The Killers (1964)

I usually hate remakes but there are exceptions to every rule. I wrote about the 1946 version of The Killers last week in this space. It was also number two on the Burt Lancaster Dozen. Don Siegel’s 1964 version of The Killers is almost as good as the original.

Siegel and screenwriter Gene L. Coon made some substantial changes to the story. The main character went from a former boxer played by Burt Lancaster to a race driver played by John Cassavetes. Have I told you lately that John Cassavetes is my countryman?

As always, Cassavetes was great in this movie. He often said that he learned a great deal about directing and leading a production from Don Siegel who, of course, was Clint Eastwood’s directorial mentor.

The title roles are beefed up as well. Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager get more screen time in the 1964 version than Charles McGraw and William Conrad in the original. That’s a big plus in my estimation.

Playing the head villain was Ronald Reagan in his final and best role. Reagan didn’t like the movie. I guess it wasn’t wholesome enough for a family values Republican.

Another reason Ronnie didn’t like the movie is this slap heard round the world.


Angie Dickinson is as hot as the original femme fatale, Ava Gardner. Angie was just as good at double dealing as Ava. Angie led both Cassavetes and Reagan around by the nose. Like Ava in the original, she ran the show.

The biggest difference between the two versions is that Siegel’s film was shot in color. I prefer black and white but life was more colorful in the swinging Sixties. It was a smart move as it drew a contrast between the original and the remake. Strike the word remake. It’s more of a reimagining.

Grading Time: I give The Killers (1964) 4 stars and an Adrastos Grade of A- The 1946 version got an A. I told you it was *almost* as good as the original.

Let’s get arty and look at the 3 sheet poster, which features the lovely and talented Angie Dickinson.

Feeling like a card? Let’s all go to the lobby.

I’ve had a lot of fun mocking color lobby cards for black and white movies. The opposite is true with these lobby cards.

It’s trailer time:

The last word goes to the Noir Czar himself, Eddie Muller. The segment includes a chat with Clu Gulager who died last year at the age of 93.