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The definitive and arguably the greatest film noir of all
on 2 April 2006
Along with Tourneur's OUT OF THE PAST (1947), Billy Wilder's DOUBLE INDEMNITY is the definitive film noir, a masterpiece that rewards countless viewings and proved hugely influential. Virtually remade as BODY HEAT in 1981, and the inspiration for any number of sweaty, neo-noir pale imitations, this brilliant film remains the real deal and unsurpassed.
Wilder's fractious collaboration with the great Raymond Chandler produced a wonderful screenplay, dripping with sharp dialogue and fatalistic symbolism, whilst the performances of the three leads - FRED MacMURRAY, BARBARA STANWYCK and EDWARD G ROBINSON - are faultless and represent their finest screenwork. Stanwyck's marvellously cold, cyncial and manipulative femme fatale remains the template for all that followed and her tart as a lemon dialogue exchanges with MacMurray's bluff, self-confident Insurance Claims Investigator are amongst the greatest in any film.
To add to these elements JOHN F. SEITZ, one of film noir's finest cameramen, creates visual poetry from the sunlight streaming through Californian windows and shadows of forboding during the beautifully staged murder sequence.
Come to think of it, this isn't just one of the greatest film noirs ever made, it's simply one of the greatest films ever made, period. If you haven't seen it, buy it now, if you had it on VHS from a long ago TV screening, still buy it as this print is excellent and probably the best available, although there's a disappointing lack of extras on the DVD.