Film Highlight: The Killers

Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner star in the noir classic, The Killers
courtesy of Universal Studios
Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner star in the noir classic, The Killers


Heights Theatre, Monday at 9:15 p.m.

This 1946 adaptation of a Hemingway story, which one film critic dubbed the "Citizen Kane of noirs," is indeed a deft example of Hollywood studio tradition cast with a pall of brooding German Expressionism (director Robert Siodmak began and ended his movie career in Germany). Like Kane, it begins with a death—the murder of the Swede, a small-town gas station attendant (Burt Lancaster, looking hot in a career-launching role)—and then unfolds the increasingly complex "double-cross to end all double-crosses" that led up to it. Basically, the Swede's $2,500 life insurance payment leads one Jim Reardon (Edmond O'Brien) to uncover the details of a $250,000 caper years earlier. Yes, words like "caper" and "sing" are used freely here; there are also boxing matches, poker games, boarding houses, and small-time cons named Blinky and Dum-Dum. The big-time con Big Jim Colfax asks for a cigarette with his dying breath, and his dame Kitty (Ava Gardner) croons an impromptu, piano-side torch song—making smitten that lovable lug, the Swede. Such elements have long since been chewed into mealy clichés, but in The Killers they're evergreen. (Part of a Burt Lancaster double feature with Criss Cross.)


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