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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Double Indemnity (1973)

During the course of a routine business visit, an insurance salesman (Richard Crenna) meets the attractive wife (Samantha Eggar) of a client (Arch Johnson). It becomes clear that the wife wants to get rid of her husband and the smitten insurance agent reluctantly becomes her accomplice. Based on the novel by James M. Cain by way of the classic Billy Wilder film noir (1944), this is the knock off dress you buy when you can't afford the Dior original. On its own terms, if the 1944 film had never existed, it's a competent if undistinguished potboiler that's modestly entertaining. But the 1944 film does exist and one can't help but compare the two versions. While Lee J. Cobb in Edward G. Robinson's old role is good enough (he keeps the ham in the oven), Crenna and Eggar (fine actors in their own right) suffer in comparison. Just in their line readings alone, they miss the darkly humorous irony of the dialogue. And it's an ugly looking film in bright colors which removes any atmosphere whatsoever unlike the Wilder film's moody shadow and light B&W cinematography. Unlike most fans of the 1944 film, I don't hate it at all, I find it an interesting if minor companion piece. But competent just doesn't cut it here. Directed by Jack Smight. With Robert Webber, John Fiedler and Kathleen Cody.

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