Cinema: Vintage Violence

The Killers, nominally based on a vigorous short story by Ernest Hemingway, seems to borrow most of its inspiration from the Marquís de Sade. In 1946, the Hemingway story triggered a crisp crime thriller starring Burt Lancaster as the willing victim gunned down by hired assassins. The latest version, with John Cassavetes, was designed as a full-length feature for television, then was bucked along to theater exhibitors when NBC decided that its burly blend of sex and brutality might loom rather large on the home screen.

In an opening sequence that roughly sets the tone, two hoods, contracted by Con Man Ronald...

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