Killers (The) AKA Ernest Hemingway's The Killers (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Samuel Scott (5th February 2014).
The Film

***This is a technical review only. For reviews on the movie from various critics, we recommend visiting HERE.***

THERE IS MORE THAN ONE WAY TO KILL A MAN…

“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 in his last screen role).

Loosely inspired by the Ernest Hemingway story, and directed by Don Siegel (whose many other taut, efficient thrillers include Dirty Harry and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers), The Killers was commissioned as the very first ‘TV movie’, but was given a cinema release because of its violence – although a cast like that really belonged on the big screen in the first place.

Video

Arrow Films release the 1964 version of "The Killers" onto Blu-ray in the United Kingdom using a 1080p transfer which has received an AVC MPEG-4 codec. Although it was made for American television, the film was designed from the outset to be released in cinemas throughout Europe, so we get the option via the set-up menu to view the feature at 1.33:1 or 1.85:1.

Although the transfer here is overall strong, it does have a few flaws, especially early on. An early scene at the race track, whilst the race car is being tested, shows numerous specks, with a number of vertical scratches and other blemishes, obvious from the 14:48 mark for the duration of the scene. The problem re-appears at around the 22 minute mark, with several black marks running vertically for a few moments. These are the only two scenes which have this particular problem, and during these scenes, detail is not quite as strong as the rest of the feature. Some horizontal black dots are also obvious near the start, and again for a few seconds at 54:18. Outside of these instances, The Killers looks damned good, even stunning. Detail is at times exceptional, especially in facial close-ups, though it was the intricate threading of a yellow sofa that caught my eye detail wise. Having read a few reviews of the Criterion DVD release, I noticed the word 'mediocre' describing the transfer on several occasions. This Blu-ray transfer is below the usual standards we are currently getting from Arrow, but I'm guessing existing masters are far from being in the best of nick.

The feature runs 94:37.

Audio

Arrow Films have provided a single lossless audio track for this release: English LPCM 1.0 Mono. Whilst the picture may suffer from a few problems, the audio is of a high standard. There was one fifteen second segment of a scene where I found the volume levels of the score did slightly overpower the dialogue, but apart from this I have no complaints at all. Dialogue is otherwise crystal clear, and the sound effects and score are powerful enough to make the necessary impact, even without any sort of channel separation. There are no drop outs at all, and apart from one very minor split second crackles, I didn't any problems with the audio worth mentioning. There's also no signs of background hiss.

Optional subtitles have been provided in English for the main feature only.

Extras

The first extra is an interview with the author of "Lee Marvin: Point Blank" entitled "Screen Killer: Dwayne Epstein on Lee Marvin" interview (30:44). This is a significantly in-depth extra, and Arrow have done the right thing here in going for a recognised biographer for information on Lee Marvin's life and career. It really covers a large array of subjects, from Marvin suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after World War II right through to Marvin and Reagan's dislike for each other. No stone is left unturned, and immediately after viewing, I went and ordered Epstein's book.

The next extra is the "Reagan Kills: Marc Eliot on Ronald Reagan" interview which runs 20:43. Eliot is the author of the book "Reagan: The Hollywood Years", so a worthy candidate to be interviewed. Although it's mainly political talk here (Reagan became President of the United States), it is often in regards with how his Hollywood career and persona had affected his political career and how the general public of America viewed him. Whether you agreed with Reagan's politics or not, he lead an interesting life, and Eliot is the right guy to talk about it.

The final contextual extra is an archival Don Siegel interview from 1984 lasting 10:35. Unfortunately, the extra has burnt-in French subtitles, but an information screen before you play the extra informs us that this is due to the subtitles being part of the master tape and that they couldn't be removed. Made by Claude Ventura and Philippe Garnier, this interview originally aired on France's Cinéma Cinémas television show. A welcome addition to the overall package.

A gallery is included, and is the final extra on the disc.

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.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: C+ Audio: A- Extras: C+ Overall: B

 


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