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  • This 1973 remake of the classic 1944 Billy Wilder film, "Double Indemnity," is a textbook example of how to destroy a great script. This grade-B TV fodder also illustrates the folly of remakes in general. While Hollywood has gone after greedy executives that colorize black-and-white films and sought disclaimers on wide-screen movies that are shown in pan-and-scan versions, the industry has ignored the hacks that insist on taking a classic film and diminishing it with a shoddy remake.

    The first step in producing a bowdlerized version of a classic is to edit the script. The Billy-Wilder-Raymond-Chandler work was cut by a half hour to fit the finished film into a specified time-slot with room for commercials. Then update the production with bland, color photography, smart, upscale sets, and TV-familiar actors. Thus, the brand-new "Double Indemnity" eliminates the atmospheric black-and-white film-noir cinematography that enhanced the mood and characterizations of the original. Gone are the dusty, shadowy, claustrophobic sets that explained the protagonists' desires to escape their situations at whatever cost. Gone are the close bond between Keyes and Neff and the erotic attraction between Neff and Phyllis.

    The look of Jack Smight's take on "Double Indemnity" is more "Dynasty" than film noir. Phyllis Dietrickson has a designer home to die for, and Neff's comfy pad would be hard to afford on an insurance salesman's salary, not to mention the sporty Mercedes convertible that he drives. Neither character has any apparent motive to murder for a paltry $200,000. If not money, then perhaps murder for love or lust? Not in this version. Richard Crenna shows little interest in Samantha Eggar, and their kisses are about as lusty as those between a brother and a sister. Crenna fails to capture the cynicism of Neff, and his attempts at double-entendre and sexual suggestiveness fall horribly flat. Eggar is little better and lacks sensuality and the depth to suggest the inner workings of a supposedly devious and manipulative mind. Only Lee J. Cobb manages a creditable performance as Keyes. Director Jack Smight and his three principals have all done much better work.

    There was no conceivable reason to produce this wretched remake except to fill time in a broadcast schedule. There was no conceivable reason to resurrect this dud on DVD and package it with the original film except to fill out a double-disc package. The only lesson that can be learned from this misfire is that even a great script and great dialog can be ruined with poor casting, lackluster direction, and TV grade production values. The 1973 "Double Indemnity" should be titled "10% Indemnity," because viewing it only underscores the 100% perfection of the original movie.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The second of the 2 discs in the splendid new DOUBLE INDEMNITY (DI) DVD set contains Universal's updated 1973 TV-movie version (let's call it DI v2). The original 1944 film noir rocks, but the remake sinks like a stone. Still, both versions are worth a look for anyone who wants to learn how make a spellbinding film noir, because you learn important lessons when you watch them back-to-back:

    1. *Just because your leading lady is pretty, it doesn't automatically mean she's irresistible enough to lead men to their doom.* As the 1973 edition of femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, Samantha Eggar is very pretty. I'll admit I liked Eggar's long, lovely red hair (and the black turban she wears in the murder scene -- very Lana Turner!) better than Barbara Stanwyck's trashy blonde wig (as a studio boss reportedly griped during the filming of the original DI, "I hire Barbara Stanwyck, and I get George Washington!"). However, Stanwyck exudes such sensual magnetism and charisma, even that wig doesn't keep Fred MacMurray from becoming putty in her hands. While Eggar has been appealing in other roles, in DI v2, she's undeniably pleasant to look at, but alas, she has all the carnal allure of an impatient English nanny. Watching Eggar try to be a sinful siren reminded me of the scenes in 1968's STAR! in which Julie Andrews tries to use her prim-and-proper, nigh-operatic tones to belt out torch songs and splashy Broadway production numbers: it's not her style, and her discomfort shows. As a rule, discomfort isn't sexy.

    2. *It don't mean a thing if the leads ain't got that zing.* That brings me to Eggar's delivery; she always sounds vaguely bored and/or annoyed with Richard Crenna's Walter Neff. In the original, even when Stanwyck was scolding or angry, somehow she seemed all the more fascinating. Her sultry voice, with just a trace of her native Brooklyn accent (but from her lips, it sounded good! :-), was just as seductive as the rest of her. DI v2 might be remembered as more than just a cinematic footnote if Eggar and Crenna had even a fraction of the chemistry that sizzles between Stanwyck and MacMurray, the latter brilliant as a cynical smart-aleck whose street-wiseness goes out the window under this devious dame's influence. It just goes to show that in a story like this, the best acting in the world won't help if the leads don't have chemistry and charisma.

    3. *A little moody atmosphere goes a long way in crime movies.* Despite the attractive locations, especially the Spanish-style accents in the opulent Dietrichson home (though I'd forgotten how prevalent the colors beige, harvest gold, and avocado green were back in the 1970s, not to mention blocky impressionistic artwork! :-), DI v2's L.A. seems like a duller, less exciting place than DI's original Los Angeles. The remake's flat '70s TV lighting and uninspired camera angles can't hold a candle to the original's menacing lighting effects and the great John Seitz's photography, which looks almost like painting with shadows. Ironically, the 1973 update now feels more dated than the 1944 original -- and if you listen carefully early on, you'll realize the first film was actually set in the late 1930s! DI v2 does try for a bit of startling imagery here and there, though it's made of cruder stuff than the sleek imagery of the original. For instance, a scene in which wounded, bleeding Walter tapes a confession for Keyes opens on a close-up of Walter's blood-stained cigarettes. Billy Goldenberg's piano-and-strings music is somber enough, though it certainly won't make you forget Miklos Rozsa's brassy, powerful score for the original.

    Apart from Eggar's forgettable performance, the good cast helps make DI v2 fairly watchable, though far from a must-see except for completists like me. :-) As Walter Neff, Richard Crenna makes an amiable dupe who finds himself in over his head, though he doesn't have MacMurray's balance of insouciance and intensity (maybe Crenna should've worn a fedora :-). Interesting note for vintage TV fans: when Crenna's voice is cracking from the pain of his gunshot wounds during his confession-by-dictaphone, he often sounds distractingly like he did as a young man on the 1950s TV show OUR MISS BROOKS. John Fiedler and his "Piglet" voice suit Jackson-from-Medford delightfully. Lee J. Cobb's portrayal of Barton Keyes is good, but quite different from Edward G. Robinson. Unlike the energy and fighting spirit of Robinson's performance, Cobb's Keyes seems older and wearier. When he talks about how the "little man inside" upsets his stomach when he senses a phony claim, you really do get the feeling he's about to throw up any minute! Don't get me wrong, though -- Cobb's approach is quite effective in the context of the remake, especially since the remake as a whole has a lot less snap, crackle, and pop than the original. No wonder Cobb/Keyes has indigestion; maybe he needs a nice soothing bowl of Rice Krispies... :-) With a script by Steven Bochco and direction by TV crime-show veteran Jack Smight (who also did a nice job with theatrical suspensers HARPER, KALEIDOSCOPE, and NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY), you'd think DI v2 would still be worth watching, but despite the occasional gripping moment, this '70s show is still just polyester while the original is pure silk.
  • When Samantha Eggar (as Phyllis Dietrickson) answers the door of her house swathed in a towel, you realize that as competent an actress as Eggar may be, she doesn't have the hypnotic allure of Barbara Stanwyck. And it is not entirely Eggar's fault. In the original film, Wilder had Stanwyck not only appear in a towel, but she enters the scene on the second floor balcony of the house. And she doesn't "come out"; she appears, almost as if by magic. Walter Neff is staring up at her from below on the first floor. There is a reason for this. Stanwyck is much higher than Neff (Fred MacMurray) when they are first introduced. It is not just the towel. The towel adds to the seductive allure. Her pose is like a Greek Goddess overlooking her domain, and, in a strange way, you feel as if, from the start, she is actually controlling the entire situation. She has sexual, even magic, power. This person is no ordinary housewife. This person is a mystery with secrets hidden within.

    Back to 1973. The remake has Crenna knock on the front door. Stanwyck's stand-in, Eggar, answers the door with a towel around her. There is no "appearance". She simply opens the door. The alluring superiority that grabs the audience at the first appearance of Stanwyck in 1944 is entirely absent in 1973. She opens the door with a towel around her. It may be sexy in a Charlie's Angels sort of way, but it's not nearly as mysterious. The filmmakers of the remake seem to misunderstand Wilder's point. The script may have said "Phyllis appears in towel" so the filmmakers of the remake simply follow the instructions and include the required towel. The point is not the towel. The point is the enigmatic quality of Phyllis, and the potential power she wields. Wilder gave her a towel to add to her mystique. The filmmakers of the remake gave her a towel because that's what Wilder did. And in the choice of shot, lost all of Phyllis' mystique.

    Richard Crenna also seems miscast. He seems like he's "acting" and not really in the midst of the dilemma. Part of the problem is Crenna appears so much like a 70's actor. He can't get into the 1940's. When MacMurray first speaks into the microphone, sweat begins to drip from his face. No sweat on Crenna. And they also changed one of the crucial lines at the beginning. In the original, Neff says, "I didn't get the money, and I didn't get the woman." In the 1973 version, Crenna says, "I didn't get the money, and I didn't want the woman." Did the filmmakers completely misunderstand the entire point of the story? Or were they dumbing it down for a "television" audience?

    This made-for-TV movie is a by-the-numbers rendition. All the sharp edge of the original is lost. The only stand-out, maybe, is Lee J. Cobb in the role made famous by Edward G. Robinson. But he cannot save the loss of intensity of the original. This 1973 boring remake is a forgettable TV-movie made probably by the same people who did "Gilligan's Island". They might as well have tried to remake "Citizen Kane" or "Gone with the Wind". If mediocrity is the best one can hope for, what's the point? The 1944 classic is a Film with a capital "F". This made-for-TV remake deserves an "F" grade, or, maybe a "D" for dumb.
  • This 1973 TV remake of the Billy Wilder classic is inferior to the original. Surprise!

    First, the good things. Lee J. Cobb makes a terrific Barton Keyes. He's not as good as Edward G. Robinson, of course, but he's the only reason to watch this. This remake's only improvement over the original is that it cuts down the role of Lola Dietrichson, the step-daughter of the femme fatale, Phyllis Dietrichson.

    And that's it for the good things.

    The bad things are many. The director records everything in an indifferent manner: if you watched the film with the sound muted you'd hardly get the impression that anything especially interesting was happening. Because of modern bad taste, the film must be in color instead of black and white. Because of 1970s bad taste, all the sets are distractingly ugly. Walter Neff's expensive apartment, in particular, is hideous.

    The modern setting hurts in a lot of small ways. Train trips were a bit more unusual in the 70s than in the 40s, so Mr. Dietrichson's decision to take a train seems more of a contrivance. Men stopped wearing hats, which prevents Walter from covering up his brown hair while posing as the white-haired Mr. Dietrichson. Women in mourning stopped wearing veils, which robs Samantha Eggar of a prop Barbara Stanwyck made splendid use of in a key scene. (Oddly, Lola still has the line where she reveals that her stepmother was trying on a black hat and veil before she had need of them.)

    Stephen Bochco keeps much of the Billy Wilder-Raymond Chandler script the same. But he makes a lot of tiny, inexplicable changes to the dialogue which leave the script slightly flabby where once it was lean and muscular. Outrageously, the famous motorcycle-cop banter is gone, but look closely and you'll see what looks like a post-production cut where those lines should have been. Bochco may not be to blame.

    Richard Crenna is passable as Walter Neff. What might have made this version tolerable is a really splendid Phyllis Dietrichson. Instead we get Samantha Eggar, who comes off like a standard-issue villainess from "Barnaby Jones." But who can blame Eggar? With a director who barely seems interested in what's happening in front of the camera, how could Barbara Stanwyck herself have come off well?
  • It was hard to watch this film and be totally fair and objective since I am a big fan the original 1944 movie. That, to me and many others, is one of the greatest film noirs ever made. Realizing this is simply a shortened made-for-TV film and that most people had trashed it, I didn't expect much, but you can't help but compare this with the '44 film. Scene after scene, I found myself comparing what I was looking at it, and remembering how it played out with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson and others. Now I was seeing these famous actors playing their famous roles replaced by Richard Crenna, Samantha Eggar and Lee J. Cobb.

    When it was all over, I found it wasn't as bad as I had expected but it's no match for the 1944 original. The two main areas in which this made-for-TV film wasn't as good were (1) the electricity between the two leads was missing and (2) being only 90 minutes, they rushed the story with hardly time to develop the plot, characters and chemistry between those leads. Crenna and Eggar were flat, and simply no match for MacMurray and Stanwyck as "Walter Neff" and "Phyllis Dietrichson," respectively.

    Where this re-make held its own was in the other characters, such as "Barton Keyes" and "Edward Norton." Cobb was terrific as Keyes and Robert Webber as Norton, head of the insurance company. It also was somewhat interesting to see the time frame changed, so the houses, cars, telephones, dictating machines, etc., were all early '70s instead of mid '40s. Otherwise, the storyline was very similar, just rushed.

    However, one viewing was enough and I will happily go back to the original version for the rest of my viewings of this classic story and film.
  • rmax30482330 August 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    You can't help comparing this 1973 TV version to the 1940s original directed by Billy Wilder and starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson. As expected, the original comes out light years ahead, a classic of genuine film noir.

    The story line is still here. The skull shows through the skin. An insurance salesman connives with a manipulative seductress to murder her husband and collect double indemnity on the insurance policy they've just taken out on him. The claims manager, Lee J. Cobb here, unravels the plot. The criminal couple shoot and kill one another. That much is the same.

    So what's the problem? Well, there are a couple of problems, and some other changes that aren't necessarily problems but don't add anything to the experience of viewing the film.

    The story belongs in the 1940s. When Wilder and Raymond Chandler (in his sober period) put the thing together it had a good, old-fashioned black-and-white pizazz in its dialog and setting that just doesn't fit well into the 1970s.

    Phyllis Dietrichson belongs in a slightly cramped but very comfortable old house, a slightly dated mission-style multi-story dwelling with honeysuckle around it and windows that can be closed and shuttered. People in this film live in comparative luxury. The plush carpets are the color of rust. Phyllis (Samantha Eggar) lives in a modern house that resembles a cement box on the outside. No honeysuckle vine would dream of trying to creep up the walls because the Mexican gardener would snip it off in a jiffy. Walter Neff (Richard Crenna) lives in a pad in Marina del Ray with a view of the yacht moorings, instead of the somewhat seedy hotel flat in the original. In Crenna's apartment, you'd probably have to use coasters. Everyone here seems too -- comfortable. When Eggar complains of her husband that he has no money it's impossible to believe her.

    The wardrobe too is updated, of course, or rather it WAS up to date in 1973. Never saw so many turtlenecks. And such fashionably long hair on the men.

    And 1973 was part of an era -- let's call it pre-Godfather -- when you still had to watch it in using ethnic names. So Lola's no-good boyfriend (a med-school dropout in the original, a law student here) is no longer Nino Sachetti but somebody with a barbaric and WASPy name like Don Franklin. That's not a name for a resentful, misguided kid. That's the name of a TV game show host. "Chris Martin Productions presents RING MY BELL -- with your host, Don FRANKlin!" Incidents, themes almost, are elided. Not much goes on in the way of affection between Neff and his boss. In the original it's symbolized by Neff's always having to provide Keyes with a match to light his cigar and Keyes' growling thanks. The match business is simply left out of this version.

    So is the witness's (John Fiedler) trying to pry some extra money out of the Insurance company to cover his overnight visit to LA from Medford, Oregon. "There's a chiropractor I need to see," Porter Hall wheedles in the original. "Just don't put her on the expense account," snarls Keyes. It's one of the few humorous moments in the story. What's gained by leaving it out? Left out too is what is surely the funniest incident in the original, when Keyes gives his boss a big speech spelling out in humiliating detail precisely how dumb his boss is, then grabs a glass of water out of his boss's hand, asks, "Mind if I have this?", and nervously gulps it down. Otherwise the dialog is almost identical to the original, except for the addition of a wisecrack near the beginning, when Neff tells Phyllis, "I gave up a Rhodes scholarship to peddle insurance door to door." Performances. Crenna is probably as good as MacMurray was in the original. And although Lee J. Cobb as Keyes isn't the human buzz saw that Edward G. Robinson was in the original, he carries the part in his own exasperated way. Samantha Eggar, alas, is no Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck was pretty in a sluttish way, with that fake blonde wig, and a better actress too. Watch Stanwyck's face when the camera focuses on it and her husband is getting his neck broken in the seat next to her. There's a slight smile curling up the edges of her lips. And that nasal Brooklyn voice helps. Eggar with her fresh modelesque beauty, deep red fluffy hair, freckled face, Brit accent, and big green eyes is all innocence. When HER husband is killed, she simply stares into the camera when the shot is duplicated.

    Most shots, however, are not duplicated. Not that it matters much because the director, Jack Smight, who has done interesting work elsewhere ("No Way to Treat a Lady", eg.), seems to have approached this project the way we might approach commuting to work in the morning. Nothing much goes on. The wheels aren't turning.

    Oh, well. You may appreciate this more if you've never seen the original. At that, I'm surprised that there hasn't been another remake yet. It's been thirty years and more since this copy. And there must be a nickel left in the story yet, especially if it has much more blood and explicit sex in it, and something on the sound track other than, "I'll Remember April."
  • kosmasp22 July 2007
    Watch the Original with the same title from 1944! This made for TV movie, is just god-awful! Although it does use (as far as I can tell) almost the same dialog, it just doesn't work! Is it the acting, the poor directing? OK so it's made for TV, but why watch a bad copy, when you can get your hands on the superb original? Especially as you'll be spoiled to the plot and won't enjoy the original as much, as if you've watched it first!

    There are a few things that are different from the original (it's shorter for once), but all are for the worse! The actors playing the parts here, just don't fit the bill! You just don't believe them and who could top Edward G. Robinsons performance from the original? If you want, only watch it after you've seen the original and even then you'll be very brave, if you watch it through! It's almost sacrilege!
  • As a big fan of the original film, it's hard to watch this show. The garish set decor and harshly lighted sets rob any style from this remake. The mood is never there. Instead, it has the look and feel of so many television movies of the Seventies. Crenna is not a bad choice as Walter Neff, but his snappy wardrobe and "swank" apartment don't fit the mood of the original, or make him an interesting character.He does his best to make it work but Samantha Egger is a really bad choice. The English accent and California looks can't hold a candle to Barbara Stanwick's velvet voice and sex appeal. Lee J.Cobb tries mightily to fashion Barton Keyes,but even his performance is just gruff, without style.

    It feels like the TV movie it was and again reminds me of what a remarkable film the original still is.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    When someone remakes a classic movie, the remake is always unfavorably compared to the original. Also, there's a chance that the remake is so radically different that it is just too unfamiliar to audiences.

    Well, the 1973 TV version of "Double Indemnity" has almost identical scenes and dialogue as the 1944 original. The main difference is that the remake just seems to have no energy at all. Fred MacMurray was great as the lecherous, leering insurance agent Walter Neff in the original; Richard Crenna just seems world-weary and tired. Edward G. Robinson brought great manic energy to his role as MacMurray's boss Barton Keys; Lee J. Cobb, a fine actor, appears almost bored with the proceedings. Samantha Eggar is all wrong as the conniving, back-stabbing Phyllis Dietrichson; while Barbara Stanwyck was just superb in this wicked role, Eggar is overly polite and mannered and just seems way out of place.

    Robert Webber, in the old Richard Gaines role as Robinson's boss Norton, and John Fiedler taking the Porter Hall role as the crucial witness, bring some life to the movie. In particular, Webber recreates the Norton role well in a 1970s context.

    However, after the movie starts, the whole thing just sort of lies there, without any life or electricity. This is one film that never should have been remade.
  • MartinHafer26 February 2011
    4/10
    Why?!
    Warning: Spoilers
    An insurance agent is seduced by a woman. She convinces him to sell her a huge policy on her husband...and then help her kill him so she can collect and live happily ever after with the agent. However, this great plan doesn't play out exactly as they'd anticipated when the husband and agent begin wondering whether or not they can trust their new co-conspirator.

    The idea of remaking the classic 1944 version of this film is pretty pointless. After all, why remake a film that is considered a classic?! Yet, oddly, this is exactly what happened over the years. Consider that they made a sequel to "Gone With the Wind" and remakes of "High Noon" and musical versions of "Lost Horizon" and "Goodbye Mr. Chips"--and all of them totally stank. Why, oh why?! Perhaps they were easy and cheap to make and even if they were bad they were guaranteed a certain audience...but it still seems wrong to have done this.

    Richard Crenna plays the part originally played by Fred MacMurray. Samantha Egger plays the part originally played by Barbara Stanwyck. And, Lee J. Cobb plays the part originally played by Edward G. Robinson. All of these are reasonably good actors...but certainly not up to the quality of the originals. What's worse, however, is that the original director (Billy Wilder) was a genius...yet here the film is helmed by 'Jack Smight'?!? And, they sped up the film a bit as well. Why?! Now if there never had been an earlier version of this film, then it would have been a made for TV movie that would have been worth seeing--one you'd probably remember. It IS good for what it is--because the original story was very good...but it's also too close to the original and offers nothing new or interesting. Overall, it's like the saying goes "you can't go back".
  • Utter dreck. I got to the 16 minute/27 second point, and gave up. I'd have given it a negative number review if that were possible (although 'pissible' is a more fitting word...). Unlike the sizzle you could see and practically feel between MacMurray and Stanwyck in the original, the chemistry between dumb ol' Dicky Crenna and whats-her-face here is just non-existent. The anklet becomes an unattractive chunky bracelet? There's no ciggy-lighting-by-fingertip? And I thought I'd be SICK when they have a mortified-looking (and rightly so, believe you me) Lee J. Cobb as Keyes practically burping/upchucking his way through the explanation of his "Little Man" to Mr. Garloupis. No offence to the non-sighted, but it looks as though a posse of blind men ran amuck with the set design of both the Dietrichson and Neff houses. The same goes for those horrid plaid pants that Phyllis wears. And crikey, how much $$ does Neff make, that he lives overlooking a huge marina? This, folks, again, all takes place in the first 16 and a half minutes. If you can get through more of it, you have a much stronger constitution than me, or you are a masochist. But please, take some Alka-Seltzer first, or you WILL develop a "little man" of your own that may never go away. Proceed with caution, obviously.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Insurance salesman Walter Neff (Richard Crenna) is hurt and returns to his office to record a confession. The movie recounts his story. His boss at Pacific Casualty, Barton Keyes (Lee J. Cobb), is an expert at uncovering fraud. Walter does a home visit to Dietrichson. He's not home but his alluring wife Phyllis (Samantha Eggar) is there to meet him. She suggests buying accident insurance for her husband without telling him. Walter accuses her of planning to kill her husband. She tracks Walter to his home and he helps plan the perfect scheme. He secretly sells her husband an accident insurance policy and insists on killing him on a train to collect the double indemnity of $400k.

    This is an unnecessary remake and not a good one. There is no particular style other than 70's TV. It is bare bones. Richard Crenna is a little old and not enough. Samantha Eggar is a beautiful woman but her clothing does not accentuates her femme fatale. Everything is somewhat bland which questions the purpose of this remake. On the other hand, Lee J. Cobb is great but it's not enough.
  • AaronCapenBanner6 November 2013
    Jack Smight directed this TV remake of the original 1944 film, based on James M. Cain's novel, that stars Richard Crenna as Walter Naff, an insurance salesman seduced by a client's wife named Phyllis Dietrichson(played by Samantha Eggar) to murder her husband for the insurance money, with the double indemnity clause giving them twice the payout, though Walter's boss Barton Keyes(played by Lee J. Cobb) is suspicious of Phyllis, convinced she murdered her husband with the help of another man, not knowing that it's Walter... Needless and ineffectual remake still has a good cast and story, but no atmosphere or point at all.
  • drystyx3 December 2011
    This remake of the film noir classic about a seductress and an insurance man having an affair of horror, planning the murder of her husband, gives us the same question as just about any remake.

    Why the remake? Many remakes are simply film adaptations of classic novels, such as TREASURE ISLAND.

    Here, though, we have what is essentially a "homage" to E.G. Robinson and the others, who made the original classic.

    The crux of the story is the Columbo style E.G. character. He is always the important one. And Lee J Cobb does a fine job. In fact, he is the the entire show in this one. I don't mean to disparage Richard and Samantha, but they were very bland.

    And that was probably the point, to keep them bland.

    It still makes for the question "Why the remake?" Lee J Cobb tries to make this his own role. And that's okay. You really don't want to try to mimic a classic. He does okay, but there are times when E.G. just did it perfect. For example, when he says "Closer than that", E.G. was perfect. Cobb, in the effort to make it his own, knows it is taking something away when he adds "much closer", but he doesn't want to be compared too much to E.G.'s perfect portrayal.

    Which is why you don't really want to remake a classic film noir.
  • Los Angeles insurance salesman in his late 30s is seduced by the wife of one of his clients, who gives him the idea of taking out an accident insurance policy on her husband without his knowledge. If he's killed, the wife receives $200,000--if he's killed on a train, the amount is doubled. Writer Steven Bochco had the daunting task of compressing James M. Cain's crime novel into a 75-minute movie for television. Bochco must have known how unnecessary the whole idea was, especially since no amount of effort could even hope to get the project out from the shadow of Billy Wilder's classic 1944 version. The three leads (Richard Crenna and Samantha Eggar as the illicit lovers, Lee J. Cobb as Crenna's boss) go through the motions dutifully, but nothing here feels fresh.
  • Take Billy Wilder's amazing 1944 adaptation of Double Indemnity and then sap out all the blood. That's this 1973 made for television version.

    There's no style to anything. Gone are the claustrophobic sets and the sense of oppressive summer heat wave which gave atmosphere to the original. None of the sets seem designed to do anything other than give the boring, charisma-less actors space to march around in. None of the players are even close to the performances of the original. It's a hard chore to even equal, let alone top, the likes of Barbara Stanwyck or Edward G. Robinson. These people don't even come close.

    The cinematography is bland. No sexual tension. The dialogue is the same but when it's delivered with no verve it barely simmers. The climax is not so much built to as it is stumbled upon by bloodless characters.

    Ignore this. Not worth your time. Not worth the film it was shot on at all.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Murder and insurance fraud take an adulterous couple to "the end of the line"...

    TV was visually vulgar back in the early 1970s and this truncated, made-for-TV knock-off hurt my eyes. It can't possibly compare to the 1944 Billy Wilder Film Noir classic as anyone in their right mind ought to know -sight unseen- but that doesn't mean this update should be seen as a separate entity, either. Although based on the original Paramount screenplay, there's over half an hour cut out and the director's bland indifference makes what's left imminently forgettable. With rare exception, the younger generation wasn't interested in watching old black and white movies on TV back in 1973 (still true today, alas) so this lurid, compelling tale was new to the overwhelming majority of viewers; then as now, ratings rule and cashing in was its only reel raison d'etre. Gus Van Zandt remade Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO for similar reasons and if these redux led to the seeking out of the original films or novels, so much the better. I loved the James M. Cain source novel enough to tune in back then and I enjoyed this time capsule curio the second time around for the longish hair, halter tops, turbans, ugly decor, and lush auburn locks of "guest star" Samantha Eggar, who didn't try too hard. In addition to recognizing a few of the incidental cast from a childhood spent in front of the boob tube, Lee J. Cobb was able to hold my interest as a world-weary, tired-looking Keyes but Richard Crenna's affable and inoffensive Walter Neff only reminded me of Bill Bixby on a bad day. Improvement upon the original was, of course, never intended in a rush to make a buck but, instead of a mindless retread, a new adaptation of the novel would have been a novel idea. Cain's book differs somewhat from its celluloid incarnations and the horrific shark fins in the moonlight ending is killer. The completist in me is thankful this speeded up "Me Decade" update was included as part of the DOUBLE INDEMNITY DVD extras but the experience not only made me long to see the original, it had me nostalgic for any episode of the better-made COLUMBO TV series. I also flashed back to a very good 1973 ABC TV Movie Of The Week that I haven't seen since its initial airing: John D. Macdonald's LINDA starring the beautiful Stella Stevens as a ruthless femme fatale who murders her lover's (sexy John Saxon) wife and then frames her mild-mannered husband for the crime and, if I remember correctly, there's also an open-ended ending. Like DOUBLE INDEMNITY, it was needlessly remade with TV movie queen Virginia Madsen as the titular vixen and Richard Thomas as the milquetoast husband.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have it on good authority that James M. Cain turned over in his grave when this haphazard rendering of his novella DOUBLE INDEMNITY emanated from the boob tube in the early 1970s. (Seriously, he was 81, and kicked the bucket four years later.) Be that as it may, if you watch both the original and a remake from decades later for the first time because the film studio is making more money on a deluxe DVD set than it would by packaging the original alone, it usually turns out to be a case of a defendant providing the rope with which they should be hoisted up, figuratively speaking. Crass Universal Studios took an earlier effort nominated for seven Oscars, which largely created the genre of film noir, and de-noired it in a sloppy adaptation they probably hoped people would skip to focus on the commercials. Almost every character name and line from the original was retained, no matter how anachronistic. But most of the TV cast is so third-rate that when they change the name of Lola's boyfriend from Nino Zachetti (beyond their powers of pronunciation) to Donny Franklin, airhead Kathleen Cody (as Lola) calls him "Johnny" when he's first introduced. Key lines of dialog are chopped in half, to fit in more TV ads. And Billy Goldenberg's musical score would be more suitable for a situation comedy. Even if this were the first adaptation of Cain's story, it would not come within a hundred miles of an Emmy nomination.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ATMOSPHERIC THRILLER directed by Jack Smight exceeds the 1944 original. Richard Crenna mantains his reputation as a major 60s/70s leading actor teamed with the excellent Samantha Eggar in this vastly superior remake of the 1944 "classic film noir" that had an inferior team of Fred McMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. Being a well made, tightly budgeted Television movie this 1973 thriller is beautifully written, plotted and acted, giving full value for money in each scene. Richard Crenna is totally head and shoulders above the fumbling and uncertain Fred McMurray and Samantha Eggar adds real style, glamour and sexiness in her role. Absolutely recommended in all departments this is yet another TV Movie that is hugely well made and exceeds the efforts of a cinema release.
  • Some alternative casts: 1) Alan Alda, Tuesday Weld, and Telly Savalas 2) Sam Elliott, Shirley Knight, and Jack Cassidy 3) Darren McGavin, Elizabeth Montgomery, and Herschel Bernardi 4) Bradford Dillman, Jean Simmons, and Edward Asner (Phyllis didn't need to be blonde) 5) David Janssen, Rosemary Forsyth, and Dean Jagger.

    Other candidates for Phyllis could be Elizabeth Ashley and Diana Hyland.

    John Badham was doing some stylish TV movies at the time including "Isn't it Shocking?" with Alan Alda and "Reflections on Murder" with Tuesday Weld. He might have been able to inject more energy. Badham is still a working director doing series episodes.

    Or John Llewelyn Moxey who did such a beautiful job directing "The Night Stalker" with McGavin might have been good.