The Killers (1946)

the killers poster 1946 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Decent mystery thriller

Typical mystery

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Killers

Studio:  Mark Hellinger Productions

Genre(s):  Mystery/Suspense/Drama

Release Date(s):  August 28, 1946  (Premiere)/August 30, 1946 (US)

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

the killers 1946 ava gardner burt lancaster

Why does everyone think I’m a bad girl?

The death of a boxer named Ole “Swede” Anderson (Burt Lancaster) in Brentwood, New Jersey has insurance agent Jim Reardon (Edmond O’Brien) investigating an unusual payout to a random woman who only met the victim once.  As Reardon dives deeper into the case with an officer named Sam Lubinsky (Sam Levene) who knew the Swede, he discovers a story of a crime, a woman named Kitty (Ava Gardner), and a large amount of stolen money.  Reardon is on the case, and getting closer and closer to the criminals…but they are getting closer to him as well.

Directed by Robert Siodmak, The Killers is a noir thriller.  The film is based on the Ernest Hemingway short story “The Killers” from Scribner’s Magazine (March 1927).  The film was well received with Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Musical Score and was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2008.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered edition of the movie (Criterion #176) which paired the movie with the 1964 adaptation.

the killer insurance agent jim reardon edmond obrien

Wow…the insurance agents at Progressive have nothing on this guy…he’s committed

The Killers is up my alley.  It is noir thriller and has all the pulpy goodness…and the weird tone of a narrator that feels rather uninvolved.  The Killers is a decent mystery thriller, but it isn’t entirely original.

The movie is set-up in an almost Citizen Kane way.  It starts with the mysterious murder, and then fleshes out the story by having Reardon investigate why the murder occurred.  Through the various interviews, it tells why the crime occurred and introduces the main players.  It is a solid telling, but it might have been even more interesting with a Rashomon style tale by having the characters telling the story having their own biases and interests…but the film goes the traditional route.

The film was Burt Lancaster’s first starring role, but it never feels like it is really him since you only see him as a living character…the other parts of the story has him dead.  Ava Gardner plays the seductive and cruel Kitty who knows what she’s doing to the Swede, and Albert Dekker plays her partner in crime.  Edmond O’Brien is fine as the insurance investigator but a rather flat character.  Hemmingway’s famous character Nick Adams has a small role as the character that warns the Swede that the men are coming for him (Phil Brown plays him in the film).

the killers albert dekker

He’s got the winning cards

The look and style of crime films from this period is always good, and The Killers is no exception.  The film soaks in the dark shadows of the night scenes and just has the feel that it needs.  Yes, other films have done it and some better, but it still looks great.

The Killers might not shock or surprise you, but it is a decent crafted film.  In comparison to the 1964 version, this film feels a bit clunkier and less streamlined in story, but there is something charming about that (it also feels accurate for the time).  If you are fan of crime thrillers, The Killers is a must.

Related Links:

The Killers (1964)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response