Saturday, November 14, 2009

Double Indemnity (1944)/(1973)

Directed by Jack Smight. Under what conditions could a TV movie re-make of Billy Wilder's 1944 noir classic "Double Indemnity" possibly be necessary? I'm fine with this. Nothing is sacred and this may be viewed as either a worthwhile experiment or a putrid foregone conclusion open for spitballs.

I didn't write it off so easily. Lee J. Cobb is almost as appealing as Edward G. Robinson as Barton Keyes and while Richard Crenna is bland as Walter Neff, this is only a different problem from the casting problem in the '44 original. I'm sorry, but Fred MacMurray could never come off any more hard-boiled than an egg and it's distracting throughout this classic, not to mention Barbara Stanwyck's homely lack of sex appeal. Even handicapped by the hair of a poodle and the skin of a bulldog Samantha Eggar was able to steam up the small screen.

The scripts are almost the same, with the biggest differences in the third act, where the role the step-daughter plays in the TV version is cut down from the original.

So here's how it breaks down. See the original for an entertaining story and the quintessential example of film noir, even though it is hampered by some odd casting. Seek out this rare remake for the exact same story and for an example of an insanely unnecessary experiment in TV movie making that is in no way hampered by its own brand of odd casting.

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