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The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

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Dewey1960
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The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

Postby Dewey1960 » April 18th, 2007, 1:23 pm

I know that I'm in a minority here, but I really do prefer the 1964 Don Siegel version. Much as I admire Siodmak's film (largely from a phtographic standpoint), it really lags in the final stages, to the point where I ultimately drift off. Conversely, Siegel's film is swiftly paced and far more interesting with respect to characterization. Plus it has three of my favorite actors of all time: John Cassavetes, Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. Not to mention Ronald Reagan as a sadistic villain. And the incredible Clu Gulager!!

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The Killers

Postby ken123 » April 18th, 2007, 3:10 pm

My vote is for the Siodmak version hands down. :wink:

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Postby mongoII » May 12th, 2007, 10:34 pm

I was pleasantly surprised when I watched the 1964 version of the movie.
I liked it and especially the performances. Clu Gulager was so good that I hated his guts.
However, it's the original compelling noir version that gets my vote.

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Postby Garbomaniac » May 13th, 2007, 5:32 pm

I dind't know they remade it. Oh, the things you learn on this forum! Now, I will have to see it, but I have never seen any advertising on it. Do they play it on TCM?

Again, I don't know about Angie. Did she make you want to jump out a window?

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Postby Dewey1960 » May 14th, 2007, 7:34 am

Garbomaniac wrote: "I didn't know they remade it. Oh, the things you learn on this forum! Now, I will have to see it, but I have never seen any advertising on it. Do they play it on TCM?
Again, I don't know about Angie. Did she make you want to jump out a window?"

As I have perviously mentioned, I am in a total minority concerning my preference for the 1964 remake of THE KILLERS, but trust me, you're in for a high time with it. It was released on DVD in a double disc set with the 1946 original a couple years ago. I'm not sure if TCM has ever run it. But it's an incredible film in its own right. Directed by Don Siegel ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Dirty Harry," etc.), it was originally conceived as the first "made for TV movie." Filming began in late 1963 and sometime during production, JFK was assassinated in Dallas. (Don Siegel notes in his autobiography that word about JFK's murder came down to them while on the set. They were in the middle of shooting a scene with John Cassavetes and Angie Dickinson. When Angie was told the news she collapsed in a dead faint; she--according to Siegel and many others--was having an on and off affair with the President at the time.)
Upon completion of the film in early '64, NBC deemed it "too violent" for television and Universal quickly rushed it into theaters that summer in a desperate attempt to squirm out of a potentially controversial and embarrassing situation. Relatively few people saw it back in 1964. It's reputation as a taut, exciting crime film didn't come about until several years later, once it began turning up (ironically) on television.
The film itself is fascinating for many reasons. Siegel (and his screenwriter Gene Coon) completely reworked the concept by accentuating the importance of the hitmen (Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager); Marvin's insistance on knowing why a man (John Cassavetes in the Burt Lancaster role) would accept his fate so passively becomes the wheel on which the entire film spins. Angie Dickinson is fantastic and alluring as the femme fatale (Garbomaniac, your comment about her making you want to jump out of a window will take on an amusing new twist when you see the film!!) And while she's no Ava Gardner (who is?) she does a great job in the role.
But it is none other than soon-to-be Governor RONALD REAGAN who almost steals the show as the sadistic crime boss. Again, according to Siegel, Reagan came out of retirement to do this film (against his better judgement; he had never appeared as an out and out bad guy before) but Siegel talked him into it--very much to Reagan's subsequent chagrin. Reagan, it turns out, is brilliant in the role, perhaps a little too much so; he's chillingly believable as a cold, ruthless criminal. The very summer this film was in theaters, Ronnie was delivering the keynote address at the Republican National Convention. Two years later he would be the Governor of California. It's no wonder, really, that for many years (particularly during Reagan's presidency) this film was curiously absent from repertory theater screens and television showings. It wasn't until Reagan left office in early 1989 that THE KILLERS began to creep back into public view. CHECK IT OUT!! The film is a stone cold gem!!

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Postby Garbomaniac » May 14th, 2007, 7:51 pm

Great piece of writing, Dewey. It was so compelling, that I must see the remake, now. I will let you know if I can find it and whether or not I get to see it. I assume it is in black and white. I hope so. That can do nothing but add to the film's impact.

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Postby Dewey1960 » May 14th, 2007, 8:26 pm

Thank you for the nice compliment! And no, THE KILLERS remake is in eye-popping COLOR!

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Re: The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

Postby ken123 » February 24th, 2010, 6:30 pm

The 1946 version is great - Criss Cross is even better. 8)

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Re: The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

Postby Lzcutter » February 24th, 2010, 7:23 pm

Dewey,

I'm with you. I really like the '46 version mainly because it's of the way its shot, so atmospheric.

But Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager in the '64 version totally rock. I wish the '64 version was broadcast or screened more often because it's a great ride!
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Re: The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

Postby Dewey1960 » February 24th, 2010, 7:52 pm

But Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager in the '64 version totally rock.
You bet they do, Lynn. These two guys put on a great show in this seriously
underrated masterpiece. Here they are roughing up poor Angie Dickinson:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4Cw_nDt6ws&feature=related[/youtube]
Now Angie takes it on the chin from Ronnie Reagan, two years before becoming
Governor of California. But it's our boy Cassavetes who gets the best and final shot:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af0Yei2sAbE&feature=related[/youtube]

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Re: The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

Postby CineMaven » February 27th, 2010, 10:52 am

Hi Dewey...please let me know what the film schedule looks like for the upcoming Roxie Film Noir Film Fest.

I've never seen the 1964 version of "THE KILLERS" but below are my thoughts on the 1946 version. I shared my view with the gang over at TCM City. Now its the SSO's chance to "head for the hills."

"THE KILLERS” (1946)

"I did something wrong. Once.”


Well, that tells the whole tale of Ole Anderson in this Hemingway helmed, Robert Siodmak directed film noir. Now, THIS is what film noir is all about folks. I think "THE KILLERS” embodies it all but the rain-soaked streets and neon lights: a big dumb lug, a femme fatale that’s like a moth to a fame, a heist gone bad and cinematography that’ll make you gasp and knock yourself silly. For me, I could taste the silver nitrate and light and shadows.

Yeah.....you could say I enjoy this film.

RUMINATIONS & RAMBLES:

Just the ordering of dinner by these two hitmen/henchmen was contentious. Every time I heard the phrase “bright boy” I cringed. Answering questions with questions. Whoo! That whole diner scene reminded me of the “flipping-a-coin” scene in “No Country For Old Men.” There was also a great deal of tension in a murder scene in a great indie film called ”One False Move” starring Bill Paxton, Michael Beach and Billy Bob Thornton. Siodmak is in no rush. So if you’re in a rush...you’re outta luck. This may not be the film for you. And he doesn’t give us all the information either. (Today’s young audience might be impatient right from the get-go). It takes its sweet time in the diner: time enough for two customers to come in and get turned away. In “The Killers” the diner scene was so fraught with tension, you could cut that tension with a machete. The two hitmen are inexorable in their mission to find and kill The Swede. In fact, they’re so comfortable about their mission that they plain flat out reveal what their mission is. And they even allow the clerk to as questions. (I love his little boy way of asking). Here is where we, the audience, can find out what’s going on in the plot.

When co-worker Nick busts in to warn The Swede of his impending doom, we are introduced to newcomer BURT LANCASTER. His face is in the shadow. He knows they’re coming to get him but he’s not panicked. He doesn’t run. He ascribes to one of the tenets or commandments of film noir. ”You cannot fight fate.”

"There’s nothing I can do about it.”

NICK: "Why do they want to kill you?”

SWEDE: "I did something wrong. Once.”


He knows he has to pay; almost like he wants to play...he feels he deserves to pay. We hear strains of Kitty’s theme song in violin. We won’t know what that means yet.
I love the shot down the staircase as the hitmen come up to The Swede’s room. There was a shot similar in King Vidor’s “The Crowd” when the boy realizes the ambulance is coming to his house.

Edmond O’Brien is Reardon, insurance agent. His dogged investigation leads to the unravelling of a bigger unsolved case. When he takes Nick to identify The Swede’s body, Pete Lund, Reardon misquotes Lund’s last words. And the transposition of the word “once” from the end of the sentence to the beginning makes all the difference in the world. Oh Edmond, he’s marvelous in this as the investigator, dogged, not too too handsome...those lapels, that fedora...that gruff voice. Oh he’s a film noir man. And he’s just tough enough. This boy is no pencil pusher.

There was a little sumthin’ sumthin’ that may mean nothing to folks...but I picked up on it and I thought it was very big indeed: when the hitmen leave the restaurant, the diner guy goes in the kitchen to untie the cook and Nick. I liked how he untied the cook first, patted his shoulder and then brought him some water. It was a small thing...but a very big thing.

The Swede being re-discovered at the gas station is reminiscent of Mitchum in “Out of the Past.” We have another out of the past moment when the Swede meets up with Kitty...again.

I liked how the story unfolds via flashback and within those flashbacks we don’t quite get all the information we should have...it kind of strings us along, like holding a carrot out as bait. Well call me Bugs Bunny.

FLASHBACKS:

*
Nick tells of the killers at the diner

* Queenie tells of Pete Lund almost commiting suicide

* Lt. Lubinsky tells Reardon of Ole taking a prison rap for Kitty Collins

* Charleston talks of his time in prison with Ole ("let’s not reach for the moon when we have the stars...”)

* Reading the newspaper account of the big payroll robbery is a voiced-over in flashback

* Blinky tells a flashback on his death bed about the hideout

* Kitty tells of giving the Swede the wrong info about where the gang meets up after the robbery

The story unfolds much this way to make this noir a murder mystery. Interesting. And Lancaster’s character has four names (The Swede, Pete Lund, Mr. Nelson and finally Ole Anderson).

When we meet Ole via chambermaid Queenie, he’s breaking up furniture. He looks like King Kong. He’s lit from behind. And then the heartbreaking, "She’s gone. She’s gone.” She saves him from jumping out the window and he says it again, an unabashed anguished cry: "She’s gone.” He collapses on his bed like a little kid, head in hands. He’s facing the realization of...well, it’s not exactly revealed yet what he’s realizing. Once you’ve seen the movie, viewing the flashbacks take on a different meaning.

VIRGINIA CHRISTINE:

I love how Virginia Christine is revealed in the movie. When the boxing crowd disperses the one left in her seat as the crowd empties is Christine as girlfriend Lily. I liked that ‘moment.’ And she’s kind of a tough cookie too. Love that wide-brimmed hat. She’s kind of Ann Doran-ish. There’s two “triangular” moments:

(1.) After Ole’s losing bout, Lily’s waiting for him. Check out Lt. Lubinsky as he lights up and smiles at her while she only has eyes for Ole.

(2.) When we’re introduced to Ava Gardner as Kitty Collins, attention must be paid. Ava’s a knockout, but more on that later. I have to tell ya, I was checking out Virginia Christine. Small gestures but big. When they meet Kitty at the piano, Lily immediately looks up at Ole. (Awwright girls, you know how we do). Too late though, he’s a goner and Lily spots it. She tries to hold on one last time...speaking of her support of watching all of Ole’s fights.

But Kitty replies with sweetness and light:

”I could never bear to see a man I really cared for being hurt.”

As Lily says to Reardon...the ship sailed.

”Poor Ole. When he did fall he fell for dynamite.”

When we see Lily with (now husband) Lt. Lubinsky, they are soooo soooo cute together. She sits near him, on the arm of his chair. His arm is around her. She slightly tousles his hair, he kisses her hand. Those moments say sooo much. (Were they both New York actors??) I love watching them.

The burial of Ole was sad, and the scene made me think of something from an old Frankenstein movie. Was that a painted backdrop of the clouds? It was moody shot.

I loved Vince Barnett as old Charleston. He did a great job as the old cellmate. Sensitive (James Whitmore as the lifer in ”The Shawshank Redemption”), he sees a lot, and knows that Kitty is trouble. He won’t go in on the caper.

"I’ve done a lot of time. I spent almost half my life in stir. And I don’t intend to spend anymore.”

The charactor actors...superb. The plot...you have to really pay attention to. Dumb Dumb (Jack Lambert) made me kind of think of Wayne Morris and he has sort of Lee Marvin-type voice. The colors in this movie kill me. Those blacks and shadows and lights and dark are beautiful.

AVA GARDNER:

Who are we kidding...this is all about Ava, isn’t it. She plays two-timing, double-crossing lethal lady Kitty Collins. She’s high society (gangsta style) sitting at the piano singing. Raven hair, dimpled chin, whispery voice. She’s a TKO. (Today that part’d be played by Angelina Jolie and girls...lock up your boyfriend/hubby. No man is safe). She has that high society air at the party; cries when Lubinsky pinches her for stealing that broach. Ole (Swedish for “YaBigLug!”) takes the rap. When he’s out of prison and goes to find out what the details of their upcoming heist will be, she’s lounging on Colfax’s bed. Now that’s a move worthy of a Kathie Moffet; but Kitty returning to the fold. Jane Greer was cool; Ava...hotter than hell. Boy oh boy. Don’t look her in the eyes boys. She’s Medusa and will turn you into stone.

It always struck me as odd, unseemly that Kitty be in that room full of men. Why would Colfax not protect her from possible advances...not that any of the men would make a pass at the boss’ girl...but she’s not a tough looking dame like Marie Windsor. That always ‘bothered’ me.

I love how Ole sends her a silent message with her green scarf (didn’t Guinevere give knights her scarf when they went into battle). I love their non-verbal recognition of each other. She just melts Ole. She’s curled up on that bed like a Cheshire cat. I almost heard her poisoned purr; like Lorelei. And I think Kitty seeing that scarf is what makes her start in on Colfax. The Swede taking a poke at him. (CHeck out the subtle glee on Kitty’s face. It’s very slight...but it’s there. Her wheels are turning. She’s got an idea). Albert Dekker plays big Jim Colfax and he has such an excellent slow burn. He was wonderful in this, very menacing but not in a volcanic way. Kitty starts in on him first (a calculated move we’ll find out) and this gets Colfax upset. He wants to smack her in the mouth. Then the Kitty kitten roars:

"You touch me and you won’t live till morning!”

(Editor’s note: I love that line. I wait the whole movie for that line). When Kitty lies to the Swede about where the gang is to meet up...her face is in the shadow b’cuz Lancaster steps into Ava’s light putting her in a bit of a shadow. When she talks she steps into the light. This back and forth happens a couple of times.

Reardon catches up to Big Jim Colfax...now a big-time respectable contractor. Reardon tells him how Kitty ran off with Ole and then ran off with the money. This interests Colfax. I like that the movie drops little bits of plot here and there. Apparently Colfax didn’t know that Kitty was shacked up with the Swede in Atlantic City. Reardon also gets the word out that he wants to talk to Kitty. He smokes her out with a lie. It was cute in the hotel room with Reardon and Lt. Lubinsky when Lubinsky says Kitty will not reach out. He said "if I know women...” and then the phone rings and it’s Kitty. Ha! He knows women. I chuckled at that b’cuz I remembered his scenes with Lily and how he was putty in her hands. See, you don’t have to have the white hot heat of an Ava to get the guy. (Bbbbbbbut...then again, the guy might not like look like a hunky Burt Lancaster. Just my shallow thought).

I liked the tense scene between Reardon and Dum Dum. Love how it’s lit, love the two actors facing off. Dumb Dumb looked like a manly Dan Duryea. I wonder what Sonny Tufts could do with this role. Oh why oh why does my mind wander so. Just an association game I play with myself. When Reardon is KO’ed by Dumb Dumb, I can’t explain why but I like that the camera stays on Reardon as we hear a bit of what’s going on between the police and Dumb Dumb outside.

I chuckled as Reardon waits in front of the theatre for Kitty. Check out the play’s poster. It has Arthur Hilton’s name. And Hilton was the film’s editor.
Pay attention to what goes on in the background of this movie. There’s a lot of action with the background extras. The film has a full life, to me.

Kitty fills in the last piece of the puzzle with her flashback story.

"I’m poison to Swede, to myself and everybody around me. I’d be afraid to go with anyone for the harm I’d do him.”

I understand that Shelly Winters played Kitty on a radio broadcast of this. But Ava as the lying cheating manipulating double crossing two timing Kitty Collins is burned in my cinematic DNA. When Reardon says:

"And as soon as you could break away you left him (Ole) flat.”

She chuckles and shrugs. Oh man!! I never noticed that before. She IS cold blooded. That’s why I love her. She’s everything you want in a femme fatale. She really is perfect in this role that ‘cat’apulted her to fame. As I said earlier in this ruminating ramble, she wasn’t the cold hot iceberg that Jane Greer plays a year later in “Out of the Past.” Oh no. She’s a lying lethal hottie. (Kitty Collins. Two hard “K” sounds. Her name is apropos. Well...the kitty kat did order hot milk, doesn’t she?)

The plot unwinds and unveils and Kitty gets her comeuppance. She pleads, she cries but it’s no use:

"Don’t ask a dying man to lie his soul into hell!!”

I think that is one of the greatest lines in movies. And yes, I felt sorry for her.

I loved the use of Rosza’s music, the shimmering cinematography (maybe not on tv but the DVD is sparkling), the acting, and the piecemeal way the plot unfolds. Burt Lancaster was fantastic as the fall guy. We don’t see his (future) trademark mannerisms: teeth, bulging veins. His first movie...and he was wonderful as our fallen hero. I’m a fan of "THE KILLERS” For me, this must be what they mean when they say ”they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.”
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Re: The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

Postby Dewey1960 » February 27th, 2010, 7:20 pm

Hey there CM !!
Quite an exhaustive treatise you've put together on THE KILLERS. I wish I were able to share your enthusiasm for this old warhorse, but I just don't / can't. Yes, there are a great many moments worth savoring, especially in the first 12 minutes or so of the film when it sticks very much to Hemingway's original short story. The doom, the despair, the haunted poetry of the Swede's reconciliation with his fate, etc. And cinematographer Woody Bredell's work here is first rate when the mood of the story collides with his visual intentions.
But once the Swede is rubbed out and the labyrinth of flashbacks and back stories begin to wash ashore, the film very quickly runs out of gas for me. What could have been a lean and caustic tale instead turns into an unwieldy epic which threatens to run on indefinitely. I think Siodmak worked better with Bredell on PHANTOM LADY two years earlier which, despite its numerous gaps of logic, remains truer to the deep spirit of noir. And CRISS CROSS, the film Siodmak directed two years after THE KILLERS, is much more fraught with noir anguish and tough-guy bravado -- and almost a full half hour shorter. THE KILLERS is simply over-populated with characters (Sam Levene and Virginia Christine for example) who aren't exactly in synch with the noir ethos and only serve to drag things down even further. Endless. It's endless, I tells ya!
You really should treat yourself to the Don Siegel version one of these days. Yes, it's in color, yes it was made in the 60s and yes, it was originally conceived as a "made for TV movie," but in its own ruthless way, it blows the Siodmak version off the screen.
And oh, hey, thanks for asking about the big NOIR show coming this May to the Roxie!! I'll be posting more about it in the next week or so!
Great hearing from you!

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The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

Postby CineMaven » March 1st, 2010, 3:48 am

Dewey, you make some extremely valid points there. But I just can't go with 1964. My mama won't let me. Endless...unwieldly...labyrinthian...S. Levene / V. Christine, but it's AVA, baby...AVA. And Burt in the begin-
ning. And for me, it's also the journey, Man...the journey. And it's one that I gladly sit back, relax and absorb.

Noir in San Francisco. Get ready to rock the town!!!
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Re: The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

Postby ChiO » March 1st, 2010, 8:55 am

Once upon a time, I, too, was a proponent of 1946 over 1964. Then I realized something: when I defended that position, I found that it was based solely on the first 15 or so minutes of the 1946 version (a scene that is among my favorites in all of filmdom) and a primary noir equation -- Conrad + McGraw = noir. After that scene, however, I had to admit that for me it was yawn.

The Dewster converted me: Cassavetes + Dickinson + Marvin + Evil Reagan > Lancaster + Gardner - (Conrad + McGraw)

Not to mention a generalized preference for Siegel over R. Siodmak.
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Re: The Killers - 1946 vs. 1964

Postby kingrat » March 10th, 2010, 6:11 pm

Late to the party again. To me, the basic problem with THE KILLERS (1946) is the disconnect between the classic noir opening and the documentary or procedural approach to much of the film. KISS OF DEATH has the same problem. I love the location shooting, but when you have a psycho killer as terrifying as Richard Widmark, how can most of the film have so little tension? The realism (or neorealism) cancels out the atmosphere created by the classic noir elements. Are there examples of docu-noir hybrids that work better than these two films?

Perhaps we've seen so much of the procedural approach on television that it's simply not fresh in a movie. I have trouble re-creating the historical setting where the documentary elements were a welcome change from the usual approach.


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