KILLERS X 3: A recent DVD set from Criterion pairs Robert Siodmak's 1946 noir classic The Killers with Don Siegel's 1964 remake of the movie. (Both are based very loosely on Ernest Hemmingway's short story.) I'm a big fan of the original film, and I had never seen the remake, so I rented the set eagerly last night. In addition to being made by Siegel -- one of my favorite directors -- the '64 version is notable for featuring Ronald Reagan as a villain. That I wanted to see.
I wasn't disappointed. Even if this were a lousy movie, it would be worth watching just to see Reagan as a gangster who hits Angie Dickinson and says things like "I approve of larceny; homicide is against my principles." The man who steals the show, though, is Lee Marvin as one of the eponymous killers -- I don't think I've ever seen him give a better performance. A very good, very underrated picture; I recommend it almost as highly as Siodmak's version.
But here's the strangest thing. Among the set's many extras is a 19-minute student film of "The Killers" made in 1958. The chief director was, of all people, Andrei Tarkovksy. The thought of Tarkovksy making anything so short boggles the mind, but Tark fans needn't be disillusioned: In his hands, 19 minutes feels like three hours. Aside from one inventive sequence in the middle, his film is leaden stuff. On the other hand, it's the only version that faithfully follows the original Hemmingway.