The Killers (1964) Review

KILLERS 1

The first interesting thing about The Killers is that it was promoted as the first ever TV Movie, but because of the violence and similarities to the Kennedy assassination at the time it was instead shown theatrically. It was also intended to be shown theatrically elsewhere in the world anyway.

“I gotta find out what makes a man decide not to run. Why all of a sudden he’d rather die.”

So muses hitman Charlie (Lee Marvin) after his high-priced victim Johnny North (John Cassavetes) gives in without a fight. Obsessed with the answer, Charlie and his hot-headed associate Lee (Clu Gulager) track down Johnny’s associates, and uncover a complex web of crime and deceit involving his femme fatale girlfriend Sheila (Angie Dickinson) and ruthless mob boss Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan).

A great cast The Killers is one cool 60’s movie, Lee Marvin oozes charisma and he certainly commands the screen, Clu Gulager is amusing as his hitman sidekick and Angie Dickinson is sexy and deadly as the femme fatale of the piece. It is also amusing to see Ex American president Ronald Reagan as a mob boss in his last screen role.

Arrow Acadamy have given you two choices of how to watch the film, either its full frame television ratio or in a widescreen theatrical version. Both look good. Colours are vibrant, blacks are strong although it does look a little rough in a couple of places, this iis probably due to the original elements rather than anything Arrow have done. Sound is strong and robust original mono, nothing wrong here everything clear as a bell as it should be.

Extras are firstly an interview with the author of “Lee Marvin: Point Blank” Dwayne Epstein (30:44). This is a very interesting and in depth interview with someone who knows the actors life very well. Lots of interesting anecdotes one of which states that if you watch Clu Gulager in the scenes he is in, he is always doing something, such as fiddling with a toy car or messing with his sunglasses, just so the attention is thrown way from the main star. It doesnt work, even when Lee Marvin is just standing on screen you are immediately drawn to him. The next extra is the “Reagan Kills: Marc Eliot on Ronald Reagan” (20:43). Eliot is the author of the book “Reagan: The Hollywood Years” and again goes into great detail about the actor and his work and his politics. Finally we have an interview with the great director Don Siegel made for French TV, with burnt in French subtitles, this is another fascinating extra in which the director talks about his work and associated subjects. The final extra on the release though is 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.

A great, violent for its time, crime drama which stands the test of time well. A good transfer and extras from Arrow make this release recommended.

FILM: 7 PICTURE: 8 SOUND: 7 EXTRAS: 7