The Killers (1946) (NTSC)

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Released 4-Mar-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Film Noir None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1946
Running Time 102:30
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Robert Siodmak

Shock Entertainment
Starring Burt Lancaster
Ava Gardner
Edmond O'Brien
Albert Dekker
Sam Levene
Vince Barnett
Virginia Christine
Charles D. Brown
Jack Lambert
Donald MacBride
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Miklós Rózsa

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, constantly!! It is a 1946 film after all
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Two men arrive in a small town just after dark and enter a diner to ask about a man they call the Swede who works at the petrol station across the road. They are there to kill the Swede but he does not come into the diner that night so the men leave to find him. A man from the diner runs to warn the Swede (Burt Lancaster) but he refuses to save himself and seems resigned to his fate. Later that night he is shot and killed.

     The fuel company which employed the Swede had taken out life insurance policies for all staff. Insurance investigator Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) becomes fascinated by the Swede’s murder and, against the wishes of his boss, decides to delve further. Reardon’s investigation leads him, via police lieutenant Sam Lubinsky (Sam Leven) and small time crook Charleston (Vincent Barnett), to uncover a story of robbery, betrayal, double crosses and missing money involving the criminal Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker) and the beautiful Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner), a trail of deceit that puts Reardon’s own life at risk.

     The full title of The Killers is Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers as it is based upon a short story by Hemingway. Hemingway’s story concludes with the killing itself, the “backstory” in this film being the work of screenwriter Anthony Veiller with (uncredited) assistance from John Huston and Richard Brooks. The short story was again used for the 1964 version of The Killers which was directed by Don Siegel and starred Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson, however that film ditched the insurance angle and had the killers themselves investigating their victim’s past. There has also been a TV adaptation and I think three other short films of the Hemingway story, including a 1956 student film by Andrei Tarkovsky.

     The pedigree of the 1946 version of The Killers is impressive. It was nominated for four Oscars (Director, Screenplay, Film Editing, Music) but lost out in all categories to William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives. This was director Robert Siodmak’s only Oscar nomination, although composer Miklos Rozsa I think was nominated 17 times, winning three for Spellbound (1945), A Double Life (1948) and Ben-Hur (1959). The Killers also launched the career of Burt Lancaster. This was his first screen role and his charisma is palatable and it is no surprise he went on to have a stellar career, with 88 credits listed in the IMDb including his Oscar winning performance for Elmer Gantry (1960). Ava Gardner had been in a number of films before The Killers and she is also superb; she is cold, calculating and beautiful as the femme fatale around which the Swede’s tale revolves.

     While it is not as well-known as, say Double Indemnity, The Killers is quintessential film-noir and is ranked 20th on the film-noir rankings on the IMDb. It features superb black and white photography and the use of light and shadows by cinematographer Elwood Bredell, a convoluted and gradually unfolding plot, a dark female, the trusting dupe, betrayals, crosses and doublecrosses and a violent resolution. Add a rather strident score, part of which was used for the TV series Dragnet, and a fine cast and in The Killers one gets a hugely entertaining viewing experience that has not dated.

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Transfer Quality


     The Killers is an NTSC coded release in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced. The original theatrical ratio was 1.37:1.

     For a film almost 70 years old, this looks pretty good. It is a good sharp print (for its age), blacks are great and the shadow detail quite wonderful which is a definite asset in a film so dependent upon light and shadows for its impact. There are some small dirt marks, both positive and negative, the occasional vertical scratch and I saw one reel change marker but MPEG and interlacing artefacts and jumping frames were absent. The grain was appropriate and pleasing.

     There are no subtitles.

     The layer change at 51:52 created a slight pause in the middle of a scene.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono at 192 Kbps. Dialogue is clean while the music and effects such as gunshots are as flat as might be expected. However, there was no evidence of hiss or crackle so the audio is pretty good. There is, of course, no surround or subwoofer activity.

     The orchestral score by Miklos Rozsa to me feels rather strident but suits the film.

     Lip synchronization is occasionally off.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This Australian NTSC release is “all region” coded. The best package available would have to be the Region 0 US Criterion package that includes both the 1946 and 1964 versions of the film and copious extras including the 1956 Andrei Tarkovsky short film. There is also a Region 2 French PAL boxset that includes four Siodmak films including The Killers and numerous extras, although the extras are not English friendly. However, if you are only interested in The Killers there is nothing wrong with the local release.


     The Killers is essential film-noir. It features superb black and white photography, a convoluted plot, a beautiful femme fatale, a trusting dupe, betrayals, doublecrosses, a rather strident score and a fine cast. Made almost 70 years ago, The Killers remains superb entertainment.

     The audio and video are good for an almost 70 year old film. There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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