This Arrow Blu-ray is £20 on amazon at the moment.
This was made for TV in 1964, but ended up in cinemas because it was too violent. It’s a remake of a 1946 film noir based on a Hemingway short story.
Two hitmen kill a man named Johnny North. The older killer is bothered by the victim’s passivity. There’s also a rumour he was involved in a million-dollar heist, with the money still missing. So the two hitmen start visiting Johnny’s associates, trying to track the money down. They uncover an ugly story of double-cross, with the inevitable femme fatale at the centre of it.
The killers are played by Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager. Marvin is still and steely; Gulager twitchy and sadistic.
The victim is played by the reptilian John Cassavetes, an actor who always feels like he deserves to get gutshot by hitmen. The woman is Angie Dickinson. I like her in other films but I don’t find her nearly as compelling here was everyone else seems to. Her performance is a bit too realistic; a femme fatale needs to be unreachably glamorous. She’s the kept woman of a mobster played by a rather miscast Ronald Reagan. This was the Gipper’s last acting job before he went into politics. Sadly he’s a bit seems too nice; even when he slaps Dickinson there’s never really any sense of danger.
Don Siegel, the director, keeps things moving pretty well. But the film is often very slow, and the plots twists are a bit obvious. There are great moments, and Marvin and Gulager are impressively scary. The ending is fantastic, if a little predictable. But it’s not quite the iconic thriller it wants to be. The 18 rating seems over-the-top.
The blu-ray image looks pretty good. There are a few scratches, but the colours are vibrant and the level of detail good. There are two aspect ratios to choose from, the original TV ratio and the widescreen used for the theatrical release. I thought the TV one looked better.
There are three extras. There’s a 30-minute piece about Marvin, a 20-minute piece about Regan and a 10-minute interview with Siegel from an old French TV show. The Marvin and (especially) Reagan ones are really good – they’re basically both filmed interviews with people who have written biographies about their subjects. There’s also a chunky booklet with various interviews and reviews.
This is a great release of the film, and shows how far Arrow have come in only a couple of years – gone are the sniggering fanboy documentaries and dreadful cover art, and the films they release range from the hilariously lowbrow (Hell Comes to Frogtown, of all things) to the highest of the high (Bicycle Thieves, of all things). Whether The Killers quite warrants this level of care and attention is open to debate, but if you’re a fan of the film, this is a required purchase.