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The Killers


USA, 1946

Director: Robert Siodmak

Production: Mark Hellinger Productions; black and white, 35mm; running time: 105 minutes, some sources list 102 minutes. Released 28 August 1946 by Universal. Filming completed 28 June 1946 in Universal studios.

Producer: Mark Hellinger; screenplay: Anthony Veiller, from the short story by Ernest Hemingway; photography: Woody Bredell; special photography: David S. Horsely; editor: Arthur Hilton; sound: Bernard Brown and William Hedgecock; art directors: Jack Otterson and Martin Obzina; music: Miklos Rozsa; costume designer: Vera West.

Cast: Edmond O'Brien (Riordan); Ava Gardner (Kitty Collins); Albert Dekker (Colfax); Sam Levene (Lubinsky); John Miljan (Jake); Virginia Christine (Lilly); Vince Barnett (Charleston); Burt Lancaster (Swede); Charles D. Brown (Packy); Donald MacBride (Kenyon); Phil Brown (Nick); Charles McGraw (Al); William Conrad (Max); Queenie Smith (Queenie); Garry Owen (Joe); Harry Hayden (George); Bill Walker (Sam); Jack Lambert (Dum Dum); Jeff Corey (Blinky); Wally Scott (Charlie); Gabrielle Windsor (Ginny); Rex Dale (Man).



McArthur, Colin, Underworld U.S.A., London, 1972.

Kaminsky, Stuart M., American Film Genres, Dayton, Ohio, 1974; revised edition, Chicago, 1985.

Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, editors, Film Noir, Woodstock, New York, 1979.

Phillips, Gene D., Hemingway and Film, New York, 1980.

Laurence, Frank M., Hemingway and the Movies, Jackson, Mississippi, 1981.

Dumont, Hervé, Robert Siodmak: Le Maître du film noir, Lausanne, 1981.

Alpi, Deborah Lazaroff, Robert Siodmak: A Biography, with CriticalAnalyses of His Films Noirs and a Filmography of All His Works, Jefferson, 1998.

Greco, Joseph, The File on Robert Siodmak in Hollywood: 1941–1951, Parkland, 1999.


Variety (New York), 7 August 1946.

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Marshman, D., "Mister Siodmak," in Life (New York), 25 August 1947.

Lillich, Richard, "Hemingway on the Screen," in

Films in Review (New York), April 1959.

Taylor, John Russell, "Encounter with Siodmak," in Sight andSound (London), Summer-Autumn 1959.

Siodmak, Robert, and Richard Wilson, "Hoodlums: The Myths and Their Reality," in Films and Filming (London), June 1959.

Sarris, Andrew, "Esoterica," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1963.

Nolan, Jack, "Robert Siodmak," in Films in Review (New York), April 1969.

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Ecran (Paris), Summer 1972.

Eyles, Allen, "Edmond O'Brien," in Focus on Film (London), Autumn 1974.

Kaminsky, Stuart M., "Hemingway's The Killers," in Take One (Montreal), November 1974.

Jenkins, Steve, in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), October 1981.

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Slater, Thomas, "Anthony Veiller," in American Screenwriters, 2ndSeries, edited by Randall Clark, Detroit, 1986.

Review, in EPD Film (Frankfurt), vol. 7, no. 8, August 1990.

Wald, Marvin, "Richard Brooks and Me," in Creative Screenwriting (Washington, D.C.), vol. 1, no. 2, Summer 1994.

Aachen, G., in Reid's Film Index (Wyong), no. 23, 1996.

Lucas, Tim, "The Killers, Criss Cross, The Underneath, Brute Force,The Naked City," in Video Watchdog (Cincinnati), no. 32, 1996.

Mumby, J., "The 'Un-American' Film Art: Robert Siodmak and the Political Significance of Film Noir's German Connection," in Iris, no. 21, Spring 1996.

Telotte, J.P., "Fatal Capers: Strategy and Enigma in Film Noir," in Journal of Popular Film and Television (Washington, D.C.), vol. 23, no. 4, Winter 1996.

Brierly, D., "Robert Siodmak," in Filmfax (Evanston), no. 62, August/September 1997.

* * *

The Killers begins with literature and ends with film noir. The unlikely death of a filling station attendant prompts an insurance investigator to solve a puzzle of events that leads him to the cause of the murder and then envelops him in a plot ending with the murderer's death. After staging Ernest Hemingway's story in the opening sequence, the plot follows a structure that prevails in the convention of the 1940s: a man utters his last words, "I did something wrong, once," to avow his fatal mistake of falling in love with a woman who doublecrosses him. His relentless passion and blindness lead the two of them and her husband to their demise.

Director Robert Siodmak makes filmic innovation from a model anticipated in Renoir's La bête humaine (1938) and standardized since Double Indemnity (1944). The opening shots afford visual splendor in deep-focus shots taken in the confines of an empty café. Hemingway's narrative is translated into a tense volley of words and images. The rest of the film "catches up" with the initial murder after 11 major flashbacks—and flashbacks within flashbacks—before the insurance agent (Edmond O'Brien) witnesses the dying culprit's confession inculpating his attendant spouse. Something of a proto-nouveau roman, the script has the narrative cross over an unnamed abyss of time—the amnesia of the Second World War—in ways that determine the absolute immobility of the present. Recent history, as if it were a memory too traumatic to be named, figures as a central abyss of violence gnawing at the surrounding fiction. 22 lap dissolves throw the narrative into a configuration of overlapping surfaces.

Narrative intricacy aside, the film is a masterful exercise in the creation of subjectivity that political scientists call "interpellation," or the forces that determine the human being as a social subject. No other film noir—save Siodmak's Phantom Lady (1944) or Crisscross (1949)—makes such sustained use of voice-off as instances of interpellation. Figures on frame are continually "marked" by imperatives, off, having no discernible visual origin. They leave an eerie effect matched by back lighting that makes the characters' shadows more revealing than their persons. The resulting fragmentation and doubling of figures, along with rifts of voice and image, show where the film theorizes the conventions its narrative seems to develop so patently. The film's broken synchronies not only give evidence of what film noir is and how it is effected; like Citizen Kane, Siodmak's film anticipates future experiment in European and American cinema.

Three sequences are noteworthy. In the re-enactment of Hemingway's tale, script and deep focus are used to truncate cinematic illusion and ideation. Seated in contrapuntal relation to the two gunmen at the other end of the counter, bewildered by what he sees, Nick Adams directs his words both to the killers and the spectator. Astonished, he exclaims, "What's the idea?" To which the hefty thug (William Conrad) snarls (off) in the direction of Adams and the viewer, "There isn't any idea." The riposte orients the eye away from metaphysics or invisibility of language to a richer play of prismatic form. The moment also shows how, second, the violence of history will be scripted onto the surface of the tale. In the first flashback that depicts Nick Adams's reconstruction of the victim's last days, told to the insurance investigator, the camera frames the protagonist (Burt Lancaster), standing in front of the "Tristate Station." He is visibly ill at the sight of the return of his repressed, the gangster Jim Colfax, who will now set a price on his life. Standing under the marquee above him, Lancaster nods and puts his hands to his stomach. His head shifts position over the letters STATE STATIC (the O of "station" carefully cut in half by a pole). His head blocks and uncovers the letters "ATE STATIC." The wording scripts the fate of a character as it figures a global malaise of narrative and political stasis in 1946. Adjacent to a sign that spells TIRES in acrostic to his left, Lancaster is a figure worn down—fatigued—by history and fate. He is not only a victim of a tri-state tryst, but also of a political atmosphere, a cold war of 1946, as "state static," determining the visible field of the narrative.

A third sequence, also crucial to the historical relation of film noir and nouvelle vague, stages a conversation between the sleuth and his boss. The latter is seen reading a newspaper clipping of 1940 recounting the story of a payroll heist from a Hackensack hat company. The present tense in the insurance office dissolves into a long crane shot that visibly depicts what is being told in words on the sound track. Seen in silence, in the style of Joseph Mankiewicz's silent flashbacks that pull an event out of time, the moving camera arches over the men staging the holdup and driving off in an exchange of mute gunfire. At one point, as it follows the vehicle exiting under the open-work metal sign over the entry to the factory (spelling the "Prentiss Hat Company"), the camera registers the reflection of the mirrored letters on the windshield, twice reversed so as to be read correctly, visibly enough to draw the spectator's attention to the reflection of the crane, the camera, and its operator. The film-in-thefilm is glimpsed: invisible editing, it had for decades excluded the camera from the image-track, is broken down; omnipresence of writing makes the deep focus flat and at once visible and legible; the illusion of narrative synchrony is divided and flattened; attention is brought to deliberate camera movement that evokes a timeless oblivion of memory. The sequence heralds techniques soon exploited by Bresson, Resnais, and Godard.

Along with Citizen Kane and Sullivan's Travels, The Killers ranks as one of the more "theoretical" films of the 1940s at the same time that it concretizes the essence of film noir. It uses Hemingway to threshold a Baroque structure of surfaces, and its self-consciousness arches verbal and visual discourses over each other, leaving the effect of a film looking at the very forms it is unfolding. Siodmak's work occupies a central niche in the history of film theory, in film noir, and in the relations of cinema and literature.

—Tom Conley

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"The Killers." International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers. . 17 Dec. 2017 <>.

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The Killers

The Killers

Rock group

With their multi-platinum debut album, Hot Fuss, the Las Vegas band the Killers proved that location has nothing to do with the music. For their first album the Grammy-nominated rock band donned eyeliner and tailored suits to match their British-influenced pop-rock. They used influences from Brit-pop idols The Smiths, U2, Duran Duran, and New Order to create their own danceable rock songs, and the record sold over five million copies. With their sophomore record, Sam's Town, the Killers traded in glitzy makeup for cowboy boots, and backed up their new outfits with modern rock sounds built for stadiums.

The Killers' lead singer, keyboardist, and lyricist Brandon Flowers grew up in both Las Vegas and Utah as a semi-practicing Mormon. His parents and five siblings left Las Vegas for Utah, but at age 16 Flowers moved back to Las Vegas to live with his cousin and finish high school. After graduating, Flowers played in the band Blush Response and worked as a bellhop at the Gold Coast Hotel. He then quit the group and began to search for like-minded musicians to start a new band. In 2002 Flowers saw a "musicians wanted" ad placed by Ohio native and guitarist Dave Keuning. Both were big fans of Oasis and Morrissey, and they joined up and began to jam. The first song Flowers and Keuning wrote together was "Mr. Brightside," a future smash hit single for the band-to-be. The duo called themselves the Killers, after a fictional band of the same name in an old New Order music video. The Killers soon added bassist Ronnie Vanucci (who worked as a photographer) and drummer Mark Stoermer (a medical courier). They played their first show as a quartet in August of 2002.

The band took their collective musical influences mostly from 1980s and 1990s Brit pop, but tweaked them with simpler hooks and danceable rock rhythms. "When I was growing up in Las Vegas, England just seemed so far away: a genuine fantasy-land," Flowers told the London Guardian's Nick Kent, about his musical idols. "There was something untouchable about the music—larger than life. It was so different from what the Americans were growing up with. And it became irresistible to try to emulate, even down to adopting an English accent when you sang." The band's self-made demo got them a deal with London's Lizard King Records, who released the single "Mr. Brightside" in 2003. Shortly after their U.K. deal, the Killers signed a major-label contract with Island/Def Jam Records. The group's first real tour was in the United Kingdom, to support their Lizard King releases and their growing fan base.

For three months in 2003 the Killers worked to produce their Island debut. The band's new rock songs ran the gamut from tales of sexual androgyny, regrets, and lost love to sounds of new-wave synth, and mainstream art-rock dance beats. The famous gospel choir Sweet Inspirations added an unexpected warmth and soul to the song "All These Things That I've Done." In the spring of 2004, Island released the Killers' first single; a re-recorded version of "Mr. Brightside." The full-length album Hot Fuss followed in June. The record wasn't an instant hit, but it eventually caught on, and stayed on the charts for almost two years. "Mr. Brightside" was followed by a succession of singles, including "Somebody Told Me," "Smile Like You Mean it," and "All These Things That I've Done." Hot Fuss ultimately sold over five million copies worldwide, earned Grammy nominations, and kept the Killers touring until the end of 2005.

While playing around the world, the Killers began work on their sophomore album while still on the tour bus. The band intended to take a relaxing break before beginning work on a new album, but after a few weeks of vacation they reconvened to write. With a handful of songs written over the past two years as well as many new ones, the band began recording their next record in January of 2006. The Killers recorded with producers Alan Moulder and Flood at a Las Vegas Studio inside the Palms Hotel. Flowers, now married, took new musical cues from artists closer to home.

Instead of using only his British childhood heroes, Flowers developed a new appreciation for blue collar rocker Bruce Springsteen, who became a heavy influence on the Killers' new music. "We're still influenced by English rock and pop music, but we're all kind of transforming or getting older," Flowers told's James Montgomery. Flowers realized that he wanted to sing more like himself and where he came from, and not adopt a British accent. Springsteen's All-American attitude was something the Killers now aimed for. "Bruce always wears his heart on his sleeve, whereas the groups I grew up with, like New Order, were more about being cool and emotionally detached," Flowers explained to Kent. "What struck me most forcefully about [Springsteen] is that I believe what he says. … And it just hit me—that's what I want to achieve, too. I wanted to create an album that captured chronologically everything important that got me to where I am today."

For the Record …

Members include Brandon Flowers , vocals, keyboards; David Keuning , guitar; Mark Stoermer , drums; Ronnie Vanucci , bass.

Group formed in Las Vegas, NV, c. 2002; released Mr. Brightside (EP), Lizard King Records, 2003; signed to Island/Def Jam, 2003; released Hot Fuss, 2004; released Sam's Town, 2006.

Awards: Brit Awards, International Group, International Album, for Sam's Town, 2007.

Addresses: Record company—Island Records, 825 8th Ave., 29th Flr., New York, NY 10019; 8920 Sunset Blvd, 2nd Flr., Los Angeles, CA 90069, website: Website—The Killers Official Website:

In October of 2006 the Killers released Sam's Town. The album was named after a Las Vegas casino built in 1979, with a black and white record sleeve photo shot by Anton Corbijn (famous for shooting the album cover photo for U2's The Joshua Tree), and it was instantly clear that the Killers weren't going to sound like Duran Duran again. The singles "When We Were Young," "Bones," and "Read My Mind" were all dynamic modern rock songs destined to be classics for a future generation. Sam's Town "is an alluring collection of ambitious anthem-rock originals pitched in a style midway between Bowiesque arch theatricality and Springsteen-style heart-on-sleeve sincerity," wrote Kent. The band also looked different than they had on tour. They adopted an old western theme with long hair, mustaches and tumbleweed western wear. Coupled with the music of Sam's Town, the band's new look did not seemed contrived, but instead was more attuned to their sound and upbringing.

Flowers has always been the band's biggest fan. More than proud of their work on Sam's Town, Flowers notoriously told, "This album is one of the best albums in the past 20 years." The album received many favorable reviews. Billboard's Gary Graff called it "a lollapalooza of cinematic soundscapes that dashes any fears, or dare we say expectations, of a sophomore slump."

"People want that human connection," Flowers told Kent. "As much as they want you to be ‘larger-than-life’ or ‘untouchable,’ they also want to relate to you as a human being. That's what I love about U2 and Springsteen. … [It's] a big pressure to follow in those … footsteps. But I'm getting wiser and I think we're capable of carrying that weight."

Selected discography

Mr. Brightside (EP), Lizard King Records, 2003.

Hot Fuss, Island, 2004

Sam's Town, Island, 2006.



Billboard, October 7, 2006, p. 37.

Guardian (London, England), October 20, 2006.

Observer (London, England), September 24, 2006.


"The Killers," Much, (February 17, 2007).

"Killers' Next LP Will Show Strong Influence Of & Bruce Springsteen!?,", (February 17, 2007).

The Killers Official Website, (February 17, 2007).

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