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I have a new favorite movie. If it's not Double Indemnity then at least
it's the whole film noir genre. Double Indemnity was THE greatest story
I have ever have had the pleasure of seeing. It had it all. It was
black and white, it had a great theme song and it had such deep
characters. Characters you really feel with. This was my first REAL
film noir. I had seen Chinatown before this one but that is classified
as neo noir because it's in color.
Did I mention that the acting in this movie is the best acting I have ever seen in a movie? And I mean real acting. Not like real acting like you'll find in Mockumentaries where the acting is so natural only because it's improvised. No, the acting in this movie is in the scale of stage actors. The best there is. The lines are all delivered in such a natural way because they are natural. Meaning that there isn't a single line in this movie that I would even think about changing.
The directing and cinematography were the best I have ever seen. The opening credits feature a man in crutches walking towards the screen in Silhouette while dramatic music plays over the soundtrack and credits appearing and disappearing on the screen. From there on the movie had me. How could I stop watching after a credit sequence like that? As the movie plays out we keep hearing the same theme. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
This movie is recommended. Recommended to everyone by me. If you like any sort of cinema. And if you don't laugh at Adam Sandlers jokes then go and get this movie. Get it and never sell it. Because it is the greatest piece of cinema I have ever seen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Maltese Falcon" is generally considered to be the very first film
noir, but Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity" is the first GREAT noir.
With actors that perfectly understood Wilder's penchant for black as
tar humour, this film is as seedy, dark and many times funny as they
come. Barbara Stanwyck is a knockout as the classic femme fatale,
complete with cheap blonde wig and ankle bracelets. Fred MacMurray
makes a terrific dope, his silly machimso preventing him from realizing
that Stanwyck is one step ahead of him through the entire film. And
Edward G. Robinson shines as usual in a small but important role.
For me, this film breaks new ground in the hard-boiled/detective/murder mystery genre. I believe it was a bit of a flop when it came out, but that's easy to understand. Films that in retrospect prove themselves to be cutting edge are frequently dismissed at the time of their release. "Double Indemnity" doesn't have the look of other studio films of its period, not even other gritty detective films of its period. The lighting is stark and grimy; you can almost see every speck of dust in the shafts of light slanting in through the windows. Wilder gets the feel of a corrupt L.A. just right. But even more than its look, the film is years ahead of its time in its moral tone. Not only do the characters in this film not find redemption, they appear to be unredeemable. Each shows him/herself to be colder and more cynical than the other, and there's a "Bonnie and Clyde"-like inevitability to their eventual fates.
Simply sensational. And watch for the list of "supposin'"s MacMurray and Stanwyck throw back and forth at each other in one scene. It's hilarious and perfect, and those who've seen the film will know exactly what I'm talking about.
Simply the apotheosis of film noir.
Twisted plot and irresistibly quotable dialogue, courtesy of Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Atmospheric cinematography. Stupendous suspense, even after multiple viewings.
La Stanwyck gives a masters class in Diva that Callas could have taken a page from.
Fred MacMurray crushes his nice guy image like a sweaty fedora left on the passenger seat on a hot night.
Edward G. Robinson is. . .even more so than usual.
If you haven't seen Double Indemnity, I envy the film-going experience that lies before you.
A regular reviewer would get into the heavy details of the plot of Billy
Wilder's `Double Indemnity', but I wont, because I feel that a film like
this should be viewed by someone who knows practically nothing of the plot,
so every scene can be a surprise. What I will say about the plot, just so
you have an idea if you don't already know, is that insurance salesman Neff
(Fred MacMurray) and his client Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) have a criminal
plot to carry out, and claims man Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) is onto
The movie is a Film-Noir, a terrific B&W genre that died out, I guess, in the early sixties. Sure, Noirs are still being made today, but those ones are more of a homage to the classic Film-Noirs of the thirties, forties and fifties. `Double Indemnity' was released in 1944, when Film-Noir was at its prime, with releases like `The Maltese Falcon' right behind it and `The Third Man' just ahead. To me, `Double Indemnity' is the greatest.
It's hard to differentiate Noirs from the regular crime or mystery movies of the past, but I think Roger Ebert said it best in his review for `Out of the Past': `The noir hero is doomed before the story begins -- by fate, rotten luck, or his own flawed character. Crime movies sometimes show good men who go bad. The noir hero is never good, just kidding himself, living in ignorance of his dark side until events demonstrate it to him.' That character in `Double Indemnity' is Neff, a man who thinks he's carrying out Phyllis' plan because of his love for the woman, but indeed is not. He likes the plan, he likes doing it, just for the sake of carrying out the evil deed.
Phyllis shares his love for the dark, and the evil scheme is the basis of their relationship. They are never seen talking about anything but the plan, they don't want to, instead of being in love with each other they're in evil with each other.
And then there's Keyes, a man who's life has been consumed by his profession so much so that he once dumped his fiancée because he found out about some sketchy business from her past, he says. But he is a great man, strong willed and smarter than any other man working at his firm, including his boss. When his boss asks the wrong question he flares into a huge speech about why the question is ludicrous, and why the boss is unfit for his profession. Sure, he's rambling, but he has the right to, he's the cleverest claims man you'll ever find.
So the better part of the movie is about Neff avoiding and out-maneuvering Keyes, a situation which generates such heated suspense, on account of both the actors and Billy Wilder's expert direction and script (co-written by Raymond Chandler). MacMurray is perfect as the everyman with a dark side, using his pan expression and voice as an advantage. Some say Bogart would've been more suited with the role, but Neff is the kind of character that would look and sound tired all the time, just like MacMurray. Stanwyck shows delicious darkness in an Oscar-nominated role, there's a scene where her face gradually turns from tearful regret to y evil that sent chills down my spine.
And, of course, there is Edward G. Robinson, in a stellar performance, stealing every scene he is in from under Mac Murray (or whomever's) feet. The role is played with such skill and focus that personally I think it's a travesty he wasn't nominated for an Oscar for it.
`Double Indemnity' is the best Film-Noir, a template for perfection, 9/10.
In 1938, the experienced salesman of the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co.
Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) meets the seductive wife of one of his
client, Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwick), and they have an
affair. Phyllis proposes to kill her husband Dietrichson (Tom Powers)
to receive the prize of an accident insurance policy and Walter plots a
scheme to receive twice the amount based on a double indemnity clause.
When Mr. Dietrichson is found dead on the trails of a train, the police
accepts the evidence of accidental death. However, the insurance
analyst and Walter's best friend Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) does
not buy the version and suspects that Phyllis has murdered her husband
with the help of another man.
In my opinion, Billy Wilder was the greatest director of Hollywood ever, directing many masterpieces including "Double Indemnity" among them. This is the second time that I see this magnificent film-noir, now on DVD recently released in Brazil (the first time was in the cable television, since this masterpiece has never been released on VHS in my country). The story and screenplay are stunning, disclosing a sordid story of lust, love, greed and betrayal. Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwick and Edward G. Robinson have magnificent performances. The cinematography is simply spectacular, with an awesome use of lights and shadows and the music score completes one of the best movies Hollywood has ever produced. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Pacto de Sangue" ("Pact of Blood")
This is a good film noir movie that is compelling to watch and leaves
you thinking. I watched this film first in my film studies class at
college and i thought when it came on "oh no" black and white its going
to be boring but the fact is that it wasn't, the incredible storyline
alone is so interesting the actors especially Fred Mac Murray are
excellent picking Mac Murray out in particular a slick cool insurance
salesman who is a bit of a womanizer!!.
I did however think that they would have got away with that kind of murder, i really think it would have been hard to find out the exact details of that case and then find the murderer or murderers. The film on a whole reminds me of The Godfather or an old classic murder drama, the dark rooms the fast New York accent talk and the fascinating dress sense (not to mention the way Neff can light a match like that so slick)!!
Overall a very enjoyable film for anyone of any age, it will not offend anyone and is one classic that must be seen
This wonderful film, with its brooding 1940's atmosphere and superb black-and-white photography (by John Seitz) is one of Hollywood's best. Fred MacMurray's performance, as the insurance man besotted with Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G Robinson's as his boss help make this film memorable. The turns of the plot and the highly-charged suspense ensure that the viewer will not be disappointed. Another of Billy Wilder's hits. Well done!
It's definitely hard to pin down a personal favourite Wilder film,
though I tend towards his earlier masterworks such as 'The Lost
Weekend', 'Sunset Boulevard'...and THIS. He was one of the finest at
getting straight through the bullshit and to the heart of all things
noir (as the immortal Jean-Luc Godard stated, 'All I need to make a
film is a man, a girl and a gun').
Barbara Stanwyck is one of my favourite actresses of the period, and is a classic 'femme fatale'. I've never been a huge fan of Fred MacMurray, but his 'nice guy' persona is used to sheer advantage by Wilder, and he end up both doing his finest work for Wilder (here and in 'The Apartment') and being the ultimate noir male protagonist. Interestingly, one of my favourite actors, Edward G. Robinson, thought so much of the script that he opted out of his demand of never doing a supporting role. Many people admire Wilder the director, but as a writer (or co-writer) he's just as cinematically important and influential.
Like any other film of his, at least that I've had the pleasure to see, it's worth a purchase and re-watches. The dialogue, especially, is simply fantastic. I'd take just one of his early works over a hundred of the films Hollywood churns out nowadays. They're simply that better and intrinsically satisfying. Immortal cinema.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There have been so many reviews of this classic and much imitated "film
noir" creation, I am tempted to review at least some of the reviews
rather than the film, but I won't.
If the script is "silly and laughable", as one recent reviewer seriously contends, then the laugh is on the reviewer because some of the dialogue was written deliberately to be comical in places, especially if lines repeatedly begin with the word "suppose". To the contrary, I found the script, written by the director himself and Raymond Chandler, to be very snappy, especially as they were so skillfully brought to life by three of the best in the business, Stanwyck, Robinson, and MacMurray, in no special order. I especially enjoyed Mr. Robinson's bursting soliloquies that underlined his character's extensive knowledge of the risks of the insurance business. Who else could have succeeded in this endeavor so well?
As much as I enjoyed the three wonderful lead actors, I also appreciated all of the meticulous details of the director, Billy Wilder, including minor but memorable characters such as the elevator man ("They wouldn't sell me a policy..."), Netty, the Dietrickson's maid ("They keep the liquor closet locked up." If I were in the employ of this unhappy and unlikable couple, I would need an occasional nip myself.), Mr. Jackson, the witness ("I'm a Medford Man--Medford, Oregon."), and Nino Zachetti, the angry young man who bitterly resents how he has been cheated by society but may never realize how truly lucky he is. Even the scenes in the food market allowed us an authentic glimpse of everyday life in wartime 1944 Los Angeles, revealing, among other tidbits, that farina packages haven't changed very much in 72 years.
The film unfolds in a series of flashbacks with periodic breaks in "present time", including the beginning and the end. As Barton Keyes suggests at one point, the film itself is very neatly "wrapped up in tissue paper...pink ribbons on it." Unlike many other movies of its "noir" genre, it is relatively easy to follow without distracting us with unnecessarily convoluted plots that we didn't have to struggle to understand in the first place.
Neff's questionable character is revealed from the start as he has no qualms about destroying a marriage and a family until the presence of Lola, Dietrichson's daughter, challenges his conscience. His fatherly relationship with Lola and then his compassionate assistance to Zachetti, her boyfriend, demonstrates that Neff isn't completely morally depraved as much as he is weak in the face of temptation. Regardless of how disagreeable Dietricksen, his victim, is, Neff can't redeem himself from his crime by being nice to Lola and Zachetti. It is not an even exchange. This exercise in portraying a repentant, moral weakling is refined by the actor a decade later in MacMurray's role of Lt. Tom Keefer in "The Caine Mutiny". Then, MacMurray takes immorality to a new level six years after that in "The Apartment"' as the shamelessly dishonest Jeff Sheldrake, who is totally void of introspection. For those who only know MacMurray as the father in the television series "My Three Sons", you ain't seen nuthin' yet!
Although I was fully absorbed in the action, Neff's ability under extraordinary pressure to get Jackson out of the observation car just in the nick of time seemed improbable to me. Didn't he and Phyllis consider the possibility that someone would be out there who was unwilling or even incapable of leaving on time? And wouldn't the coroner have established early that Dietricksen was the victim of strangulation rather than accidental death? I'll leave it to you to decide. And did Phyllis actually undergo a "change of heart" just before she was able to fire a second shot? Should it make a difference to us by then? I think not. Nothing could ever redeem this despicable woman--or that wig.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Along with maybe John Huston's 'The Maltese Falcon', Billy Wilder's
'Double Indemnity' is considered by a majority of critics and audience
to be the film that pioneered the rise of the film movement that later
came to be termed as Film Noir. 'Double Indemnity' has all the tropes
and clichés that became an integral part of the subsequent films of the
aforementioned genre. It has the shady and morally crooked characters,
the voice-over narration, the seductive and vicious femme fatale, a
gloomy look and cinematography which involves a constant attention to
the use of shadows and darkness. No one can ever deny how influential a
film 'Double Indemnity' is. One has to only see the number of remakes
and rip- offs that have been made of it to grasp its legacy.
For me, the greatest part of the film are the characters. There are no flawless characters in the film. Everyone is shady. Yes, Phyllis is the femme fatale who initiates the journey towards the dark side. But watching the film, I have always thought that Walter was not completely upright from a moral standpoint when he entered the Dietrichson mansion. Of course his sexual attraction towards Phyllis was the factor that was responsible for his initial interest in her, but I don't think that was the major reason why he decided to devise the plan and commit the murder. I think there was always a hidden urge in him to use his know-how of the insurance business and manipulate the rules and the system to his benefit just like the analogy of the roulette conductor who ends up wanting to rob the house which was mentioned in the narration. He always had this darkness in him, but the chance encounter with Phyllis actually brings that darkness out.
Billy Wilder had a dark and cynical side to him, however even in his dark films, he always used to throw in some humanism which is apparent in this film too. We find that although Phyllis is a 'gold digger' and a master manipulator, but Wilder's representation of Phyllis' cranky, husband who doesn't care about his wife's future does provide some justification for her motives. Walter also gets humanised through his great friendship with Keyes. As a matter of fact Wilder himself stated that the relationship between Walter and Keyes was the only love story in the entire film. The way both Walter and Phyllis meet their respective ends in the film also humanises them.
The film is directed with meticulous precision. The film uses exaggerated shadows and darkness reminiscent of German expressionist cinema but in a meaningful way in the context of the plot to visually portray the darkness that lurks inside the central characters. The cinematographer uses Venetian blinds expertly to give the illusion of a prison that Wilder wanted. In a way, 'Double Indemnity' uses the plot structure similar to another Wilder film 'Sunset Boulevard' where a man enters a big mansion and meets a woman who ends up making his life a prison. In 'Sunset Boulevard' the mansion itself becomes the prison, while in 'Double Indemnity', the prison is more figurative. Barbara Stanwyck is fantastic as Phyllis. She expresses a lot through her eyes and effortlessly shifts from innocent to seductive throughout the film. It is very difficult to play a character who remains a mystery for the viewer as well as the other characters in the film and she does it very well. Fred MacMurray expertly plays a man who thinks he has everything figured out while the viewer knows that this is just his overconfidence. It is fascinating to see his facial expressions change from one of confidence to one of extreme paranoia over the course of the plot. Edward G. Robinson puts in a dynamic performance as Keyes. His character is cynical and unsentimental, but his scenes with MacMurray are probably the most humane in the whole film and these scenes exude a sense of mutual respect which lacks in the scenes with Phyllis and Walter.
The screenplay written by Wilder and Raymond Chandler keeps the film moving at a brisk pace. What makes the film a little less effective in my eyes now after all these years is the lack of a gradual rise in the sexual tension between the two characters. I think this was well executed in Kasdan's 'Body Heat' which was a remake. I thought the relationship felt slightly rushed, but of course the strict censorship of the 1940s also plays a role in this. Another aspect is that the plot of the film has been reused on so many occasions that it no longer has the same impact that it once had. This is not a blot on the film, but that's the honest thought that I had watching it in 2016.
'Double Indemnity' certainly deserves its recognition and acclaim as the film that led to the rise of Film Noir. It is well acted and brilliantly directed. But unfortunately due to the umpteen number of remakes and similar films that have appeared subsequently, the impact of the basic plot of the film might feel a bit diluted at this day and age.
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