The Killers

D: Robert Siodmak
Universal (Mark Hellinger)
US 1946
102 mins


W: Anthony Veiller & John Huston [based on the story by Ernest Hemingway]
DP: Elwood Bredell
Ed: Arthur Hilton
Mus: Miklos Rozsa

Burt Lancaster (Swede), Ava Gardner (Kitty Collins), Edmond O'Brien (Jim Reardon), Albert Dekker (Big Jim Colfax), Sam Levane (Lt. Sam Lubinsky), Virginia Christine (Lilly Lubinsky)

The Killers is a masterpiece of the film noir genre, beginning with a nerve-shredding scene before unveiling the mystery behind the motive.
The opening scene features two menacing, heavy-set gangsters entering a diner where they plan to undertake a contract killing on a man, known to the locals as Swede. After pressing one of the customers for information, they visit a nearby hotel to carry out the assassination.
What follows is a startling piece of originality. The murder is investigated  not by a police detective, but by an insurance man. It is revealed (via flashback) that 'Swede' was a young boxer who becomes involved in the world of organised crime, overseen by kingpin Big Jim Colfax.
Robert Siodmak's moody direction keeps the non-linear narrative gripping, while the performances of the cast are all very good, especially from Burt Lancaster, in one of his earlier roles, and Ava Gardner, in one of her best ever performances as the film's femme fatale. Miklos Rozsa's atmospheric score has since become quite iconic, especially after being used in the TV series Dragnet.

Ava Gardner & Burt Lancaster in The Killers
Ava Gardner & Burt Lancaster in The Killers