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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 Dr. Svet Atanasov on June 9, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall (I), Jean Heather, Tom Powers
Director: Billy Wilder
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Double Indemnity Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, June 9, 2012
Nominated for seven Oscar Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Cinematography, Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity" (1944) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; short documentary; 1945 radio adaptation of "Double Indemnity"; and an audio commentary by film historian Nick Redman and screenwriter/historian Lem Dobbs. The disc also arrives with a 36-page illustrated booklet featuring a 1976 interview by John Allyn with Billy Wilder; an extract from a 1976 interview with James M. Cain comparing his original serial with Wilder's film adaptation; documentation of novelist and Double Indemnity co-screenwriter Raymond Chandler's attitude toward working within the Hollywood studio system; an extract from the original screenplay depicting the excised "death chamber" ending; a note on the restoration; and rare archival imagery. Region-B "locked".
The film begins with a confession – a sweaty man enters a small office, pulls a chair next to a desk and begins taping himself. His confession is about a claim, some accident and double indemnity.
The man is Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), an insurance agent with a sharp tongue. He quietly explains how he met and fell in love with Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), a beautiful blonde married to a wealthy businessman in Los Angeles. The two designed an 'accident' to get rid of her husband and pocket the money from the life insurance Walter sold to him.
For a while Walter was confident that their plan was perfect. He had thought of everything his employers would look at and question, even the smallest details were taken care of. Phyllis also acted as he wanted her to act – she never panicked and never made any mistakes. When she eventually filed the insurance claim with his employers, they could not reject it because everything looked legit.
But Walter's boss, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), wasn't convinced. To him the whole thing looked too clean, too perfect. He started asking questions, the type of questions Walter did not want anyone to ask. Fortunately, at one point even Keyes got fed up with the case and started believing that Phyllis' husband died in a tragic accident.
Then something went wrong. Walter should have seen it coming, but didn't. Perhaps because he was too busy thinking about the future, perhaps because Phyllis was the first woman to get into his head – and stay there. Whatever the reason, he got exactly what he deserved, maybe even slightly more. Now he is tired – not angry, just too damn tired.
Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity deserves all the praise it has received during the years – it is a superbly acted and directed film, the type one would instantly refer to when one would argue that "they don't make them like this anymore".
The script is pure dynamite. There are so many classic one-liners in the film it is hard to believe that Wilder and the great novelist Raymond Chandler did not get along well while working on it. Some of the early exchanges between MacMurray and Stanwyck, for instance, are easily amongst the best ever scripted. There are other noir films where the dialog is just as sharp, but the rhythm is often problematic. Here everything flows.
The direction is just as impressive. There isn't a single sequence where one does not feel the tension. The film begins with a confession that reveals how it would end, but the story is anything but predictable. There are character transformations that dramatically change one's perceptions about the events taking place on the screen.
MacMurray and Stanwyck are both superb. The former exudes just the right amount of confidence for a go-getter who could slip and make a crucial mistake. The latter looks seductive but often dangerous. She is the type of woman that could create a lot of problems for a man naïve enough to believe that he could have her. The ultimate femme fatale? I think so.
Note: In 1945, Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity was nominated for seven Oscar Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Stanwyck), and Best Cinematography (John F. Seitz).
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.32:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Eureka Entertainment.
I think it is fair to say that the wait was well worth it as this is undoubtedly the best presentation this stylish noir film has ever seen on any home video format. I must speculate that a lot of people will be enormously pleased with it.
Detail and clarity are very good throughout the entire film. The daylight sequences look sharp and fresh, while the nighttime sequences boast pleasing depth. The blockiness from the R1 DVD release has also been eliminated (if you still have a copy in your library, see and compare the sequence screencapture #11 is taken from). Color grading is also convincing. The blacks are lush and stable, never looking boosted, while the grays and whites are well balanced. However, I am most pleased with the fact that there are no traces of overzealous sharpening corrections. Unsurprisingly, when projected the film looks lovely, especially where there is plenty of light (see screencapture #13). The more subdued shots also have strong organic qualities (see screencapture #5). Generally speaking, grain is evenly distributed and present throughout the entire film, and selected close-ups look beautiful (see screencapture #1). Occasionally, there are small fluctuations, and a bit of extremely light noise sneaks in, but overall the high-definition transfer is indeed very strong. Finally, there are no large damage marks, debris, warps, or splices. To sum it all up, this is a competent presentation of Double Indemnity that should please its fans. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. A music and effects track is also included. For the record, Eureka Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature.
The dialog is stable, clean, and easy to follow. There is no strong background hiss or problematic audio distortions to report in this review. This being said, the film's dynamic amplitude is quite limited; there are only a few sequences where Miklós Rózsa's music score truly comes alive (thanks to the excellent strings). But this is not to imply that there are serious technical issues, rather that the film's sound design is fairly modest. All in all, the lossless track opens up the film very well in all the right places.
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Double Indemnity Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This wonderful release of Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, the definitive film noir, should have a reserved spot in the library of every serious film aficionado. I think that together with Georges Melies' A Trip to the Moon it makes 2012 the most exciting year since the high-definition format was launched. I also have to say this: It would be a crime if Universal Studios did not release Double Indemnity on Blu-ray in the U.S. After all, it is a piece of American history. VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Double Indemnity Blu-ray, News and Updates
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Eureka Entertainment have revealed their upcoming titles for the months of April, May, and June 2012. There will be seven new releases added to the Masters of Cinema series: Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Lifeboat, Island of Lost Souls, Ruggles of Red Gap, ...
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