THE KILLERS (Robert Siodmak, 1946)
209 West Houston St.
Series runs July 19 - August 15
In 1950, Edmond O’Brien starred as auditor Frank Bigelow in Rudolph Maté’s classic noir D.O.A., a story told in flashback as Bigelow tries to figure out why someone has poisoned him. Four years earlier, O’Brien dealt with another kind of fatalism in Robert Siodmak’s The Killers, playing insurance agent Jim Reardon, who is investigating why a gas station attendant was brutally gunned down in his bed in suburban Brentwood, New Jersey. The film — which kicks off Film Forum’s four-week salute to Manhattan-born Hollywood star Burt Lancaster on July 19 — opens with cold-hearted contract killers Al (Charles McGraw) and Max (William Conrad) arriving in town, looking for the Swede (Lancaster), aka Pete Lund and Ole Andreson. They waltz into Henry’s Diner, giving orders and exchanging mean-spirited dialogue with no fears or worries. When Nick Adams (Phil Brown) warns the Swede that the men are coming to kill him, the former boxer knows there’s nothing he can do about it anymore; he’s tired of running, and he’s ready to meet his end.
It’s a shocking way to begin a movie; up to that point, it’s a faithful version of Ernest Hemingway’s short story, but the rest is the splendid invention of writers Richard Brooks, Anthony Veiller, and John Huston and producer Mark Hellinger. Reardon soon finds himself meeting with a series of gangsters as they relate, through flashbacks, a plot to rob a payroll, perpetrated by a motley crew that includes “Dum Dum” Clarke (Jack Lambert), “Blinky” Franklin (Jeff Corey), the Swede, and mastermind Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker), along with Big Jim’s gun moll, femme fatale extraordinaire Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner). Reardon’s boss (Donald MacBride) wants him to forget about it, since it’s essentially about a meager $2,500 insurance claim, but Reardon is determined to find out what happened to a quarter million in cash, with the help of the Swede’s childhood friend, Lt. Sam Lubinsky (Sam Levene).
The Killers is an intense, passionate heist flick, structured like Citizen Kane, starting with a death and then putting everything together via interviews and flashbacks. Lancaster and Gardner are magnetic, he in his screen debut, she in the film that made her a star. Siodmak (The Dark Mirror, The Spiral Staircase) masterfully navigates the noir tropes, from Miklós Rózsa’s jazzy score, which jumps out from the opening credits, and Woody Bredell’s oft-angled black-and-white cinematography that maintains an ominous, shadowy sensibility throughout to deft characterizations and surprising plot twists. As it makes its way through the seven deadly sins, The Killers lives up to its fab billing as a “Raw! Rugged! Ruthless drama of a man who gambled — his luck — his love — his life for the treachery of a girl’s lips.”
Nominated for four Oscars, for Best Director, Best Film Editing (Arthur Hilton), Best Music, and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Killers, which was also made into a 1958 student short by Andrei Tarkovsky and a 1964 crime drama by Don Siegel starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, Norman Fell, and Ronald Reagan, is screening July 19-25 at Film Forum; the Lancaster tribute continues through August 15 with such other Burt classics as Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success, Fred Zinnemann’s From Here to Eternity, and Louis Malle’s Atlantic City in addition to such lesser-known movies as John Cassavetes’s A Child Is Waiting, Sidney Pollack’s The Scalphunters, and Norman Foster’s Kiss the Blood Off My Hands.
THE KILLERS (Don Siegel, 1964)
209 West Houston St.
Saturday, July 20 – Monday, July 22
In conjunction with the screening of the 1946 version of The Killers kicking off Film Forum’s four-week Burt Lancaster festival, the downtown institution is also presenting Don Siegel’s 1964 remake July 20-22. Siegel, who at one point was supposed to direct the 1946 original, sets this adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s 1927 short story in a bright, candy-colored world that is a far cry from the intricate, shadowy darkness of Robert Siodmak’s earlier noir version; in fact, it’s so luminous that hitmen Charlie Strom (Lee Marvin) and Lee (Clu Gulager) are often wearing dark sunglasses (à la Jake and Ellwood Blues), and the film opens with them walking into a home for the blind, passing by two blind boys playing their own version of cops and robbers. The men are there to kill former race-car driver Johnny North (John Cassavetes), who is now a teacher. Despite being warned by an old man (longtime character actor Burt Mustin) that they are coming, Johnny waits for them, choosing not to run. His lack of a survival instinct confounds Charlie, who goes on a search to find out why Johnny didn’t fight for his life but instead essentially welcomed a brutal death.
Johnny’s sordid tale is related to Charlie and Lee in flashback as they meet up with his mechanic and best friend, Earl Sylvester (Claude Akins); Johnny’s lover, femme fatale Sheila Farr (Angie Dickinson); Farr’s other lover, crime boss Jack Browning (Ronald Reagan); and Jack’s flunky, Mickey Farmer (Norman Fell), as they tell a story of racing, double crosses, and a million-dollar heist. Written by Gene L. Coon and initially intended as a television movie but deemed too violent in the wake of the assassination of JFK and released theatrically, The Killers features plenty of cheesy scenes and none-too-subtle melodrama, but it’s still loads of fun, with a campy sense of humor lurking behind all the blood and guts, with a Rat Packy feel. Reagan is fun to watch in his final movie role before turning to politics — and his first time playing a villain — while the glamorous Dickinson shows off some fine hairdos and couture. Siegel, who had previously directed Invasion of the Body Snatchers and would go on to make Dirty Harry, Madigan, and Escape from Alcatraz, never veers off track as he relies on the great Lee Marvin, in the midst of a terrific run that included The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Cat Ballou, The Dirty Dozen, and Point Blank, to drive the action. It might not be very Hemingway-esque, but who cares?
Who: Raquel Cion, Jeremy Bass, Rembert Block, David Cale, Amanda Duarte, Amy Priya Santos, Genevieve Chapin, Michael Ryan Morales, Karl Saint Lucy, DM Salsberg, Zac Selissen
What: Benefit for NARAL Pro-Choice America
Where: Pangea, 178 2nd Ave., 212-995-0900
When: Friday, July 19, $15-$35 in advance, $20-$40 at the door, 8:00
Why: Since early 2015, glittering chanteuse Raquel Cion has presented her inspiring, ever-evolving show Me & Mr. Jones: My Intimate Relationship with David Bowie, a deeply personal look of the impact the Thin White Duke has had on her life and career. On July 19, Cion will be celebrating her half-century birthday at Pangea, paying homage to Bowie’s fiftieth-birthday concert at Madison Square Garden, performing songs by Mr. Jones with special guests Jeremy Bass, Rembert Block, David Cale, Amanda Duarte, Amy Priya Santos and a backing band consisting of Zac Selissen on guitar, musical director Karl Saint Lucy on keyboards, Genevieve Chapin on bass, Michael Ryan Morales on drums, and DM Salsberg on vocals. Tickets for “Raquel Cion & Friends: A Very Special Birthday Concert” are $35 in advance ($40 at the door) for VIP cabaret seating and hors d’oeuvres and $15 in advance ($20 at the door) for the bar area live feed, with proceeds benefiting NARAL Pro-Choice America. Everyone will partake of what should be a spectacular birthday cake by rogue pastry chef Miranti Dame Cuchi, but not as fabulous as Ms. Cion herself, who will be all dolled up in couture by David Quinn and makeup by Coco Bennett.
Who: Nearly four hundred restaurants throughout the city
What: Summer Restaurant Week
Where: All five boroughs
When: July 22 - August 16, two-course lunches $26, three-course dinners $42
Why: For more than a quarter of a century, New York City eateries have been offering special deals during Restaurant Week, with a growing number of participants every year. Reservation lines are now open for the immensely popular program, with almost four hundred establishments from across the culinary spectrum offering two-course prix-fixe lunches for $26 and dinners for $42 from July 22 through August 16. (Some restaurants do only lunch or dinner, and others offer the deals only on weekdays.) Most of the prix-fixe menus are available online so you know just what you’re in for. Among the many restaurants are such favorites as ‘21 Club,’ ABC Kitchen, American Cut, Bann, Barbetta, Becco, Burger & Lobster, Casa Lever, Catch NYC, Charlie Palmer Steak, Cipriani, Darbar, DB Bistro Moderne, Delmonico’s, Docks Oyster Bar, Dos Caminos, Estiatorio Milos, Feast, Fish Cheeks, Frankie & Johnnie’s, Glass House Tavern, HanGawi, Haru, Hearth, Inakaya, Indochine, i Trulli, Il Mulino, Lupa Osteria Romana, Lure Fishbar, Mercer Kitchen, Momofuku Nishi, Monkey Bar, the Morgan Dining Room, Nice Matin, Orsay, the Palm Court, Park Avenue Summer, Periyali, Public Kitchen, Quality Eats, Red Rooster, Riverpark, Rosa Mexicano, Rôtisserie Georgette, the Russian Tea Room, Scarpetta, Shun Lee Palace, STK, the Strip House, Tao, Tribeca Grill, the Tuck Room, Untitled, and the Wright.
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Ave. at 19th St.
July 16-21, $56-$96
Ballerina Maria Kochetkova wasn’t kidding when she named her first solo project Catch Her If You Can; several of the shows, running July 16-21 at the Joyce, are already sold out, or nearly so. The thirty-five-year-old Moscow-born star trained at the Bolshoi and was a principal with San Francisco Ballet for eleven years, the last two overlapping as a principal here in New York City with ABT. She has spent the last year traveling the world as a guest dancer with such companies as Norwegian National Ballet, Staatsballett Berlin, and English National Ballet, but she has now teamed up with the Joyce Theater Foundation for the special program Catch Her If You Can, consisting of eight works by seven modern choreographers chosen by Kochetkova, joined by four other dancers. “Ballet can be different, ballet can be contemporary, ballet can be exciting, ballet can be theater. I want to show what ballet is now,” she says in a Joyce promotional video.
The evening consists of Bach Duet (from New Suite) by William Forsythe, danced by Kochetkova and Sebastian Kloborg; Painting Greys by Myles Thatcher, a solo by Carlo Di Lanno; Tué by Marco Goecke, a solo by Drew Jacoby; Degunino by Marcos Morau, a solo by Kochetkova; the Swan Lake Pas de Deux by David Dawson, with Di Lanno and Sofiane Sylve; Rachel, Nevada by Jacoby, with Kochetkova and Jacoby, At the End of the Day by Dawson, with Kochetkova and Kloborg; and Masha Machine, an intimate and personal solo piece by Jérôme Bel that Kochetkova promises will hold surprises. Kochetkova’s immersion into the world of contemporary dance will not bring an end to her ballet career; she’s schedule to perform in the fall with Norwegian National Ballet again and Dresden Semperoper Ballett, but Catch Her If You Can offers what should be an exciting look at what the future holds for this international favorite entering a new phase, eager to push the bounds of her abilities.
UPTOWN SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK
Marcus Garvey Park, Richard Rodgers Amphitheater
Tuesday - Sunday through July 28, free, 8:30
Jesus Christ Superstar meets The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s funky “Uptown Shakespeare in the Park!” world premiere of Bryan Doerries’s new adaptation of Euripides’s The Bacchae. The free show, continuing at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park through July 28, has the ebullient energy of NBC’s live television versions of musicals (The Sound of Music, Peter Pan, the aforementioned Jesus Christ Superstar) rather than that of a fully formed stage production as it reinterprets the classical Greek tragedy for the twenty-first century while kicking off the company’s twentieth anniversary. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, get ready to make some noise for the man you been waiting for. The man that can make all your dreams come true. The preachya that can reach ya, in all the right places. Give it up for Preachya D!!!” a voiceover announces, and Preachya D, better known as Dionysus (Jason C. Brown), enters to much fanfare and proclaims, “I came here as a preacha, as a teacha / I can only hope I can reach you before you run out of time / So betta listen to this rhyme / And then get in line / I hope you ready to learn.”
Dionysus is surrounded by his worshipful followers, a three-woman chorus (Gabrielle Djenné, Rebecca Ana Peña, and Lori Vega), eight dancers (Daniela Funicello, Ashley LaRosa, Brynlie Helmich, Sai Rodboon, Hannah Gross, Madelyn LaLonde, Harmony Jackson, and Kat Files), and a guitar-shredding musician (Alicyn Yaffee). King Pentheus (RJ Foster) doesn’t believe Dionysus is the son of Zeus and is jealous of his minions, known as Bacchettes, while his grandfather, former king Cadmus (Charles Bernard Murray), is ready to go dancing with the Bacchettes, hidden in the mountains, alongside wise old Tiresias (Brian D. Coats). Caught somewhere in the middle is Agaue (Andrea Patterson), Pentheus’s mother and Cadmus’s daughter. After a messenger (Brian Demar Jones) advises Pentheus of the wild rituals going on atop the hill, the king asks Dionysus to bring him there, but Pentheus, of course, is about to get more than he bargained for.
Choppily directed by Classical Theatre of Harlem associate artistic director Carl Cofield (One Night in Miami, The Dutchman) The Bacchae takes place on rafters and scaffolding designed by Christopher and Justin Swader, with shadowy, abstract projections by Katherine Freer on more than a dozen vertical screens. Outfitted in Lex Liang’s sexy costumes, the cast communicates the basic narrative through Doerries’s (Antigone in Ferguson, Theater of War) retelling, which includes a lot of description of offstage activities and festivities to move the plot along. The eight woman dancers, members of Elisa Monte Dance, climb all over the stage and into the space on the ground in front of the audience, their ecstatic movements choreographed by Tiffany Rea-Fisher to original music by Fred Kennedy, while Yaffee nearly steals the show as she tears it up with her loud and aggressive guitar playing. The play deals with issues of sexuality, gender, power, and vengeance, but it gets too caught up in itself; the audience is encouraged to take nonflash photos, which is always distracting, and when Preachya D beckons people to stand and dance in their seats, nary a soul got up the night I went, although a handful of people did walk out later. The Bacchae has some cool individual elements, but the shepherds have lost control of their flock as a whole.