Shelflife — Movie

Based on the classic Hemingway short story about a pair of hit men and their boxer mark, German expatriate Robert Siodmark’s exemplary 1946 film noir The Killers jettisons the great writer’s snappy dialogue early on but still succeeds in crafting a dark, shadowy tale of double and triple crosses highlighted by the black-and-white photography and an incandescent turn by Ave Gardner as the exotic femme fatale.

In contrast, the 1964 version (the first-ever made-for-TV film, but due to its violent nature canned in the wake of the Kennedy assassination) was directed by Don Siegal and starred the rough and ready Lee Marvin and too-sexy-for-her-purr Angie Dickenson. This remake is all bawdy color and splashy action as it careens (somewhat humorously) through the more mercenary elements of Hemingway’s story (hilarious racing scene with John Cassavettes and Ronald Reagan as a bitch-slapping mobster).

Watching both entertaining films provides a neat little study in contrasts, as well as clear predecessors to Tarantino’s hit men duo in Pulp Fiction. Together on DVD for the first time, they provide insight to the rigors of adaptations and remakes in a unique way—with loads of DVD extras to prove it.

One of the many intriguing extras is a three-scene student film co-directed by Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky that is even more faithful to the original short story. *A little hometown trivia: Local musician Dan Cohen’s father appears in the 1946 version as an extra drinking at the bar.