Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Essentials- Double Indemnity (1944)

The Essentials-#13

Double Indemnity (1944)

I am a guy who doesn't like one particular type of film. If you were to come over to my apartment and look at my collection, you would find a wide variety of films coming from different years, different genres and different types. However, there are certain genres that definitely spark my interest right away compared to others. One of those special genres are film noirs. I have written about this genre before, and I will certainly write about it again. One thing I love more than anything is getting a deep analysis of a movie character's personality, and noirs usually offer that in bulk.

"Double Indemnity" is a classic of the genre. Featuring hard-boiled males and femme fatale females all caught way over their heads. It's a film that features great voice overs and juicy dialogue. The black-and-white look is lush and beautiful. The performances are near-faultless. 

The film opens with Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) going to his office in Los Angeles. He is guilt-ridden and sloppy looking, not looking well to go to work. He begins speaking into a Dictaphone to one his colleagues, his discussion into the Dictaphone ends up being the voice-overs for the entire film, and the film is told in flashback. Neff is a successful insurance salesmen for Pacific All Risk. 

As the film's first flashback begins, we meet Neff on what seems like a usual day. He's on a routine house call for a renewed automobile insurance policy for a Mr. Dietrichson. What Neff gets is the seductive Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), the alluring wife of Mr. Dietrichson. An infatuation begins between the two of them, which leads to Phyllis trying to get Neff in a scheme to kill Mr. Dietrichson, fake his suicide and collect on his life insurance policy. After enough strong arming, Neff agrees to her plan.

When Mr. Dietrichson dies, Neff and Phyllis think their home free, until a host of people begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The tension that builds in the film is exhilarating. Even for an older movie, it is incredibly effective.  The performances by MacMurray and Stanwyck are near-perfect, each actor taking full advantage of the great script and great dialogue. Edward G. Robinson was a God of film noir back during this era, and he plays the boss of Walter Neff. Robinson also makes the most of his character in a big way.


The film is a marvel to look at, something that is available on Netflix. You should check this out!



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