Saturday, June 5, 2010

Double Indemnity (1944)


Enamored with the beautiful Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) career insurance salesman, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) agrees to take out an accident insurance claim on her husband, and help kill him in order to collect the money.

Smooth, cool, and riddled with noir style, Wilder's 1944 dark thriller is a true form of cinematic art. Breathing classic from every scene, Wilder, in typical fashion, never shies away from the cold hearted truth. It's Wilder's commitment to his story that brings home this narrative heavy tale. Wilder doesn't force romance, sexiness, or action, instead he allows each to come out in their own time. Concentrating on the mindset of his characters, especially our narrator Neff, really helps bring about the film's subtle evil nature.

Of course when you got Stanwyck and MacMurray headlining you're never far away from acting perfection. The two develop a strong chemistry immediately with wonderful wordplay and innuendo, that really sets the scene for the rest of the film. Forced to match wits with the claims approval overseer Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), it's a collective of acting chops, and emotion. The trio face off with each scene, each vying for attention, oozing coolness, and grace, it's a writer's dream cast, one that deserves more nominations than it got.

Granted with Wilder behind the camera you know everything's going to be fluid. Never settling for anything less than what he wants, Wilder packs one heck of a punch in each scene. Using great camera angles, classic narrative devices, and a simple story of love, deceit, and con he pulls out a film event. It's surprising given its era that this movie ever made it through to see daylight. Yet it does so quite strongly with no over the top sacrifices in order for some ending different than what was necessary. As such it's a perfect combination of dark and cool that elevates each scene right until its grand finale, one well worth the thrill and wait.

Smart, stylish, and filled with thrills, Wilder's 1944 dark thriller, Double Indemnity is an amazing piece of cinema classic.

4 better thoughts:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

This is a good movie. But I don't like it, I don't like Body Heat, and I don't like any other remakes. I just don't like it. But it's a good movie :)

Zach said...

Such a classic.

Michele Emrath said...

This is one of my favorites. I LOVE Stanwyck. My top two movies are The Lady Eve and The African Queen. I suppose they're both off-genres for the actors, but I love them...And I love Double Indemnity.


Dan said...

Yep - amazing piece of cinema! Double Indemnity was my first introduction to Billy Wilder. It is one of those movies that you feel - when you see it for the first time - that it could not be bettered. To say, Wilder himself has bettered it on possibly three other occasions is testament to Billy Wilder as filmmaker. A true genius.

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