Saturday, 15 March 2008

Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)

Walter Neff: Yes, I killed him. 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?

Walter Neff (Fred McMurray) "insurance salesman, 35 years old, unmarried, no visible scars… until a while ago, that is" confesses his crime.

In a flashback – the plot is told in voice-over - we are shown his meeting with Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck). Fred feels an irresistible sexual attraction for her, for her blond hair (Stanwyck was actually wearing an ordinary wig), for her .

Phyllis: There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour.
Walter Neff: How fast was I going, officer?
Phyllis: I'd say around ninety.

So he is seduced by her and he gets into a murder trap: How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?

Phyllis wants to get rid of her husband and earn a lot of money. Walter has been in the business for eleven years so he knows all about life insurances and about the usual mistakes people make. So they plan to get Pyhllis’ husband killed on a train accident which would entitle them to double indemnity.

Phyllis: We're both rotten.
Walter Neff: Only you're a little more rotten.

Walter’s office colleague and friend, Barton Keyes (E.G. Robinson) is an expert claim manager. Although he has a big intuition – his “little man” he calls it – to discover false plots, he is unable to find the truth about this case.

Double Indemnity is one of the greatest film noir of all time. It is based on a novel by James M. Cain the screenplay was written by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. The movie has witty dialogues, great performances and a special use of light and dark scenes by John F. Seitz. A masterpiece…


Anonymous said...

Yes, a masterpiece. There are plenty of unforgettable sequences: Barbara Stanwyck behind the door, Fred MacMurray jumping down the train, all the hypotheses that Edward G. Robinson makes in MacMurray’s presence, the final shotgun… The vision of the film can’t be more stimulating. But, once finished, you can’t avoid questioning: is not the police too dumb? The train’s low speed and the evident signals on the husband’s neck are not enough to suspect murder? The daughter’s story about Barbara Stanwyck killing her mother is not out of place? (a gothic tale inside a film noir).
And a final remark about Fred MacMurray’s criminal motivations. Although at first he seems a guy seduced by a femme fatale, afterwards one realizes he actually only cares for the competition with his idolized Edward G. Robinson.

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What great movie, I think that it is so classical, my grandfather said me about this movie , he said that the movie was so important to many people in the 40's.