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BURT LANCASTER IN HEMINGWAY'S PULP FICTION 'THE KILLERS'

Title: THE KILLERS Year: 1946 Rating: ****

Little did Ernest Hemingway know, when he created the very short short-story THE KILLERS, that he was writing a first act of what would become two movies... the second a year after his death and beginning with the same-titled film noir introducing Burt Lancaster, who winds up telling young Nick Adams (Hemingway's autobiographical doppelganger) that he doesn't mind if two hit-men murder him...

This happens after a wiseguy duo get information in a small town diner while progressively taking it over, learning where Lancaster's The Swede is hiding out and, as the titular villains, William Conrad and Charles McGraw seem ready to villainize the entire picture... but they'd have to wait until a climactic encore as Jeff Corey and Jack Lambert help fill the backstory-hoodlum roles in-between...

Virginia Christine and Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS with Ava Gardner

What happens after Hemingway's tale runs out has been considered the "CITIZEN KANE of Noir" because of present-time Edmond O'Brien as a snoopy, curious and ultimately thankless insurance investigator, roaming around asking various people questions about the dead former boxer, bringing us into a multi-flashback world of that very noirish sport, and the seedy organizing of a sparse central heist...

Here's where Burt's Swede becomes a double-crosser, but only to save himself... while his sizzling romance with mob boss Albert Dekker's moll, Ava Gardner, never has enough time to grow beyond the male and female beauties' understandable (and rather cliche) attraction for each other... 

Sam Levene and Edmond O'Brien in THE KILLERS

Meanwhile Sam Levine plays an idealistic cop, who's the childhood friend of Lancaster's Swede, married to his old pal's ex-girlfriend Virginia Christine... and like most golden age films, the working-class lawman preaches against big money and the dangerous short cuts to make it — especially regarding born loser Lancaster's doomed quest to trade muscular rags for comfortable riches, making otherwise good guy Levene rather cold, unlikable…

Overall, the story's so busy and complicated, certain characters and plot-lines aren't as fleshed-out or maintained as they should've been, while other parts tend to either drag or become intrusive: yet for a pulpy 1940's b-crime, THE KILLERS covers all bases to have a little something for everyone — which seems director Robert Siodmak's intention all along, stridently finishing/completing what a young Ernest Hemingway unintentionally began.  

Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS
Title Card from THE KILLERS
Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS
Virginia Christine in THE KILLERS with Sam Levene
Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS and Virginia Christine
Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS
Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS and Virginia Christine and Ava Gardner
Virginia Christine in THE KILLERS and Jeff Corey
Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS and Sam Levene
Chief crime boss Albert Dekker in THE KILLERS
Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS and Jack Lambert
Charles McGraw and William Conrad as THE KILLERS
Phil Brown (Uncle Owen Lars from Star Wars) in THE KILLERS
Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS and Albert Dekker
Edmond O'Brien in THE KILLERS
Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS and Phil Brown
Virginia Christine in THE KILLERS
Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS
Poster for THE KILLERS
Criterion THE KILLERS Double Feature
Edmond O'Brien and Sam Levene in THE KILLERS
Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS
Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS
Edmond O'Brien in THE KILLERS
Jack Lambert in THE KILLERS
Jack Lambert in THE KILLERS with Jeff Corey
Jack Lambert in THE KILLERS
Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS
Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS
Charles McGraw & William Conrad in THE KILLERS

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