this is a 5 star movie....
this review is of the NEW Universal 2 dvd set.... which is a three star value.
Typical of Universals crappy Deer Hunter 2 DVD set..we've got a classic movie....with extras that could easily fit on one DVD...but Universal tries to make this into a bigger "ticket" by stretching it out.
The movie....its a classic...I've got the original release on DVD. The EXTRAS are
1) an introduction by Robert Osborne, nothing special and watched once you'll be irritated having to see it again every time you hit PLAY..
2) commentary tracks by the usual suspects (including the king of bloat Richard Schickel) and Universal has two so they put two more extra features on their package for these..
3) a half hour film noir primer , that's been done better on the WB noir sets and again features the same film professors etc that we are growing all too familiar with.
4) a 1 hour and 15 minute TV version from the 70's starring Richard Crenna ...which is the ONLY feature on the second disc.
I'll give Universal a bit of credit...the film itself does seem a bit improved over the initial out of print release...but closer scrutiny of the two would be necessary and I've got a life so I'll leave that to others.
Bottom line....Universal is hard to figure out...they take some multiple classic titles and stuff em onto flipper DVDs (info on both sides) and crank em out cheap..ie the Brando,Wayne,Cooper,Lombard sets....and then they take other films and run the package to two discs for no other reason than to make it "seem" important and packed with extras. They use strange fat cases to make it seem like these are books full of goodies instead of space filling clear plastic...
I think I saw where Universal is now readying a THIRD wave of their classic Monster series on DVD...geez ,how many times do they want us to buy the same things? Can't they get it right the first or second time? I think its obvious that my frustration with Universals crappy DVD releases runs deep. Fortunately they don't have near the number of "must haves" that Warner Brothers (who are first class all the way in their releases , particularly legacy films)or MGM or Columbia have!
its a great movie....if you haven't seen it you are in for a rare treat!
4/11/14 UPDATE .... the Blu Ray looks spectacular! I do believe it's on the high side price wise, but it is a classic and they've maintained all the bonus features of the second DVD on the new Blu Ray
on October 13, 2005
oops, 5-star is obviously for the movie, not the current very poor presentation on DVD.
But this September the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC screened their newly restored 35mm print of this film. It was stunning gorgeous B&W imagery (think the 2-disc special edition of Casablanca which came out last year). I'll be checking Amazon every few weeks to see if its release has been scheduled!
on October 30, 1999
Double Indemnity is obviously a classic film but this DVD transfer is appalling. Almost every scene is incredibly grainy, the source print is obviously not in very good conditon (perhaps needing to be refurbished), and to top it off, there are no deluxe features and the extra packaging is rather inadequate(with no information booklet or history of the movie).
This would be frustrating for any film but is downright shameful treatment of a cinema classic. We can only hope someone will spend the time and money necessary to restore the print for a new theater run, as has been done with other older films. Perhaps then, DVD buyers will get the version of this classic they deserve.
on April 20, 2014
"Double Indemnity" is considered one of the best film noir movies ever made but after viewing Universal's superb new Blu-ray presentation in honor of it's 70th Anniversary, I think it's one of the greatest films ever. This murder gone wrong story from James M. Cain's novel of the same name is nearly perfect due in no small part by the tight and suspenseful screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. This is movie making at it's best and credit should go not only to Wilder but the three principle actors as well. Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson give some of their best performances which are only enhanced by this new Blu-ray from Universal. Except for some minor film damage in the beginning of the film(a wounded MacMurray driving to his office at night) and slight flickering during some scenes, this is a nearly pristine presentation by Universal(Bitrate: 32.98). Daylight scenes are crystal clear providing more detail than the standard Universal "Legacy" DVD from a few years ago. Grays and whites are vivid and even objects in background scenes are more pronounced. One thing that really stands out now is the blond wig that Barbara Stanwyck wears throughout the film. It was controversial at the time because it looked cheap on her. But after finally viewing it in all it's Blu-ray glory you can finally see what Wilder was telling the audience. Nighttime scenes are a lot clearer too with the blacks and shadows given new life and the cinematography by John Seitz(who also photographed Wilder's "Sunset Blvd.") is a wonder on Blu-ray. This is very apparent in the scenes involving MacMurray and Stanwyck's characters in her dimly-lit home. The light coming through the blinds at all angles is more striking on Blu-ray something that was just part of the background in the standard DVD. There's been a big improvement over the Audio too with dialogue and the music(by Miklos Rozsa) being crystal clear. "Double Indemnity" is 108 minutes(Aspect Ratio: 1.33) and contains the following subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French. Audio includes: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono; English Dolby Digital 2.0 and Spanish DTS Digital Surround 2.0 Mono. Special features(from the "Legacy" DVD) include an introduction by Robert Osborne, "Shadows of Suspense" a feature about the movie, commentaries by film historians Richard Schickel and Nick Redman, and the 1973 television made for television re-make. Also included in this limited edition Blu-ray are reproductions of the movie posters and lobby cards of the 1944 film. Universal has improved the packaging also. "Double Indemnity" arrives in a solid Blu-ray standard case(not one of those eco-cutout cases) which is housed in a nice slipcase for added protection. Instructions are provided also for those who want to download a Digital HD Ultraviolet version of the film(special code is provided inside Blu-ray case). This new Blu-ray limited edition of "Double Indemnity" is essential to every film collectors library and come highly recommended.
on February 28, 2000
What a tremendous film! It's just wonderful. Especially Edward G. Robinson. Sadly, it's a bit dated (much of the dialogue looks rather campy by today's standards), but the plot hasn't aged a day. It's still a tense and enthralling film noir masterpiece.
It's a pity the DVD is so very poor. It's really awful. I can't stress this enough. It's very grainy, there are no bonus features at all, and there's no liner notes at all. Extremely shoddy treatment of such a wonderful film. I'd like to see a special edition of this film produced as soon as possible, and done right!
on April 15, 2014
First off: I absolutely love this movie. I can watch it anytime; have done so on many, many occasions over the years and I never tire of it. There's so much to revel in - Billy Wilder's zestful direction, the brilliantly witty script by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, a trio of top stars in Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson, shadowy photography by John Seitz, and a terrific Miklos Rosza music score.
Based on James Cain's novel, DOUBLE INDEMNITY (Paramount, 1944) unfolds in true film noir style as an insurance agent (MacMurray) relates via voice-over how he became entangled in a murder plot by a scheming wife (Stanwyck) to rid herself of her husband and collect the insurance. Right away, their "perfect crime" starts to fall apart when the foxy claims manager (Robinson) begins to investigate.
The film gels with clockwork precision, and the suspense is genuinely nailbiting. What contributes to its effectiveness is the casting against type of good guy MacMurray as a killer. Stanwyck also delivers what is considered to be the definitive femme fatale portrayal, right down to the phony blonde wig. Beyond a doubt, this is just about as deliciously dark that film noir can possibly get.
This Blu-ray edition of DOUBLE INDEMNITY from Universal is gorgeous - the HD transfer was taken off the original 35mm film elements. Clarity of the black and white image is exceptional, and the mono audio track is crystal clear. The bonus features include an intro by TCM host Robert Osborne, a documentary on the making of the movie, commentaries by historians Richard Schickel, Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman, the theatrical trailer, and the 1973 made for TV feature based on the original film. You also get five photo card reproductions.
The bottom line: Get this. It's what film classics are all about. My highest recommendation.
on September 29, 2005
The true life crime behind this film noir masterpiece is
that no otherwise worthy studio (ie. Image, Criterion Collection,Anchor Bay, Kino) has re-issued this DVD after Universal senslessly dropped it from production 4 years ago. Today, the few remaining original, factory-sealed copies are selling on Amazon for over $100. As always, Universal Home
Video's site refuses to receive consumer feedback. As they only just released the Region 2 version this July, they probably still own the video rights. But my Region 1 player won't play the disc. Needless to say, I am very upset. Will my fellow
cinephiles, please lobby Amazon to lobby Universal?? THE
MADNESS HAS GOT TO STOP!
on July 8, 2003
this legendary thriller is one of the greatest and most influential and most imitated films in motion picture history. the dialogue is intelligent, the plot is engrossing and the cast stellar. one question: why is the DVD transfer of this great film of very inferior quality. artifacts are rampant throughout. the picture is very grainy through most of the film. so much could have been done with this film. it is certainly among those films that deserved the special treatment but appears as though the distributers and studio used the first negative available for the transfer. very disappointing DVD. i don't usually purchase a second DVD version of any film, but the transfer on this one was so inferior, i'll make exception here.
on September 8, 2005
It is the middle of the night in downtown Los Angeles, luscious film noir land brilliantly photographed by John Seitz in high gloss B&W and grippingly scored by Miklos Rozsa. A wounded Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray in his greatest performance) gets out of a taxi at an insurance building. Dripping blood, he gets into an elevator and rides up to his office, where he starts dictating a confession into an old-fashioned dictaphone. That confession will be the entire movie in flashback.
So begins Billy Wilder's incomparable film noir, DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944, Paramount), that uses a flashback framing device, but periodically returns to Neff in the office as dawn slowly comes to Los Angeles. Murder mysteries just don't get any better than this masterpiece that swept the Oscar nominations (but not for MacMurray!), but lost most of them to Leo McCarey's likeable but wildly overrated GOING MY WAY. Trying to get a Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers) to renew an insurance policy, Neff gets romantically involved with alluring wife Phyllis Dietrichson (a blonde Barbara Stanwyck). The two of them then team up to commit the seemingly perfect murder of Mr. Dietrichson on a train at night.
Everything seems to go perfectly, except for a witness (Porter Hall) who remembers Neff (as Dietrichson) being on the observation deck when he was not supposed to be. And, of course, investigating the entire crime is claims manager Barton Keyes (a brilliant Edward G. Robinson), Neff's boss. I once wrote a term paper on DOUBLE INDEMNITY as a student at UCLA. The subject was who do we root for here--Neff or Keyes? Clearly, the censor board wants us to root for Keyes. Neff is a criminal.
But Wilder and co-writer/novelist Raymond Chandler make both men complex and curiously sympathetic. The least likeable person here is Mr. Dietrichson. We basically root for Neff and Phyllis to get away with the murder. But, again, Keyes has the movie censor board behind him, so we know that Neff will be caught. After all, he dictates the whole crime into his dictaphone while bleeding under his coat. But will he live to finish it, when will Keyes find it, and what happens to Phyllis? She must somehow somewhere shoot him, but where and how? The climax is gripping and curiously erotic, with "Tangerine" playing on a radio up the street earlier that evening.
The author of the novel, James M. Cain, was allegedly enraptured with how well Hollywood had treated his book, even though it is vastly different. (I don't believe there is a framing device. And Phyllis and Neff get away with the crime and end up on a Caribbean cruise ship!) DOUBLE INDEMNITY is a film noir masterpiece and an almost perfect movie that even allegedly pleased Wilder. I can't recommend it highly enough. You also might want to compare it with its unofficial remake, Lawrence Kasdan's BODY HEAT, with William Hurt and Kathleen Turner. (Reviewed from VHS tape.)
on December 5, 2001
Writer John M. Cain's story of lust, greed, and murder is brought to life in the film Double Indemnity. Director Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard) along with writer Raymond Chandler (The Long Goodbye) brings Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson into a great film noir. Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is a successful insurance salesman. He falls in love with Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwych). Mrs. Dietrichson is trapped in a loveless marriage and wants her husband, Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers) killed off so she can claim the insurance money. This wonderful plot in Double Indemnity has many twists and turns in it. There are so many obstacles for Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson to overcome. They have to time everything just right and this keeps you on the edge of your seat. There are so many moments in the film where you think the whole scheme is about to collapse. Neff and Dietrichson are such witty characters that they seem to have the right thing to say or do at the right time. Until the end of the story there never seems to be a crack in the plan. Neff is even surprised how good the plan is working out. After they have committed the murder, Lola Dietrichson, (Jean Heather) Mr. Dietrichson's daughter, becomes attached to Neff. At the very end of the movie Neff finds out what Phyllis Dietrichson's real plan is and tried to put a stop to it. You will have to watch the movie to find out how they both end up. I highly recommend this movie for people of all ages. The film really kept me on the edge of my seat the entire second half. I cannot think of any other film noir made in the nineteen forties with such a good story line. This is one film noir you can't miss.