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THE KILLERS (1964)

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Discussion before

Ronald Reagan hated this movie. His final movie marks his only time playing the bad guy, a vicious mob boss, and he feared its potential effect on his image. Yet it has been hailed as his best performance. This loose remake of Robert Siodmak’s 1946 adaptation of an Ernest Hemingway story follows two hit men (Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager) assigned to take out a former racecar driver (John Cassavetes). Intrigued by the stoic acceptance of his fate, they look into his past involvement with Reagan and femme fatale Angie Dickinson. Don Siegel, who had been fired from the original film, was hired to direct what was planned as the first made-for-television movie. When the network got a look at it, however, they deemed it too violent and sexy for TV and sent it into theaters on a double bill with The Private Lives of Adam and Eve (1960), starring Mickey Rooney and Mamie Van Doren, where it made money. Although dismissed by some U.S. critics, the picture was embraced in Europe and eventually picked up a devoted cult following. Today, its view of a violent culture with generations at war with each other seems both a reflection of the unrest of the 1960s and oddly prophetic of the world to come. (d. Don Siegel, 93m, DCP)

Restored by Universal Pictures in collaboration with The Film Foundation. Special thanks to Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg for their consultation on this restoration.

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