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The Next Reel • Season 13 • Series: 1947 Academy Award Best Writing Screenplay Nominees • The Killers

The Killers

“I tell ya what’s gonna happen. We’re gonna kill a Swede.”

The Killers: Dissecting a Landmark Noir

Robert Siodmak’s 1946 crime drama The Killers earned four Oscar nominations at the 19th Academy Awards, including Best Director for Siodmak and Best Adapted Screenplay. The influential film noir also marked the screen debut of Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our series on the 1947 Academy Award Best Writing, Screenplay nominees with an in-depth discussion about Siodmak’s 1946 film The Killers.

Behind the Stylish Noir Lens

Based on Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story, The Killers greatly expands the sparse source material into a complex, nonlinear narrative involving murder, robbery and betrayal. Director Siodmak utilizes creative camera angles and lighting techniques to craft a visually stunning noir landscape. Cinematographer Woody Bredell’s high-contrast, shadowy aesthetic defines the classic film noir look and feel. Lancaster shines in his first on-screen role as Ole “The Swede” Anderson, a washed-up boxer mixed up in a criminal underworld scheme. His powerful performance launched the charismatic new star to fame. Ava Gardner embodies the femme fatale archetype as the alluring but dangerous siren Kitty Collins.

Standout Elements of This Influential Crime Drama

  • The opening 12 minutes closely follow Hemingway’s original story before transitioning into a complex, nonlinear narrative structure, utilizing flashbacks from multiple perspectives to unravel the central mystery.
  • We discuss the extended single-take heist scene, staged with incredible choreography and camerawork, as a prime example of Siodmak’s skilled direction.
  • Miklós Rózsa’s propulsive, jazz-inspired score sets the ominous, moody tone throughout the shadowy proceedings.
  • We debate whether splitting the protagonist role (the Swede) from the main character (the insurance investigator) dilutes the hard-boiled noir narrative.

It’s a great film with much to dissect, so check it out then tune in. The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!

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