DOUBLE INDEMNITY [1944 / 2014] [70th Anniversary Limited Edition] [Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet] [USA Release] An American Movie Classic!

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck star in the gripping film noir classic, ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ directed by Academy Award® winner Billy Wilder. A calculating wife [Barbara Stanwyck] encourages her wealthy husband to sign a double indemnity policy proposed by smitten insurance agent Walter Neff [Fred 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. Narrated by Fred MacMurray.

FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1994 New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Nomination: Best Actress for Barbara Stanwyck. Nomination: Best Director for Billy Wilder. 1945 Academy Awards: Nomination: Best Picture. Nomination: Best Actress in a Leading Role for Barbara Stanwyck. Nomination: Best Director for Billy Wilder. Nomination: Best Writing and Screenplay for Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder. Nomination: Best Cinematography in Black-and-White for John F. Seitz. Nomination: Best Sound Recording for Loren L. Ryder (Paramount SSD). Nomination: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for Miklós Rózsa. 1992 National Film Preservation Board, USA: Win: National Film Registry. 2007 Online Film & Television Association: Win: OFTA Film Hall of Fame for Motion Picture.

FILM FACT No.2: Praised by many critics when first released, ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ was nominated for seven Academy Awards® but did not win any. Widely regarded as a classic, it is often cited as a paradigmatic film noir and as having set the standard for the films that followed in that genre. Deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the U.S. Library of Congress in 1992, ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1998, it was ranked No. 38 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 best American films of all time, and in 2007 it placed 29th on their 10th Anniversary list. ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ has been compared with Wilder's other acclaimed film noir, ‘Sunset Boulevard’ [1950]. The narrative structure in both films begins and end in the present, but the bulk of the plot is told in flashback narrated by their protagonists. Critic and writer Wendy Lesser notes that the narrator of Sunset Boulevard is dead before he begins narrating, but in ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY,’ "the voice-over has a different meaning. It is not the voice of a dead man  ... it is  ... the voice of an already doomed man."

Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Porter Hall, Jean Heather, Tom Powers, Byron Barr, Richard Gaines, Fortunio Bonanova, John Philliber and Raymond Chandler (cameo)

Director: Billy Wilder

Producers: Buddy DeSylva and Joseph Sistrom

Screenplay: Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler

Composer: Miklós Rózsa

Cinematography: John Francis Seitz, A.S.C. (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p (Black-and-White)

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
Spanish: 2.0 DTS Digital Stereo Audio
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French

Running Time: 108 minutes

Region: All Regions

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Universal Pictures

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: In the film ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ [1944] we have Fred MacMurray's sharp-as-a-knife voiceover, which barely lets up from start to finish, is an unremitting delight in the Hollywood “film noir” classic ‘Double Indemnity.’ ‘Double Indemnity’ [1944] was directed by Billy Wilder, co-written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, and produced by Buddy DeSylva and Joseph Sistrom. The film stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G Robinson. The “film noir” is the most intoxicating of Hollywood cocktails, and none is more potent than ‘Double Indemnity.’ It breaks the rules of filmmaking with breath-taking confidence and is all the more satisfying for it. For instance, directors usually endeavour to “show but not tell,” yet Fred MacMurray's sharp-as-a-knife voiceover, which barely lets up from start to finish, is an unremitting awesome delight.

Walter Neff [Fred MacMurray] is the top salesman at his Los Angeles insurance company, and his close friend, an expert claims investigator named Barton Keyes [Edward G Robinson], wants him to work in his department. But although the two have a bantering, easy-going friendship, Walter Neff decides to stay with his sales job. One day, while making a routine call on an auto insurance client, he meets the client's sexy blonde wife, Phyllis Dietrichson [Barbara Stanwyck]. Although she appears to be subtly seducing him, she coldly rebuffs his advances and sends him on his way. Soon after, however, she invites him to come by her house and discuss additional coverage for her husband. When he arrives, he finds Phyllis Dietrichson alone with no husband and no maid. Their mutual attraction quickly graduates to undisguised lust and before Neff knows it, Phyllis Dietrichson convinces him to sell her additional accident insurance for her husband (without the man's knowledge). It's just the first step in their mutual plan to murder Phyllis Dietrichson's husband and collect on a double indemnity clause in the insurance contract.

Cold-blooded, brutal, highly stylised, and informed with a black sense of humour, ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ is one of the high points of 1940s filmmaking and a prime example of a genre and style that remains highly influential in its look, attitude and storyline. Critics have argued whether or not this film can be considered the first “film noir” thriller, but it undoubtedly set the pattern for that distinctive post-war genre: a shadowy, night-time urban world of deception and betrayal usually distinguished by its “hard-boiled” dialogue, corrupt characters and the obligatory femme fatale who preys on the primal urges of an ordinary Joe.

Edward G. Robinson, best known as the megalomaniac gangster in ‘Little Caesar’ [1930], was no stranger to playing characters on the wrong side of the law, but in ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ he plays the lethal lovers' nemesis, Barton Keyes, a shrewd investigator who can smell a phony insurance claim a mile away. The film places the three leads in an unconventional love triangle especially with Walter Neff lights Barton Keyes' smokes more often and more affectionately than he does Phyllis Dietrichson's cigarettes, and he tells the other man “I love you” at least as much. At the end, it's Barton Keyes who kneels by the fallen Neff, in what Bernard F. Dick, in his 1980 book “Billy Wilder” recalls “one of the most powerful images of male love ever portrayed on the screen: a pieta in the form of a surrogate father's lighting the cigarette of his dying son.” It's the most tender moment in an otherwise hard-as-steel story.

Although Barbara Stanwyck has played heavies before, she had never been cast as an out-and-out murderess. She was afraid of the role, she told Billy Wilder. “Well, are you a mouse or an actress?” he replied and just the sort of remark to get the desired reaction from Barbara Stanwyck. Never one to back down from an acting challenge, she took the part and turned it into one of her best. Known for her easy-going, non-temperamental, and thoroughly professional approach to acting, Barbara Stanwyck worked well with Billy Wilder. “She is as good an actress as I have ever worked with,” he later said, “Very meticulous about her work. We rehearsed the way I usually do, Hard! There were no retakes.” Indeed, Barbara Stanwyck was beloved by many directors, actors and technicians in the business. Probably the only negative comment to emerge about her performance in ‘Double Indemnity’ has nothing to do with her acting; some critics complained about the fake blonde wig she was required to wear as Phyllis. True, it does add to the character's flashy nature and insincere manner, but as one Paramount executive said after viewing early rushes, “We hire Barbara Stanwyck and here we get George Washington.”

Casting Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff wasn't so easy. At first Billy Wilder tried to interest Alan Ladd, then George Raft. After the director told George Raft the story, the actor asked him, “Where's the lapel?” Lapel? George Raft explained he was waiting for the moment when Neff would flip over his lapel and reveal the police or FBI badge underneath, thus identifying himself as the film's true hero in the final reel and George Raft replied, “No deal.” Then Billy Wilder came up with the idea of using Fred MacMurray, who had a much more genial screen image at the time. “I'm a saxophone player; I do little comedies with Carole Lombard,” Fred MacMurray argued. Billy Wilder eventually convinced the actor to take a bold step. Years later, Fred MacMurray would look back on Walter Neff as his all-time favourite film role.

The narrative romps along with the help by Miklós Rózsa's urgent, jangling brilliant score and a screenplay by Wilder and Raymond Chandler simply zings along. Billy Wilder wrote the script with Raymond Chandler, and it was a match made in hell. For a start Billy Wilder took great offence against Raymond Chandler's pipe; Raymond Chandler didn't like Billy Wilder's baseball cap and riding crop, and much besides, and later described their collaboration as “an agonising experience [which] has probably shortened my life,” but despite this, both of these characters eventually produced a great “film noir” classic.

But finally, in ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ at precisely 1:24:07 when Barbra Stanwyck pulls outside the supermarket to meet Fred MacMurray, when another car pulls up directly behind Barbra Stanwyck’s car and there is a mysterious male driver watches intensely as Ms. Stanwyck walks into the supermarket, well with both audio commentary whether it is part of the plot of ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ as nothing is explained or elaborated into whether this person was a private detective was hired to keep an eye on the movements of Ms. Stanwyck and Mr. MacMurray to eventually catching them out of their dirty deed of plotting together with the murder of her husband and making fatal mistakes and again this has really puzzled me greatly while I reviewed this Blu-ray disc and I wish someone would put me out of my misery and try to explain this very confusing sub plot of this film?


TANGERINE (1941) (uncredited) (Music by Victor Schertzinger) [Played on a radio]

MY IDEAL (1930) (uncredited) (Music by Richard A. Whiting and Newell Chase)

Symphony No 8 in B minor, Unfinished (1822) (uncredited) (Written by Franz Schubert) [First movement (Allegro Moderato) played at the Hollywood Bowl]

Blu-ray Image Quality – Universal Pictures brings us this superb brilliant Blu-ray with an awesome stunning 1080p black-and-white image and is enhanced with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The elements appear to be in very good shape, with no major damage. ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ is one of the most exquisitely photographed “film noirs” of all time and Universal Pictures has done a totally remarkable job with the film’s upgraded picture image while still remaining faithful to the cinematographer John F. Seitz’s work. The transfer has a beautiful pristine crisp image and features fine glorious textures and details, as well as an excellent contrast and gets a brilliant 5 star rating from me.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – Universal Pictures has once again brought you a brilliant 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio experience and you get to hear a stellar ultra clean dialogue, balanced audio sounds and a very immersive and revolutionary film music score by Miklós Rózsa, which his boss at Paramount Pictures hated, and supplied discordant and foreboding notes from the film's very opening. But Billy Wilder loved it

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Digitally Re-mastered and Fully Restored from a High Resolution 35mm Film Element.

Universal Archive 1944 ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ Art and Photography: Includes 1 Theatrical Poster Reproduction; 3 U.S. Lobby Card Reproductions and 1 Alternative Ending Gas Chamber Still.

Special Feature: Introduction by Turner Classic Movie host and Film Historian Robert Osborne [2006] [480i] [1.37:1] [2:29] Here we get some insightful information about this classic Billy Wilder “film noir.” Robert Osborne tells us that things would have been so oh different, if things had not come together like it did. One big problem is the story itself that was written by James M. Kain that was about adultery characters who were involved in a conspiring murder insurance scam and the storyline stepped over way too many lines to win approval from the Hollywood Production Code Office [Hays Code], which ruled film content and took eight years to get the stamp of approval. We also hear how Billy Wilder was able to convince the stars to take a leap of faith to appear in ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY,’ but before that, other well-known stars turned down the parts in this classic “film noir.” But the three main actors of this film agreed that it was their best ever film they have appeared in.

Special Feature Documentary: Shadows of Suspense [2006] [480i] [1.37:1] [37:55] Plunge into the world of 1940s Hollywood and a revealing look at a film masterpiece and we go on a journey where we delve into this brilliant “film noir” film. What is so great about this fascinating documentary about how “film noir” came about because of a sea change in the American Society, via the 2nd World War and Pulp Fiction. We also hear interesting information how ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ evolved, especially with the director Billy Wilder. But of course it all started with the author James M. Kain who happened attended a murder trial with a wife taking out an Accident Insurance on her husband and captured the author’s imagination, which he also used as the basic plot for his novel “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” Even though the script for ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ was sent to all of the Hollywood Studios, and it languid for years until it was taken up by Paramount Pictures. One myth on why Billy Wilder was interested in making ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ is because his secretary locked herself in the toilet until she had read it all and according to the legend and that is one reason why Billy Wilder wanted to direct the film, but again it was just a myth. Even though Billy Wilder had been a prolific screenwriter, he still liked to collaborate with other people, and that is why he eventually teamed up with Raymond Chandler, but despite hating each other, but they eventually came up with a totally witty script for ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY,’ even though Raymond Chandler had never worked in Hollywood before. What is also fascinating about this documentary is the process on how ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ finally came to the silver screen and Billy Wilder’s endeavour to get the actors to appear in the film, and everyone was so surprised why Fred MacMurray was chosen, but now everyone realises that Billy Wilder knew the main actors would be so ideal for the film. As an interesting anecdote, we hear about Billy Wilder’s attitude, especially having Barbara Stanwyck being made to buy a cheap blonde wig that made her look sleazy. Another brilliant anecdote we hear is when at the 17th Academy Award® Ceremony, when ‘Going My Way’ and ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ were both nominated, but when Leo McCarey  went up to accept his award for Best Director, Billy Wilder put out his foot in the aisle and tripped up Leo McCarey, who fell flat on his face and Billy Wilder had a big grin on his face. But people now say that they cannot understand why ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ didn’t get an Oscar. But I think Eddie Muller summed up this interesting documentary, when he says, “this film ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ sums it up, because that is what “film noir” is all about.” Well Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler wrote it, and in a nut shell they said, “I did it for money.” But finally Leo McCarey says that Fred MacMurray really summed it all up when he says at the end of the film, “I did it for the money, I didn’t get the money and I didn’t get the woman,” pretty isn’t it, that’s it, enough said, that’s film noir.” Contributors include: Phil Cousineau [Author of “Once and Future Myths”]; Eddie Muller [Author of “Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir]; William Friedkin [Director of ‘The Exorcist’]; Elizabeth Ward [Editor of “Film Noir Encyclopaedia”]; Dr. Drew Casper [Professor of USC School of Cinema-Television]; Paul Kerr [Film Critic and TV Producer]; Alain Silver [Editor of “Film Noir Reader Series”]; James Ellroy [Author of “L.A. Confidential”]; Paul Duncan [Author of “Noir Fiction”]; Richard Schickel [Time Magazine Film Critic]; Vivian Sobchack [Professor of Film, Television and Digital media, UCLA]; Kim Newman [Author and Film Critic]; James Ursin [Author of “The Noir Style”]; Caleb Deschanel A.S.C. [Cinematographer of ‘The Natural’] and Owen Roizam A.S.C. [Cinematographer of ‘The Exorcist’].

Special Feature: ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ TV Movie [1973] [480i] [1.37:1] [74 minutes] A scheming wife lures an insurance investigator into helping murder her husband and then declare it an accident. The investigator's boss, not knowing his man is involved in it, suspect’s murder and sets out to prove it. As a final comeuppance to this ghastly remake when the TV movie was broadcast on American Television, Dr. Drew Casper was at Barbra Stanwyck’s home, with both of them watching this remake, and out of the blue Billy Wilder telephoned Barbra Stanwyck after the airing and said quite simply, “missy, they didn’t get it right” and suddenly Billy Wilder put the receiver down. Well that about sums up this 1973 TV Movie, as they certainly lost the plot and it should never have been attempted in making this ghastly made for TV Movie, as people should never attempt to think they can improve on the original Billy Wilder Classic Hollywood “film noir” ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ [1944].

Theatrical Trailer [1944] [480i] [1.37:1] [2:14] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ and voice for the trailer says, “Paramount's shocking . . . suspense-filled masterpiece of love . . . and murder!” Although it is a brilliant tour-de-force Trailer, but what is a total shame the Universal Pictures could not of found a better pristine print, as it is of really bad quality, especially compared to the stunning 1080p encoded print image of the actual film.

Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Schickel: Here we have a totally brilliant dedicated audio commentary by Richard Schickel, who is so totally passionate about this classic “film noir,” that is a must hear audio commentary. But what we get to hear is some totally fascinating behind-the-scene informative information about how ‘Double Indemnity’ evolved to end up on the silver screen. You hear his interesting slant on the author James M. Kain, and how originally he was editorial writer under the influence of Walter Whitman of the New York World and also becoming the managing Editor of the New Yorker magazine. Eventually James M. Kain headed for Hollywood about the time of his success with the novel “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” to finally write screenplays, which he was not very successful. Richard Schickel also gives us some really interesting facts about how the “film noir” came about especially via French paperbacks series called “series noir,” meaning “black novels” and were eventually re-printed in America and eventually French film critics started to calling films based on the “series noir” paperbacks that were turned into films, and they then started to call them “film noir” and eventually crossed over to America in early fifties and early sixties. Richard Schickel really likes to point out the brilliant dialogue between Fred MacMurray and Barbra Stanwyck at their first meeting, is pure Chandler/Wilder invention, especially their immortal dialogue where the two actors talk about speed limits and other sexual innuendoes. Edward G. Robinson is highly praised by Richard Schickel, especially pointing out that the veteran actor originally came into films via gangster Films, and especially the genius and expansion of his part in the film and his relationship with the character Walter Neff and their “bromance.” Richard Schickel heaps great praise on Miklós Rózsa edgy erotic musical film score, which adds great atmosphere to the film. Another fascinating information we get to hear about is a superb invention by Billy Wilder at around 57:07 minutes of the film, with Fred MacMurray and Barbra Stanwyck in the vehicle late at night, where they cannot start the car, and Billy Wilder was shooting the scene on the sound stage and broke off for lunch, went to his car to go off the lot and his car wouldn’t start and says, “oh what a great thing and they are about to make their getaway,” so he left his car and ran back to the sound stage in the hope that had not dismantled the mock-up vehicle created for the specific scene and said, “hold it, hold it, hold it” and asked to redo the scene again where the car could not start, but Fred MacMurray commented that no one would believe the scene that Billy Wilder wanted the audience to see and was proved right all along. The critical reception to this film was quite respectful, but a little bit puzzled and a little bit uncommitted to the visual and verbal mannerism that Billy Wilder had exploited so brilliantly with this film, but at the time was not huge or popular and Richard Schickel didn’t think the studio lost any money on the film or neither was it a gigantic success at the box office, but rightly it won a number of Academy Awards Nominations. But what was also interesting is that the great director Alfred Hitchcock sent a glowing telegram to Billy Wilder after the opening night Premiere. Also James M. Kain was at the back of the cinema and after the film finished and saw Billy Wilder coming towards him and suddenly hugged the director and said, “you so improved my story and I was writing too hasterly.” But Richard Schickel points out that although at great expense the alternative ending was filmed, where Fred MacMurray is executed in the gas chamber, but in the end Billy Wilder’s instinct not to put add that scene of the gas chamber and instead ended the film where the two “bromance” characters are in close congress, as Fred MacMurray is at the end of his life, was the perfect final solution to the plot of the film. So all in all the audio commentary by Richard Schickel is totally brilliant and so full of fascinating information of this Classic Hollywood “film noir” and it will be a great loss if you do not give this your fullest attention, as it is THE most interesting and fascinating audio commentary I have heard in a very long time and I give this a definite 5 star rating and Richard Schickel should get some kind of award for his in-depth and analysis knowledge of this film, as you will never get bored with such an intelligent voice of this brilliant narrator. So all you aficionado film fans out there, so enjoy!

Audio Commentary with Film Historian/Screenwriter Lem Dobbs and UK Film Historian scholar Nick Redman: With the start of this interesting audio commentary, you hear Nick Redman introducing Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman starts saying he was the screenwriter of the ‘Limey,’ ‘Dark City’ and ‘The Score,’ but Lem Dobbs has to correct Nick Redman in saying, “that I was only the co-writer of some of those films,” so sadly Nick Redman has not got off to a good start and should research his facts more professionally. But of course the conversation starts off with asking what is “film noir” and Lem Dobbs [who I really liked and especially his immense knowledge on the film history of this film], but Lem Dobbs informs us that this is a big question and especially to date there have been at least 50 books released on this subject of “film noir” and ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ was one of the earliest film in this genre. Lem Dobbs points out a very interesting information of this film and its label “film noir” is that putting this film in perspective, that many of the well-known Hollywood actors we associate with this type of film were not on the radar yet and mentions Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum, plus there has been a lot of discussion on how Billy Wilder put Fred MacMurray as the lead in the film, who previously use to be this light weight kinda comic romantic actor in minor films by and large make him into a venal character like this, well one answer to that questions who else was there and maybe an actor like Robert Ryan could have been the lead character in the film, but Lem Dobbs states that Fred MacMurray gave the performance of his career with this film. Another aspect of what I like about Lem Dobbs, is how he talks very intimately fascination about the director Billy Wilder and how he became very good friends to Lem Dobbs and was in great awe of Billy Wilder and also gives us lots of funny anecdotes about different things that happened between the two of them both over the years until Billy Wilder passed away. So to sum up with this particular audio commentary, which is so much different from the Richard Schickel audio commentary, who gave a much more concentrated comment on ‘Double Indemnity’ and its different complexities? But with the Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman audio commentary, it is more about Billy Wilder and the process of making the film ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY,’ plus I also liked the way Lem Dobbs gave great insight into what made Billy Wilder ticked and also his great friendship they had. But to be honest, I cannot see why Nick Redman was allowed to be in the same room doing the audio commentary, as he hardly puts any effort into the recording, as he lets Lem Dobbs do all the talking and it would have been far superior if Lem Dobbs was allowed to be there on his own, as he was the most engaging person out of them the two of them.

Finally, in a nutshell, what makes Billy Wilder’s film THE number one “film noir” is that it set the trend; and perfected the formula and ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ was one of the first films to weave all those characteristics together. Billy Wilder was one of the European directors that the “film noir” is so often associated with and he would, like fellow émigré Fritz Lang, produce additional films in the same genre. ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ is the quintessential a true “film noir” and accepts no substitutes. This newly released 70th Anniversary Blu-ray from Universal Pictures with a restored audio-visual presentation of ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ has never looked or sounded better. Billy Wilder who first showed Hollywood how to make audiences identify with them and he did it at a time when the old Hays Production Code put much greater restrictions on what he could show than does today's ratings system. He did it so well that ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ still plays effectively seventy years later. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso 
United Kingdom

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