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Year: 1946
Director: Robert Siodmak

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Cast:

Burt Lancaster (Ole 'Swede' Andersen), Ava Gardner (Kitty Collins Colfax), Edmond O'Brien (Jim Reardon), Albert Dekker (Big Jim Colfax), Sam Levene (Police Lt. Sam Lubinsky), Vince Barnett (Charleston), Virginia Christine (Lilly Harmon Lubinsky), Jack Lambert ('Dum-Dum' Clarke), Charles D. Brown (Packy Robinson - Ole's Manager), Donald MacBride (R.S. Kenyon), Charles McGraw (Al), William Conrad (Max), Ernie Adams (Hood with Cane (uncredited)), Audley Anderson (Assistant Paymaster (uncredited)), George Anderson (Jail Ward Doctor (uncredited)), Sam Ash (Minor Role (uncredited)), John Berkes (Mr. Plunther - Coroner (uncredited)), Harry Brown (Paymaster (uncredited)), Phil Brown (Nick Adams (uncredited)), Jack Cheatham (Police Driver (uncredited))

Storyline:

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. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Reviews:

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.

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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.

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