Friday 10 July 2020

Streaming on YouTube - Andrei Tarkovsky's debut THE KILLERS (Marika Beiku, Aleksandr Gordon, Andrei Tarkovsky, USSR, 1956)

Andrei Tarkovsky
First came Robert Siodmak’s version. In 1946 Siodmak adapted Ernest Hemingway’s short story into The Killers, one of the greatest of all film noirs and the movie that brought Burt Lancaster to the screen for the first time. 

In 1964 Don Siegel made his version with John Cassavetes as the doomed Swede, a film so violent that its initial planned life as a telemovie had to be abandoned and it eventually went out in the theatres. Much focus in this version on the all steely grey Lee Marvin who couldn’t comprehend why a man would just accept that death was on its way.

But wait…there’s more. Exactly halfway between the two versions made by Universal, in 1956 and 1964, and  courtesy of YouTube, we now discover another film debut, as both director and actor took place when a Russian version of the film was made at the VGIK Film School in Moscow. The debuts were of Andrei Tarkovsky, in a 19 minute version of the short story supervised by master director and professor of cinema Mikhail Romm.

There is some explanatory material preceding the film including pointing you to Tarkovsky's appearance and the significance of what he does. In addition the anonymous person who posted the copy (with excellent English subtitles) has helpfully provided this info as well:

The Killers (Russian: Убийцы) is a 1956 student film by the Soviet and Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky and his fellow students Marika Beiku and Aleksandr Gordon. It is based on the short story The Killers by Ernest Hemingway, written in 1927. It was Tarkovsky's first film, produced when he was a student at the State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK).

Students were required to work on films in groups of two or threes due to a lack of equipment at the film school VGIK. Andrei Tarkovsky and Aleksandr Gordon asked Marika Beiku to work with them. The idea for adapting Ernest Hemingway's short story was Tarkovsky's. All roles were played by students of the VGIK, and the camera and lighting was handled by fellow students Alfredo Álvarez and Aleksandr Rybin.

Beiku, Gordon and Tarkovsky set up an American bar in the studio of the film school, at this time a symbol of depravity and becoming a little attraction among students. Props were brought by students from their homes, and from relatives and friends. The film was praised by Mikhail Romm, the professor and teacher of Beiku, Gordon and Tarkovsky.

Directed by: Marika Beiku, Aleksandr Gordon, Andrei Tarkovsky
Written by: Ernest Hemingway (story), Aleksandr Gordon, Andrei Tarkovsky
Starring: Yuli Fait, Aleksandr Gordon, Valentin Vinogradov, Boris Novikov, Yuri Dubrovin, Andrei Tarkovsky, Vasily Shukshin
Cinematography: Alfredo Alvarez, Aleksandr Rybin
Release date(s): 1956 (USSR)
Running time: 19 min.
Country: Soviet Union
Language: Russian

This is not exactly hot news. The YouTube copy has already had over 100,000 views. You can see it if you click here

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