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Double Indemnity
Year:
1944
Country:
USA
Genre:
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
Billy Wilder
Fred MacMurray as Walter Neff
Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson
Edward G. Robinson as Barton Keyes
Porter Hall as Mr. Jackson
Jean Heather as Lola Dietrichson
Tom Powers as Mr. Dietrichson
Byron Barr as Nino Zachetti
Richard Gaines as Edward S. Norton, Jr.
Fortunio Bonanova as Sam Garlopis
John Philliber as Joe Peters
George Anderson as Warden at Execution (scenes deleted)
Al Bridge as Execution Chamber Guard (scenes deleted)
Edward Hearn as Warden's Secretary (scenes deleted)
Boyd Irwin as First Doctor at Execution (scenes deleted)
George Melford as Second Doctor at Execution (scenes deleted)
William O'Leary as Chaplain at Execution (scenes deleted)
Storyline: In 1938, Walter Neff, an experienced salesman of the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co., meets the seductive wife of one of his clients, Phyllis Dietrichson, and they have an affair. Phyllis proposes to kill her husband to receive the proceeds of an accident insurance policy and Walter devises a scheme to receive twice the amount based on a double indemnity clause. When Mr. Dietrichson is found dead on a train-track, the police accept the determination of accidental death. However, the insurance analyst and Walter's best friend Barton Keyes does not buy the story and suspects that Phyllis has murdered her husband with the help of another man.
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Reviews
A film noir masterpiece that received no less than seven Oscar nominations…
There were some superb thrillers coming out of Hollywood in the forties which did not rely on the private eye conventions – but somehow the best of them were spread throughout by the same cynicism, the same realism, the same ruthless suspense…

Best of all was Wilder's "Double Identity." It was based on a real-life assassination in New York in 1927, when a wife and her lover killed the husband for his insurance money…

In the film, a near-breaking-point tension was reached and sustained in the passion of an insurance salesman and a passionately sensual femme fatale – an intense desire for each other and for money; in the murder of the poor husband; and in their useless attempts to escape the ability of a fast-talking investigator…
2009-01-16
Honeysuckle
"I couldn't hear my own footsteps... it was the walk of a dead man." This flick is the ultimate black comedy in my opinion. And not only in tone and story line... but it is dark night pretty much all the time and even when it isn't, there are shadows all over everything. It looks cool. It feels uneasy. Sometimes I want to laugh but I feel somehow immoral when I do. The suspense is incredible, if you can go there with it. Go there. Walter Neff narrates the tale of his own demise. What a dope, a funny, smart, and likable guy, but a dope just the same. Keys is great with all his ranting around and his little man. And Phyllis is the most conniving femme fatale I've seen. She looks and feels like sleaze. I'm afraid of her. I love to be afraid.
2009-02-05
It fits together like a watch
I've now seen this movie 14 times in 25 years, at all times of the year, in all moods, sober or not etc - but always at night. I recorded my copy off TV in 1987 so I can only imagine what a remaster would do for it. With an atmosphere thick enough to cut with a knife it never fails to engross and enchant me, and although it's been dated for 40 years or more still seems relevant and watchable today. TV, answer phones, recordable CD/DVD, memory sticks and the internet have all come between us and yet I can still watch Fred MacMurray speaking into a Dictaphone without a qualm. Who wears a hat in California nowadays? Who buys beer whilst driving! Lift attendants have gone but I can still believe in Charlie working and laughing away in the garage past 11 at night.

Woman and man agree to murder woman's husband but on the way to the cemetery they face grilling by insurance company. I think everything has been said before on the IMDb - by those who think it's one of the best films ever made! To those who simply think the main problem is that it's dated I wish you could see the TV commercials that dug into DI back in '87 - what a hoot - and compare. I've just noticed the print TCM UK is showing in 2005 is lip-synced out, very wobbly Rosza music track, fading and ageing fast - worse than my 1987 video tape (maybe logically). They're supposed to be encouraging people to enjoy the classics but they won't do that with such inferior screening copies. Dear TCM UK, this is an impressive iconic film - it deserves a billion dollar remaster authorised by the Library of Congress, not repeatedly trotting out unimpressive cheap worn dupes to fill those 2 hour slots.

Everything about DI from the acting, production, direction, and music is superbly dignified and is as "close to perfection" as human beings are probably allowed to get with this form of Art - especially with the more limited technology at their disposal in '44. When most films from now are long forgotten and dated DI will still be getting re-runs on TV and art-house cinemas - God and remasters willing - that is the fact of it.

Fortunia Bonanova certainly was fortunate to have appeared in bit parts in 2 of the best films ever made - Citizen Kane the other.
2004-05-02
Don't Drink The Lemonade: Run!
Spoilers Ahead:

This works so well that Kasdan copied so much of it. McMurray is out of his typical role as a jaded salesman looking to do more than sell insurance policies. The first feature that is great is that Phyllis is like an iceberg, what you see of her, just like Matty Walker in Body Heat, is very, very little. The first meeting is just two predators walking around each other sizing, no pun intended, each other up. Dressing to kill with perfume and bracelets, she is constantly looking for an existential vacuum cleaner to rid herself of an unwanted husband. What works well is we never know how much Keyes knows about what is going on. Wilder starts with Keyes tearing up a phony claimant right in front of Neff, this sets the stage for, upon first viewing, never knowing if Keyes is toying with them. The mark of a great Film Noir is inversion, like Out Of The Past. There, the woman we thought was the victim was the tarantula behind the scenes, the biggest villain of all. Here, as in Body Heat, Phyillis is the picture of the needy, helpless, unhappy woman, she plays Neff like a violin. Again, as in Body Heat, she lets him think the killing is his idea, not hers. The actual killing, while meticulously planned, had one big hole in it, a witness verifying Phyllis' husband on the back of the train before the 'accident.' This comes back to haunt both of them for they need to establish that he was there, before he, supposedly fell.

This bungle is what starts Keyes on their trail; Mr. Statistics breaks out the memorized table for accidents and convinces himself of the truth. This starts the unraveling of the never quite happy couple. Neff gets spooked and starts to panic, what is creepy, when you watch this over, is that Phyllis was already planning Neff's demise during this period. Stanwyk's performance is the star of the movie; multi-layered with deceit upon deceit. Neff underestimates her, and he pays with his life for it. The most disturbing part is where the step-daughter relays how Phyllis was a nurse and how she killed her mother. Like Body Heat, the male protagonist discovers that the poor victim is actually a malevolent predator. By the end, Neff is the helpless one, I love when he walks towards her thinking that she would never shoot him, wrong. This remains the classic for its writing above all; nothing is as it appears upon the surface. Wilder toys with us, we start looking over our shoulders for Keyes, just as Neff does.

Like all classic Noir, watch for the shadow filled first meeting between Neff and Phyillis, compare to the ending. Shadows in Noir are existential metaphors for Darkness inside of people. Even in the first meeting, the room is full of shadows, often behind Phyllis and on parts of her body. The husband is drawn unsympathetically to increase your surprise when you discover she has been planning this since she was a nurse who killed the first wife. This is why people compare Body Heat to this classic; the Femme Fatale is a sliver of her true self. As the male victim gets in over his head, both Kasdan and Wilder unveil the hidden monster. While I prefer Out Of The Past, for Douglas and Mitchum, this is a very close second. Don't let McMurray scare you away, Wilder has him under control here; honestly, it is not the rambling McMurray of The Caine Mutiny. Edward G. steals all of his scenes, the movie was attacked on the grounds of his role being more of a cameo than real support. Yes, he has just a few scenes, but he looms invisibly in the background worrying both Neff and the audience. The 40's movie code sanctioned infidelity quite severely, this movie is no exception. It attenuates Neff being as truly a victim as Mitchum's moral protagonist in Out Of The Past.

It is simply, one of the best written, acted and directed Film Noirs. When you watch it, study how the director uses shadows in the frame; they usually fall upon the people. Excellent Classic, Wilder's Best Movie By A Mile. Q.E.D.
2016-02-16
From the moment it starts....
From the moment it starts, you know you're in for an incredible movie. At almost 70 years old, this movie still has one of the most incredible and memorable scripts. There are so many memorable lines. Those delivered by Fred MacMurray are the most believable. Less than two minutes in to my first viewing of this movie I knew I was in for something special. That was about 15 years ago and after dozens of viewings, I know I will never tire of it. A true American classic.

One of the first, and still best, films de noir. It doesn't get much better than this.

It's still a "honey of an anklet, Mrs. Dietrichson!"
2011-03-23
A prime example of film noir and the rare genius of Wilder
When we think of film noir, we think of a corrupt and glamorous world of gangsters, cigarettes and femme fatals. We think of shadows of venetian blinds and wide angle close ups. Double Indemnity is one of the best and most known examples of this genre. Billy Wilder is an absolute genius, his stories always unfolding at the right pace, and his way of bringing them to the screen barely ever impeccable.

This is the forties cinema. A story of love and betrayal, of manipulation and big money. The story of femme fatal Barbra Stanwick luring poor insurance salesman Walter Niff to kill her husband so they can be together. Stanwick has what it takes to make her character look sexually dangerous and desirable. Niff has the ways and traits to make his character look like a stylish fool. But as far as acting is concerned, both are surpassed by the wonderful Edward G. Robinson, who is extraordinary delivering lines faster than MacMurray can say "shut up, baby".

This sort of cinema will never age. It will always find a point of relation to today's society. And when it's directed in such a beautiful way, it's little wonder that the noir is so loved and remembered. The mise sn scene is beautiful. MacMurray's and Stanwyck's character are never really portrayed close. Even when they kiss, they are always shot at an awkward angle. When they are in the same frame, Wilder always makes sure that there's something in the way, whether it's a mother and a child in a supermarket, or a fish tank in the study room of the man whose murder is being secretly plotted. This murder plot reaches its height of tension when MacMurray lures Stanwyck's husband to sign a life insurance, as he thinks he is signing an ordinary car one. He is in fact signing his life away.

As in too many noirs, though, it pitfalls into the use of voice over. That is forgiven because from the start we know that he is telling Edward G. Robinson the story, speaking into the voice recorder, confessing his crime of passion. It is a film of which we know the ending already. In fact, one of the most interesting things about the film is the way we observe the main character, and the way that we back him up sometimes, only to change our minds other times. Almost every scene is necessary to make up our minds, when really the only good guy is Robinson in the whole movie.

WATCH FOR THE MOMENT - When the murder plot is put in act, from the arrival to the station, to when the car won't start...
2009-01-28
Sort of accidentally, on purpose
I have not read the book or anything concerning the original case, and this is the only version that I've watched. If the novel is this spellbinding, I may have to get a copy. I suppose I should address something before I get into the review itself; yes, the story is quite similar to The Postman Always Rings Twice(and while this is superior, I would definitely suggest giving that one a whirl, too... the original, that is). It's the same author, and they aren't identical. They are also both somewhat reminiscent of Macbeth. Other than that I did not find myself falling in love with these leads(as I did in the Garfield/Turner one), I really cannot complain about this film(and I won't even attempt to argue against the immense chemistry that this duo has; they light the screen on fire). I have not seen a lot of Wilder's work, but I thoroughly enjoyed Some Like It Hot, as well. This is a classic piece of noir, and ought to get a viewing by every fan of such. The brilliant dialog and narration is full of metaphors, plays on words(and the like) and every line is carefully phrased, with several utterly unforgettable exchanges. Editing and cinematography are excellent. The lighting and use of shadows... incredible. This does an amazing job of building suspense and tension. The plot is well-written, and the twists are impeccable. Every acting performance is spot-on. The characters are credible and well-developed, and the women are allowed strong-willed moments. MacMurray is rather cool. There is a little racism and sexism(on account of when it was made), some innuendo and brief mild and not graphic violence in this. I recommend this to everyone into these movies. 10/10
2010-05-24
An exceptional film-noir classic that leaves much to be desired
(NOTE: I've ticked the spoiler box because I talk about the death of a supporting character, but, if you know quite a bit about the films' story, then the mention of the death shouldn't be a surprise, considering the death is part of the film's overall conceit)

Billy Wilder's 1944 film-noir classic, "Double Indemnity", revolves around insurance representative Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), who after meeting beautiful blonde Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbra Stanwyck), is coerced into murdering her husband and staging the incident as an accident, so they can collect the money off of his life insurance policy.

"Double Indemnity" has long been considered the standard for films in the film-noir genre, and it's not hard to see why. Stanwyck plays the role of the cunning and deceitful femme-fatale who allures the male protagonist into trouble, many scenes are lit and shot with heavy shadow and little light, the film is narrated by the protagonist, and the main conceit of the film is that of a crime perpetrated by the films' two main characters. It contains all the elements of your typical film-noir, and it's not hard to see its influence literally everywhere following its release.

And while I can definitively say I understand the influence the filmmaking and storytelling had on films of this genre, I can also for sure that this film has been done better different ways many times, and I only say that because it's considered THE benchmark film for film-noir. But I don't want to harp on the film too much, because it is good, and maybe better than I'm giving it credit for on a first impression basis, but as of writing this, I just don't feel the quality of the final product outweighs the films faltering aspects.

First off, the films' positives. The performances are all-around solid. When Neff's friend/colleague Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) starts to close in on him and Phyllis, MacMurray easily conveys the sense of desperation and fear that Neff himself is feeling, all in his eyes, posture, and in every word he speaks. I never felt for a moment that MacMurray's performance was unbelievable. Stanwyck is great as well. You could reasonably infer everything about her character just by the way she postures herself, by the way she moves her eyes, and by the way she moves her lips. Everything about Phyllis can be found in the way Stanwyck expresses herself physically, which I would say is the mark of a pretty fantastic performance.

Now, what I feel drags the film down is the script. I never felt that there was really any connection between Neff and Phyllis. Sure, Phyllis is beautiful, but what else? Neff makes the conscious decision to risk his free life by deciding to be with Phyllis, but why? What is Phyllis giving Neff that he doesn't have? The film never presented to me a moment where I could infer that Neff was unhappy with his life, nor even happy. If he felt trapped in his life, then I could totally buy into the fact that he choose to be with Phyllis, but even then, why is Neff attracted to Phyllis? Can it really be just because she's beautiful? She doesn't offer Neff anything besides money and companionship, but again, I was never presented a moment that told me Neff felt in need of those things. I get that, more often than not, people will risk what they have for a woman they barley even know, but in a film, there has to be an element within the story that gives reason for a person to do that. MacMurray and Stanwyck do have chemistry, but I would attribute that to the actors themselves rather than the script. Neff and Phyllis really don't have any reason to be together except to move the plot forward, and I don't have any reason to care about either of them. I felt sympathetic for Neff during the later half, but I didn't necessarily care for him. Due to the lack of a relationship between the main characters, I didn't care about them, which led to the film being tensionless, which leads to me not caring about the film as a whole. Never in any one scene was I afraid of what was going to happen. And when you don't have a reason to care, any intended tension the director is trying to evoke falls flat.

Regarding any other positives, John Seitz's cinematography is fantastic, as well as Wilder's staging. There's a lot you can infer about what's happening purely through the films' visuals, and in saying that, I feel like the film would work a lot better as a silent one. Good cinematography and staging should complement the story, but I don't feel the films' execution of its story is good enough to hold up the cinematography and staging.

I feel like I've been harsher on the film than my overall rating might indicate, so I just wanted to confirm (again) that I do think the film is very good. I don't ever see my rating going below a seven, but I could see it going to an eight. There've been films that have left more of an impression on repeated viewings, and I'll probably be seeing "Double Indemnity" again in my lifetime, but not anytime soon. Me changing my mind really depends on the second or third watch, so it's honestly 50/50. Considering the films legacy and influence, I would highly recommend it to everyone who's interested in film.
2017-10-19
Double ingenuity
I consider this to be one of the best movies ever made. The lines in the movie are classic and create an atmosphere that top most other movies. Fred MacMurray and the other actors are brilliant and the chemistry between Fred and Barbara is sparkling. All in all this is a great movie that everyone should see and be amazed by.
2003-05-05
The definitive Film Noir.
Double Indemnity is a film which fully embodies its genre, all the classic noir elements are present: venetian blinds, diagonal lines, a femme fatale and a victim of fate.

Fred MacMurray takes the central role as victim of fate, Walter Neff; cast against type, MacMurray gives a thoroughly convincing performance as a typical insurance salesman transformed into a calculating killer.

The estimable Barbara Stanwyck also delivers a typically faultless performance as the coldhearted and seductive Phyllis Dietrichson who enlists Neff in a plot to kill her husband and cash in on the insurance money.

Although this film may seem clichéd today, as many thrillers since have offered similar plot lines, rarely has the story been told so well. For fans of Film Noir, Stanwyck or MacMurray, this is an absolute MUST SEE!
2004-04-13
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