One of Hollywoods greatest film directors was born on August 1900 in Dresden, Saxon, Germany. This was none other than Robert Siodmak. Siodmak is well-known for film noir theater; in fact he is thought to be the architect of the genre. Some of his successful noir films include Phantom Lady, The Spiral Staircase, The Dark Mirror and the Killer just to mention a few. It is because of this that he is thought to be one of the primary developers of one of Americas film genres. Most of his films tend to incorporate an American style of making films that is heavily influenced by European ideas; something that is thought to be as a result of his European origin. The themes addressed by most of his films are modern themes such as conflict, professional gangsterism and violence. Further, he has utilized modern cinematic techniques such as multiple flashbacks, expressionistic lighting, multiple flashbacks and deep focusing in most of his film. Siodmak always found it unsatisfying to use a film as a means of conveying only one motif or technique. His films reveal his richness for cinematic vision as he was an expert at weaving many parts into one so as to produce great films.
The Killer is one Siodmaks greatest noir film productions. It differs from most noir films in the fact that it depicts almost every theme in the noir cycle rather than focusing on just one particular subset motif. The film is based on Ernest Hemingways story about two gunmen waiting in a lunchroom for a man they were hired to kill. The man lays restless in his room knowing that the two men are after him, but he is too weary to move. Starring in the film is Burt Lancaster (a Swede) and Ava Gardner a sardonic lady that ends up crossing him as the major characters. Other characters include Edmond OBrien (the shrewd investigator), Sam Levene (a policeman) and Albert Dekker (a nasty thug) amongst several other characters. Lancaster plays the character of a boxer that has retired after getting an injury. When we meet him, he is lying on a ragged old mattress waiting for his killers to arrive. He is portrayed as an emotional person as his face reflects joy and turmoil are lingering behind his eyes. Siodmak uses flashbacks to introduce juxtaposition between Lancaster pre and post heartbreaks. Through the flashbacks, we get to see him not to be the husk of a man that we are introduced as the flashback portray much happier times in his life. Lancaster, however, ends up getting tricked into dirty dealing by Ava in the film.
The use of mise-en-scene in the film is through the way the lightning and costumes attenuate the difference between good and evil. Lighting is mainly done from below or from very harsh angles. An example is when the hit-men stand right outside Lancasters door, and their faces get illuminated from a very low source; this ends up creating a stark upward shadowing on their faces aimed at creating an eerie feeling. One of the pros of this film is the realistic nature of the characters, action and setting. However, the best technique in the film is the lighting as it allows the mystery and danger to come to light. Another interesting thing about the film is that the woman is the mastermind behind the plan; something that may be coincidental or may be trying to make a statement about women during the time it was produced, but all in all, this story line is rather interesting.
Some of the scenes that captured my attention were the following; the scene where the Swede gets killed, the scene where Sam and Nick are rescued and the. In the scene where the Swede gets killed, we get to see that he is too weary to stand even though he is aware of the impeding danger. Through the lighting in the scene, an eerier feeling is created, and we get to see the impeding danger. The Swede ends up taking eight rounds in the torso and drops dead. The second scene where George rescues Sam and Nick in the kitchen after the killers take off did not go as I expected. George first unties and ungags Sam, then moves over to Nick. He unties Nicks but before ungagging him as one would expect, he hands Sam a glass of water. This sequence of events made me think that it may have been deliberate, but it did seem odd. The final scene is where McGuffin is solving problems concerning the insurance of the Lancaster after his demise. However, McGuffin ends up revealing the Swedes past; his time in jail, his contacts with the police and the criminal underground.
All in all, The Killers is a classic noir film that is worth watching.
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