Thursday, January 30, 2014
Back in the gangster-glutted Twenties, Ernest Hemingway wrote a morbid tale about two gunmen waiting in a lunchroom for a man they were hired to kill. And while they relentlessly waited, the victim lay sweating in his room, knowing the gunmen were after him but too weary and resigned to move. That's all the story told you—that a man was going to be killed. What for was deliberately unstated. Quite a fearful and fatalistic tale.
In the film called "The Killers," which was the title of the Hemingway piece, they are filling out the plot. That is, they are cleverly explaining, through a flashback reconstruction of the life of that man who lay sweating in his bedroom, why the gunmen were after him. And although it may not be precisely what Hemingway had in mind, it makes a taut and absorbing explanation.
They have concocted a pretty cruel and complicated plot in which a youthful but broken-down prize-fighter treds a perilous path to ruin. Mobsters and big-time stick-up workers get a hold on him, and a siren of no mean proportions completely befouls his career. In the end, we perceive that the poor fellow—who is bumped off in the first reel, by the way—was the victim of love misdirected and a beautiful double-cross.
The actor playing that poor prize fighter is none other than Burt Lancaster, making his screen debut, along with Ava Gardner playing the sultry femme fatale that crosses him up. This is the film that catapulted them both to stardom.
Produced by Mark Hellinger, The Killers earned four Academy Award nominations, including Directing (Robert Siodmak), Film Editing (Arthur Hilton), Music - Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Miklos Rozsa) and Writing - Screenplay (Veiller).
It isn't my favorite film noir but I enjoyed it and think its worth watching if you haven't seen it yet. If for no other reason that to see Burt and Ava sizzle on screen.