A list of Edgar Wright's favorite 1000 Movies per his list on Mubi on July 27th, 2016.
TENSE! TAUT! TERRIFIC! Told the untamed Hemingway way!
Two professional killers invade a small town and kill a gas station attendant, "the Swede," who's expecting them. Insurance investigator Reardon pursues the case against the orders of his boss, who considers it trivial. Weaving together threads of the Swede's life, Reardon uncovers a complex tale of treachery and crime, all linked with gorgeous, mysterious Kitty Collins.
Film #27 of Project 40
”Don't ask a dying man to lie his soul into Hell.”
Most noirs center around a mystery and it is the attempts of main characters to find the truth – or sometimes to desperately hide it – that defines the actions and reactions which will ultimately rearrange the film’s universe and rewrite the relationships between various individuals involved in the plot. Robert Siodmak’s The Killers - which is based on a short story by Ernest Hemingway – follows the same rule but here there is one big difference that makes this quite unique among other noirs of 40s. The film uses multiple flashbacks and by gathering little pieces of information/truth from various people it follows…
Hadn't previously thought of Siodmak as much of a stylist beyond the basic noir conventions he helped establish, but this is nearly as formally dazzling as Kane (which it's clearly striving to emulate), albeit in a less flashy way. Wish I had a copy handy so I could revisit and describe some of the shots that knocked me on my ass—I can't quite recall, for example, whether it's camera movement or blocking (or both) that suddenly places Ava Gardner in the foreground of this moment as she begins to sing her number, upstaging an already tense interaction between Lancaster and his girl, but it demonstrates an understanding of cinematic space that makes widescreen seem like a grotesque affectation (and…
"If there's one thing in this world I hate, it's a double-crossing dame."
When two crooked looking men walk into a small town diner it spells only one thing, trouble. They are looking for "The Swede", Ole Andreson (Burt Lancaster) and aim to put him out of his misery. As film noir tends to look at the darker aspects of life it maybe no surprise that the man who leads the picture is killed right at the beginning, the two killers finding him not long after they depart the diner. It is a fine example of why film noir was so brilliant that it could give us the not so happy ending right at the beginning. It proves the movement…
Between them, Double Indemnity and The Killers made the world of insurance seem a hell of a lot more exciting than it probably is.
No offence meant to any insurance salespeople or investigators out there who regularly run across murder plots and beautiful femmes fatale, and I'm happy to stand corrected if I have shown my ignorance on this front. In the more likely event that I'm imagining the industry to be rather more mundane than the respective Billy Wilder and Robert Siodmak classics portray it as, it's fair to say that the strengths of these two perhaps lie to a fairly large extent in the fact that we don't end up following a rather predictable police or private detective…
It's been a long time since I've seen this, but I just bought the Criterion Blu-Ray with both versions of The Killers, so it won't be so long before I see it again. I'd forgotten how it ended, so it was a treat to savor this movie again.
I was really impressed with the camera placements and movements of director Robert Siodmak this time.
Jeff Corey, who played Blinky Franklin looked somewhat like John Turturro to me.
"I'm poison, Swede, to myself and everybody around me!" ~ Kitty Collins
First published in Scribner's Magazine in 1927, Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers" soon became one of his most famous and frequently anthologized short stories. It has been widely translated, adapted for radio and television, and recorded by Stacey Keach as an audio book.
Director Robert Siodmak was the first to bring the story from print to a full-length movie. He took a film noir approach and cast an unknown 33-year-old actor named Burt Lancaster in the role of former prizefighter Ole "Swede" Anderson aka gas station attendant Peter Lunn. It goes without saying that this was Lancaster's big break, and he rode it to sky-high stardom thereafter.
Really enjoyed this feature-length interpretation of Ernest Hemingway's minimalist short story.
"I did something wrong—once." The perfect film noir line, which encapsulates the brutal fatalism and unknowable caprice of the genre (that pause between words is crucial), also caps a stunner of an opening, brilliantly introducing Lancaster and reverberating throughout the film Citizen Kane-style. The flashback structure is cannily written (the first three such scenes actually had me thinking that they would be entirely in reverse-chronology) and often brilliantly composed, but it does result in a certain lack of urgency that settles in about three-quarters of the way through. What's crucial, though, is that each scene recalibrate what comes before in significant ways. It's not as effortlessly done as in, say, Hill of Freedom to pick a completely different film, but it's plenty engaging nonetheless. (The ignobility of the final death scene is also a refreshing touch.) Haven't seen the 1964 version yet, but I'd be dazzled if it was better than this one.
I was kinda into this film, particularly visually, but I spent too much of it's runtime thinking about things I preferred about the 64' version. But I really don' think the two flicks were similar enough for that to be fair. They really are different beasts riffing on the same basic set up.
And I found the other version so enjoyable and it had been on my mind so much the last few days that I probably should have waited to watch this. Another time, perhaps.
So going to give this the respect of not commenting on it much or giving it a star rating.
I will say the opening scene is a masterpiece and the rest definitely isn't up to snuff. Maybe I just wasn't crazy about the movie? Again, hard to say.
After the two killers arrive in town, the movie begins with a murder. The murder of Ole "Swede" Anderson, played by Burt Lancaster. When warned of the killers Ole Swede had already given up, solemnly accepting the fact of his own death. The movie follows an insurance inspector as he pulls threads in an effort to bring to light the reason for this murder.
As the film progresses, pieced together through flashbacks recollected from different characters throughout the movie, the audience is drawn into the movie to find out why Swede was murdered as well as why he was already a defeated man prior to his murder. He could have gotten away and left town but he chose to stay…
Great mystery with flashbacks from multiple points of view that weave together to create a tight, intriguing story that always keeps you thinking. The hit men employed by the bad guy are so sinister just seeing them gets you on the edge of your seat. Lots of great performances and genuinely hardened looking characters, this is is a very "lived in" movie if that makes sense. The only thing better than the writing is the cinematography; every shot is perfectly composed and we get to see a wide variety of settings through a uniquely beautiful and somber viewpoint.
Slightly archetypal for a 40's noir (double-crossing and duplicitous dames) but I actually loved the structure. It's strange how much this reminded me of Citizen Kane as several people attempt to eulogize the life of a deceased person.
So, in that sense, it uses confessions that tell a story in revelatory flashbacks. It probably could've used more oomph in the procedural elements as well. Still, for what it's worth, Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner absolutely sizzle and have fantastic chemistry.
The eponymous "killers" are also bookended to strong effect in this menacing noir.
Hit men kill an unresisting victim, and investigator Reardon uncovers his past involvement with beautiful, deadly Kitty Collins.
A great Noir, one I'll rewatch again.
Implacabile noir che propone un'impalcatura investigativa a ritroso à la Citizen Kane (un altro topos innescato da quel genio di Welles per il cinema nero, come la profondità di campo e il taglio barocco). Micidiale la spirale senza via di uscita che inghiotte il povero Burt Lancaster, sospeso tra sogni di gloria, la chimera di un futuro migliore e l'amore di una femme fatale ingannevole e meschina, come il copione del genere pretende (una sublime Ava Gardner). Come al solito impeccabile la direzione di Siodmak, un vero maestro del cinema noir, sempre circondato da notevoli direttori della fotografia (in questo caso Edwod Bredell). Troppe le sequenze da ricordare.
Edgar Wright's 1000 Favorite Movies via MUBI.