Ernest Hemingway’s gripping short story The Killers has fascinated readers and filmmakers for generations. In 1964, Don Siegel — initially slated to direct the 1946 version — took it on, creating the first-ever made-for-TV feature.
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A made for TV retread of a film noir classic is given a greater creative heft thanks to the modernist stylisations of director Don Siegel & an amazing performance from the incomparable Lee Marvin. Siegel brings to the film an uncompromising brutality that doesn't always sit comfortably alongside the more generic elements, whilst the flashback structure, which frames the revenge plot as a mystery, remains compelling.
It doesn't work all the time, but when it does it soars. Don Siegel is one hell of a director and his version of The Killers, although lacking the existential and poetic contours of Hemingway's short story, somewhat started propelling the gritty and nihilistic crime thriller boom that eventually defined the '70s.
This shouldn't be as fun as it is. The production values are still a TV affair, and where the original was a model of noir construction, long stretches of this one fall apart if you think about it for more than 15 seconds. But Siegel's direction gives it a punchy, weirdly compelling pop-art nihilism. Bonus points for having John Cassavettes punch Ronald Reagan, which may not have meant much in 1964 but sure does now.
Siegel's minimalistic style perfectly suits every crime tale he touches. This version rivals Robert Siodmak's previous by being something completely different, having more of a pulp-ish, b-movie sensitivity, au courant with a more nihilistic, violent, and mysogynistic time it was made. Memorable parts played by everyone, especially the badass Lee Marvin, and Angie Dickinson is to die for.
... a very loose adaptation on the novel; which, unfortunately, doesn't compare to the original... funny to see Ronald Reagan in his final role... the racing scenes are just so dated -- oh how much has changed... only four years away from 'Bullitt' though, so I can't really give it a pass solely based on the time of the films production... some of those rear projection shots are just laughable...
I am not a fan of Don Siegel formally, Dirty Harry, Alcatraz or other things. But in some way, I was very confident that this film was different. I have always being loved Lee Marvin's movies. Furthermore there is Cassavetes on it. Special story which is up to something like before. You should see it. I know noone is likeable in the movie but God damn you Reagan.
Quite scruffy B-movie suffering from glaring contradictions within its plot, however the most remarkable feature about this film is its fairly exceptional cast, particularly Ronald Reagan (for rather cynical reasons). It feels like a film that has been rushed and quickly packed away.