Summary: Toss that old DVD. Via this new Masters of Cinema Blu-ray, Billy Wilder's definitive film noir has never looked so good. 'Double Indemnity' is an essential investment.
Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder co-wrote the script to 'Double Indemnity' - a teaming as incredible and diverse as Lennon and McCartney, each bringing their unique talents together for the greater good. Adapting James M Cain's novella, they crafted American cinema's finest film noir and it still holds up today.
The story of an honest man being swayed by a femme fatale into murdering her husband is familiar, but Wilder's eye for brilliant casting jerked the cliche into something else.
Known before and since as primarily a light comedian, Fred MacMurray brought slick charm to the role of insurance agent Walter Neff whose day turns to black night as the film progresses while melodrama queen Barbara Stanwyck went ice cold in a trashy wig as Phyllis Dietrichson who plots to bag the double indemnity payout from her husband's murder.
Adding an extra dimension is Edward G Robinson as Barton Keyes - an intelligent, probing insurance investigator who works with Neff. He is the father figure, the friend, the voice of guilt and reason in an unreasonable dilemma and the criminals' possible downfall.
Impeccable lighting, witty exchanges, a breezy pace, piercing one-liners, fascinating characters and a truly engaging narrative help make 'Double Indemnity' not only one of the best noirs, but one of the best films of all time.
Little more can be added to the criticism of such an established classic, except to say that this release from Eureka's Masters of Cinema label is the best it's ever looked on home video. The Blu-ray of Universal's classic is crisp and clean. It also contains a 2006 documentary with filmmakers and scholars discussing the film's impact and legacy, as well as a 1945 radio adaptation with MacMurray and Stanwyck reprising their roles. A must for any serious film lover's collection.
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