Why would a man, who knows he's about to die, not care enough to save himself when he has the chance? This question lies at the centre of Ernest Hemingway's short story, "The Killers." It would be a question that would inspire three filmmakers to create their own cinematic adaptations of Hemingway's tale. The folks at Criterion have collected all three versions of The Killers and presented them in a comprehensive two-DVD set.
The first DVD, with the 1946 version, features an impressive introduction into the film noir genre. Author and screenwriter, Stuart Kaminsky is interviewed at length about the origins of film noir and the similarities and differences between the 1946 and 1964 versions and how they compare to Hemingway's original short story.
In an amazing bit of cinematic archaeology, Criterion found Russian filmmaker, Andrei Tarkovsky's take on The Killers. It's very minimalist in style and set design but is quite faithful to Hemingway's story.
Another highlight on this disc is writer-director, Paul Schrader's seminal essay, "Notes on Film Noir." Schrader outlines and defines the characteristics of film noir and puts it into a historical context.
The second disc, with the 1964 version, doesn't feature as many extras but does present a fascinating look at how Siegel's film evolved from a made-for-TV movie to a theatrical release. Some of the highlights include a hilarious memo from NBC's Broadcast Standards Department as they outline all the objectionable material they found in the screenplay. It becomes readily apparent that Siegel ignored all their suggestions and kept in all the offending material!
For fans of film noir this is an essential purchase as these two films are given the deluxe Criterion treatment. The prints of both films have been lovingly re-mastered and have never looked better. The wealth of extras entertain and educate, making this set an excellent primer for anyone interested in learning more about film noir.