The film is supposedly based on a story by Ernest Hemingway and directed
by The Great Robert Siodmak, the man behind classics
as 1946 The Spiral Staircase and 1944 Phantom Lady, and surely it has
inspired a lot of filmmakers with it's exciting use of Flashbacks.
The use of Flashbacks is a staple of the Film Noir and earlier iconic
films as i.a. Double Indemnity uses it too, and e.g. 1946 The Locket,
a pretty obscure but great Noir uses the multiple Flashback technique
to it's hilt.
The film has an amazing start and Steve Martin gave
this a homage in his 1982 Dead Men don't Wear Plaid, the scene where
calmly is awaiting his killers. Don Siegel's 1964 re-make of
The Killers is a very good film too, and not the least future
Reagan in his last film and playing the boss, a role that corresponds
to Big Jim Colfax in the 1946 film.
The Great 1964 Re-Make by Don "Dirty Harry" Siegel
Two Very Nasty hitmen are played very effectively by
Charles McGraw and William Conrad (later the fat man in popular TV detective
series Cannon) and they arrive to the small town of Brentwood, New Jersey
in their hunt for Ole Anderson, The Swede (Burt
Lancaster). Before finding and killing him they fully enjoy some harassment
of the patrons in the local bar. A scene that feels very
contemporary and this maybe because Quentin Tarantiono used it for his
Pulp Fiction some 50 years later.
Swede was working at a Gas station and he was insured,
and an Insurance agent (Edmond O'Brien) wonders why the victim so calmly
waited for his executioners and what were the reason for this grim fate.
He starts sleuthing backwards in time and finds out that Ole
Anderson came from Philadelphia and that he was a boxer before he became
a criminal and in the company of the boss Big Jim Colfax
and his gangster bitch Kitty (Ava Gardner).
Everyone the Insurance agent meets tells his/her story in a Flashback
and before the film ends in the present, we have had to go through
10 (Ten) flashbacks .... and that's just to many, and it gets tiresome
(well, for me that is, and that's why i don't have it on my Top Ten).
Interestingly, all of the criminals in the film and
including the slightly stupid The Swede are Unlikeable, and yes, Kitty
too. Ava isn't as
charismatic as usual in her femme fatale role. Sure, she's gorgeous
but she also manages to be both shady and lack-lustre something
that is very appropriate for a gangsta bitch. I'm not sure if this was
something that Siodmak strived for, but it feels realistic as an evil
person isn't attractive for anyone sane, if so it's against the normal
femme fatale fantasy.
Normally the meeting between a Film Noir loser hero and a femme fatale
is narrated by the spellbound man, something that gives the
predator woman some sensual aura, but in this film it's an outsider
that tell the story in a factual way.
The film was presented in 4:3 fullscreen original ratio,
black & white, english mono audio and in a bare bones with no extras