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"The Killers" (1946) vs. "The Killers" (1964)


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I've never seen the 64 version, so can't really comment on a comparison, but watched the 46 version last night on TCM and OMG, it rocked!!! Great atmosphere, mystery, femme fatale and performances all around. The leads, Burt and Ava, were great, of course, but I also thought it was a tour de force by Edmond O'Brien (one of my faves!), and the tough dudes, Charlie "tough as nails" McGraw and William "Cannon" Conrad! I thought this was one of Sam Levene's best roles! And Albert Dekker is an old fave! Also loved Jack Lambert! Great stuff!

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The earlier version, a terrific example of the genre, is better in every way. But the remake is impressive in its own right. It's intense, flinty, well edited. Looks like one of those made for TV things that make you say, "Wow! This is way better than most of that junk!" Reagan is not bad (he was never great). Same for Dickinson. But it's director Siegel's vehicle. A filmmaker who knows how to tell an exciting story, he seems to be gearing up for the police dramas that would come a few years later. If anything, this one is better.

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I think you make a good point, redriver. There's no doubt the 1964 version must have been incredibly superior to most of the stuff that was shown on TV at that time. I don't think I've seen many of the made-for-TV movies of the era to really be able to compare it to anything directly, but I am confident that Don Siegel's talent was always above-average, whether working on a theatrical release or even something originally intended to be shown on TV.

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I watched the '46 version recently. I wasn't looking at it as a Lancaster or Gardner film but as a Mark Hellinger production. I guess I got spoiled watching his far more superior effort, THE NAKED CITY. This film does not seem as gritty or real to me as the other. It seems too slick, too polished and I keep remembering I am watching Hollywood filmmaking. With City, because of its semi-documentary style, I feel like I am actually watching an investigation occur in real life. I also had problems with the thugs at the beginning of THE KILLERS. They spoke perfect English. I didn't buy them. Their phrases should've been clipped, more elliptical in nature, and they should have used improper syntax and made grammatical errors in their speech. Finally, the overdone nature of the flashback device drove me to drink.

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I think I'm sort of the opposite. I prefer my noir rather stylized, rather than docu-drama style (though I enjoy those, too). I'd take Larceny over Pitfall any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.

 

The Killers was one of the very first ones I watched, so maybe that is why I still have a big soft spot for it in my heart - and it also doesn't hurt that I'm a fan of Burt and Ava.

 

This is also one of the few noirs that keeps me engrossed with multiple viewings, because so far I still can't remember the exact sequence of all flashbacks, so even though I know what is going to happen, generally, it still keeps me guessing as to what happens next, at least in terms of the order of the flashbacks.

 

By the way, I should add that when it was shown at last year's Noir City festival, Universal provided a brand-new print of the restored version. Apparently that restoration is not yet available on DVD.

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I think what I REALLY disliked about the flashbacks in this film is that I felt it was a big rip-off of CITIZEN KANE. You know, where someone goes around and asks all sorts of questions about the dead guy. And we see the guy die in the beginning, just like in Kane.

 

The difference is that the deceased is not a big media figure but a small-town guy. Other than that, it is very much the same in terms of plot construction and use of flashbacks to answer questions about the guy's past.

 

I think a noir like D.O.A. is much more original, and its use of flashbacks seems more imminent because the guy hasn't died yet.

 

I just didn't find enough about THE KILLERS to be considered highly original. And it had very little to do with Hemingway's short story. There was one quick boxing sequence, that's it. Thumbs down.

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One minor irritating note about the original version of The Killers is the unprofessional

conduct of the two killers in wiping out the Swede. The true pro hit man should do things

in a discreet, private way. Get in, get the job done, get out. These two guys are

just the opposite. Why don't they just take out a quarter-page ad in the Brentwood Bugle

complete with their pictures: Hi, we're in town to kill the Swede and we need plenty of

witnesses who can identify us. If you don't see us, here's what we look like. Yes, their

dog and pony show at the diner is better for dramatic purposes, but as to verisimilitude,

it leaves much to be desired. Though in this specific case it would anachronistic, the motto

of the true pro torpedo should be WWUD, What Would Udo Do. That would keep them

on a firm footing. Thank goodness these two knuckleheads were killed at the end of

the movie, preventing them from further contaminating the hit man gene pool.

 

Perhaps their initial ineptitude is explained by too much formal education and not enough

hands on experience. I would rank Naked City and The Killers very similarly as

entertainment, though they represent different places on the noir continuum. Big Jim

may have more brains than your average crook and hang in better places, but there's plenty

of dumpy locales in the movie. The room where they meet to plan the heist, Swede's

boarding house room, the Atlantic City motel where he and Kitty Kat might have spent

a few nights of unwedded bliss, they were all pretty low-rent.

 

I saw the 1964 version many years ago and don't remember much about it, except it did have

a rather low-budget look, which makes sense, considering it was originally meant for TV. It

was also Ronald Reagan's last film and he atypically played a bad guy. Okay boys, things look

bad, so let's go out there and whack one for the Gipper.

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> {quote:title=sineaste wrote:}{quote}

> One minor irritating note about the original version of The Killers is the unprofessional conduct of the two killers in wiping out the Swede. The true pro hit man should do things in a discreet, private way. Get in, get the job done, get out. These two guys are just the opposite. Why don't they just take out a quarter-page ad in the Brentwood Bugle complete with their pictures: Hi, we're in town to kill the Swede and we need plenty of witnesses who can identify us. If you don't see us, here's what we look like.

 

I always thought it was just a scene designed to show us their overconfidence. But I could be wrong.

 

> I saw the 1964 version many years ago and don't remember much about it, except it did have a rather low-budget look, which makes sense, considering it was originally meant for TV.

 

That's a big part of why I've never been a big fan of it. The look of most made-for-TV movies really annoys me.

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> {quote:title=HollywoodGolightly wrote:}{quote}

 

 

> I always thought it was just a scene designed to show us their overconfidence. But I could be wrong.

 

I suppose everybody will see it according to their own light, and there really is no right or wrong.

Just as a dramatic and pictorial device, the diner scene works very well, and I'd never want to

give up the bright boys back and forth. That's priceless. But it's rare that the hit men are so

upfront about their job. It's one of those things you don't notice that much the first time you

see the picture, but after multiple viewings, it's a bit of a Huh moment, though that doesn't

detract from enjoying the movie.

 

 

 

> That's a big part of why I've never been a big fan of it. The look of most made-for-TV movies really annoys me.

 

I agree. I'd just be interested in seeing it again because I remember very little of it, and to compare

it with the original. And maybe an Ava vs. Angie girlcheck. Mmmeooowwwww.

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> {quote:title=sineaste wrote:}{quote}

> And maybe an Ava vs. Angie girlcheck. Mmmeooowwwww.

 

Oh, I'm sure some fans could write whole essays on that one alone. ;)

 

The hit men at the beginning of the original do seem to act like they don't care, like they're above the law. I think it makes for a great beginning, and I'm almost certain moviegoers back in the 40s weren't going to think too much about it afterward. I can certainly rationalize it by thinking that the police in that town didn't seem to react very quickly after the shootout that kills the Swede. At least I don't remember them showing up at the scene or anything.

 

Maybe I'll watch the movie again. :D

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And any essay should include photos to illustrate the points being made. Can't remember

if Angie was a blonde in this one. That would makes things more interesting. Hiisssss.

 

Maybe one reason they're confident is because they're from the big city and they feel

invulnerable in this little out of the way hick town, and maybe they're right. I like this

movie, but it's hard to watch a **** like Swede time after time. Oh well.

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> {quote:title=sineaste wrote:}{quote}

> And any essay should include photos to illustrate the points being made. Can't remember

> if Angie was a blonde in this one. That would makes things more interesting. Hiisssss.

 

I seem to remember she was. Maybe I'll get the DVD and make some screencaps, later on.

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