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|Index||57 reviews in total|
31 out of 32 people found the following review useful:
My favourite cult B-movie..., 20 January 2000
Author: Glad-2 (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Edinburgh, Scotland
Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager, two contract killers, walk into a Midwest
for the blind and cold-bloodedly murder John Cassavettes. "We walk in, we
put him down, we walk out," muses Marvin distractedly on the train back to
Chicago. Cassavettes had the chance to run but didn't, and Marvin wants
Initially, Don Siegel's colour remake of the Ernest Hemingway story was intended as the first made-for-TV movie. Vetoed by the network for its amoral viewpoint and violence, it was released in cinemas and quickly became a cult 1960s B-movie.
Anonymous and menacing in executive suits, sunglasses and briefcase, Marvin and scene-stealing Gulager memorably personify organised crime under Siegel's expert direction. They're pure all-American evil.
True, the main plot - pieced together in flashback as the two hitmen track down the mail robbery gang led by Ronald Reagan (his last film) - is pretty routine stuff. But even that serves to heighten the threat represented by Marvin and Gulager, as they unravel the real reason for Cassavettes' deathwish.
"No one ever knows what we're talking about," mocks Gulager when femme fatale Angie Dickinson tries to act dumb. The scene in the hotelroom where the killers force her to tell is handled with a ferocious cool that is Siegel's trademark.
The Killers was still in production when Kennedy was assassinated - perhaps one reason, given its theme, why TV network ABC pulled it from their 1964 schedule. The scene where Gulager is shot down on a sunlit sidewalk even echoed the killing of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gulager's character is called Lee).
OK, it's not a masterpiece. Even the great Don Siegel can't quite disguise a B-movie budget, a repetitious screenplay, brightly artificial colour, and exteriors that are only too obviously the Universal backlot. But it is tense and exciting, thanks to Siegel's authoritative grasp of the genre.
"I shot it in the style which I think is my style at its best," Siegel concluded later. "Very taut and lean with great economy. If I had to do it over again, I don't think I would change much."
23 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
Siegel takes Siodmak into fast, brutal post-Camelot era, 30 June 2002
Author: bmacv from Western New York
Under the title Ernest Hemingway's The Killers, Don Siegel's 1964 movie
shows no more fidelity to the short story from which it takes its name and a
fraction of its plot than Robert Siodmak's 1946 masterpiece, The Killers.
And though it borrowed from the earlier movie its flashback structure
(substantially simplified) and much of the backstory written for it, it's
not quite a remake, either: the changes strike too deep.
A pair of contract hit-men track down a victim who seems ready, almost eager, to die. The killers this time around are Lee Marvin and Clu Gallagher, whose cozy arrangements suggest something of Fante and Mingo in The Big Combo. The first big shift from its 1946 predecessor is that Marvin's curiosity, not an insurance investigator's, sets the plot in motion, by his delving into the target's past and the whereabouts of a million dollars from a heist years before (in fact, he becomes the principal character). The second is a racheted-up level of violence: The movie opens with the pair tracking down their prey in a school for the blind, whose residents they ruthlessly terrorize during their hunt. And the level stays high.
John Cassavettes plays the victim, a former race-car driver fallen on hard times since a bad smash-up. Through the reminiscences of old buddy Claude Akins and past associate Norman Fell, we relive his racing career to an extent that stretches of the movie look like outtakes from Grand Prix. In those glory days he crossed tracks with the femme fatale of the piece, Angie Dickinson (in her rat-pack, late-Camelot salad days herself). After his car crash and their break-up, she lures him off the primrose path to serve as driver during a mail-truck robbery.
But Dickinson's heart belongs to daddy daddy in this instance being Ronald Reagan as a heavy. This marks his last film role. For a while it was chic to dismiss Reagan as a lousy actor, but he was always compentent enough. The puzzle is that the undeniable charisma that helped garner him the governorship of California and the presidency of the United States never came through on the screen; he couldn't carry a picture. He has a nasty moment slapping Dickinson silly when her attention strays to Cassavettes, but Marvin redeems his top billing by stealing the movie.
Ernest Hemingway's The Killers remains a good example of how the complexities and suggestiveness of the noir cycle were to metamorphose into a faster, flatter, more literal and brutal style of moviemaking starting in the late 1950s. Don Siegel was in the forefront of this change, starting in period noirs (The Verdict) but reaching his apogee, so to speak, in Dirty Harry. He delivers the goods, pronto, in a plain brown wrapper.
18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Lee Marvin vs. Ronald Reagan--What a matchup!, 31 March 2005
Author: inspectors71 from The Man-Cave
One of Hollywood's greater contract directors, Donald Siegel, brought
Hemmingway's short story to TV, but NBC turned it down because, for
1964, it was too damn brutal. Although it pales in comparison to the
1946 original, this cheap (thanks to the gawd-awful production values
of Universal in the sixties) remake holds it own.
When button-men Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager show up at a school for the blind to empty their silenced revolvers into former race-car driver John Cassavetes, they don't expect him to just stand there and take it. Marvin, exuding clean-smelling and lean menace and Gulager, a carrot-juice swilling sociopath travel cross-country in their search for Cassavetes' story. They find that the race driver, washed up after a near-fatal crash gains employment with mobster Ronald Reagan (I can just see Ronnie giving Gorbachev the same look at the 1986 summit that he gives Cassavetes when the driver challenges the mobster for control of Reagan's girl, Angie Dickinson). After lots of double-crosses and a fair amount of "why did he or she do that?," Marvin comes calling at Reagan's door.
Lee Marvin was excellent when portraying a killing machine and he holds the movie together. He and Gulager are there to punctuate the sometimes good and sometimes not-so-good flashbacks and they are suave and eerily debonair grim reapers. If anything, they're more interesting than the flashbacks; all good action flicks need good bad guys and Reagan looks too bored with the whole thing. Is it possible that, after seeing him so successful and upbeat for eight years in the White House, a grim and petty Reagan seems anachronistic? Yet, it really is Marvin who makes this movie rise above the cheap production values, the cheesy matte photography, and the canned John(ny) Williams score.
Marvin was about to begin a string of successes that would last into the early seventies. That voice is so distinctive! When he talked, he sounded, as another reviewer once said, "like a dinosaur growling." He is so evil and you can't stop liking him. Although Marvin and Robert DeNiro are completely different actors, they both have the same effect on me when they inhabit the screen--I stop doing everything else and just watch them. Pure charisma. When asked by David Letterman why he was so popular, Lee Marvin simply grinned and, with his index finger extended, growled, "Ratatatat!" Don Siegel would go on to make other tough movies; his style was clean, tough, and with just enough style to leave the audience with a satisfied taste in it's mouth. Under his direction, Clint Eastwood would establish himself as a superstar. One can only imagine how far Marvin would have gotten under the command of the button-man director!
15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Very cool thriller, 23 September 2005
Author: The_Void from Beverley Hills, England
I haven't seen Robert Siodmark's 1946 original, but since it's
generally accepted to be better than this version; I sure want to see
it! Second best, this may be, but that's certainly not to say that this
isn't an excellent flick. Lee Marvin steps into the role of a hit-man
brilliantly, and his no-nonsense performance really makes the film. He
is joined by Clu Gulager as his fellow hit-man and partner into an
investigation that comes about through Marvin as he wonders why he was
paid so much to kill a former race car driver, who also didn't run away
when he had the chance. What follows is a tour de force of gangster
pulp fiction as the two hit men pay little visits to the various
players in the plot behind the assassination they were contracted to
commit. The style of the movie is delicious, and watching these two men
stroll around coolly in their expensive suits while interrogating their
various victims is a treat indeed. Several modern films, Pulp Fiction
most obviously, have taken a lot of influence from this flick and it's
always good to know where that influence came from.
The central pairing of Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager is what made the film for me. The way that they populate their scenes is excellent, with one of them doing the talking and the other fiddling around in the background. The way that this is orchestrated gives away a very understated coolness, which the film is always keen to capitalise on. The pair's chemistry is more to do with the style and how they look together than how they interact with each other; and that is right on cue. The Killers also benefits from an excellent support cast, which includes the likes of Ronald Reagan, Angie Dickinson and John Cassavetes. This film can't be considered noir because it's in colour, but this is about as close as you can get to the style without actually being a part of it. The film that it was based on was film noir, and this remake has managed to retain the foundations, even if it has lost the dark picture. On the whole, The Killers is an excellent picture and while what some people say about it being second to the original may be withstanding; I say this is an excellent flick in it's own right.
16 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Ahead of it's time, uncompromising b-grade thriller., 20 November 2001
Author: Infofreak from Perth, Australia
Don Siegel's 'The Killers' is a diamond in the rough! Initially filmed for
television, its technical limitations are easily overlooked as they are more
than compensated for by the drive of the no-nonsense narrative, and the high
standards of the acting. Caught somewhere between Kubrick's 'The Killing'
and Boorman's 'Point Blank', it may not be as flamboyantly impressive as
either, but it is just as memorable in its own low key
Quentin Tarantino has admitted that the structure of 'The Killing' has influenced him, but after watching 'The Killers', one must question whether this movie is also high on his list. Especially as the cooler-than-thou hit-men played by Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager almost anticipate Travolta and Jackson's similarly quirky ones in 'Pulp Fiction' thirty years later. Just like Vincent and Jules, Charlie and Lee are eccentric and likable when "off duty" and brutal sociopaths when on. Lee Marvin is one of Hollywood's legendary screen tough guys, and his performance here is as good as any he ever did, but the real stand out for me is Clu Gulager's health nut contract killer. He just about steals every scene he is in. Up to this point he was mainly known as a Western TV star. Why this role didn't launch him into a Bruce Dern/Harry Dean Stanton/Dick Miller style career baffles me. Instead he was mainly consigned to the "made for TV" wasteland, and never got the breaks his talent deserved.
Marvin and Gulager's star turns are backed up by strong supporting performances from John Cassavetes, as their enigmatic "job", Angie Dickinson, a double-crossing femme fatale, and Ronald Reagan in a surprising turn as a nasty gangster. Also keep an eye out for a dialogue-free cameo by a very young looking Seymour Cassel!
'The Killers' looks better and better as the years go by. Not without flaws, sure, and calling it a masterpiece would be overkill, but it's a movie that was ahead of it's time in many ways, and it can't help but impress discerning fans of 50s/60s b-grade crime movies, film noir, or Sam Fuller.
9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Sadistic and Nasty, 23 April 2006
Author: Jason Forestein (email@example.com) from somerville, ma
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I love many Don Siegel films. His The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is
paranoid bliss, and Dirty Harry is an amazing, gritty (and some say
fascist) take on the cops and robbers genre. The Killers, though, is
probably my favorite film of his. I can't quite put my finger on why,
though I figure it has something to do with having one of the greatest
casts in movie history and the fact that the movie is absolutely
Arbitrarily connected to the Ernest Hemmingway story upon which it was supposedly based, the film follows two hired killers (the growling Lee Marvin and too-cool-for-school Clu Gulager) as they wipe-out stockcar racer turned grandlarcenist Johnny North (John Cassavetes). Along the way, they untangle Johnny's past with the sultry Sheila Farr (Angie Dickinson) and Ronald Reagan's crime boss, Jack Browning. It's a story told in flashbacks but it's never difficult to follow and it contains some of the frankest sexuality and violence to be found in early 1960s cinema.
The best part of the film, for me, is Lee Marvin, one of the world's most under-appreciated actors. He had charisma and goodlooks that could match anyone in Hollywood, but he, like, say, Robert Mitchum, had a meanstreak and a seedy-side that makes him many times more interesting than Cary Grant or Clark Gable or John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart. There's something so nasty about him that, frankly, it's difficult to not enjoy his performances.
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Better than the original version!, 13 September 2008
Author: Dewey1960 from United States
Directed by Don Siegel ("Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "Dirty
Harry," etc.), THE KILLERS 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 hit men (Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager); Marvin's insistence 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, 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 judgment; 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!!
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Violent 60's film with standout cast, 26 April 2002
Director Don Siegel's "The Killers" is very loosely based on the Hemingway short story with few similarities. Two killers (Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager)complete an easy hit-for-hire but wonder why their victim, although warned in advance, didn't run away from them. After piecing together some information, they realize that the $25,000 they got for the hit is a drop in the bucket compared to a missing million dollar stash of stolen loot. After questioning a few "witnesses" they discover that the man they killed had been double-crossed and had lost his will to live. Throw in Angie Dickinson as a two-timing temptress and Ronald Reagan (of all people) as a nasty double-dealing henchman and you've got one violent movie without any good guys in sight. Marvin and Gulager are excellent as the hit men and John Cassavettes is also great as their hapless and resigned victim. Reagan, who supposedly regretted his turn here as a villian, is surprising effective. It was the only time in his career he played a "bad guy". Angie Dickinson, of course, is no mere window-dressing. She gives everyone a run for their money as the best-looking devious dame on the planet. "The Killers", which was originally made for TV, but released in theatres instead due to its violent subject matter, is a one-of-a-kind early 60's film noir. It may have little to do with Hemingway's story, but I'm sure "Papa" would have enjoyed it anyway.
16 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
Cast Is More Intriuging Than The Story, 14 July 2006
Author: ccthemovieman-1 from United States
A bunch of well-known 1960s actors dot this film, with lesser-known but
familiar faces also in here. He's not in the lead, but the most famous,
of course, is former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The stars of the
film are the always- intense Lee Marvin, Clu Culager, John Cassevetes,
Angie Dickinson, Claude Aiken and Norman Fell. I would like to have
witnessed rehearsals for this film!
The story starts off very strong, then gets stupid with an annoying romance between Cassevates and Dickinson (complete with affected dialog) and then finishes very strong in the last 35 minutes. The ending is excellent. I guess you could label this a '60s version of film noir, especially since it is something of a re-make of the 1946 noir of the same name.
It seemed odd to see Reagan as the villain and makes the film less credible because it doesn't fit his image. Marvin, however, always is a convincing villain. What a great voice he had, too! In all, despite the cast and the good director (Don Siegel), this film never had the impact it could have had n audiences.
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Gripping noir film with a host of well-known actors who contribute to the movie's success, 23 July 2010
This remake of the classic film with the same name (1946) by Robert
Siodmak deals with two hired killers (Lee Marvin , Clu Gulager in
similar role to William Conrad and Charles McGraw) who murder a man
(John Cassavetes replacing Burt Lancaster) at a blind school . The
cold-bloody assassins look into his past and by means flashbacks ,
attempting to solve leads as to why their victim calmly waits for his
death and find tracks to a 100.000 dollars robbery . The gunmen
discovering his involvement with crime boss (Ronald Reagan , alike role
Alfred Dekkker ) and the gangster's moll (Angie Dickinson in the
character of Ava Gardner).
This noir film packs action , thrills, suspense, tension , thundering drama and a mighty punch in some exciting scenes . It's loosely based very vaguely on a short story by Ernest Hemingway and originally pretended for television but exhibited to the cinemas due a its lots of violence . This thrilling story with intricate argument plenty of turns and twists , revolves around two assassins revealing surprise after surprise . Noteworthy portrayals come from menacing Ronald Reagan as a racketeer in his last movie, and of course Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager give towering performances as the gunfighters . There's also a magnificent action from John Cassavetes in the pivotal role and Angie Dickinson as gorgeous Femme Fatale and shooting to stardom in one of his first films . Atmospheric musical score by John Williams , subsequently famous as composer of Steven Spielberg films . Rating : Better than average . It's a good film that ensures the nervous intrigue never lets up from the first moment and realized in efficient style by Donald Siegel , then at the peak of his Hollywood career and future author of Charly Varrick, Coogan's bluff and Dirty Harry and sequels. Well worth watching .
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