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Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck star in the gripping film noir classic, Double Indemnity, directed by Academy Award winner Billy Wilder. A calculating wife (Stanwyck) encourages her wealthy husband to sign a double indemnity policy proposed by smitten insurance agent Walter Neff (MacMurray). As the would-be lovers plot the unsuspecting husband’s murder, they are pursued by a suspicious claims manager (Edward G. Robinson). It’s a race against time to get away with the perfect crime in this suspenseful masterpiece that was nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
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The movie begins with Neff recanting his tale of murder and betrayal to his boss Barton Keyes played by Edward Robinson. Neff thought he’d gotten away with the perfect crime of killing Mr. Dietrichson, but then everything unraveled. The doomed man up against the odds is a mainstay of Noir. The movie however also breaks some of those standards. For example Phyllis is not a femme fatale as many would think. When Neff first meets her she’s just gotten out of the shower and walks down the stairs to the front door and Neff can’t stop thinking about the bracelet on her ankle. If it was all about her sexiness that got Neff to take out her husband than this would have followed that trope about women in Noir. However it’s not the seduction that draws them together. Instead it’s the fact that the two are grifters, conmen out to buck the system by killing Mr. Dietrichson so they can collect the insurance money, which pays double on certain deaths, hence the title of the movie Double Indemnity. Another way the film breaks the genre is that when Neff realizes the game is up and he’s about to die he doesn’t go to Phyllis to bear his soul but rather Keyes who was like a father figure to Neff. It was about trying to beat Keyes as much the money that led Neff towards the insurance scam-murder.
Double Indemnity also has some of the best Film Noir dialogue ever recorded. That was due to the writing chops of Ramond Chandler. There are so many great exchanges that my friend I originally memorized several of them after we first saw the film. That just adds another gem onto this already great film.
The Academy of Motion Pictures agreed on how great Double Indemnity was when it came out nominating it for 7 Academy Awards. It didn’t win any, but that showed how much of an impact it had and it still does today.
This version of the film comes with an introduction by Robert Osborne who used to be the host on Turner Classic Movies channel.
What it's about: "I killed him for money - and a woman - and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it? I was thinking about that dame upstairs, and the way she had looked at me, and I wanted to see her again, close, without that silly staircase between us." But it isn't just about a woman and a man: "Know why you couldn't figure this one, Keyes? I'll tell ya. 'Cause the guy you were looking for was too close. Right across the desk from ya."
But Keyes knew the game better than Walter realized, as he showed him before he knew it was him, when he said, "It's beginning to come apart at the seams already. Murder's never perfect. Always comes apart sooner or later, and when two people are involved it's usually sooner. Now we know the Dietrichson dame is in it and a somebody else. Pretty soon, we'll know who that somebody else is. Sometime, somewhere, they've got to meet. Their emotions are all kicked up. Whether it's love or hate doesn't matter; they can't keep away from each other. They may think it's twice as safe because there's two of them, but it isn't twice as safe. It's ten times twice as dangerous. And it's not like taking a trolley ride together where they can get off at different stops. They're stuck with each other and they got to ride all the way to the end of the line and it's a one-way trip and the last stop is the cemetery."
Top international reviews
The main bulk of the story is told in flashback. There is tension, suspense, a good cast and many good scenes. A particular favourite of mine is when Neff is relaxing in his car drinking a pint of beer at the wheel - those were the days! The cast are good with Edward G Robinson and Barbara Stanwyck stealing the show. Stanwyck plays deception very well, eg, the scene where she is called to an interview after the death of her husband and more than holds her own when challenged about the circumstances. She also has a few things up her sleeve including a twist at the end. MacMurray is good in the lead role - it's a shame he was given some daft dialogue, though, which is surprising given that Billy Wilder did the writing. His use of the word "baby" at the end of almost every thing he says to Stanwyck is extremely cheesy. Maybe this was "hep" talk in those days but today it sounds crass and is laughable.
The film is a good length with twists that reveal themselves gradually throughout the film right until the end.
One of Hollywood best ever movies. Brilliant story with brilliant acting.
The webs we weave of lust, and deceit, are painfully exposed in this Hollywood Classic.
I never tire watching this excellent film. If you have never seen it, boy do you have a treat in store...enjoy!