Two "Killers," Four Killers
October 4 - 10
With its hardboiled dialogue, vividly sketched characters, and swift escalation of tension, Ernest Hemingway's 1927 short story "The Killers," about two hit men who barge into a small-town diner to wait for their victim, seems tailor-made for the screen. The main problem is that it's too short for a feature film. Two classic film noirs addressed that problem by using a flashback structure to open up the backstory behind the hit. The contrasts between them provide a text-book example of how differences in tone, point of view, and era can produce two very different films despite general similarities in plot. Both films are presented in new 4K digital restorations. (MR)
The Killers (1946)
1946, Robert Siodmak, USA, 103 min.
With Edmond O’Brien, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner
"An example of film noir at its most expressive."—Don Druker, Chicago Reader
Boasting an innovative structure, hyper-atmospheric cinematography, and the hot-couple charisma of rising stars Lancaster and Gardner, the 1946 version of THE KILLERS is one of the essential classics from the high period of film noir. The intense opening scenes follow Hemingway’s story almost verbatim; the rest is an imaginative extrapolation by screenwriters Anthony Veiller and (uncredited) John Huston, who invent a cocky insurance investigator (O’Brien) to dig into the troubling murder of a washed-up prizefighter (Lancaster). Siodmak's high-powered direction keeps the momentum going through a series of chronologically scrambled flashbacks that uncover a string of double-crosses behind a factory payroll heist. New 4K DCP digital restoration. (MR)
The Killers (1964)
1964, Don Siegel, USA, 93 min.
With Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes, Angie Dickinson
"Siegel's terse, seething, and stylish direction glows with the blank radiance of sheet metal in sunlight."—Richard Brody, The New Yorker
Where the 1946 version was shadowy, voluptuous, and doomily romantic, the 1964 remake is shiny, hard-edged, and nihilistic. The shift in tone reflects the decision to dump 1946's earnest insurance investigator and have his role as detective-figure filled by the two ruthless hit men (Marvin, Clu Gulager), whose curiosity and greed are aroused by their victim's inexplicable refusal to run. Gulager's fidgety hotshot plays beautifully off Marvin's stone-cool old-timer in the role that defined the Lee Marvin persona. Rounding out the cast are John Cassavetes as the patsy (here a racecar driver rather than a boxer), Angie Dickinson as his femme fatale, and, in his final screen performance, Ronald Reagan, acquitting himself quite well as a villainous mobster with a sour streak beneath his façade of cordial menace. New 4K DCP digital restoration. (MR)