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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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This 1944 classic centers on insurance salesman Walter Neff as he is conned into committing a heinous crime by the beautiful and intoxicating Phyllis Dietrichson. Phyllis proposes that Walter sign her husband up for accident insurance without his knowledge so that he can have an `accident' and she can collect the insurance payout. Walter catches on to her game and is initially put off, but his infatuation with Phyllis, and her cries of unfair treatment from her husband, cause him to change his mind and soon he is conning the very company for which he works.
But nothing every goes as smoothly as one would like it to.
Walter's boss, Barton Keyes, can smell a scam from a mile away, and his instincts immediately kick in when he gets wind of the Dietrichson claim. Beings that he has known Walter for years he doesn't suspect him in the least, but Walter's relationship with Phyllis could raise concern and so they struggle to keep their relationship a secret; but there is more Phyllis is keeping from Walter, secrets that could ultimately change the outcome of both their lives.
With sharp dialog and a plot filled with believable and dastardly twists, `Double Indemnity' is a brilliantly crafted film noir that stands firm as one of the best of the breed, and quite possibly one of the best in any breed come to think of it. The acting is superb and the direction is flawless. Fred MacMurray wonderfully sinks into his character, exposing his raw naivety when it comes to the advances of a cunning woman, and his guilt ridden core is masterfully blinded by his own desire for everything to be as he planned. Barbara Stanwych (who received a well deserved Oscar nomination) is a revelation as the devilish Phyllis, allowing her faux charms to woo us before exposing the person she really is.
The supporting cast is also stellar, from Edward G. Robinson's portrayal of the untrusting Keyes to Jean Heathers jilted step daughter and Tom Powers angry husband; all of whom add layers to the already complete film.
Watching a film like `Double Indemnity' makes me wish that every film were as complete and satisfying as these films of old. The stories were all so well thought out and elaborate, tightly woven to entice all of our senses. Today filmmakers are more concerned with visual grandeur than with mental stimulation, which is sad because a film falls flat without a worthy plot to lift it up. `Double Indemnity' has that plot, perfectly fleshed out to keep us in complete awe of its every frame.
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