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Double Indemnity (1944)
The Not-So-Perfect Crime
Double Indemnity begins with a car speeding on a dark, rainy night. This begins the classic film noir plot. Billy Wilder directs a steamy and grabbing film. Billy Wilder pulls this film together with an awesome cast, perfect lighting and an amusing script. Fred MacMurray plays Walter Neff, an unsuspecting insurance salesman. He is unsuspecting in the sense that he is unaware of what the femme fatale' is going to put him up to. Barbara Stanwyck plays the femme fatale', Phyllis Dietrichson, a manipulative housewife who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
The film begins in present day giving insight into Walter's current plight. Walter Neff gives the voice over as the plot unfolds. It starts in the present time allowing the audience to know what crime has happened without the interesting details to support it. This is an interesting twist to the common film noir plot. Knowing the crime at hand keeps the audience hungry for those details. Walter is the victim of the beautiful woman who manipulates him into pulling off a murderous insurance fraud scam. Walter is an impeccable insurance salesman and Phyllis, in some ways, forces him into providing her with what she needs. Phyllis is the typical femme fatale' who has no problem in using others to get what she wants.
Throughout the film Walter is completely enamored by Phyllis. Walter could have coined the pet name baby' with his fondness towards Phyllis by calling her that throughout the film. He is easily distracted by her beauty and evil charm. He seems to be entranced by Phyllis's ankle bracelet, so much that he mentions it numerous times. This allows the audience to feel the sexual tension between the two. Phyllis, on the other hand, shows the audience that she can use and abuse anyone who gets in her way. While believably attracted to Walter, Phyllis keeps him hopping to fulfill her needs. She pulls him in and handles him like a puppet. She is the epitome of the film noir genre's femme fatale'.
Barton Keyes, played by Edward G. Robinson, is Walter's co-worker and friend at the insurance company where he works. Barton closely investigates all insurance claims that come across his desk. While at one time Walter assuredly agreed with this practice, once Barton starts to unravel the mystery behind Mrs. Dietrichson's insurance claim, we begin to see just how nervous and paranoid Walter is. Walter then begins to see Phyllis in a whole new light. Barton plays the integral part by piecing together details that are thrown around throughout the film. This keeps the tension high for the filmgoer. These details are pieced together perfectly through to the end.
Double Indemnity has the perfect plot with the perfect cast. Walter and Phyllis' attraction are tasty and the crime is wonderfully puzzling. Double Indemnity is the true film noir giant.