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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Killers [Blu-ray]

 

(Don Siegel, 1964)

 

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Revue Studios

Video: Arrow Video

 

Disc:

Region: 'B' (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:34:38.798 (same for both ARs) 

Disc Size: 49,592,549,489 bytes

Feature (dual AR) Sizes: 23,258,275,392 bytes / 22,563,425,856 bytes

Video Bitrates: 28.93 Mbps / 27.99 Mbps

Chapters: 12

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February 24th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1 / 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit

 

Subtitles:

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

Screen Killer: Dwayne Epstein on Lee Marvin (30:45 in 1080P)
Reagan Kills: Marc Elliot on Ronald Reagan (20:45 in 1080P)
Don Siegel Interview from 1984 (10:36 in 1080P)
Gallery (:23)
40-page Collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mike Sutton, Contemporary reviews, and Shooting The Killers by Don Siegel, Projectionist notes, and about the tranfer plus color photos

Reversible cover sleeve

 

Bitrate:

 

 

Description: 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.

 

1) 1.33:1 Blu-ray - TOP

2) 1.85:1 - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

The Film:

Don Siegel directed this intensely pessimistic re-make of Robert Siodmak's 1946 film noir masterpiece The Killers, based upon a story by Ernest Hemingway. As the story opens two professional looking men in business suits -- Charlie (Lee Marvin) and Lee (Clu Gulager) -- push their way into a school for the blind and terrorize a secretary until she reveals the whereabouts of Johnny North (John Cassavetes). When Charlie and Lee trace Johnny to an automobile repair class, Johnny just stands there as the two men gun him down. Afterwards, Charlie wonders why Johnny just stood there, accepting his death. He also starts to wonder about his hefty paycheck for the murder and rumors that Johnny was involved in a million-dollar heist. He decides to pay Johnny's old friend Earl Sylvester (Claude Akins) a visit at his auto shop in Florida. Earl recalls the summer day long ago when former race car driver Johnny caught the eye of the rich and beautiful Sheila Farr (Angie Dickinson). Johnny has been preparing for a race, but Sheila's attentions sidetrack him. The day of the big race, Earl notices that Sheila is visited by a group of rich gangsters, headed by Browning (Ronald Reagan, in a very surprising performance). During the race, Johnny is involved in a terrible crash, effectively ending his racing career. However, it seems Browning is arranging a mail heist and hires Johnny to drive the getaway car.

Excerpt from MRQE located HERE

Not exactly a remake of Siodmak's film, but a very similar adaptation of Hemingway's short story, except that the old noir ambience has given way to broad daylight, with the two killers now characterised as corporate executives rather than as emblematic figures from the shadows. Like its predecessor, Siegel's version is at its best while setting up the chillingly ruthless detail of the opening execution (here unnervingly set in an asylum for the blind), less satisfying when it starts providing an answer to the mysterious passivity of the victim (Cassavetes). A familiar tale of robbery and betrayal unfolds, not enhanced by the glossy colour but given a terrific boost by the fact that the two killers stick around (since they now conduct the investigation themselves in the interests of better business efficiency) and are superbly characterised by Marvin and Gulager. Originally made for TV, the film was tactfully switched to cinema release following the JFK assassination.

Excerpt from TimeOut located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Killers gets an impressive transfer to Blu-ray from Arrow in the UK.  It seems as soon as we reviewed one Blu-ray offering dual-aspect ratios (Hammer Studios The Mummy - see HERE) - 1.33:1 and 1.66:1 - we get another 1080P package that does similar. The Arrow allows you to see the film in the 1.33:1 (TV) or the 1.85:1 aspect ratio a choice from the 'Set-up menu' and can be changed on-the-fly although it reverts back the last chapter stop. From the Projectionist's Notes in the liner notes: "The Killers has a place in history for being the first purpose-made American TV movie, at a time when television sets universally cam in the squarish aspect ratio of 1.33:1. However, The Killers was intended from the onset to be show-able in cinemas, at a time when widescreen was all but universal and many projectionists were no longer able to screen films in the TV-shaped 'Academy' ratio. On January 155h, 1964, when the film was still known as Johnny North, the daily edition of variety reported that 'in all probability' 'North' will be released in Europe as a theatrical film, and thus, turned out to be the case."  It is dual-layered and both ratio transfers are, virtually, duplicated technically being roughly the same file size, and bitrate. Skin tones are quite warm - overly so at times, but it carries a beautiful textures. Colors are very bright and impressive. We also added a few, matched, captures from the Criterion DVD from 2003 (reviewed HERE) but it is far in advance of that SD rendering in detail and contrast. Actually, I haven't made any concrete decisions on which ratio I preferred - comparatively the 1.85 looks a bit cramped. Regardless, it's great to have the option.  This Blu-ray gives a very pleasing presentation.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Subtitle Sample

1) Arrow - 1.33:1 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray TOP

2) Arrow 1.85:1 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - DVD - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - 1.33:1 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Arrow 1.85:1 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - DVD - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - 1.33:1 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Arrow 1.85:1 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - DVD - NTSC TOP

2) Arrow - 1.33:1 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - MIDDLE

3) Arrow 1.85:1 - Region 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Arrow include an authentic linear PCM mono track at 1152 kbps. There is some aggression that gets bass response, but the clarity is more notable in some of the music; Henry Mancini's Too Little Time sung by Nancy Wilson and the score composed by the iconic John Williams and an un-credited Fred Steiner (Twilight Zone) who did quite a bit of television work. No weakness here at all - it is predictably flat and audible. There are optional English subtitles and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Extras :

Arrow have been great with their supplements in recent years and this is no exception. We get 1/2 hour of Dwayne Epstein discussing Lee Marvin and his character, Charlie Strom, entitled Screen Killer. Reagan Kills has Marc Elliot on Ronald Reagan, and his last screen appearance, for over 20-minutes and there is a Spanish local, Don Siegel Interview from 1984 last 10-minutes, along with a photo gallery. All digital extras are in 1080P. The package contains a 40-page Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mike Sutton, Contemporary reviews, and Shooting The Killers by Don Siegel with text interviews, Projectionist notes, and 'about the transfer' - plus there are some color photos. The cover is also reversible to the one we have posted above or the one currently on Amazon with Angie Dickinson.

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
Noir lovers should be very pleased to obtain this release. Siegel's The Killers has so many of the conventions including the femme fatale in Angie Dickinson and a gritty, rough, style. It is always interesting to see ex-pres Reagan as the villain. The Arrow Blu-ray offers the dual ARs, impressive a/v and informative extras. These guys (Arrow) are cementing themselves as the 'Criterion' of Region 'B'. This package is strongly recommended!

Gary Tooze

February 15th, 2014


 

About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
Marantz SA8001 Super Audio CD Player
Marantz SR7002 THX Select2 Surround Receiver
Tannoy DC6-T (fronts) + Energy (centre, rear, subwoofer) speakers (5.1)

APC AV 1.5 kVA H Type Power Conditioner 120V

Gary W. Tooze

 

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