Fred MacMurray (whose line in match-lighting is so cool, I’d take up smoking just to be able to do that) is an insurance salesman. Edwards G. Robinson is a claims investigator with an infallible nose for fraud. MacMurray stops by the home of Barbara Stanwyck (as fatale as any a femme ever was) to make a sale. Instead, he’s sold on the idea of killing her husband for a massive insurance payoff. He concocts a scheme for what should be the perfect murder. But nothing in this life is perfect.
One of the film’s many remarkable achievements is that we sweat along with our two murderer. Are we really cheering them alone? Hard to say. What isn’t hard to say is that the suspense is matchless, and the dialogue is to kill for. If every single film noir but one were to disappear, this would be the one to preserve. A masterpiece at every level.
The audio is mono, of course, and is pretty good. The dialogue, certainly, is perfectly clear and completely free of distortion. There is some background static, however. It isn’t severe, but in some scenes it is certainly loud enough to be noticeable. The sound, meanwhile, on the bonus feature is a perfectly unobjectionable mono.
The picture has been remastered, and it sure does look nice. Sure, there are a few instances of flicker, but it’s pretty minor. Damage, however, is non-existent. Grain and edge enhancement ditto. The image is as sharp as one could wish. It is unlikely that the movie looked any better the day of its premiere.
The quantity of extras may not be huge, but the quality is pretty damn high. There are two commentary tracks, one by Richard Schickel, and the other by historian Nick Redman and screenwriter Lem Dobbs. Both tracks are excellent, insightful, and manage to avoid excessive redundancy. The introduction by Robert Osborne sets the stage nicely, and the “Shadows of Suspense” documentary is fine introduction to the film and the noir phenomenon (with a nice socio-historical contextualization). The theatrical trailer is here, too. Disc 2 is the 1974 TV remake with Richard Crenna, Lee J. Cobb and Samantha Eggar. The dialogue is virtually word-for-word the same as the original, and it’s fascinating to watch this curio fall on its face trying to live up to the glorious model.
Movies simply don’t get much better than this. See it or else.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentaries
- Introduction by Robert Osborne
- “Shadows of Suspense” Documentary
- Theatrical Trailer
- Made-for-TV Remake