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TURN-ONS AND TURN-OFFS IN CURRENT HOME ENTERTAINMENT RELEASES : VIDEOCASSETTES : ****Excellent ***Good **Fair *Poor

May 12, 1987|MICHAEL WILMINGTON | Compiled by Terry Atkinson

"Double Indemnity." MCA. $29.95. Billy Wilder's chameleon-like ability to soak up cultures was never more apparent than in this 1944 classic, one of the great Hollywood crime thrillers. It's a movie that perfectly captures its milieu--middle-class seediness in 1940s Los Angeles--courtesy also of James M. Cain's icily accurate novel and Wilder's ace co-writer, Raymond Chandler. The central trio--Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson--give unimprovable performances. Susceptible, hard-shell Walter Neff was MacMurray's finest hour as an actor, and his love scenes with Stanwyck have a ruthless wit and obsessive fervor that are still startling. This is top-grade, tense, tough, sardonically despairing stuff: a little sentimental on Wilder's weak spots (young love, male bonding) but corrosive and merciless on things like L.A. family life, infidelity, the insurance business and romance with the brakes off. Information: (818) 777-4315. ****

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