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on February 19, 2004
It seems safe to offer the opinion that "Double Indemnity" is a 4-Way Classic! The 4 categories would be noir movies, those directed by Billy Wilder, films that unfold in flashback and pictures shot in beautiful black and white. Granted that DI might not represent the cream of each of those species, but it is highly representative of the best they can put on the silver screen. DI opens with Fred MacMurray, obviously in need of medical attention, making a confession into an office Dictaphone. DI flashes back from there. Even though the viewer senses that MacMurray is deep in trouble, the suspense actually builds! How did he get himself in such a fix?? It quickly develops that he is an insurance salesman caught in a scam of his own making. His partner in crime has to be female. (This is noir!). Barbara Stanwyck, - an unfaithful wife and wicked stepmother -plays that dual role to the hilt. This reviewer does not agree with my amazon friends who feel she is sexy! Any man should run from this evil woman! She has TROUBLE stamped all over her! Under the guise of renewing her husband's car insurance, Macmurray sells the spouse a life insurance policy with Stanwyck as the beneficiary. The two then plot his death! One weak point to DI is that Macmurray immediately pins the wife as a con artist yet still agrees to the scheme. They set up the poor guy's demise as a fall from the rear observation platform of a moving passenger train. (It was probably the Southern Pacific's old "Coast Starlight" when trains actually had observation platforms. That old SP drumhead is a wonderful touch!).This reviewer won't divulge the details of that crucial event but the manner of staged death is very sloppy indeed! That is a second and critical weak point! Any self -respecting insurance company would pounce on this contrivance. Surely-albeit slowly- that is exactly what transpires. The insurance claims manager is Edward G. Robinson, who like Stanwyck, plays the role masterfully as he wises up to the fraud dumped on his desk. This reviewer cannot remember Mr. Robinson playing any role in any movie to less than perfection. Viewers should closely watch the cigar/cigarette lighting banter between the leads! That little man inside the avuncular Robinson suspects, as the viewers already know, that something is fishy. He dares Stanwyck to actually collect! At this point MacMurray, for less than altruistic reasons, "befriends" the stepdaughter only to fathom the type of fiend that Stanwyck truly is. Who would know better than a stepchild! MacMurray's subsequent decision to "take action" against Stanwyck leads to the film's climax, which this reviewer won't reveal! It certainly closes the circle! MacMurray's late gratuitous efforts to reunite the stepdaughter with her boyfriend mark him as a good guy, the perfect noir foil for the wicked Stanwyck. It also seals his fate when he could have dashed for the Mexican border! According to Silver and Ward's "Film Noir", the original fadeout was shot with MacMurray in the gas chamber. It's safe to bet most viewers will believe that the eventual ending fits the plot more appropriately. DI was nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Movie, Director, Screenplay and Actress. It lost the first 3 to "Going My Way" as the U.S. tried to feel good during WW2. Stanwyck lost the final category to Ingrid Bergman's role in "Gaslight"- a vastly more sympathetic part to say the least! DI would have fared better in peacetime! The bottom line is the headline: This is a 4 Way Hollywood classic with something to interest virtually any classic movie lover. A final thought: Isn't it interesting that not a single police officer or detective appears in DI?
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on May 29, 2004
Quintessential film noir story that set the standard for femme fatales, shady women who exploit men's weaknesses and then discard them like nylons that have too many runs in them. Of course, a man has to be willing and gullible enough to desire a woman to do most anything to have her. Phyllis Dietrichson's masterful manipulation of Walter Neff is the central theme of this film. When Neff [Fred MacMurray] and Dietrichson [Barbara Stanwyck] find that they have a clear path to a rosy and wonderful future together, they discover that everything seems to go wrong and every attempt at conversation leads to snarling exchanges, doubts and suspicions about each other. Barton Keyes [Edward G. Robinson] provides just the right balance and unwittingly unnerves Neff with his suspicions and ideas about false claims for insurance money and how his gut feelings never fail him. Keyes smells a rat but his faith and trust in Neff never wavers until later. Porter Hall has a nice turn as the man from Medford, Oregon who materializes from the shadows to add another twist to this excellent thriller.
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on February 6, 2004
"Double Indemnity" leads all the rest in the noir genre. The movie is everything a movie should be. Fred MacMurray gives a surprisingly great performance as a semi-sleazy insurance agent who seems, at the beginning, a basically honest guy....until he meets Stanwyck's femme fatale, Phyllis Dietrichson. Stanwyck is cold, calculating, clever, and incredibly sexy, in a trampy sort of way. If I were wired differently, I don't think I could resist her any better than MacMurray's Walter Neff did. You can cut her sensuality with a knife. The dialogue is fast, sharp, and, frankly, amazing. You feel as if you've grabbed onto a rollercoaster and are just barely able to hang on. And Edgar G. Robinson's character, Keyes, is equally brilliant. Seldom have I seen a movie as total, as complete, and as well crafted as this one is. Frankly, although Neff and Dietrichson are heels, I found myself rooting for them to actually succeed at their murderous deed. The stepdaughter, representing innocence and morality - Phyllis Dietrichson's opposite - irritated me. I was so blown away by the appealing rottenness ("We're both rotten," Phyllis mutters) of Neff and Dietrichson that I simply couldn't dislike them. I purchased this movie after checking out the local library's copy. And I don't buy many movies. This one is superb. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor. Then you'll understand why people like me say, with all our hearts, "They just don't make good movies anymore, like they used to." And you might agree.
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on September 2, 2016
This movie is so good. I love the way and tone that Fred used to narrate his part in these events. Well worth adding to mt collection. So many twists to the story and so well done. Barbara at her best as well. Love it.
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This is a fabulous movie!

Barbara Stanwyck is perfect in the role of the (very) bad girl and Fred McMurray does a great job in the "good guy gone bad" role too.

Some interesting plot twists along the way too, kept things exciting and suspenseful.

I loved everything about this movie: the story, the clothes, the sets, the lingo....a film noir classic you won't want to miss!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon May 28, 2014
This movie is a classic of the film noir genre. Barbara Stanwyck was a prolific and accomplished actress , with the ability to do
drama or comedy. Here she sucks in Fred MacMurray with a performance that will equally enrapture you. She is fed up with her husband and a plot is hatched to do away with him. It involves an insurance fraud , but Fred is in the biz , so who better to
outwit the managers. They didn't count on Edward G Robinson as Freds' superior , who gets gut feelings that he calls
"the little man in my gut ". Everything is going well until Edward Gs' little man gets a feeling that something is amiss. Like a dog with a bone he won't leave it alone. Eventually everything ends in ruin and death. A great movie , I watch it over and over , about every two years.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 20, 2014
This is one of my favourite films and should be a must see for every film fan. This is a 2 disc set with some nice extras. The second disc contains a made-for-television remake which stars Richard Crenna, Lee J Cobb, Robert Webber & Samantha Eggar.

Disc 1 - Double Indemnity - 1944, 108 mins, B&W, full screen 1.33:1, languages: English & Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, subtitles: English SDH, Spanish & French, scene selection. Extras: Introduction By Robert Osborne (2:31), featurette - Shadows Of Suspense (37:56), 2 commentary tracks, theatrical trailer (2:15)

Disc 2 - Double Indemnity - 1973, 74 mins, colour, full screen 1.33:1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, subtitles: English SDH & French
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on April 12, 2002
Now that sadly the world of cinema has lost the great Billy Wilder all we can do is marvel at the man's films who proved to be one of the most talented and versatile directors of his day.
Wilder's "Double Indemnity" has proven to be one of the all-time great noir films. And, to me, it is one of the most perfectly constructed films ever. "Double Indemnity" has set the standard for what a noir film must over come.
Based on James M. Cain's novel (he also wrote "The Postman Always Rings Twice", another one of the great noir films) and brought to screen by Wilder and Raymond Chandler ( Chandler too wrote some of the best noir stories ever, "The Big Sleep", "The Long Goodbye", and his first script "The Blue Dahlia")"Double Indemnity" tells the story of what seems to be the perfect crime. Insurance agent Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray, who was not the original choice, Dick Powell was) is told by Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanywyck, in one of her most famous roles) that she wants Walter to murder her husband! According to Walter's plan everything will go as planned and nothing will lead back to them. All they really have to worry about one Walter's boss, Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson). An investigator who has 26 years of experience. It's now up to Walter to think like Keyes. Try to determine how would HE think in a given situation. This will be their ONLY way to escape. As far the rest, well, just watch the movie and see what happens.
"Double Indemnity" has that "classic" noir look we expect from films in the 40's. There's the murky dark look to it. The music by Miklos Rozsa adds to the film's effect. And the beautiful b&w cinematography by John Seitz is wonderful to look at. "Double Indemnity" is a movie you can TRY to copy, but, nothing will ever beat the original.
It's amazing that for a film that is well over 60's years old, Wilder managed to create a film that still seems fresh and is actually smarter then some of the films we have being released today! That was and always will be what made Billy Wilder one of the all-time greats! His films will never go "out of style".
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on July 26, 2002
This is a terrific movie, beautifully directed by Billy Wilder, one of his better films, and he made some very good ones. Sunset Boulevard (1950); Stalag 17 (1953); Some Like It Hot (1959); The Apartment (1960) come to mind. Note the range: a psychological mystery, a prisoners of war movie, a comedy with song and dance, and a "sophisticated" comedy. He could make any kind of film. He had a knack for getting the best out of the players and he never forgot his audience.
Double Indemnity is no exception. Fred MacMurray stars as Walter Neff, a morally-compromised insurance salesman who just couldn't resist the opportunity to outsmart the insurance business, and he was never better. Most people remember him from more light-hearted fare, e.g., The Shaggy Dog (1959); The Absent-Minded Professor (1961); and perhaps especially The Egg and I (1947) with Claudette Colbert. Barbara Stanwyck, whose career spanned six decades, was also excellent as the sociopathic Phyllis Dietrickson. Edward G. Robinson, who practically defined the Hollywood gangster from the thirties and forties, switches type and does an outstanding job as Barton Keyes, a sleuthful insurance claims manager.
The script was adapted from James M. Cain's second novel, a follow-up to his enormously successful The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934). That too was made into a movie, in fact two movies, but neither one was anywhere near as good as this classic film noir. Wilder employs the convention of the voice-over (something he would use again very successfully in Sunset Boulevard) by having Walter Neff ("Walter Huff" in the novel) tell the story into a Dictaphone as a confessional memo addressed to his admired pal and mentor Keyes. He didn't get the girl and he didn't get the money, he says. Strange but we can see he didn't really want the girl or the money. What he wanted was the admiration of Keyes. At any rate that's the way Wilder played it, and it worked big time. If you read the book you'll discover that Wilder (along with Raymond Chandler, who co-wrote the script) changed a number of things from the way Cain had them, especially the ending--all to the better. In fact the movie is significantly better than the novel, which isn't usually the case.
One of the things I was thinking while watching this was that it was actually as "perfect" a murder scheme as you'll see on the silver screen, although everything had to go just right. There was only one flaw, as Wilder saw it. He has Edward G. Robinson express it something like this: When a man buys an accidental death insurance policy and then dies an accidental death a few short weeks later, it ain't no accident.
Don't miss this one, one of the all-time best film noir and a jewel in the crown of Billy Wilder, one of filmland's greatest directors. Would that we had another like him.
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on March 1, 2005
From the James M. Cain novel this is the finest film of its genre under the masterful of Billy Wilder and an absolute must-see for any devote of film noir. Barbara Stanwyck is at her peak as a lying, cheating, double-crossing blond tramp(who can ever forget her ankle bracelet?) who schemes with Fred Mac Murray to murder her husband for the most base reason - his insurance money. Edward G. Robinson is fine as the insurance investigator who goes by his hunch that there's more than meets the eye than just a simple suicide.With a brilliant script (the double entendres when Stanwyck fobs off the attentions of Mac Murray are a gem!) by Wilder and Raymond Chandler "Double Indemnity" is a spellbinding rollercoaster into a world of murder, lust and betrayal moodily set in 1944 Hollywood. Double Indemnity stands as a towering achievement in cinema when a brilliant script, superb acting and excellent art direction and lighting are under the hands of a master. They just don't come better than this and not to be missed.
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