Saturday, July 25, 2009

Double Indemnity (1944)

To make up for the last two entries, we have a full-blown noir classic. Nothing obscure about this film, which has rightfully earned its spot on any sort of "must-see" list.

Fred MacMurray is Walter Neff, a insurance salesmen who stumbles into his insurance office, suffering from some sort of injury. He gets a recording device and begins to confess to his part in a murder. The rest of the film is a flashback as Walter recounts the events that led him to this predicament.

It begins when he meets Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), the wife of a wealthy man who seduces him and together they create a plan to take out a double indemnity insurance policy on her husband (which pays double in the case of accidental death) and then murder him and make it look like an accident. The commit the crime, but Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), Walter's friend and co-worker begins to unravel the case when it comes to him to investigate the insurance claim.

The acting in this film is superb, with MacMurray playing a bit of a cad who believes that he is truly in love with the woman who is clearly using him and he accurately portrays a man that is slowly being pulled into circumstances that are way over his head. Edward G. Robinson is very good too, playing an actual good guy for once. MacMurray and Robinson have great chemistry together as two close friends who begin to assume a cat-and-mouse dynamic.

But the standout is Barbara Stanwyck who plays Phyllis as a completely cold and frigid woman, totally ruthless when it comes to her husband and others around her. The scene where her husband is murdered is probably the best testament to her acting ability as the camera is focuses entirely on her face as Walter strangles her husband and we see several emotions play on her face: fear, excitement and eventual satisfaction.

The plot contains a lot of twists and turns, which is surprising since we have a general idea of how the film ends because of it's opening (Like another Billy Wilder film, Sunset Boulevard), but it's still able to keep you invested into what happens.

I know I can't really do a film like this justice in my own words, but this film really needs to be seen. It features one of the greatest performances of all time as well as being one of the best films of all-time. So please watch it.

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