There’s a new Arrow Region 2 Bluray of Don Siegel’s The Killers (’64), a tolerable if bland-looking gangster flick that contains Ronald Reagan‘s final big-screen performance. It’s quite inferior to Robert Siodmak’s 1946 black-and-white version which costarred Burt Lancaster, Edmond O’Brien, Ava Gardner, Sam Levene, William Conrad and Charles McGraw. The latter should be Blurayed, not the ’64 version.
The Siegel version was made for television but played theatrically in Europe (and also domestically as an after-thought). In 1964, “made for TV” meant a 1.37 aspect ratio, period. No wiggle room for 1.85 fascist revisionism. The Arrow Bluray presents the original boxy version plus, oddly, a 1.85 version.
Arrow-supplied “Projectionist Notes” offer a curious rationale for 1.85, to wit: “The Killers was intended from the onset to be show-able in cinemas, at a time when widescreen was all but universal and many projectionists were no longer able to screen films in the TV-shaped ‘Academy’ ratio.”
Bullshit! I had easy access to 1.37 aperture plates when I was a Connecticut projectionist in 1980 and ’81. Trust me — 1.37 aperture plates were not thrown out in the trash.
“In 1964 when the film was still known as Johnny North, the daily edition of variety reported that ‘in all probability’ ‘North’ will be released in Europe as a theatrical film, and thus, turned out to be the case.”
Except Europe was mostly using 1.66 aperture plates in 1964. As Sterling Hayden‘s Jack D. Ripper would have put it, “This is how your hardcore 1.85 fascist thinks.” They will say anything and distort whatever they can get away with in order to justify using a 1.85 aspect ratio.