There have been 14 releases of DOUBLE INDEMNITY in the UK. Including VHS and Laserdisc releases, that goes into the number 2o of odd releases of a film considered a classic. Yes, those 14 individual and combined set releases are DVD and Blu Ray. So of the standard we now expect to enjoy. That sort of numbers of release, is tough for film fans to justify another dip in the pocket to buy another version of a film that have, over say, buying a new film they do not. These releases have been the standard, double set on a Barbara Stanwyck collection to the excellent MASTERS OF CINEMA release. Today, Criterion Collection have licenced the film, in the intention to both upscale the film and also restore it for us to part with more cash. The question you ask is ‘why should I?’. The following is my argument as to why you should, neigh, must!

So you know the story. Insurance salesman Walter Neff (FRED MACMURRAY), is a wise cracking mouth and a success at getting people to part with cash. When he walks into the swank home of dissatisfied housewife Phyllis Dietrichson (STANWYCK) however, his intension to sell her insurance ends up turning to a plot of murder. As the chips start to pile up and Phyllis husband is found dead on some railway tracks, it looks like they could be in the clear. However Walter boss, Barton Keyes (EDWARD G. ROBINSON) has a little man telling him, something isn’t right.

A review of the film would be pointless and not what you are reading for. It is a masterful examination in criminality, duplicity and sexuality. Wilder directs with his usual use of tone, which really delivers due to a great script from him and Raymond Chandler. Adapting the brutal JAMES M. CAIN’s pulp novel. Right to the disc. Conversations in the physical media world, when discussing Criterion, often float around the power of the brand to buy quality product and also how it treats it fairly well but not as great as other, smaller brands. This really smacks of sore feelings and extends into bitterness over actual, real world points of the product. Criterion collection are a powerhouse certainly. They also have a history of quality releases with some issues. DOUBLE INDEMNITY is given to us as a 4K release (not as they did in the US, a UHD one). The film looks very sharp in terms of tonally onscreen and textural on colour. So far so good indeed. The quality of it speaks volumes on the brands quality control in my opinion. The 4K rewards the chiaroscuro work of cinematographer JOHN F. SEITZ, with the deep rich black and white having no fuzz. It is obvious an improvement on the restored, rather good, HD version that Eureka released a decade ago.

The extras are a study in really good physical media content. The commentary from film critic Richard Schickel (yes, the esteemed film historian), MUST be listened to. Brilliant. Forget it covers everything. It also reveals points on Wilder and the films making that are not regularly discussed. All in a way that rewards, as Schickel has a touch that is entertaining rather than dry. Film scholar Noah Isenberg is interviewed, aiming to dispel the lack of analytical work. Isenberg will be my go to for the future. Wonderful in both intelligence and insight. Shadows of Suspense has been around for a while and though good to have, should be on the lower end of what to watch going forward for the film and its legend. I honestly found little in film historians Eddie Muller and Imogen Sara Smith. Not that it is not rewarding or quality. More that it goes over older ground and then into new, which is something to avoid, if you have just read critic Angelica Jade Bastién essay. Which deserves its own place in a book that has all of the best Criterion film essays in one place. Idea for you Criterion….

On Blu Ray two, there is an Arena documentary from Volker Schlöndorff called Billy, How Did You Do It? My mother recorded this on VHS. Its quality might not have improved but the film is long (flying though), in depth (informative) but personable (like Wilder was). This is one reason to own the set. If not for the film, for this 3 and a half hour masterpiece of interview and examination.

Product Features

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
  • Audio commentary featuring film critic Richard Schickel
  • New interview with film scholar Noah Isenberg, editor of Billy Wilder on Assignment
  • New conversation between film historians Eddie Muller and Imogen Sara Smith
  • Billy, How Did You Do It?, a 1992 film by Volker Schlöndorff and Gisela Grischow featuring interviews with director Billy Wilder
  • Shadows of Suspense, a 2006 documentary on the making of Double Indemnity
  • Radio adaptations from 1945 and 1950
  • Trailer
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: An essay by critic Angelica Jade Bastién

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