The Killers (1964) Poster

(1964)

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My favourite cult B-movie...
Glad-220 January 2000
Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager, two contract killers, walk into a Midwest school 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 to know why.

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."
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7/10
Siegel takes Siodmak into fast, brutal post-Camelot era
bmacv30 June 2002
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.
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Violent 60's film with standout cast
Chuck-18526 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.
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9/10
Sadistic and Nasty
Jason Forestein23 April 2006
Warning: 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 brutal.

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.
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7/10
Gripping noir film with a host of well-known actors who contribute to the movie's success
ma-cortes23 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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Ahead of it's time, uncompromising b-grade thriller.
Infofreak20 November 2001
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 way.

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.
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8/10
The only man who isn't afraid of dying is dead already.
Spikeopath20 November 2012
The Killers is directed by Don Siegel and adapted to screenplay by Gene L. Coon from the short story written by Ernest Hemmingway. It stars Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Clu Gulager, John Cassavetes, Ronald Reagan and Claude Akins. Music is by John Williams and cinematography by Richard L. Rawlings.

Hit men Charlie (Marvin) and Lee (Gulager) enter a school for the blind and gun down motor mechanic teacher Johnny North (Cassavetes). He doesn't resist. Why? This question bothers Charlie and he sets about finding out...

It's difficult when reading the name The Killers to not think of the 1946 film made by Robert Siodmak, a film that is revered as one of the quintessential movies of film noir. But Don Siegel's film, a re-jigging of the plot, is well worthy of consideration as quintessential neo-noir.

Originally slated to be the first made for TV movie as part of a new era for movies on television, the film was pulled by NBC for being too violent. With the film also featuring a murder by sniper scene, the recent assassination of John F. Kennedy by sniper ensured The Killers was temporarily on unsafe ground. With Ronald Reagan making his last appearance on film before moving into politics, unusually playing a villain no less, the 64 version of The Killers has a bit of history.

It's a film about double-crossing, murder and fateful yearnings, featuring amoral characters in a wonderfully constructed story that is told in flashbacks! Photographed in bright, almost garish, colours, it's very much the polar opposite to Siodmak's version, well visually at least, but it is very effective and striking, almost enhancing the lurid nature of Coon's screenplay. It's an aggressive film where the violence packs a punch, and the ending has a considerable black heart.

The cast are mostly effective. Marvin and Gulager's hit-man pairing are deliberately off kilter in terms of personality, and it's these two that propel the movie forward (well backwards really). Cassavetes makes interesting work as live wire dupe Johnny, Akins does good as a pal watching on helplessly as Johnny loses his life footings and Dickinson sizzles as she fatalises the femme. Weak link is Reagan, who looks ill at ease playing a tough villain type. It's no surprise to learn later on down the line that he wasn't very fond of the role.

Good quality neo-noir crafted by a man who knew how to do the real deal back in the day. 7.5/10
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Lee Marvin vs. Ronald Reagan--What a matchup!
inspectors7131 March 2005
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!
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8/10
Very cool thriller
The_Void23 September 2005
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.
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7/10
Great cast - good movie
johno-212 June 2008
I recently saw this at the 2008 Palm Springs Film Noir Festival. Not really Film Noir as it was made after the genre had passed and is in color and features no detectives or private eyes and not even a film as it was originally intended as the very first made-for-television movie. Produced by Universal's Revue Studios it was deemed too violent for television. It of course isn't too violent by today's standards and NBC censors did call for revisions of the movie and since there are only a few questionable scenes It could have been easily done but they left it as was and it didn't make it's May of 1964 television premier. Instead it went to theaters and drive ins in July of 1964. Long-time film and television director Don Siegel directs. His most noted work would still come late in his career with Clint Eastwood in "Coogan's Bluff", "Two Mules for Sister Sara", "The Beguiled", "Dirty Harry" and "Escape From Acatraz" and John Wayne in "The Shootist" and Charles Bronson in "Telefon." This film is as different from the 1946 film as that film is as different from the short story by Earnest Hemingway that both film borrow from. The 1946 film is noted for being Burt Lancaster's first film role and the 1964 film is noted for being Ronald Reagan's last film role. Seasoned hit-man Charlie Storm (Lee Marvin) and young enforcer sidekick Lee (Clu Gulager) have been hired for larger than usual fee to knock off a retired professional race car driver who now teaches shop class in a school for the blind. A series of flashbacks tell the story of Johnny North (John Cassavetes) and his mechanic Earl Sylvester (Claude Akins) and the femme fatale Sheila Farr (Angie Dickenson) who comes into their lives. Sheila is the kept woman of mobster Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan) whose gang includes Mickey Farmer (Norma Fell) and George Flemming (Robert Phillips). Also in the cast are a couple of familiar and wonderful character television actors in small support roles with Kathleen O'Malley and Burt Mustin. Music score by John Williams when he was a contract composer before he made it big the film also features a Henry Mancini song "Too Little Time" with an on screen performance by jazz singer Nancy Wilson. Screenplay adaptation by Gene L. Cook and director Siegel this deserves a look especially from it's great cast and historical perspective. It keeps flowing pretty smoothly and never bogs down. Cassavetes seems uncomfortable in the role and their really isn't much on screen chemistry between he and Dickenson but Dickenson is delicious as the femme fatale and Marvin and Gulager, especially Gulager's smooth wit, are great as the hit team. Angie Dickenson was on hand at the screening for an audience Q&A following the film and it was great to see her. I liked this and would give this an 7.5 out of 10.
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9/10
Better than the original version!
Dewey196013 September 2008
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!!
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10/10
Killer Flick
qormi23 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Great, intelligent, fast-paced film. Clu Gulager and Lee Marvin are perfect as the cold blooded hit men. Gulager really conveys the sick sociopath well. Marvin is always in control, ice water in his veins and ready to snap. They mean business. Cassavetes, Dickinson,Ronald Reagan, and Akins all played their roles perfectly. Good racing sequences were thrown in featuring now - classic cars from the late fifties and early sixties. Sadistic and violent, many scenes in this film will catch you off guard. This was a top-notch crime thriller that I would strongly recommend to any film buff. Very rarely does incredible acting, impeccable pacing and editing, and great cinematography combine to make a rich, unforgettable film experience.
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6/10
Cast Is More Intriuging Than The Story
ccthemovieman-114 July 2006
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.
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7/10
The Killers strike again
jgcole4 February 2011
This 1964 remake of director Robert Siodmak's 1946 masterpiece again uses Ernest Hemingway's short story as the catalyst for a crime story: A man learns that there is a contract out on him. He is about to be killed but accepts it passively, not attempting to save his own life. The man in question is Johnny North. Johnny gets involved with a dangerous dame and lets her talk him into participating in a robbery. The robbery goes wrong, the money disappears, and all things point to Johnny as the culprit. But Johnny is consumed by guilt and betrayal and has lost the will to go on, the will to live. Like the original, much of the story is told in flashbacks but in this one it's from the killers point of view. Lee Marvin plays Charlie, one of the killers hired to do the hit on Johnny North (played by John Cassavetes) and Charlie wants to know why a man doesn't run, why he allows himself to be killed. He also wants to know what happened to the money from the heist. Johnny doesn't have it and the guy who hired him didn't ask him to find it. That's not right and Charlie sets out to find out what happened and where the money is.

This film is part of an impressive lineup of '60's crime and detective stories that came out after the end of the film noir period - Harper, Point Blank, Bullitt. This one was originally shot for television and was intended to be the first feature length made for TV movie. But director Don Siegel, who wanted the job in 1946, made a film that he had to know would never get past the censors. And, of course, it was rejected by NBC after completion because it was unsuitable for TV audiences. And the film looks like it was made for TV. The cinematography seems a bit uninspired with rather flat color and stark set designs and some really bad process shots. But while it visually lacks the moody film noir feel of the 1946 version, there is no lack of bad behavior, violence, misogyny, corruption and greed.

Marvin was great in this film and Clu Gulagar was the perfect psycho-killer sidekick to Marvin's understated thinking thugs' thug. Angie Dickinson plays Sheila Farr, the gun moll that Ava Gardner played in the 1946 original and is every bit the sociopath that Gardner's Kitty was and just as fatal. Angie was a very good looking girl and her star was on the rise in '64. They had her in a collection of sexy dresses that showed off a wonderful physique and of course she had that hair going. And in his last screen role (though he wasn't done acting), Ronald Reagan plays Jack Browning, the head of the criminal organization that pulls off the heist. Of course this went against type for Reagan who usually played sympathetic roles and, really, it is hard to picture Reagan as a criminal mastermind. Anyway, the affable Reagan was unsure about playing a bad guy. He later said it was a mistake for him to take the part and felt bad about the famous scene where he slaps Angie - hard! Angie also gets roughed up by Gulagar and Marvin in a scene in Sheila's hotel room and later said that she thought they were too enthusiastic and that Marvin actually scared her. She said she would never work with him again but relented a few years later when she played opposite him in Point Blank. She has a scene in that one where her character gets some free shots on Marvin and Angie hits him like she means it.

All in all it's a fun movie and definitely worth a view. If you've seen the 1946 version you'll find that while it pales in comparison, it is different enough to still be enjoyable. And if you haven't seen the original you'll find this an entertaining film. Either way it is an interesting look at the state of the television art c.1964 and just what wouldn't get past the censors.
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Effective little tough film that is made better by strong performances from Marvin and Cassavetes
bob the moo26 June 2003
When two hitmen kill Johnny North, it sticks with them why he simply stood ready to die and didn't bother trying to run or fight them. They look into his past and find he was once a successful driver of racing cars until an accident left him unable to compete in the big leagues again. They trace his story looking for money he is alleged to have stolen but find a complex tale of lies and deception.

I have not seen the original film so I was free from the burden of comparison when I watched this and I was maybe the better for it as I hear good things about the original. This version was made for television but given a cinema release due to it's violent content (which is really nothing by today's standards). The plot is interestingly told as we already know the fate of North, the only question is how he came to it and what happened to the $1,000,000 he supposedly made off with. It unfolds well and ends with a typically gritty denouncement.

The tone of the film loses the dark black & white of the noir genre in favour of bright daylight and colourful sets with a gritty violent edge to everything. This works well and it stands up today due to recent returns to this type of film thanks to Pulp Fiction's success (and many others of course). Like I said it isn't shocking as it may once have been but it works well as a tough little thriller.

Lee Marvin is perfectly cast and he carries the main part of the modern telling of the film. Likewise Cassavetes is really good as North and you can actually see him change his character from the brash driver to a broken man by the end. Dickinson is a good femme fatale and does it in such a way that she doesn't wear it on her sleeve or have a badge that says `I'm a femme fatale' in a way that some have done it – here you only get a sense of who she is towards the end of the film. Ronald Reagan is good in his last acting role before entering politics.

Overall this is an effective film. It lacks it's own sense of style but is tough and enjoyable and it's hard edge is still evident today even if the shock value of the violence has faded as the audience has become more and more used to seeing violence as a mainstay of cinema.
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10/10
win one for the Gipper
tsf-196222 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I'd give this movie an 11 if I could. I never thought it would be possible to improve on Robert Siodmak's 1946 classic "The Killers," but this 1964 classic from Don Siegel is that rare case of a remake that was better than the original. If it lacks the 1940s noir glamour of the original, it makes up for it with 1960s cool, rivalling other cult classics from the period--"Blood and Black Lace," "Casino Royale"-in capturing the swinging 60s ambiance. The original "Killers," made in 1946, was a brilliant distillation of the film noir ethos and the disillusionment of post-war America; the remake, in contrast, embodies the pervasive violence of American society that was one of the hallmarks of the 60s experience, along with the growing climate of conspiracy theories and paranoia. It's incredible that in 1963, the year of the Kennedy assassination, they would be filming a movie starring Ronald Reagan in which a man is shot by a high-powered rifle from a high-rise office building. Ironically, this film was released only two years before Ronald Reagan became the first of two actors to be elected governor of California as a Republican, and unlike a certain Teutonic knucklehead who shall remain nameless, the man could really act. He brings a natural air of authority and unspoken menace to every scene he has. Angie Dickinson is just as sexy as Ava Gardner and a better actress; John Cassavetes brings his usual neurotic edge to the role of the victim; and Lee Marvin, as always, is the intense, driven professional whose brain is always ten minutes ahead of his opponents. Clu Galager, as Marvin's geeky colleague, bears an unnerving resemblance to Detective Robert Goran (Vincent D'Onofrio) of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent." Together with such old pros as Claude Akins and Norman Fell the cast gives a master class in screen acting. If this movie had never been made, Martin Scorscese would have become a priest and Quentin Tarantino would still be a video store clerk. It's impossible to imagine what contemporary cinema would be like without its influence.
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7/10
Even if it is inferior to the 1946 film, it still has a lot of great benefits, especially the performance of Lee Marvin
TheLittleSongbird22 September 2015
Admittedly, the 1946 film is the better film, it is better-looking, more atmospheric and has more tension. However, in terms of tautness, excitement and the quality of the acting, it and this remake is about equal.

The Killers (1946) is mainly hindered by its production values, often looking like a hurriedly-made TV film, with less-than-slick photography (at times) and a drab look. The racing sequences look cheap too and are very clumsily staged. John Cassavetes , for my tastes, seemed uncomfortable in a role that didn't give him much to work with. Some of the script borders on the repetitious side too.

However, Siegel's authoritatve direction maintains the terseness, excitement and suspense that The Killers ought to have, clearly understanding that The Killers is the sort of film that should be taut. And that is exactly what the storytelling is like, it is never dull, tightly structured, tautly paced , doesn't feel confused and has real edge and some appropriately shocking violence without being too gratuitous. The last 15 minutes are incredibly well done. While the script has its flawed moments there is still a good deal of provoked thought and wit, and while it is nowhere near one of his best scores- it was a very early one after all, and he was yet to find his distinctive style that he is known for- John Williams' score complements well and has some good tension and energetic bombast.

Last but not leat the cast, while I was indifferent to Cassavetes the rest of the cast were to die for. Angie Dickinson does a great job playing against type, and while Ronald Reagan is not that highly thought of as an actor (he is more well-known for his politics) he is surprisingly good in a very bravely atypical villain role and is suitably larcenous in his last film role (some people may disagree but to me it's one of his better ones), one really does feel the sting of the slap in the slapping scene. Clu Gulager is very good and cool, but the standout, and the best thing about the film, is Lee Marvin, who brings a wonderful steely intensity to an 'anti-hero' sort of character.

In conclusion, could have been better but has a lot of great benefits. Marvin is the main reason to see it. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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7/10
All The Way
Bill Slocum10 September 2013
The nasty meet the unlucky, and everyone comes out a loser except the viewer in this, a nifty, hard-boiled pulp mystery directed by Don Siegel with nerves of steel and a heart of lead.

We open on a home for the blind where two men (Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager) stride in. Despite the dark Ray-Bans they sport we know they are not residents as they coldly harass a frightened receptionist and make a beeline to a classroom where sighted teacher Johnny North (John Cassavetes) gives motor instructions. North is soon a corpse and the killers $25,000 richer, but Charlie, the older killer, is left wondering why the guy didn't put up more of a struggle.

"I gotta find out what makes a man decide not to run," he tells Lee, his young partner (played by Gulager, which is confusing, since Lee is also the name of the actor playing Charlie.) "Why all of a sudden he'd rather die."

Lee just wants the million dollars that Johnny supposedly made off with but didn't have. But for Charlie, those last moments of Johnny North make him want to know more. This gives "The Killers" an existential frisson not far removed from its source material, an Ernest Hemingway short story, though the plot veers from that, more widely than a 1946 film of the same name which used the same story.

Both films are great in different ways. This one plays very well in its own particular space, set in the present-day early 1960s with a kind of "Rat Pack" vibe accentuated by the cool threads, the jazzy score by a young John Williams, and the sleek presence of Angie Dickinson as one killer femme fatale. You even have Norman Fell, who was in the real Rat Pack's "Ocean Eleven," playing a bad guy.

The chief bad guy is played by Ronald Reagan in his last film role. Reagan seems to know the kind of film he was in, a twisted dark comedy using his straight-backed image as one of its many jokes. Reagan gives as good as he gets, slapping Dickinson in one memorable scene. It's not just that he hits her, but the way he hits her, casually and with almost a smile on his face. The only Reagan performance that rivals this one for ruthlessness is the one Phil Hartman gave in that famous "Saturday Night Live" sketch after Iran-Contra broke. If you still haven't recovered from that pasting Walter Mondale got in 1984, you may want to see this film.

Reagan's good, but Marvin and Gulager are better, trading Tarantino banter like when Gulager's Lee teases Charlie about his drinking and not eating enough proteins. They are so brilliantly bad you mind when the film leaves them for extended periods to deliver one of its three extended flashback sequences, when we learn how Johnny was led astray.

I think the most interesting thing "The Killers" does is present Dickinson's Sheila Farr character in three different ways, depending on the subjective view of the teller. This might seem a flaw, except in one of the extras of the Criterion DVD Siegel suggested this was a deliberate strategy. In all three she's a user, but with varying amounts of heart and cunning. It leaves us a bit unprepared for the truth, which seems to take even Charlie for a loss. Not that he's pausing to make sense of it. "I'm sorry, lady, but I don't have the time," winds up being the first thing he says, and pretty much the last.

Does the plot Johnny gets involved in make sense, the way it is planned or the way it goes down? I don't think so. I'm not wild about Cassevettes' quirky performance, while cheap sets (a blue cyclotron substitutes for a racetrack background in one sequence) betray the cheap production values of this, what would have been the first TV movie ever except for the fact it wound up being too violent for Madison Avenue. No dog-food commercials for this sucker!

Yet even its time-anchored defects give "The Killers" a kind of momentous grandeur, like the garish color scheme in tune with Zapruder's famous movie from the same period. The clipped quality of the dialogue (by future "Star Trek" scribe Gene L. Coon) has a kind of majesty worthy of Hemingway.

"You're a winner, and I don't like losers," Sheila tells Johnny. "Little men who cry a lot."

"The Killers" may not be a classic, but it's still a winner worth your while.
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8/10
Easyer to follow than the original and with a killer main theme!
Danny-Rodriguez26 May 2006
What can I say about this one? This race driver is the best there is and one day he gets approached y a dame and he falls in love and gets distracted on the filed and crashes his car and becomes injured. he now can't race no more and has to do a bank robbery for the dame's husband. people are double crossed, people kiss and people are killed. and in the end you are not left with any questions.

i liked this one for it's soundtrack, acting and cinematography. the colors in this movie are so bright you'd think they were making a point NOT to be like the dark original. killer performance by Lee Marvin as always and a classic soundtrack makes this b-movie cult classic a worthy addition to your collection!
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7/10
Memory tricks me
Pamsanalyst8 November 2004
I saw this on the big screen during the sixties and particles of it stuck in the back of my mind. My all time favorite movie line: Marvin to Dickinson at the end as he is about to blow her away, "Lady, I don't have the time." The almost hynotic power of Marvin and Gulager when they are on screen, and Reagan as the CEO of this underworld plot. What a gritty, tough film. In his way, Siegel was the Curtiz of the 60s and 70s....every time churning out the best he could do with the material presented him.

Yet, there is about thirty minutes too much film here, and those extra minutes occur every time we flash back to race car driver Cassavetes, playing the Detour card to the hilt, except he leaves the narration to his friends. These scenes are like a Harpo solo in a Thirties comedy; they stop the film dead in its tracks. Thankfully friends run out of things to say, Marvin and Gulager find Reagan and Dickinson [did Curtis Hanson borrow the novel way of making her talk for LA Confidential?] and all accounts are settled.

Well worth watching.
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A great cast,super acting, and Lee Marvin, a must watch movie.
edlion4323 September 2011
I have seen this film many times,and I have never tired of it..considering it was made for TV, somehow the film got into the movies,the cast is top class.It was not even called the Killers in the USA.Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager are contract killers...who get curious about one of their hits,they are breaking the hitmans code ,but smell a big payoff...the cast is classy with the beautiful Angie Dickenson at the height of her powers, throw in Ronald Reagan as the top crook with the superb John Cassavetes as the fall guy and the sparks fly.Clu Gulager was a great actor and in this film plays a very believable second string to Lee Marvins relentless and merciless killer.Throw in some great car scenes,and a cool ending,and you have a very enjoyable movie,with sub themes of greed, betrayal,and unrequited love.All in all a classic,very watchable,and you cant say that about many 1960s made for TV movies ..Super film.
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Pulp Fiction.
chaos-rampant24 March 2010
The pleasure I take from this movie is strange. It's not as though, by completing The Killers, Don Siegel had served out and discharged his apprenticeship to film noir because he would return to it for inspiration in Charley Varrick, but as though by being allowed to direct not just a film noir made for TV starring frontpage names like Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson and John Cassavetes but a film noir violent enough to never be shown on it and which in time received its own theatrical run, that he was permitted to cross some sort of Golgotha, which meant that by using the inverse process, by leaving out all those elements that made a dead serious noir a mostly campy affair, he could descend the opposite slope freewheeling. Now he was ready to make Charley Varrick because he had disaster to draw from.

For a strange reason, however, I get much pleasure from The Killers exactly because it's campy. I love the audacity of Don Siegel to superimpose John Cassavetes making-believe to drive a cart over real footage of Angie Dickinson actually driving one. It's like some sort of cosmic joker, foiled twice in playing a joke that wooshed over peoples' heads, now resorts to carnival sideshow barking. For some strange reason I even like the stilted dialogue and wooden delivery - this is not a slice of life, it's all scripted and acted out for make believe and you can see where the cartoonist's pen dotted the page with ink. Everything comes together in a pulpy comic strip way; the look is oversaturated TV, all the whites pushed up so that everything looks bright and vivid. It's not exactly suspenseful because what happens is given away in the first few minutes and we spend the rest of the film asking the reason, the incomprehensible vindictive motive, and it's not exactly filled with alarm or even rage even though it' violent enough for its time, but with rather a warm sense of comfort. The bad guys are slimy, the femme fatale has enough of both femme and fatale in her, the good guy is the hapless schmuck caught in the web; Lee Marvin and his sidekick kind of hover above everything else, beating people and being cool in nice suits and shades. Lee Marvin wonders why the guy they were paid to kill didn't run to save his life; why the fatalism? At some point the answer comes to him but it's out of thin air, almost presented to him so that the movie can proceed with the pulp; so that feels scripted too and it makes sense. Lee Marvin wouldn't trouble himself with any such thing. He has the 25 grand to buy the nice suits and cool shades.

The Killers is all forward motion, even when it moves backwards in flashbacks and rolls down on floors with Angie Dickinson or takes time out to drive racing cars, rocking heavily as it does. In the end the movie dukes it out with itself inside a house in the suburbs, and out comes Lee Marvin staggering with a briefcase full of money on the frontlawn. It's great the way he does and he did it again in Point Blank but that was a different kind of movie. This is pure pulp fiction.
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Well-done low-budget version of classic story
chuck-reilly25 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Hemingway's story "The Killers," previously filmed in 1946, is given the ultimate "B" Movie treatment deluxe by veteran director Don Siegel. Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager are two hired hit men who complete their assignment with ease but are taken aback by their victim's "attitude." Their "hit" (John Cassavettes) stoically excepts his fate and goes down without so much as a whimper. Marvin and Culager sense another story beyond this easy job and start to dig away. They soon find out that old John's been double-crossed by others and that there's a lot more money involved than their paltry pay for his murder.

After doing some snooping and high-pressure interrogating, Marvin and Gulager figure out that they've been "taken for a ride" by none other than Ronald Reagan and his two-timing accomplice, Angie Dickinson. Reagan, effectively playing a rotten apple for the only time in his career, slaps poor Ms. Dickinson silly in one scene. Later, he blows away an unsuspecting Clu Gulager with a high-powered rifle. Obviously, Ronnie is up to no good and no wonder he didn't care to discuss his "last film" very often. Marvin, playing the cool killer for all it's worth, gets to avenge his partner in the end. It's all done with the compact and terse style that made director Siegel an icon in the business.

"The Killers" was actually going to be the first ever Made-for-TV Movie, but it never made it to the small screen. Instead, its violent subject matter and graphic depictions relegated it to a short-lived and unprofitable studio release. However, as the years have passed, its cult status has grown significantly and it's now almost hailed as a mini-classic. I wouldn't go that far, but it certainly is highly entertaining. And where else can you watch Ronald Reagan acting like a cold-blooded murderer?
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10/10
Interest fact re Ronald Reagan
filmcomposer77731 October 2005
This was Reagan's last movie....In the closing scene, you will recognize the Universal Studios back-lot, if you've ever taken the tour.

Interestingly, from a musical perspective, Nancy Wilson does a fine job interpreting a Henry Mancini original "live" on film in a club...Music by "Johnny" Williams (of course, 'John' Williams) of later "Star Wars" and other great film scores. This film was shot during his "jazz" days. Williams is a fabulous jazz pianist, a fact that many fans are not aware of. Angie Dickinson and John Cassavettes appear in other Lee Marvin films, (Dickinson-"Point Blank" and Cassavettes-"The Dirty Dozen"). The music of this era of 'film-noir' is always dark, jazzy, and intriguing. Check out the music of "M-Squad" (Stanley Wilson), a late 50's, early 60's cop thriller also starring Lee Marvin.
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8/10
A "film noir" that actually happens in broad daylight...
keihan16 February 2000
One of the most overlooked aspects of the 1964 version of "The Killers" is that most of the action takes place during the day. Let me say that again; MOST OF THE ACTION TAKES PLACE DURING THE DAY. From the opening contract killing at the school of the blind to the final reckoning, Marvin and Kluglar guide us through a seedy underworld that doesn't adhere to film noir's time-honored tradition that the nastiness takes place in the shadows. Yet, thanks in no small part to the original Ernest Hemingway story that this and a previous version in 1946 was based on, it is still undeniably rock solid, excellent film noir in terms of storyline and characters. There's absolutely nobody (with the sole exception of the guy who started the whole sequence of events, Johnny North) worth sympathizing with, least of the contract killing protagonists, but you don't need morally redeemable characters to tell a good story.

My only previous experience with Lee Marvin was "The Dirty Dozen", but it only gave me a rough idea of what to expect here: a quietly menacing triggerman with a voice that snaps it's commands out like the crack of a whip. Ronald Reagan is actually not all that bad himself as a mail-robber-turned-crooked businessman. How little did audiences know that in the next two decades he would go on to reprise this role as governor of California and President of the United States. I very much doubt anyone who saw this before then would have been suprised by what he did later. The rest of the cast didn't make that much of an impression on me; they seemed completely interchangable.

Don Siegel's direction isn't the greatest he's ever done ("Dirty Harry" perhaps has that distinction), but it does it's job nice and clean. The soundtrack, particularly the opening jazz riffs, carries a nice undertone of menace that's matched by the film's subject, a good contrast to the cheery surroundings so much of the drama takes place in. All in all, an unjustly snubbed film noir minus the noir. Don't miss it.
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