Best Blu-ray Deals
Best Blu-ray Deals, See All the Deals »
Top deals |
A calculating wife encourages her wealthy husband to sign a double indemnity policy proposed by smitten insurance agent Walter Neff. As the would-be lovers plot the unsuspecting husband's murder, they are pursued by a suspicious claims manager. It's a race against time to get away with the perfect crime in this suspenseful masterpiece that was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture.
For more about Double Indemnity and the Double Indemnity Blu-ray release, see Double Indemnity Blu-ray Review published by Michael Reuben on April 13, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler
Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall (I), Jean Heather, Tom Powers
» See full cast & crew
Double Indemnity Blu-ray Review
That Was No Lady; That Was My Femme Fatale
Reviewed by Michael Reuben, April 13, 2014
Director Billy Wilder said that he made Double Indemnity because the James M. Cain book he really wanted to film, The Postman Always Rings Twice, already belonged to Warner Brothers. Instead, Wilder adapted the novella that Cain published in serial form two years after Postman. Paramount hired crime novelist Raymond Chandler to co-write the screenplay and, as told many times in the years that followed, the writing partners clashed repeatedly—but they eventually turned out a screenplay so forceful that Cain became the rare author to express the view that Hollywood had improved on his book. Despite initial casting difficulties, because the material was pulpy and the main characters despicable, Wilder persuaded actors Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray to take the lead roles in what would become career-defining performances for both. He also persuaded Edward G. Robinson to accept third billing (for his usual salary), even though the actor was accustomed to starring roles. Robinson proceeded to steal every scene in which he appeared. In a career of memorable performances, it's one of his best. Double Indemnity is among those films that support the theory that Oscars are no badge of quality. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including screenplay, director and best picture, the film went home empty-handed, shut out in most categories by another Paramount offering, Leo McCarey's Going My Way. Now, Going My Way is a perfectly fine film, but it's no Double Indemnity. Few films are. Double Indemnity was previously released on Blu-ray in a region B-locked special edition as part of the "Masters of Cinema" series from Eureka Entertainment. Universal is now issuing the film in region A with what appears to be a different video presentation and a similar but not identical set of extras.
Like The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity takes the form of its lead character's confession. In Cain's novel, he writes it down, but Wilder and Chandler created the inspired device of having insurance salesman Walter Neff (MacMurray) dictate a memo to his colleague and friend, claims investigator Barton Keyes (Robinson). Obviously injured, Neff sits alone at night in his company's empty L.A. offices confessing his sins into a microphone. In words that neatly sum up the core of what would later be dubbed film noir, Neff says that he did it "for money and a woman—and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman." A routine call on a client named Dietrichson (Tom Powers) introduced Walter to the client's wife, Phyllis (Stanwyck). Before he knew what hit him, Walter found himself having an affair with the ambiguously attractive blonde, who poured out her marital woes. Almost as if he'd been waiting for the challenge, Walter agreed to help Phyllis murder her husband in such a way that she could collect on the accident policy they arranged for Dietrichson to acquire without his knowledge. The manner of death would trigger the policy's "double indemnity" clause, requiring the company to pay twice its stated value. Since Walter knows that his friend Keyes and his "little man" (as Keyes calls his intuition) will be all over the case looking for red flags, his planning is meticulous, and Wilder takes a Hitchcockian glee at drawing out the details so that the audience unwittingly sides with the murderers, becoming complicit in the successful planning and execution of their criminal scheme. (Lawrence Kasdan followed Wilder's template precisely almost forty years later in Body Heat, substituting inheritance for insurance.) At first they appear to be successful. Keyes's "little man" is initially quiet when Phyllis submits her claim. It's Walter who is changed by the experience. Immediately after killing Dietrichson, he somehow knows that he's doomed. Wilder manages the disintegration of Walter's scheme with the same precision as its execution. Keyes's "little man" wakes up, and the wily investigator begins digging. The dead man's daughter, Lola (Jean Heather), seeks out Walter with accusations against Phyllis and revelations that cause Walter to see his beloved in a whole new light. Lola's hot-tempered boyfriend, Nino Zachetti (Byron Barr), becomes a person of interest to both Keyes and Walter, though for entirely different reasons. And the relationship between Phyllis and Walter rapidly deteriorates into suspicion and mutual recrimination. In the end, all Walter can do is stagger into his office and record everything for the only person he knows whose integrity is unquestionable. Almost every aspect of Double Indemnity has been analyzed and commented upon at length, but one facet that is often underappreciated is the literacy of its script. Wilder could tell a story visually as well as anyone else—he invented on the spot a wordless scene immediately following the murder that worked so well it has now become a cliche through imitation—but he also trusted the power of words. In Double Indemnity, he often has the actors speaking their dialogue at breakneck speed, almost as if they were playing a comedy, but the pace wouldn't work if the dialogue weren't so lucid and intelligent. A classic example is the scene in the office of insurance executive Edward S. Norton, Jr. (Richard Gaines), who summons Walter and Keyes to hear his theory that Mr. Dietrichson committed suicide, which wouldn't be covered under his policy. Keyes proceeds to destroy his boss's theory in a lengthy speech about actuarial tables—yes, actuarial tables. The phrase alone would make most people yawn, and today the speech would probably be cut from the script. But as written by Wilder (who got most of it from Cain) and forcefully delivered by Edward G. Robinson, the scene comes alive, because suddenly these things matter. If you set up the right dramatic context and choose the right words, even the driest figures become fascinating, and no one understood that better than Billy Wilder.
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, Video Quality
Wilder and cinematographer John Seitz (Sunset Boulevard ) developed innovative techniques for lighting Double Indemnity that were widely copied: dark interiors, harsh and unflattering light, blinds throwing light and shadow at odd angles, strange shadows of indeterminate origin. The challenge for an accurate video reproduction of the filmed image is to recreate blacks with integrity, while delineating the appropriate shades of gray to reproduce fine detail and maintaining an appropriate level of contrast. Universal's catalog output has been wildly inconsistent, but their 1080p, AVC-encoded Blu-ray of Double Indemnity is one of their better efforts to date. In the dark interiors of the Dietrichson home or in Walter's apartment, and in the many night scenes, especially those involving the murder, the blacks are inky and deep, and the contrast isn't overstated. It's the right balance to allow detail to show through without being blown out by excessive whites. In better lit scenes like the insurance office, the shades of gray are finely layered for sense of depth and detail of office furnishings and staff at work. The fine detail of Phyllis Dietrichson's wardrobe, as well as of the blonde wig that proved so controversial, both at the time and over the years (Wilder first lamented it as a mistake, then claimed he'd done it on purpose), are sharply visible. The elements appear to be in very good shape, with no major damage. The film's grain pattern is fine and natural, without signs of filtering, sharpening or other untoward manipulation. The only real criticism is a recurrent flickering at both sides of the frame, which, though not serious, is noticeable. Several commentators noted the same phenomenon on the Eureka Masters of Cinema ("MOC") edition, which suggests that the issue may be inherent to the elements. The average bitrate of 32.98 Mbps provides more than sufficient bandwidth to handle Double Indemnity. (Note: Since I do not have either the MOC version of Double Indemnity or a region-free player, no attempt has been made to compare the two presentations.)
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Double Indemnity was released in mono, which is presented on Blu-ray in two-channel lossless DTS-HD MA. It's a well-mixed track with precisely placed sound effects. Listen, for example, to the sound of Walter Neff's dictaphone when he pauses; the old machines with their recording cylinders made an "idling" sound during pause, and it provides an undercurrent to Walter's thought process. Sounds of a moving train, automobiles, people in a grocery store and, in one famous scene, the distant orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl are all expertly blended into the mix. The all-important dialogue is always clear, and the revolutionary score by Miklós Rózsa, which his boss at Paramount hated but Wilder loved, supplies discordant and foreboding notes from the film's very opening.
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The disc-based extras have been ported over from Universal's 2006 "Legacy Series" two-disc special edition DVD of Double Indemnity. A featureless DVD was previously released by Image Entertainment in 1998.
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As with Citizen Kane, the influence of Double Indemnity—in characterization, in performance, in visual style—has been so pervasive that viewers new to the film may wonder what the big deal is. But before Wilder took on the challenge, Cain's novella was considered unfilmable because of its degenerate and unredeemable lead characters. Today such figures are common, but it was Wilder who first showed Hollywood how to make audiences identify with them—and he did it at a time when the old Production Code put much greater restrictions on what he could show than does today's MPAA ratings system. He did it so well that Double Indemnity still plays effectively sixty years later. Highly recommended.
Double Indemnity: Other Editions
Use the thumbs up and thumbs down icons to agree or disagree that the title is similar to Double Indemnity. You can also suggest completely new similar titles to Double Indemnity in the search box below.
Similar titles suggested by members
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: April 15-22 - April 13, 2014
For the week of April 15th, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment is bringing Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty to Blu-ray. Other Tuesday titles include two classic noirs from Universal - Double Indemnity and Touch of Evil - and Criterion's HD release ...
• Double Indemnity & Touch of Evil Blu-rays - January 28, 2014
Universal Studios Home Entertainment will bring Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944) and Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (1958) to Blu-ray this Spring. The former arrives via a 70th Anniversary Limited Edition Blu-ray/UltraViolet combo pack, while the latter arrives ...
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
» Show more forum discussions for Double Indemnity Blu-ray
Double Indemnity Blu-ray Screenshots
Back to Double Indemnity Blu-ray »
Trending Blu-ray Movies
Trending in Theaters
This web site is not affiliated with the Blu-ray Disc Association.
All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners.
© 2002-2015 Blu-ray.com. All rights reserved.