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Double Indemnity (1944)

Universal

Cast: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson.

Rating: PG

Run time: 103 mins..

Genre: Crime

Verdict: Brilliant (see rating system)

This is a beauty - a hard working insurance salesman falls for a sexy, bored wife who wants her old man to have a little "accident".

It's a simple premise, but legendary writer/director Billy Wilder invested it with a great script, taut direction and magical casting to make this a gripping story of greed and lust.

Fred MacMurray is cast against type from his usual nice-guy roles, playing Walter Neff, a highly regarded insuranceman who learns just how much evil lurks in a man's heart - mostly his own. It's all the fault of seductive blond housewife Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), who snares Neff the moment he first lays eyes on her during a routine housecall.

Soon, Neff is blabbering nonsense like "I'm crazy 'bout you baby" as he contemplates offing her dull husband (Tom Powers) so the two of them can build a life on the proceeds of a "Double Indemnity" payout - an insurance policy paying double for rare accidents...liike falling off the back of a train.

It's brilliantly done, with Wilder building unbearable tension as Neff's shrewd boss Barton Keyes (a great turn by Edward G. Robinson) figures out what's going on.

Universal's 2006 special two-disc edition features a remastered picture and sound and a great documentary on the making of the film. There's also the 1973 TV movie colour remake starring Richard Crenna and Samantha Eggar (which shows how great the original really was!)

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