Don Siegel’s The Killers

Wonders in the Dark

By J.D. Lafrance

The first feature-length adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “The Killers” was directed by Robert Siodmak in 1946 and featured a young Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner as the two leads. It was a simple tale of a man who had hit rock bottom so badly that he allowed two hitmen to kill him. The doomed man was the focus of Siodmark’s film while, on the surface, it may seem that Don Siegel’s 1964 film version is all about doomed race car driver Johnny North (John Cassavetes). He is given quite a bit of The Killers’ screen time through flashbacks by the people that knew and loved him. However, Siegel drops in subtle visual clues throughout to suggest that the film is actually about the two professional killers with an emphasis on the elder more experienced one played by Lee Marvin. It is interesting to note…

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