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Double Indemnity: Criterion Collection (1944) - Blu-ray Review

Double Indemnity: Criterion Collection (1944)

Hard-boiled and crackling with stark intensity, Los Angeles after dark is always an exciting place.  Especially with all the femme fatales walking the streets.

Whether it be out on the street or gazing out the window of your home, the air of unpredictability is always lurking about in the air.  And it is that unpredictability which opens director Billy Wilder’s film noir classic, Double Indemnity as a car burns rubber speeding through the city and ignoring traffic signals.  Danger and urgency fuel this vehicle and, as it is driven by a previously unsuspecting insurance salesman, anything is possible.

"Everything about this film is a sizzling masterpiece of tension, suspense, and seduction"


Because Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray, My Three Sons) knows better . . . and now Double Indemnity is his confession.  Throwing it all away for a beautiful woman?  Guilty.  Murder?  Guilty, too.  Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) is the femme fatale and she’s got his number from the get-go.  Novelist and Wilder’s co-writer Raymond Chandler makes damn sure of it.

It was a hot afternoon when they first met.  It was over a quick discussion concerning accident insurance and, with words like “baby” hanging in the air, the seed of Dietrichson’s plan to get someone - anyone - to murder her husband have already been planted.  Neff can think of nothing else but being with her.  Their flirtation, while harmless, is so effortless that even we fall under her spell.

But Neff’s business partner, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), is having none of it and, as waxes poetic about the anklet on Dietrichson’s leg, he is busy putting all the pieces together as this fraudulent claim takes out his closest friend.  

Double Indemnity, directed by Billy Wilder, is a classic film noir flick and the 4K restoration from Criterion is damned exceptional.  Everything about this film is a sizzling masterpiece of tension, suspense, and seduction as Neff finds himself falling for all of Dietrichson’s charm and evil.  And, after getting his mind twisted, finds himself staring into the falling raindrops as her red, hot poker is still firmly in hand.Double Indemnity: Criterion Collection (1944)

Film Noir, as a genre in film, stems from the assault of way too many “Happy Endings” in Hollywood.  It’s a natural response full of pessimism and fatalism and, as a result, it butters this reviewer’s bread.  For about a decade, writers and directors could see that audiences weren’t interested in fairy tales anymore.  There was too much poverty; too much death and destruction; too many wars.  And the push to urban life had created an economic disparity that lingered long after any romantic ending did.  

People needed the darkness to be acknowledged and, from 1944 to 1955, it was cinema’s prime celebrity as highly cinematographic films - cheaply made - fell onto the rain-soaked streets of Home Town, USA.  And Double Indemnity is a giant among them.

Double Indemnity, a certified REEL CLASSIC, is now on blu-ray, digitally remastered and fully restored from the original 35mm film elements, thanks to Criterion’s new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack.

5/5 stars

 

Double Indemnity: Criterion Collection (1944)

Blu-ray Details

Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray
- May 31, 2022
Screen Formats: 1.37:1
Subtitles
: English SDH
Audio:
English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck star in the gripping film noir classic Double Indemnity, directed by Academy Award winner Billy Wilder. A calculating wife (Stanwyck) encourages her wealthy husband to sign a double indemnity policy proposed by smitten insurance agent Walter Neff (MacMurray). As the would-be lovers plot the unsuspecting husband's murder, they are pursued by a suspicious claims manager (Edward G. Robinson). It's a race against time to get away with the perfect crime in this suspenseful masterpiece that was nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture.  Has dialogue ever been more perfectly hard-boiled? Has a femme fatale ever been as deliciously wicked as Barbara Stanwyck? And has 1940s Los Angeles ever looked so seductively sordid? Working with co-writer Raymond Chandler, director Billy Wilder launched himself onto the Hollywood A-list with this epitome of film-noir fatalism from James M. Cain’s pulp novel. Featuring scene-stealing supporting work from Edward G. Robinson and the chiaroscuro of cinematographer John F. Seitz, Double Indemnity is one of the most entertainingly perverse stories ever told and the standard by which all noir must be measured.

Video:

With a crisp black-and-white transfer in 4K, Double Indemnity lands on blu-ray thanks to the crackling efforts of The Criterion Collection.  Shadows, while not too terribly detailed, are thick and atmospheric throughout. Presented with an aspect ratio of 1.37:1, the film looks marvelous and easily beats the poor appearance on television and on home video DVD that have previously dogged it. The blacks and grays are handled expertly by the transfer.  Beads of sweat are visible, wet city streets, textures in clothing, and even the dirt in the pavement is all visible with fine textures throughout.

Audio:

Bang! Bang! Bang!  Shots are fired on the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track which accompanies this film noir flick.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • See Special Features.

Special Features:

In the 4K UHD edition: One 4K UHD disc of the film presented in Dolby Vision HDR and two Blu-rays with the film and special features, plus there is an essay by critic Angelica Jade Bastién.

  • Audio commentary featuring film critic Richard Schickel
  • New interview with film scholar Noah Isenberg, editor of Billy Wilder on Assignment
  • New conversation between film historians Eddie Muller and Imogen Sara Smith
  • Billy, How Did You Do It?, a 1992 film by Volker Schlöndorff and Gisela Grischow featuring interviews with director Billy Wilder
  • Shadows of Suspense, a 2006 documentary on the making of Double Indemnity
  • Radio adaptations from 1945 and 1950
  • Trailer

Blu-ray Rating

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Composite Blu-ray Grade

5/5 stars


Film Details

Double Indemnity: Criterion Collection (1944)

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Runtime:
107 mins
Director
: Billy Wilder
Writer:
Billy Wilder; Raymond Chandler
Cast:
Fred MacMurray; Barbara Stanwyck; Edward G. Robinson
Genre
: Drama | Crime | Noir
Tagline:
From the Moment they met it was Murder!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money - and a woman - and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?"
Theatrical Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Official Site:
Release Date:
July 6, 1944
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
May 31, 2022.
Synopsis: Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money - and a woman - and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?

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Double Indemnity: Criterion Collection (1944)

 

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