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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Killers [Blu-ray]

 

(Robert Siodmak, 1946)

 

Also coming out in Germany in December 2014:

 

Review by Gary Tooze

 

Production:

Theatrical: Universal

Video: Carlotta / Arrow Academy

 

Disc:

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

Runtime: 1:42:23.762 / 1:42:24.429

Disc Size: 40,643,131,655 bytes / 47,280,531,425 bytes

Feature Size: 29,678,862,336 bytes / 31,920,602,688 bytes

Video Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps / 34.99 Mbps

Chapters: 20 / 12

Case: Transparent Slimmer Blu-ray case inside cardboard slipcase / Transparent case with reversible sleeve featuring one of the original posters and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw

Release date: October 8th, 2014 / December 8th, 2014

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.33:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Audio:

DTS-HD Master Audio English 817 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 817 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)
DUB:

DTS-HD Master Audio French 822 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 822 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 1.0 / 48 kHz / 768 kbps / 24-bit)

LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Isolated
Music & Effects soundtrack:

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

 

Subtitles:

French, none

English (SDH), none

 

Extras:

• Hemingway / Siodmak (23:08 - French only)
• Herve Dumont (16:24 - French only)
• Expressionism in Black and White (16:11 - French only)
• The Boxer's Confession (15:02 - French only)
• The Killers Radio version (30:20 - English with French subs)
• Andre Tarkovsky's The Killers short (20:59 - Russian with French subtitles)
• Trailer (1:45)

 

• Isolated Music & Effects soundtrack to highlight Miklós Rózsa's famous score
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired
Frank Krutnik on The Killers, a video piece by the author of In a Lonely Street, which introduces the film and offers a detailed commentary on four key scenes (54:20)
Heroic Fatalism, a video essay adapted from Philip Booth s comparative study of multiple versions of The Killers (Hemingway, Siodmak, Tarkovsky, Siegel) (31:52)
• Three archive radio pieces inspired by The Killers: the 1949 Screen Director's Playhouse adaptation with Burt Lancaster and Shelley Winters (29:57); a 1946 Jack Benny spoof (10:10); the 1958 Suspense episode Two for the Road (29:10) which reunited original killers William Conrad and Charles McGraw
• Stills and posters gallery
• Trailers for The Killers (1:47), Brute Force (2:15), The Naked City (1:52) and Rififi (2:45)
• Reversible sleeve featuring one of the original posters and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw
• Collector's booklet containing new writing by Sergio Angelini and archive interviews with director Robert Siodmak, producer Mark Hellinger and cinematographer Woody Bredell, illustrated with original production stills

 

Bitrate:

1) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray  - TOP

2) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

The first Universal production supervised by Hellinger, a one-time reporter turned film producer, this definitive film noir is at least as powerful as his earlier crime movies, The Roaring Twenties and High Sierra. The Killers, which features a now famous musical score (later used in the "Dragnet" TV series) by Miklos Rosza, is also notable as Burt Lancaster's film debut. The ace crime director Siodmak uses the bare bones of Hemingway's terse story to build a taut and fascinating tale of murder, robbery, and betrayal. It also features one of the genre's most celebrated femme fatales.

 


It opens with the killers of the Hemingway story (Charles McGraw and William Conrad) entering the diner in search of the Swede (Lancaster). They have a murder contract to fulfill, they learn that he will soon be coming in for dinner. Nick Adams (Phil Brown) overhears the killer's intent and runs to a boarding house to warn the Swede. He listens, but remains indifferently on his bed, explaining simply "I did something wrong... once". With that he quietly awaits his fate. The Hemingway story ends about there, but this is only the beginning of the film. Edmond O'Brien is Jim Reardon, an energetic insurance investigator whose company has to pay off on the Swede's death. By interviewing the Swede's associates, Rearden begins the laborious process of reconstructing the dead man's turbulent life, a process we see through a series of extended flashbacks.

Excerpt from TV Guide located HERE

 

 

The Film:

This is the kind of noir thriller the word quintessential was minted for. ‘Tense! Taut! Terrific!’, ran the poster headline for Robert Siodmak’s 1946 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s dark tale of two killers who arrive in Palookaville to top a former prizefighter. It might have added ‘Doom-laden! Curious! And Resigned!’.

The Killers’ – revived in a new print in the BFI Southbank’s Burt Lancaster Season – starts off in laconic Hemingway territory. ‘What do you want to eat, Al?’, says hitman Max (William Conrad). ‘I don’t know,’ says Al (Charles McGraw). ‘I don’t know what I want to eat’, with the goons displaying all the weary, matter-of-fact psychopathy Quentin Tarantino has spent a career trying to emulate.

Their quarry – boxer-turned-criminal ‘The Swede’ Andersen (Burt Lancaster) – plugged, the film spirals off in its expressionist, flashback-within-flashback investigation into his past, with Edmond O’Brien’s insurance man-investigator embodying a kind of fateful ‘curiosity’ in a pointedly less idealistic equivalent to the ‘tenacity’ with which Edward G Robinson unravels the themes and the characters in its pessimistic cousin, ‘Double Indemnity’.

Excerpt from TimeOutlocated HERE

 

Directed by Robert Siodmak, The Killers boasts a script by an uncredited John Huston and a great score by Miklos Rozsa (later mined for the theme for Dragnet). A box-office smash, the film played round-the-clock at New York's Winter Garden theater, where over 120,000 patrons saw the film in the first two weeks. While Siodmak was widely praised for his economical direction, most of the press and public focused their attention on the two new newcomers: Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner.

Lancaster, a former circus acrobat, was 23 when the picture was made, but his youthful face allowed him to play a younger and more easily duped man. Paid $20,000 for his work on The Killers, Lancaster was an overnight star. As the double-crossing and triple-crossed Swede, Lancaster's film debut drew immediate notice. Critic Manny Farber called him "a fascinating, unstereotyped movie tough" with "a dreamy, peaceful, introspective air that dissociates him from everything earthly." Farber accurately captures what is so unique about Lancaster: the combination of American boyishness with an icy, otherworldy presence. He was the perfect choice to play a man calmly waiting for his own death. Siodmak was so taken with Lancaster that he cast him in two subsequent films: the convoluted noir, Criss Cross (1949), thought by many to be Siodmak's best film, and the swashbuckling epic, The Crimson Pirate (1952).

Excerpt from TCM  located HERE

 

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

The Killers is premium Noir territory and the new Carlotta Blu-ray doesn't disappoint with a dual-layered transfer and max'ed out bitrate.  The image quality shows a consistent layer of grain, film-like thickness, and contrast has some nice layering. There is a shade more information in the frame than the Carlotta SD but still less than the Criterion. 1080P transfer has a lot of character and even shows some depth. It's gorgeous although I felt, at time, that black levels could have been more inky. This Blu-ray offers rich visuals (kudos to the film) and Ava Gardner, in HD, is worth the price alone. Visually this is very appealing.

 

We've compared below the Blu-ray to the Criterion DVD (reviewed HERE) and the Carlotta (part of the Robert Siodmak Collection) HERE.

 

NOTE: As Michael Brooke confirmed: "The clean-up of Universal's HD master was a joint Arrow-Carlotta effort, so Arrow's disc will look pretty much identical (minor and probably invisible encoding issues aside)." (Thanks Michael!) As anticipated, the image quality is virtually exact with only a very discerning eye seeing differences in imperceptible noise/grain. It looks magnificent!

 

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

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL  - SECOND

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL  - SECOND

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL  - SECOND

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL  - SECOND

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

1) Criterion - Region 0 - NTSC - TOP

2) Carlotta - Region 2 - PAL  - SECOND

3) Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray THIRD

4) Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 

 

 

 

More Blu-ray Captures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio :

Typically flat mono track via a lossless DTS-HD Master at a puny 817 kbps. It all sounds good - with some perceived depth and consistency in the dialogue. The iconic Miklós Rózsa score (The Lost Weekend, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Double Indemnity) adds so much to the film experience - demonstratively in uncompressed. There is a weak, out-of-sync, French DUB and, fully, optional French subtitles. My Oppo was able to switch on the fly with the remote's 'Subtitle' button identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

Arrow's liner PCM , mono track, is minutely more robust but, like the video differences, they are negligible. There is an optional 'Isolated Music & Effects soundtrack' on the UK Blu-ray and those who appreciate Miklós Rózsa score will appreciate this - also in uncompressed mono. There are fully, optional English subtitles (SDH) and my Oppo has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.

 

 

Extras :

The only supplements not in French is the half-hour The Killers Radio version with images of the film shown in the background and a trailer (both have French subtitles). There is quite a lot of other supplements with a piece on Hemingway / Siodmak, another on Herve Dumont, an excellent on entitled Expressionism in Black and White on Miklós Rózsa's music. Andre Tarkovsky's The Killers short is salso here but no English subs.

 

This is where there are the most significant differences. Aside from the aforementioned, isolated Music & Effects soundtrack, Arrow have produced a number of supplements themselves including a 54-minute video entitled Frank Krutnik on The Killers, where the author of In a Lonely Street, which introduces the film, offers a detailed commentary on four key scenes. It is excellent. We also get, by Arrow, the 1/2 hour Heroic Fatalism, a video essay adapted from Philip Booth s comparative study of multiple versions of The Killers (Hemingway, Siodmak, Tarkovsky, Siegel. Included are three archive radio pieces, totalling over an hour, inspired by The Killers: the 1949 Screen Director's Playhouse adaptation with Burt Lancaster and Shelley Winters (29:57); a 1946 Jack Benny spoof (10:10); the 1958 Suspense episode Two for the Road (29:10) which reunited original killers William Conrad and Charles McGraw. Arrow add a stills and posters gallery as well as trailers for The Killers (1:47), Brute Force (2:15), The Naked City (1:52) and Rififi (2:45). The package contains a reversible sleeve featuring one of the original posters and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw and a collector's booklet containing new writing by Sergio Angelini and archive interviews with director Robert Siodmak, producer Mark Hellinger and cinematographer Woody Bredell, illustrated with original production stills. What a wonderful collection of extras!

 

Carlotta - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

Arrow - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 

 

BOTTOM LINE:
The Killers is one of the defining film for the Noir cycle. Making this alone an essential Blu-ray. Although the extras are not completely English-friendly - the presentation is and those who crave the 'dark cinema' - this is an easy buy that should get frequent re-plays.

 

Another impressive, Criterion-like, package from Arrow who just continue to improve marking themselves as tops in the industry. With their advanced supplements (including isolated score, optional English subs, collector's booklet) the Arrow Blu-ray of The Killers is distinguished as the best purchase for fans of this iconic, must-own, film. Our highest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

October 16th, 2014

November 27th, 2014

Also coming out in Germany in December 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 3500 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.

Gary's Home Theatre:

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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