Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Killers

These are very general remarks; Starbucks, Hell’s Kitchen, 49th and 9th, May 2014.

1. All promo material screams ERNEST HEMINGWAY'S THE KILLERS - but that story only provides enough meat for about ten minutes worth of movie (it is rendered very faithfully here). Here's the problem: The Killers is one of Hemingway's Nick Adams stories. It is meant to be a chapter in the overall development of Nick Adams into a mature adult. In the film you no way, no how get this impression at all. Nick Adams is there, he serves a function (he runs to the Swede to warn him about the killers, thus giving us the opportunity to see the depth of the Swede's apathy), but, like the rest of the original source, he's gone almost instantly. The screenwriters are therefore forced to take the picture into areas that Hemingway never had any desire to investigate. As Gary Fishgall wrote in his biography of Burt Lancaster: "Screenwriter Anthony Veiller and his unbilled collaborator, director-screenwriter John Huston (who was still in the Army and technically unable to take film assignments), effectively turned "The Killers" into the basis for a film noir classic." Hemingway was one of the few authors who has ever had movie star type name recognition - everyone else connected with the picture was essentially a no name with the general public from Lancaster to Gardner to Siodmak to Hellinger. Thus it was absolutely necessary to have his name there in a big way.

2. It can be argued that Edmond O'Brien is really the star of the picture. At the very least, in a perfect world, he would get equal top billing. And doesn't the opening scene make you want to run out and buy some DVDs of a certain Quinn Martin production?

3. The Prentiss Hat Company robbery scene is absolute knockout bravura filmmaking - it alone is worth the price of admission.

The long, unedited tracking shot of the Prentiss Hat Company robbery scene is awesome filmmaking. The serious student will want to analyze and compare it with the long shot that opens Robert Altman's The Player and the one in the middle of David Fincher's Panic Room.

About The Film: Fishgall's bio of Burt Lancaster; Server's bio of Ava Gardner; The Mark Hellinger Story; bios, and the autobio, of John Huston; and, obviously, Hemingway's story. For Comparison: check out another film by Siodmak, The Rough and the Smooth, for some perspective.

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