Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Samantha Eggar

DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1973 telefilm). Director: Jack Smight.

In one of television's more pointless exercises, this TV movie is a remake of the Billy Wilder 1944 classic. The story, based on James Cain's novel, remains the same. Insurance salesman Walter Neff (Richard Crenna) and Phyllis Dietrichson (Samantha Eggar) conspire to do away with her husband (Arch Johnson), hoping to invoke a double indemnity clause in his insurance by making it look like an unusual accident. If you've never seen the original movie, or even if you have, this version will still prove entertaining because of the suspenseful storyline, but compared to the Wilder version with Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson, this is like a high school production. The actors aren't bad, with Eggar making a suitably sociopathic Phyllis and Lee J. Cobb as good as ever in the Robinson role [if not as good as Robinson, whom he apes to some degree]. As for Richard Crenna? He rushes through the opening and closing scenes like a complete amateur [possibly he was directed that way as this telefilm is only 75 minutes long!] but for the rest of the movie he's okay, and was probably cast for the same reason MacMurray [who was much better] was, that likability factor that makes the unpleasant character more palatable. Jack Smight's direction is strictly by the numbers, completely devoid of style, and he does nothing to increase the tension. The murder scene itself might as well be  a trip to the supermarket. It also has to be said that this kind of noirish material plays better in the right time period, the forties, than updated to the seventies.

Verdict: Stick to the original. **1/2.

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