work, proof positive that crime dramas could rise above the mundane and the clichéd.

    Based on one of Hemingway's Nick Adams short stories, it tells the intriguing tale of two hit men who show up in a small town (the film moves it from the Midwest to New Jersey), where they take over a diner and tell its terrified occupants they intend to murder a nobody of a gas station attendant when he comes in for dinner. When he doesn't show, they hunt him down at the rooming house where he lives and do the job there. That's where the short story ends, but the script by Anthony Veiller picks it up from there, pursuing the fascinating story of what makes a man give up on life to the point where he passively waits for a pair of gunmen to show up and blow him to smithereens.

    The protagonist,called the Swede, is a guy who isn't a criminal by nature, just a guy who fell upon hard times, but sees a way out by committing one more crime. And of course, as in any good film noir, his greed is fueled more by lust than anything else. There's a girl involved and in order to get her, he has to get the loot.

    Burt Lancaster, in his first staring role, comes off very well here, as does Ava Gardner, also top billed for the first time. Strong supporting performances by the great Albert Dekker as the top hood and Sam Levine as a cop with a heart of gold. And we cannot forget Charles McGraw and William Conrad as two of the most frightening cold blooded killers in film history.

    Siodmak does a great job in the director's chair in this Mark Hellinger (The Roaring Twenties) produced drama, but it is cinematographer Woody Bredell who steals the show. His use of lighting goes beyond spectacular. All of the clichés we think of in film noir lighting spring from this one film, where they were done right. And watch for one of the longest tracking shots in film history, as Nick Adams flees the diner and races to the Swede's rooming house to warn him. It's an amazing, unbroken shot that runs more than a minute.

    Watch, too, for the brilliant shoot 'em up scene in a restaurant at the end of the movie when the two gunmen reappear. It is just a textbook blend of all the movies are supposed to be about, great acting, camera movement that means something, and brilliantly layered music by Miklos Rozsa. Film-making doesn't get any better than this.

    A four star film and one of the godfathers of the genre. Don't miss this one.
  • Maybe I've just seen too many old movies, but for me, other than the period fedoras and suits, nothing about this movie would really give away that it's almost 60 years old.

    The plot is solid and keeps you guessing until the end, with many twists and turns along the way, and is told asynchronously (perhaps necessary for today's audiences, which may be why it holds up so well). The acting is great, quite realistic, and for the most part avoids the maudlin sentiment and overacting that characterizes some older films.

    The Killers is an incredibly enjoyable crime film, perhaps the perfect crime film. I haven't seen the remake, so I can't comment on that, but I hold this film in high regard.
  • The Killers is an expansion of a short story by Ernest Hemingway. The first ten minutes of this film is pure Hemingway with two contract gunman occupying and terrorizing a greasy spoon diner. Two of the most malevolent character actors around, Charles McGraw and William Conrad are the hit men.

    They're there to kill Burt Lancaster, known to the town as just a simple garage mechanic. Because he left a small insurance policy, his death was investigated by insurance cop Edmond O'Brien. Naturally Lancaster was no simple garage mechanic by any means. O'Brien comes up with Burt's real identity and the reason why a few people wanted him dead.

    The Killers was a big break film for Burt Lancaster. He had only done one previous film and that was Desert Fury for Paramount studios which had signed him. Because Universal was looking for an unknown to play the victim, Lancaster's agent was able to land him the part. And because Desert Fury was held up, The Killers became his debut film and he was a star from his first film.

    This was also a milestone film for Ava Gardner as well. After The Killers, Louis B. Mayer was most reluctant to lend her out any longer due to the notice that she got.

    The plot of The Killers is very similar to that of Out of the Past with Lancaster in the luckless Robert Mitchum role. As for Ava Gardner in her portrayal, she's taking a couple of pages from the Mary Astor school of double crossing, two timing dames. At least Mary had Sam Spade's promise he'd wait for her.

    The Killers is a must for Burt Lancaster fans who want to see the film that launched his career.
  • perfectbond14 November 2003
    I absolutely love this film! It's in my favorite genre, film noir, and it ranks among my favorites in that genre along with Out of the Past and Double Indemnity to name a few. Although there are a series of coincidences in the plot that stretch credibility, I believe they were necessary to maintain the pathos. In his first star turn, Burt Lancaster was excellent as the naive hood and Edmond O'Brien is likewise in his portrayal of the insurance investigator. He is almost always in a supporting role but that in no way diminishes his talent. But this movie is really Ava Gardner's. She never again had a role that fully realized her talents as much as Kitty Collins. Her portrayal of the manipulative and seductive but not altogether unsympathetic mistress is one the greatest of its kind. The last scene with her and Colfax shows this type of character in its most ignominous glory. Highest recommendation, 9/10.
  • 'The Killers' was released on 1946. Back then, the film-noir genre was really popular. And in my opinion, this one is one of the best of this great cinematic genre, because it's told in a different way than most of its time. This movie is told through really smart flashbacks.

    'The Killers' begins with two hit men arriving in a small town with only one objective: kill 'Swede' Anderson (Burt Lancaster). After this, a detective starts to investigate his death, by interviewing the people of the town. This is how he uncovers a murderous plot evolving multiple characters. This is one of those movies that really keeps you interesting and anxious on what's going to happen, ans when the plot reveals itself, it's really awesome how everything is around Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner). The story is well-told and aged really well.

    The acting here is not superb, but it's not bad also. The movie is important because it's the first major role of Burt Lancaster, and the movie made him a star. It also features the always beautiful and mysterious Ava Gardner and the competent Edward O'Brien, in a interesting role.

    I have never watched a Robert Siodmak picture before, and was surprised to see how well he directed this picture. The camera was always at an interesting and different angle, and there's one nice tracking shot in the middle of the movie. Along with the well-made soundtrack by Miklós Rózsa, and the also well-made cinematography by Elwood Bredell the mood in here couldn't be better.

    Overral, this is a great film-noir movie, one of the best of its genre. It aged really well, most because of Ernest Hemingway's powerful story. It keeps you interested, with nice acting and directing.

    8/10
  • This is a beautifully made improvisation on a Hemingway story that screenwriters Tony Veiller, John Huston and Richard Brooks, along with director Robert Siodmak, have somehow turned into baroque film noir. The movie starts out with a couple of hired gunmen looking for a character named Swede in a small New Jersey town. They tie up some people they encounter in a diner where they expect the Swede to be, then go and look for him, as he has not turned up at his usual time. A young man they tied up breaks loose and goes and warns the Swede, who thanks him but does nothing, remaining in bed, smoking a cigarette, waiting for the killers to show, which in time they do. The rest of the movie is an exploration, conducted by an insurance investigator, into the murky issue of why the Swede allowed himself to be murdered, and who ordered the killing in the first place.

    I can't say the movie's exploration of the Swede's character runs deep, or even that it's satisfactory in its psychology. It works so well because it's excellently written, photographed (by Woody Bredell), and acted (by Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien and Albert Dekker, among many others), and consists of flashbacks, and in some cases flashbacks within flashbacks, as its labyrinthine plot, full of double crosses and unexpected turns, drives the film with a relentless urgency that in the end has less to do with psychology than the workings of fate. There is an overwhelming feeling in this film that people behave the way they do because they are driven by forces they cannot understand. In this sense the story in itself is, as presented, shallow and depressing, and yet the movie is so well-crafted, with the action at times seeming to be choreographed, that the end result is akin to an existential roller-coaster ride, if not much to think about.
  • Using Ernest Hemingway's short story as the foundation for the film, Siodmak and cinematographer Elwood Bredell create a dark, brooding and brilliant looking character study of Ole "The Swede" Andersen (Burt Lancaster), a quiet unassuming man who is hunted and shot by two killers who enter the small town he inhabits. Indeed, the opening shots are textbook examples of how to use shadows and light effectively in film. The central idea behind the short story and Siodmak's film, is the very masculine concept of dignity in the face of death. The fact that "the Swede" apparently knew of his fate but did not try to flee puzzles the insurance investigator (Edmond O'Brien) assigned to the case. He becomes obsessed with resolving this mystery, and through the testimony of people that had various associations with the dead man, facts start illuminating the gray areas but ultimately end up darkening the reality. Lancaster plays the proud, tough, handsome but intellectually limited Olle "the Swede" Anderson convincingly, and Ava Gardner as the sultry femme fatal never looked better.
  • Some intrepid critics have categorised 'Citizen Kane (1941)' as an early example of film noir, owing largely to its influential cinematography and flashback narrative structure. As though consciously in support of this assertion, Robert Siodmak's 'The Killers (1946)' – expanded from a 1927 short story by Ernest Hermingway – plays out precisely like a noirish retelling of Welles' film. After enigmatic ex-boxer Swede Andersen (Burt Lancaster) is gunned down by hired assassins in a small American town, insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O'Brien) decides to piece together the man's past using fragmented testimony from those who once knew him. In doing so, he hopes to uncover the meaning behind the dead man's final words, "I did something wrong once." The life that Reardon discovers is one tinged with tragedy, regret and betrayal, revealing details of an audacious factory heist, a treacherous dame, and a double-cross to end all double-crosses. An archetypal noir, 'The Killers' caps an excellent year for Siodmak, who also released the Freudian psycho-thriller 'The Dark Mirror (1946).'

    'The Killers' opens with a thrilling prologue that sees two hired thugs (William Conrad and B-noir stalwart Charles McGraw) harass the patrons at a small-town diner on their way to assassinate Swede Andersen. The characters' quickfire exchange of dialogue resembles something that Tarantino or the Coen brothers would have written decades later, only better, because screenwriter Anthony Veiller (with Richard Brooks and John Huston) reproduces the conversation from Hemingway's short story almost verbatim. After Andersen is unresistingly gunned down in his bed, the screenplay then expands upon the foundations laid down by the source material, using flashbacks to fill in the empty spaces at which Hemingway had only hinted. Veiller, whose work before WWII was dominated by romantic dramas, comedies and light mysteries like 'The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936),' appears to have been hardened by his work on Frank Capra's "Why We Fight" propaganda series, and the dark, cynical post-War tone he brings to Swede's tragic story is an ideal representation of the noir spirit.

    Burt Lancaster shows promise in his screen debut, though the film's narrative structure does keep the audience distant from his character, an issue that Welles somehow avoided in 'Citizen Kane.' As the resident femme fatale, Ava Gardner never quite inspires the collective hatred garnered by Barbara Stanwyck in 'Double Indemnity (1944)' or Jane Greer in 'Out of the Past (1947),' but perhaps that speaks to her charms – that, despite her betrayal, we're still unwilling to treat her with due contempt. Good-guy Edmond O'Brien cheerfully and voyeuristically experiences the wretched life of a gangster through the intermediary flashback device – he ends the film with a cocky grin, like an audience-member emerging from a screening of the latest gangster thriller. Throughout this review, I've been making allusions to 'Citizen Kane,' but there's a very important difference between the two main characters: Charles Foster Kane had all the money in the world and got nothing out of it. Swede Andersen wasn't even that lucky; he didn't even get the money.
  • "It's a really a good yarn." That's what President Ronald Regan said about Tom Clancy's book "The Hunt for Red October". The same thing can be said about this movie. It's like a big yarn. And in the end you're still not quite sure who screwed who. Two men walks in to a diner. It becomes clear that what they're after isn't eggs and bacon but a man. A man named Swede. Swede has done something. A long time ago and now it's catching up to him.

    Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers" is a good film noir. It's based on a short story and the only connection between it and this movie is the opening scene. The rest is written by various other writers. The film was entertaining. Drawn out at times but entertaining none the same. Humor combined with drama like the dialogue in the opening scene makes you think about it later on and it doesn't just leave your mind three minutes later.

    The gritty film noir style and filming is quite clear in this movie. Especially in the opening scene which remains as my favorite part in the film. The use of shadow and light is wonderful. As for the rest of the movie, it was good and even a bit thrilling at times. This is definitely recommended to people who like good film noir.
  • You can scan thru many publications and they will tell you that Robert Siodmark's adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's story The Killers is quintessential noir, and whilst I haven't seen enough of the perceived classics to make a sound judgement, I do understand why this one ranks so high.

    Perfectly directed by Siodmark because it is washed with a moody ambiance that befits the script, the main players in the piece are bang on form to realise the mood and sombre tempo that makes the film a winner. The story basically revolves around Burt Lancaster's Swede Anderson who upon learning that hired killers are out to fulfil a contract on him, promptly stays horizontal on his bed and awaits his fate. We then follow Edmond O'Brien's insurance investigator Jim Reardon as (thru a series of flashbacks) he reconstructs Swede's life and what caused his demise.

    The story encompasses one of film noir's most well known femme fatales in Ava Gardner's foxy Kitty Collins, and it's certainly the film's driving force as we observe her part in Swede's life, for better or worse as it were, but ultimately it's the classy framing of the film that marks it out as essential viewing. It's oppressive, it's almost stifling, and it's certainly story telling of the highest order, but mainly it just looks so fecking gorgeous you feel privileged to have been part of it. 9/10
  • The Killers marked Burt Lancaster's screen debut, establishing the stoic persona that would sustain his long and luminous career. Along with Criss Cross (also starring Lancaster), The Killers also records the high-water mark of Robert Siodmak's work in film noir.

    Starting with a Hemingway short story (the retelling of which constitutes only the prologue to the film), The Killers endeavors to fill in the "back story" which Hemingway left to his readers' imaginations. That back story explains why the "Swede" (Lancaster) passively, almost eagerly, awaits the nasty pair of torpedoes (William Conrad, Charles McGraw) who have come to hunt him down. The germ of this recreation is Lancaster's small, solitary bequest -- to a chambermaid in an Atlantic City hotel where he had once stayed. Insurance investigator Edmond O'Brien catches the scent of something unusual and can't let it go. His investigations, helped by an old buddy of Lancaster's who is now a police lieutenant (Sam Levene), uncover a botched stint as a prizefighter; a smouldering yet duplicitous temptress (Ava Gardner), and a payroll heist that ended in an elaborate double cross.

    Siodmak, having disposed of the end right at the outset, takes a circuitous route through his telling by using a fragmented series of flashbacks. Paradoxically -- much as the false starts and averted climaxes in a Bruckner symphony pay off handsomely in the end -- the story thus gains depth and momentum. Woody Bredell's dark and meticulous cinematography fulfills Siodmak's vision, resulting in one of the central masterpieces of the noir cycle.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is the definitive version of Ernest Hemingway's short story put to film, some say. A film noir classic, in every sense of the word, some say.

    Up front, I will say I wanted to watch the 1964 version first before re-watching this, (I had not seen this in over 10 years) because I was afraid I would not like the 1964 version, if I had seen this first. So, this review is based upon those circumstances.

    This is in fact a good film noir. The biggest asset and the main star and attraction of the whole film is its style. It reeks of atmosphere and shadows and everything a great film noir should look like and feel like. But its main weakness is the lack of development in the characters we should be feeling something for. But we are not made to empathize with really anyone. Burt Lancaster is a great actor, but his "Swede" is essentially "walking dead." And, Ava Gardner, while beautiful, gives very little to humanize her character.

    (One aside: Every time I have ever seen Burt in a movie, I always think of the word immaculate. His figure is lean and his appearance neat and perfect. No actor is as immaculate as Burt Lancaster.)

    Getting back to the film, the only interesting ongoing character is Albert Dekker as the brains behind the heist, as he is actively keeping the momentum going. Another big weakness is the fact that no one in the movie knows what the other one's doing. Burt never knew Dekker had double-crossed him. The others in the heist never knew Dekker double-crossed them. (There was no fun in the climax or denouement. No ah ha moment!) And, too much was relied on the use of flashbacks, I think.

    The 1964 version saw these problems and solved them by stressing the action and another point I have not mentioned: the actual killers, played wonderfully by William Conrad and Charles McGraw. There's more entertainment value in their 10 minutes, than the rest of the picture, with their perfect delivery of simple lines. Conrad and McGraw, you are not forgotten.The viewer is captivated by them and wants to see them again. We do, when they get killed themselves. The makers of the 1964 version saw they were the highlight and developed them and in that way made the whole story more interesting.

    I know it sounds like I'm blasting it. It should be seen once. But multiple viewings may tend to show its flaws too much. Unless you want to see just the first ten minutes, which is what the short story covered anyway: the diner scene. Just try ordering the dinner! Just try!
  • This film noir from 1943 was loosely based on an Ernest Hemingway play of the same name, introducing the world to giant powerhouse Burt Lancaster. The famous 20-minute opening that has two contract killers, Max (William Conrad) and Al (Charles McGraw), arrive at a small-town diner looking for a man named the 'Swede' (Lancaster), is now one of the most widely celebrated scenes in noir, going against type by having it's (anti)hero killed before the film has really begun. As Ole 'Swede' Anderson lies dead, life insurance investigator Jim Riordan (Edmond O'Brien) takes a special interest in the case, interviewing friends and ex-colleagues that leads back to sultry femme fatale Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) and a $250,000 heist.

    While it ticks all the traditional film noir boxes, the main aspect that makes The Killers stick out amongst many other noirs of the period is the cinematography, which is straight out of the school of German Expressionism (German-born director Robert Siodmak would have grown up with the likes of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) and Metropolis (1927)). Filmed by Elwood Bredell, long, dark alleyways swirled with steam, silhouetting suited strangers, pepper the film, adding a real sense of style to the proceedings, and adding to the mystery and blindness of Riordan's mission, of which he has little to go on. The aforementioned opening scene, which was later homaged by David Cronenberg in A History of Violence (2005), is a masterwork of tension- building, as two suited thugs press their violent sensibilities onto the simple townsfolk. Producer Mark Hellinger helped create some of the finest noirs of this era, including They Drive By Night (1940), Brute Force (1947) and The Naked City (1948).

    Lighting the torch that would be carried on by fellow noir masterpieces Double Indemnity (1944) and Sunset Blvd. (1950), The Killers is tough, unpredictable and dark, representing everything the genre is so lauded for. Anchored by an impressive physical performance by Lancaster, it is really O'Brien who takes the centre stage, playing the shrewd investigator who would become the fabric for many a noir dick, full of confrontational dedication and unconventional methods. But it is Ava Gardner, who plays one of the most devious femme fatales in history, that lingers in the memory, perhaps never looking more beautiful. When the climax comes into force, it becomes clear that the plot is actually very basic, but the film wraps it up in double-crosses, bruising monochrome boxing matches, and some fine dialogue, written by Anthony Veiller and an uncredited John Huston. One of the finest of its genre.

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  • A solid enough film noir, but I don't think it ever has the same menace after that opening scene in the diner, where the two heavies (William Conrad and Charles McGraw) are fantastic. The story being told in flashbacks is nice in that it cleverly shifts the mystery of the film to 'how did this come to be', not 'what will ultimately happen to the main character,' which since the Production Code was in play, would have been largely a foregone conclusion anyway. A lot of it falls in place a little too cleanly though, and as the story plays out beyond that first scene (the only part of the film that was in Hemingway's story), it's a little on the simple side. Still though, to see Burt Lancaster in his first film role is a real treat, and he lights up the screen in all of his scenes. This wasn't Ava Gardner's first film, but it was the one that made her a star, and despite some unevenness in her first scene, she gets better as the film progresses, and also projects a lot of star power. Edmond O'Brien plays the investigator working for the insurance company, and it's one of the better performances I've seen from him as well. So for me the film is more about that opening scene, Lancaster, Gardner, and to some extent O'Brien - and less about grittiness, light/shadow, moody cynicism, or an intricate plot, which are some of the usual highlights of noir. It's not outstanding, but it's worth seeing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "The Killers" tells the exciting story of hired hit men who for an unspecified motive unceremoniously murder a has-been boxer called Swede (Burt Lancaster). This leads to insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmund O'Brien) to dig the dirt on Swede's shady past and his connections with the attractive but very vile Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner).

    Burt Lancaster was in full swing in his performance as a boxer who's near the end of his career and goes by "The Swede". From the opening scene where his character gets murdered for an unknown reason this leads to further digging out information about The Swede and search for clues behind his cagey past. Edmund O'Brien is the leading investigator who comes to the conclusion that there is a more darker motive behind his unwarranted assassin. The story goes back and forth in time as Mr. Reardon goes further into the case as to why the Swede sacrificed his life instead getting out of Dodge or at least put up a bit of a battle.

    The missing piece to this enigmatic mystery is to look for Kitty Collins who mysteriously left town all too sudden. Miss Collins was at one time in a relationship with the Swede. Reardon claims that the Swede naively negotiated in paying up to these thugs in a robbery just so that he could win Kitty's affection. However, Kitty was already dating the the goon's head honcho Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker). The easily vulnerable Swede could never imagine how such an attractive vixen like Kitty could be so diabolical. The heist comes out successfully.. Sadly Swede didn't realize his role in the heist would bite him back until it is too late.

    "The Killers" is a suspense noir that packs a lot of bite that will keep you glued to the edge of your seats. and it is so much fun to watch you don't want to miss a second of it. The black and white cinematography is in sync with the genre and it's complimented nicely by the brilliant camera angles. The script is well edited and the performances don't get any better than this. The atmosphere is in full force to create a real, dark cold moody landscape that should keep you enthralled during it's hour and forty-five minute duration. Lancaster and Gardner provide enticing chemistry between each other and their roles launched the careers of these two.This movie and definitely deserves our attention and needs more credibility.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Robert Siodmak's best known movie is an excellent thriller which marked the debut of screen legend Burt Lancaster and also launched the career of Ava Gardner. It was a great box office success, drew positive reviews from the critics and was also nominated for four Academy Awards.

    Lancaster plays the role of Ole "The Swede" Andersen, a professional boxer who had to retire because of a serious hand injury. Having been used to high financial rewards in his boxing career, he couldn't contemplate the more modest levels of income offered by conventional jobs and so went into the numbers racket before spending a period of time in prison and then going on to take part in a payroll robbery.

    At the beginning of the movie, two contract killers arrive at Brentwood N.J. and after visiting a diner, go to The Swede's boarding house room and shoot him. Later, Jim Reardon (Edmond O'Brien) an insurance investigator becomes involved when it emerges that The Swede had a policy with the Atlantic Insurance Company. As there are no apparent reasons why The Swede had been killed or why his beneficiary is a chambermaid in Atlantic City, Reardon's interest becomes aroused and he goes on to interview a whole series of characters who are each able to contribute various pieces of information which, when put together, enable him to establish the background to the incident at Brentwood.

    During his investigation, Reardon discovers that The Swede had fallen under the spell of Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner) and had, in fact, served a prison sentence for a crime she committed. Despite this personal sacrifice, Kitty never either visited or wrote to him during all the time that he was incarcerated. On being released from prison, The Swede went on to become a member of a gang led by Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker). Kitty was in a relationship with Colfax, but The Swede's obsession with her remained undiminished. The gang went on to carry out a payroll heist and complications later arose in making arrangements to share the proceeds. His role in this, led to him being duped and betrayed in a way which left him a fugitive from the other gang members and without any personal profit from the robbery.

    "The Killers" is a movie that stands up well to repeat viewings and the device of unveiling the plot through such a large number of flashbacks seems very authentic and is used so expertly that the end result never loses pace or becomes disjointed. The movie looks really good and some of the sequences, such as the one between the arrival of the hit men in Brentwood and the murder of The Swede, are like a masterclass in how to establish atmosphere and mood through the medium of light and shadow. Miklos Rozsa's score, (now more widely known as the "Dragnet" music) sounds sombre and threatening and fits the mood of the piece perfectly.

    Lancaster gives a strong performance as a man who is the victim of his own obsessive attraction to someone who exploits him mercilessly and it's interesting to see his demeanour change as he goes from being the courageous boxer fighting with a painful injury, to the swaggering operator in the numbers racket, a helpless fall guy and eventually a haunted, humble attendant in the filling station in Brentwood. Don Siegel's 1964 remake is more perfunctory in both style and content and compares unfavourably to the Siodmak version.
  • Incredibly an exciting beginning of a movie. The murderers who kill without explanation and victim calmly awaits death. THE KILLERS is out of sync movie, which does not affect much on a very good story and a solid noir atmosphere. Flashbacks are chronologically nonlinear, are manifold, but are quite clear. Most attract attention, because the reconstruction of the victim's life. Looking at the other side, they are only an attempt to illuminate the case in which the robbed factory. The heart of the story is certainly not an insurance investigator. He is only an intermediary.

    The story is quite complicated and tense. Therefore, conclusions can be multiple. Why man quietly waiting for its own liquidation? For love or fraud. The victim of femme fatale or just a criminal who fell in love with the wrong woman.

    One of the protagonists patiently solve the mystery. He waits until all the attributes are not in his hands.

    Burt Lancaster as Pete Lund/Ole "Swede" Andreson is handsome and muscular actor who in all solid pace. For the first important role quite decent. Although I think it director spared some embarrassment. Several times he was close. Ava Gardner as Kitty Collins was prickly as a femme fatale. The lady who cut the flow of the story. Although I was fascinated by her beauty, I have not regretted the fate of her character at the end of the film. Edmond O'Brien as Jim Reardon is cunning, cold and relentless investigator in the style of a real detective. On one side is a bad copy of the Bogart, on the other hand the result of the popularity of such characters in film noir.

    The film has a slow tempo with a lot of uncertainty and tension. The sharp dialogues, gloomy atmosphere and fatalistic tone determined work on which the movie is based.
  • grantss26 February 2015
    A superb crime-drama. Clever, original, complex (but not overly so) plot, based on an Ernest Hemingway short story. Well directed by Robert Siodmak.

    Performances are top-notch. Burt Lancaster, in his debut role, plays the easily-lead dumb boxer, Swede, to a T. Edmond O'Brien is solid as Reardon, the insurance investigator.

    The performance that stands out, however, is that of Ava Gardner. Surely one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the silver screen, she does not disappoint here. The fact that the movie is in black and white doesn't understate her beauty, and she plays the femme fatale perfectly.

    An absolute classic, and no doubt a movie that inspired people like Scorsese and Tarantino.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Ernest Hemingway, a man whose novels made it to the movies, was not too fortunate, like his contemporary, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in that the treatment the movie industry gave them did not do justice to the written page. He was lucky, though, in what was achieved with this short story. "The Killers", was one of the best things Hollywood did to Hemingway's work. Part of the success was the man who was selected to direct, Robert Siodmak, who had distinguished himself in movies that show his imprimatur. The film also succeeds because of the excellent cinematography by Woody Bredell and the fine musical score of Miklos Rosza.

    Burt Lancaster, fresh out of Broadway, made an impressive debut as the Swede Andersen. Swede knew what his fate was going to be and quietly accepts it. He could have run, but no, he understood he could not get away from his past. The other great debut was that of Ava Gardner. She was a beautiful woman who was at the height of her youth. A fresh new face that went far, like her co-star. Their chemistry was easily transmitted to the audience.

    "The Killers" also boast a sensational cast doing their best work for the director. Robert Conrad and Charles McGraw were perfect as the hired assassins in search of the Swede. The film owes this pair the mystery that was created when they appeared at the diner. The same can be said of Edmund O'Brien, the insurance agent who figures out the whole plot behind the missing money. Sam Levene gave his part the right tone. Albert Dekker, Donald MacBride and Queenie Smith were also seen in minor roles.

    The version shown on cable recently showed a pristine copy of this memorable film of 1946 that still looks fresh as the day it opened.
  • I was surprised when I looked at IMDb's list of highest rated film noir pictures, since this movie was well down the list. This review and my subsequent review for DOA are being made to try to correct this oversight. Also note that there was a re-make of this film in 1964 starring Lee Marvin and Ronald Reagan. This review is for the original film only.

    This is one of the most stylistic noir pictures made. Like the FANTASTIC opening of Sunset Boulevard, this movie STARTS with the murder of a poor sap and then backtracks to let the viewer slowly understand why this occurred. Surprisingly, the part given to the murder victim in this movie is played by Burt Lancaster in his first picture--what a great first film! Other reasons I liked the film were the cast (I like ugly old Edmund O'Brien--a stand-out noir actor because he is unattractive, beefy and delivers lines like it was from an episode of Dragnet), writing (it keeps you guessing), direction and impressive cinematography.

    Do yourself a favor and see it soon.
  • slokes18 November 2014
    Warning: Spoilers
    Often praised as quintessential film noir, "The Killers" holds up well as an absorbing, existential murder-mystery in its own right. It asks the question what value a man's life has, after that man is gone, and suggests it is well over a $2,500 life insurance claim.

    Ole "the Swede" Andreson (Burt Lancaster) is already lying on his back when we first meet him, waiting for the hearse. Warned he is being sought by a pair of hardened criminals, he seems barely interested. A few moments later, Lancaster's film debut comes to a sudden end, at least in real time. Flashbacks carry us the rest of the way.

    "I don't want to know what they look like," he tells the guy with the warning. "I'm through with all that running around."

    The rest of the film is devoted to the investigation of insurance detective Jim Riordan (Edmond O'Brien), who learns who the Swede was mixed up with and how it sped him to his doom. Riordan discovers a green handkerchief emblazoned with harps, ("angels play 'em") and figures how the Swede was played himself by femme fatale Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner).

    The existential nature of the film is made clear early and often, in the Swede's acceptance of his doom, in the ink-stain-like lighting design, and in the gallows humor of the two men who fix to blast the Swede into eternity.

    "He never had a chance to do anything to us," one of them tells a luncheonette owner. "He never even seen us."

    "He's only going' to see us once," the other killer says.

    The doomy mood is so pervasive it seems no one has a chance in this film. People face death so much its like Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal," except no one has time for chess. But there's also an odd Christian message buried in the subtext. A cleaning woman stops Swede from killing himself by pleading with him so as to "sleep in consecrated ground," and later, we hear one of the culprits get told, while trying to get someone else to take the fall, "don't ask a dying man to lie his soul into hell."

    It's a strange movie for that, and other intriguing things as well. Based on an Ernest Hemingway short story, it quickly wanders off into its own territory by building out a story of multiple perspectives that fits together only for Riordan and the viewer's sake. I don't think "The Killers" is hard to follow at all, just a bit complicated in places where it works rather well.

    Riordan's actual mission is not exactly understandable. He's congratulated at film's end for having reduced the basic rate of the Atlantic Insurance Co. by one-tenth of a cent. But we care about what happens, and for that, the bringing of "The Killers" to justice feels a bit sunnier by its conclusion.

    There's another film version of the Hemingway short, made in 1964, which is nearly as good, albeit not as film noir but rather pulp fiction. What this version of "The Killers" has is magnificent scenics, a gripping story, and a firm command of the material by director Robert Siodmak which never lets you go from the first frame to the last.
  • No need to recap the plot. Lancaster and Gardner may get star billing, but O'Brien gets the screen time. In fact, Lancaster's role is spotty, while Gardner's only big chance comes at the end. Otherwise, she sits around, looking beautiful and sexy, which she's supposed to. Clearly, O'Brien's insurance dick is no Phillip Marlowe. Instead he has to answer to a by-the-numbers boss (MacBride in a surprisingly straight role). Still, Reardon (O'Brien) has the one feature required of all noir private eyes—he's a seeker after truth, come what may. And in this case, it's what's with the suicidal Swede (Lancaster).

    Also, get a load of that opening scene—a midnight diner, shadowy figures, an empty street. Noir seldom comes any purer. All that's missing is a lonely train whistle. In fact, I'll take that extended scene as the movie's best. McGraw and Conrad drop enough tough talk on the poor counterman to drown the average fall guy. It's from that tense 15-minutes that the movie gets what grit it has. The story's remainder is more like a metaphysical puzzle, as Reardon tries to piece together a solution to Swede's mysterious death. Trouble is he's got to rely on second-hand sources since Swede's in no condition to talk. Plus the sources from his past are disconnected in the telling, so it's like trying to figure out a jigsaw. Then too, will the pieces all fit since somebody could be lying—maybe the squinty Dumb-Dumb or the cringing Charleston, or even the curiously laid-back Colfax (Dekker).

    This is a narrative you have to think about once it's over. Because, like a highway under construction, there're a lot of twists and turns. Curiously, the main part is largely devoid of action or even much violence. Instead, the writers and director Siodmak settle for atmospheric exposition, and I'm not sure if that helps or hinders. But either way, the unraveling is compelling. Then too, that final scene on the staircase is oddly reminiscent— in this case, Mary Astor's elevator going down at the end of The Maltese Falcon (1941) despite her emotional pleas.

    Anyway, 40's noir hardly comes any purer, from spider woman to fall guy to $50 lighting bill. So if you don't mind a complex plot-line, this is one to catch.
  • Hit men Max and Al come to Brentwood, New Jersey and kill Ole "the Swede" Andreson (Burt Lancaster). Life insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O'Brien) tracks down the beneficiary of the policy. He is helped by the Swede's friend police Lieutenant Sam Lubinsky (Sam Levene). The Swede was a washed up boxer who got mixed up with some bad people and Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner).

    Killing off Burt Lancaster right at the start takes away some of the tension. The movie stalls a little bit after a really compelling start. It would have been much better to have him live and he could hunt down for those responsible. Watching the flashbacks in this movie, the fact that he's already dead is always at the back of my mind. I love the start but the structure isn't as compelling.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE KILLERS is an excellent film noir, , perhaps only bettered by OUT OF THE PAST (1947). To give too much of the plot away would be to spoil the experience for new viewers- I was able to watch it without virtually any prior knowledge of the plot and the film really knocked me for six.

    One thing that enormously impressed me about THE KILLERS is how seamlessly and seemingly effortlessly director Robert Siodmak manages to pull off the intricately layered plot, which consists of many (13 in total, I think) flashbacks. The film, like CITIZEN KANE, is told from multiple points of view but Siodmak turns the noir atmosphere up to fever pitch by jumbling the order of the flashbacks. Just as we are lead to believe one thing, another possibility comes out at us. So very noir.

    Burt Lancaster made his starring debut in this film and its a very strong performance of a weak character. In the famous opening 12 minutes, two hit men (including a mean Charles McGraw) enter Brentwood, California and gun down Lancaster's character, the "Swede". He doesn't even resist, telling his co-worker "I did something wrong...once". This serves to be the mystery of the film, as we gradually piece together the Swede's life and how he came to such a miserable end. Of course, like most noirs, it has something to do with a beautiful yet deadly femme fatale, played by a scorching Ava Gardner. Kitty Collins has to be one of the sexiest, yet dangerous, women on film. I'll let you uncover why- her final scene is unforgettable.

    Lancaster and Gardner, though featuring on most of the publicity posters, do not have as many scenes as the real leading man, dogged insurance man Rearden, Edmomd O'Brien. Rearden gets to live the film noir life when he begins investigating the Swede's death, and you can sense as he is getting sucked further and further into a web of deceit he is enjoying it more and more. Albert Dekker, Sam Levene and Vince Barnett also provide great support. This is a film where every role feels perfectly cast, and there is a never a false moment in it.

    Siodmak is a director I have not seen much of, yet I will look out for his work in the future. THE KILLERS still feels very fresh and contemporary, and Siodmak directs in a taut, economical style, making sure every flashback serves its purpose whilst still entertaining the audience. The plot was derived from a short story by Ernest Hemingway, but writer Anthony Veiller really deserves the most praise here, as the film is actually an extrapolation on Hemingway's hit men premise. The screenplay contains many great noir lines and the cinematography is appropriately dark and ominously lit.
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