Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Killers Double Shot

The Killers (Robert Siodmak, 1946) [7]
I saw this films a couple of years ago in a class at the University of Buffalo and forgot most everything about it except it was a prototypical film noir. It certainly is a sturdy, dependable noir, but it still has some significant flaws. The taut, fantastic opening was based on the short story of the same name by Hemingway, whose name gave the film some promotional clout. The rest of the film centers around an insurance investigator, played by Edmond O’Brien, trying to figure out why two men went to a small New Jersey town to murder The Swede (Burt Lancaster), none of which is in Hemingway’s story. While visually this film is tremendous, there are some issues with the script and characters. Siodmak was a master of the dark/white contrast that defined film noir. He’s also good at creating tension through his imagery. But I still have some lingering questions: What is the motivation of O’Brien’s character? Why is he so interested in a pretty insignificant murder? The whole thing teeters on being ludicrous. There are also times where the wooden acting by Lancaster and Ava Gardner makes me wince. Despite some flaws, I feel this is a great representation of film noir. [Postscript: I rented the two-disc Criterion addition with the 1964 Don Siegel version. I turned it off about half an hour in because it was nauseatingly dated, in a bad 60’sish way.

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