Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 28th, 2014
BluRay released: February 24th, 2014
Approximate running times: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH
BluRay Release: Arrow Academy
Region Coding: Region B
Retail Price: £24.99
Synopsis: When the man they are sent to kill does not act surprised to see them. Two contract killers decide to dig deeper into his back-story in hope of finding out why he didn’t try to fight for his life.
The Killers (1964) is a remake of Robert Siodmak’s 1946 film of the same name. This remake was originally conceived as a T.V. movie of the week and when no network picked it up. The film was then given a theatrical release. Though both versions of The Killers credit Ernest Hemingway’s novel of the same name as its source, their plots are anything close to being mirror images of each other.
The Killers (1964) was directed by Don Siegel whose most notable films as a director include Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Hell is For Heroes and Dirty Harry. The score for The Killers (1964) was composed by John Williams whose more notable film scores include Jaws and Star Wars. It should be noted that this film features music at the beginning and end of the film that was not composed by John Williams, this music was taken from Henry Mancini’s score for Touch of Evil.
Though shot in color this film has all the ingredients that one would want and except from a Film noir. Brutal hit man, femme fatale and numerous double crosses. The film opens strong with a scene where hit men kill a man who appears to be happy they knocked him. This is an explosive opening that firmly sets the tone for what is yet to come. After this moment the bulk of the film is then told via flashbacks which fill in who everyone is and what their motivations are? And from there the film does a superb job building tension as each new clue brings the two hit men closer to the answers they seek.
For a film that was originally shot for television there is surprisingly a tremendous amount of visual style throughout. Structurally things move along quickly that is until the film gets to the obligatory love story, which ends bogging down the bulk of the middle act. Thankfully things get back on track by the finale act which features one of the most thrilling endings to ever appear in a crime thriller. Let’s just say that when the bullets start to fly the body counts rapidly rises.
My two favorite moments in this film both feature Lee Marvin. The first is a scene where hangs Angie Dickinson’s (Dressed to Kill) character out of the window, only to pull her back in and make her feel even more claustrophobic. The other is this film finale.
Performance wise this film has a strong cast who are all good in their respective roles. The paring of Lee Marvin (Point Blank) and Clu Gulager (The Return of the Living Dead) in roles of the two hit men that are looking into their latest job, was inspired casting. They have an undeniable chemistry and the scenes with them menacing the rest of the cast are a joy to watch. Another performance of note is Ronald Reagan is his one and only heavy role. And though not known for giving the strongest of performances, he actually delivers what is arguably his best performance of his career.
Ultimately The Killers (1964) is not your atypical remake, it is a first rate crime thriller that stands firmly on its own.
For this release Arrow Academy presents this film in two aspect ratios. The film was originally shot as a T.V. movie, which corresponds with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio which was the standard for television at that time. Though shot for T.V. the film was given a last minute theatrical run and thus it was shown in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The two version of this film are presented on a dual layer Blu-Ray (46.1 GB). Quality wise both transfer are in great shape as colors and flesh tones look accurate, details look sharp ad there are no issues with compression. Of course when compared to Criterion’s now eleven year old transfer, the transfers included here are an upgrade and then some.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM Mono English and also included with this release are English SDH subtitles. The audio sound clean, clear and balanced throughout. Dialog always comes through clearly and the film’s score sounds appropriately robust. Range wise things are rather limited, but that is to be expected considered the mono limitations of the soundtrack.
Extras include an image gallery and three featurette’s, the first one titled ‘Screen Killer: Dwayne Epstein on Lee Marvin’ (30 minutes 45 seconds – anamorphic widescreen), the second one titled ‘Reagan Kills: Marc Eliot on Ronald Reagan’ (20 minutes 45 seconds – anamorphic widescreen) and third one titled ‘Don Siegel interview (1984)’ (10 minutes 36 seconds – 4:3 full frame).
The first two featurette’s are with biographers who know their subjects inside out. Not only do they go in-depth about other projects that each actor worked on over the course of their career. They also have plenty to say about both actors participation in The Killers, including many on set moments that give an insightful and detailed look into the making of the film. The third featurette is basically a vintage interview with Don Siegel who discusses a wide range of topics about his career. This is superb interview where Siegel does not hold back with his brutally honest answers.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art and a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mike Sutton, extracts from Don Siegel’s autobiography and contemporary reviews, illustrated with original lobby cards. Overall The Killers get an exceptional release from Arrow Academy.