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Double Indemnity is a great film noir that keeps your heart beating and
your palms sweating. But none of the greatness in this film could have
been achieved without the three best aspects:
1) John Seitz's stunning cinematography. No other film-noir has managed to contrast black and white so vividly as to capture the perfect mood of the story and characters. Because of this technical achievement, the viewer can't take his eyes of the screen.
2) Barbara Stanwyck's beautiful performance. Only until Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. has there been such a mesmerizing femme fatale. She underplays every line and fills it with innocence, seduction, despair, desperation, and love. She IS Phyllis Dietrichson.
3) Billy Wilder's unforgettable script. A story that nowadays would seem simple turns in great dialogue, plot twists, and a narrative structure that keeps you on the edge of your seat right from the start. The characters do exactly what they're supposed to do and the script shows you exactly how and why.
Other great aspects include the direction, the settings, the music, and the great performances by Robinson and MacMurray.
Interesting plot of this thriller. An attractive woman (Stanwyck) married to a man much older than her, who was previously married or was widow, with a daughter from his first marriage, live in a very tense relations. She did not want to continue living with his husband and detested his daughter. At this point, an agent from an insurance company (MacMurray) thrived as an 'angel' for Stanwyck, he proposed different assurances, one of them foresaw insurance in case of an accidental death, but he also felt in love with Stanwyck. This passion led to a planned murder that was committed nearly perfectly. But another intelligent person (Edward G. Robinson), the boss of MacMurray in the insurance company, step by step started to discover the plot for murder. This is a film with very modest means if you compare with those presently in use, but it is of a very high quality. Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray showed their class, but the best acting came from that 'monster' of the screen named Edward G. Robinson, who acted perfectly. Looking the way he did one may think that he was not an actor but simply the real boss of the insurance company.
I saw it when it first came out and was immediately grabbed by it.I've seen it several times since then and have never been disappointed.it seems to be the perfect film noir movie.It has an enormous charge.It's just a very good movie.Superb script.The interaction between all the principals never fails to carry one along
If you are a fan of the classics, and have not seen this movie, WHY NOT? This truly is one of the great ones. I enjoyed the "old school" language in the movie. I think one of my biggest enjoyments was seeing Fred MacMurray as a bad guy. I have seen this guy in many shows and movies as the good guy for many years. The best one in the flick (in my opinion) has got to be Edward G. Robinson, classic, classic indeed.
I consider this to be one of the best movies ever made. The lines in the movie are classic and create an atmosphere that top most other movies. Fred MacMurray and the other actors are brilliant and the chemistry between Fred and Barbara is sparkling. All in all this is a great movie that everyone should see and be amazed by.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Why does a man who is thriving take his success, and his life, and
throw out the window?
We are left to ponder such questions in this classic film about bored insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) and manipulative housewife Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck).
The sultry Phyllis wants to be rid of her oilman husband (played with delicious contemptuousness by Tom Powers) because he's no longer raking in the dough. She's not satisfied with just bumping him off; she also wants a payout from Neff's employer.
In the kind of classic misguided decision making that defines film noir, Neff opts to make himself useful to the calculating blonde -- to the point of wringing the life out of her husband while he's unsuspectingly being driven to the train station one night.
Like classic stories before it (i.e., "Therese Raquin" of Emile Zola), as soon as the deed is done the evil lovers' passion begins to wane. Soon, the guilty couple's sceme begins to unravel under the gaze of such onlookers as Neff's savvy boss Keyes (Edward G. Robinson).
Neff goes from slimy seducer to avuncular protector of the next generation in this film, which is told in classic flashback style as the dying salesman leaves a Dictaphone confession.
In the final scenes of "Double Indemnity," Keyes, and the viewers, absorb the "things are not as they appear" message once again.
A helpful reminder for us all!
A screening of this film was offered as an option by my wonderful "Intro to Cinema" class at Hunter College in New York City. What a perfect way to demonstrate the joys of cinema noir!
Walter Neff is an insurance salesman for Pacific All Risk Insurance
Company. He falls for Phyllis Dietrichson, the wife of a client of his,
and is drawn into a plan to kill Mr. Dietrichson and pocket the
insurance money. Between the two of them they come up with the perfect
murder, so good it not only looks like an accident, but ensures that
the insurance pays out double the usual sum insured - double indemnity.
Between them and the money stands Barton Keyes, Pacific Insurance's
Head of Claims. Experienced, wily and possessing a sixth sense for
claims fraud he is a formidable adversary...
Brilliant crime drama - a film-noir classic. Written by Raymond Chandler book and directed by master-director Billy Wilder, this is great on so many levels: the clever plot (especially the murder plan, which is so good you almost want them to succeed); the snappy, often funny, dialogue and the excellent, engaging performances. Moreover, there's a smoothness and coolness about this, a hallmark of film noir.
Only things missing from making this one of the greatest movies of all times is a good twist and possibly less predictability. The use of flashbacks to tell the story sort of gives away the direction the plot is taking.
Good work by Fred MacMurray as Neff, Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis and Edward G Robinson as Keyes. In hindsight, Humphrey Bogart would have made a better Neff, but then you could say that about any 1940s role requiring a cool, tough, smooth-talking, wise-cracking male lead. Fred MacMurray does well and doesn't really put a foot wrong, but I kept thinking "Imagine Bogie in the role...".
Barbara Stanwyck got a well-deserved Best Leading Actress Oscar nomination for playing Phyllis.
The film itself garnered seven Oscar nominations but no wins, losing out on Best Picture to Going My Way, the so-so musical starring Bing Crosby. Billy Wilder got his first Best Director nomination and fourth writing nomination for Double Indemnity. He would have to wait for his next movie, The Lost Weekend, for his first win.
One of the earliest example of Film Noir. The third film in Hollywood
by Billy Wilder that he co-wrote with Raymond Chandler who brought the
hard boiled dialogue to this thriller. This film made Wilder's name.
Fred MacMurray is the insurance salesman who falls for the femme fatale with the anklet, Barbara Stanwyck. Fatally wounded he tells his tale in flashback, confessing to a Dictaphone so the company's investigator, Edward G Robinson will know that the guy across the desk was the murderer.
Stanwyck was the nurse who might have bumped off the first wife and then married widower, an oil tycoon. Now bored or just wants to be on her own with the wealth, she wants to get rid off the husband. MacMurray is smitten enough to help her do the deed. The proceeds of the accidental death insurance policy she has just taken out is I guess just a bonus. Once the husband is dead he realises that he is a dead man walking.
This is a cleverly constructed thriller. It really is a relationship between MacMurray, Robinson and Stanwyck. At the end it is Robinson he lets down.
MacMurray is the every-man, the insurance salesman good at his job but bored and wants to runaway with a hot woman. Stanwyck is the cold, icy one. You know she is using MacMurray, he is just a sap to her. The film belongs to Edward G Robinson, the bloodhound who knows all the tricks in the books and he has volumes of them on his shelving.
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.
Fred MacMurray memorably plays Walter Neff, an insurance salesman whose
fate is sealed when he meets Phyllis Dietrichson (a smoking hot Barbara
Stanwyck), the wife of a client. She's had thoughts of bumping off her
husband (Tom Powers), and he is able to put ideas into her head of how
to murder the man and profit from it. It would seem to be the perfect
crime, and it does go off without a hitch, but there's just one
problem. Walter has a colleague named Barton Keyes (a grandiose Edward
G. Robinson), who has a talent for smelling a rat when it comes to
The cast simply couldn't be better in this quintessential example of the entire film noir genre. Certainly the story (script by director Billy Wilder and author Raymond Chandler, based on the novel by James M. Cain) offers a now classic scenario that's been re-used many times since. The film is definitely dialogue heavy, but when the dialogue is this sharp, one can't really complain. Robinson, in particular, has a field day with his lines and he's able to get them out in a fast, breathless way. MacMurray is solid as a man who finds it increasingly hard to keep his cool, and is certainly no angel, given how readily he finds himself eager to pull off this scam. Still, he's absolutely no match for Stanwyck, who is one of the all time great "femme fatales" to be found in this genre. She's utterly conniving and knows how to turn on the heat to get what she wants. The three stars receive capable support from Porter Hall as a key witness, Powers as the murder victim, Jean Heather as his daughter, Byron Barr as her surly suitor, Richard Gaines as the boss at the insurance agency, and Fortunio Bonanova in a bit near the beginning as a luckless truck driver. (Chandler himself has a Hitchcock type role as a man reading a book outside Keyes' office.)
Craftily plotted, atmospheric, and quite witty, this hallmark of film noir deserves to be seen by any lover of Old Hollywood cinema.
10 out of 10.
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