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Year:
1944
Country:
USA
Genre:
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
8.4
Director:
Billy Wilder

 

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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)
Double Indemnity 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
film noir
It was interesting watching this movie having already seen so many movies that clearly used this as source material. The fast talking, witty dialogue, woman with a money making scheme, and the use of romance/feminine wiles to achieve those means are all things that became the cornerstone of film noir. It's easy to see why this movie had such an impact given how perfectly each was executed. It was interesting to watch their so called perfect scheme unfurl bit by bit, especially in regards to how the characters reacted to this.

The only thing that I wish is that I had gotten a little more invested in the romance and the characters themselves. Some later film noir films really nailed making me care about the plot through the eyes of the characters, which is my favorite approach to film. That is just my personal preferences though, and setting that aside, this was an incredibly well constructed film.
2014-04-21
Simply Masterful
The long silent street of film noir, a street where it is always night, and where the songs are always sad. That street is usually a dingy urban alley or a dank sidestreet, but in Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, it was a deceptively quiet suburban avenue. "Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself necessarily mean," wrote novelist Raymond Chandler, and as a screenwriter, he joined Wilder in sending one Walter Neff, insurance investigator, down the crookedest of these dead end lanes of the spirit.

The streets of Los Angeles are busier and deadlier than they were in Chandler's heyday. Yet Chandler's disquieting, existential take on the City of Angels transcends fashions in both transportation and crime. Those mean streets remain mean, and mementos of Double Indemnity can still be seen all over the city. The Hollywood Bowl where Walter and Lola Dietrichson meet; Walter's apartment at the Château Marmont; the Glendale train station where the "perfect crime" begins... And the "death house" of Double Indemnity, where Phyllis and Walter meet, plot murder, and where their strange love finally reaches its apocalypse, still stands, secluded and quiet, high in the Hollywood Hills, at 6301 Quebec Street, in Los Angeles. Exteriors were shot there, and sets were modeled after the inside of the house. The house seems to rear up in the summer twilight, remembering the night fifty years ago when a cruel woman brought her husband out to a big LaSalle sedan idling in the garage, with a killer in the back seat. The house's silent, stuccoed cloisters look gloomily down on Quebec Street, while Walter Neff's disembodied footfalls echo off the asphalt.
2007-03-05
"I love you too."
Mere words cannot express my love for this film. This movie is a crystallization of silver screen perfection, a rare event where every little thing aligns to bestow the lucky viewers with what can only be described as breathtaking art.

The performances in this movie are superb. In a script riddled with hardboiled dialog and outlandish implausibilities, everyone hits the right note, and makes the endeavor compelling. Stanwyck is at her most seductive and powerful, and Edward G. Robinson gives the movie the perfect moral ground.

But the best performance has to be given to Fred MacMurray who turns the clichéd role of a man seduced by a woman into something more than the sleaze bag he should be. He becomes a character you're invested in, a man who is shaken from his complacent life and thoroughly destroyed by the demons he creates. And through this all, through murder in its many incarnations, you still can't help feel for the man. The character of Walter Neff, in so many words, takes on a life of its own thanks to MacMurray, and keeps the audience compelled no matter what sins he commits. The tics and libido exuded add to his charm and make him deservedly one of the most iconic characters of all time.

A lot of this credit must be given to Billy Wilder, my personal favorite director and a man whose films can all be completely different but possess enough tics to be instantly recognizable. The beauty of his shots and the set up of the script blend perfectly, creating a universe that is tangible and complex.

If you have not seen this movie, please do.
2006-07-12
Kind of a crazy story with a crazy twist to it. One you didn't quite figure out.
I have a new favorite movie. If it's not Double Indemnity then at least it's the whole film noir genre. Double Indemnity was THE greatest story I have ever have had the pleasure of seeing. It had it all. It was black and white, it had a great theme song and it had such deep characters. Characters you really feel with. This was my first REAL film noir. I had seen Chinatown before this one but that is classified as neo noir because it's in color.

Did I mention that the acting in this movie is the best acting I have ever seen in a movie? And I mean real acting. Not like real acting like you'll find in Mockumentaries where the acting is so natural only because it's improvised. No, the acting in this movie is in the scale of stage actors. The best there is. The lines are all delivered in such a natural way because they are natural. Meaning that there isn't a single line in this movie that I would even think about changing.

The directing and cinematography were the best I have ever seen. The opening credits feature a man in crutches walking towards the screen in Silhouette while dramatic music plays over the soundtrack and credits appearing and disappearing on the screen. From there on the movie had me. How could I stop watching after a credit sequence like that? As the movie plays out we keep hearing the same theme. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

This movie is recommended. Recommended to everyone by me. If you like any sort of cinema. And if you don't laugh at Adam Sandlers jokes then go and get this movie. Get it and never sell it. Because it is the greatest piece of cinema I have ever seen.
2006-01-28
Do you drive a new Cadillac to appear inconspicuous at crime scene
Everyone knows this film and everyone loves it.

I tried to observe some flaws if there are any in it. The actress playing the daughter looked too old for the role. Stanwyck was 37 when this was made and Mc Murray was 36.

I agree with the reviewer who stated Mc Murray's later roles in TV sit coms and so forth tainted his image. It's true it was hard to take him seriously.

A new Cadillac driving around the rail road tracks might attract some notice especially in 1939 (the year this is supposed to take place).

Also you have to suspend disbelief that Mc Murray would be so smitten by Stanwyck he would attempt anything like this. She is not especially at 37 (or any age!) the most attractive woman in the world. The blond wig? I guess was supposed to make her look ?? maybe cheap or tainted. She can carry any role though plouging through it like a bulldozer.

But these are so minor. I loved the movie watch it and read the other reviews.

RECOMMEND HIGHLY
2013-01-16
Great DVD Treatment of One of Billy Wilder's Greatest Films!
The super deluxe 2-disc DVD edition of the 1944 film noir classic DOUBLE INDEMNITY (DI) rocks! Director/co-screenwriter Billy Wilder's flair with suspense and black humor works so perfectly with James M. Cain's novel about adulterous lovers plotting to murder the woman's husband and scam the man's insurance company, that it even improves on the book (which I read years ago).

The dark tone and scandalous subject matter freaked out Hollywood so much that it took 9 years to get DI from the printed page to the big screen. Fred MacMurray was the only leading man in Hollywood with the guts to take the role of insurance salesman-turned-murderer Walter Neff, though even MacMurray needed convincing at first. None of the other in-demand male stars of the period wanted Barbara Stanwyck's conniving, money-loving, hubby-offing temptress Phyllis Dietrichson to make a chump out of him on screen. Their loss! (I'd first seen MacMurray when I was a kid. Back then, he was best known to my generation as a Disney movie star and the lovable dad of TV's MY THREE SONS, so it was quite a revelation to me when I saw him playing underhanded types in DI, THE APARTMENT, and THE CAINE MUTINY. MacMurray had more range than he got credit for!)

MacMurray and Stanwyck are dynamite in this, one of the most gleefully, unapologetically black-hearted films noir ever made. Their dialogue, especially in the first half of the movie, contains many of my fave movie lines of all time (if I start quoting them all, I'll pretty much be transcribing most of the script). The chemistry between Stanwyck and MacMurray blazes like the Chicago Fire as the wily, spellbinding Phyllis draws Walter into her web. As Richard Schickel points out in one of the DVD's 2 excellent audio commentaries, Stanwyck's Phyllis is always reacting in the moment, so you never can tell whether she means a word she says, making her all the more fascinating. What cynical Sam Spade says to the equally slippery Brigid O'Shaughnessy in THE MALTESE FALCON could also apply to the quicksilver Phyllis: she's good, awful good!

Edward G. Robinson is DI's crabby yet kind-hearted Voice of Reason in his portrayal of Barton Keyes, the Pacific All-Risk Insurance Company's ace Claims Manager. As Keyes, Robinson is irresistible, with his zeal for detail, the "little man" in his gut giving him indigestion every time an insurance claim seems fishy, and his gruff affection for Walter. Heck, at times, there's more tenderness between Walter and Keyes than there is between Walter and Phyllis! :-) IMO, the biggest crime in DI was the failure to nominate either of the male leads for an Oscar, especially scene-stealing Robinson, though the Academy was smart enough not to overlook the mesmerizing Stanwyck. (For that matter, Robinson was never nominated for an Oscar for any of his superb performances. He was eventually given one of those special career Oscars, or as we like to call them, the "Yikes, He's So Old He Could Croak Any Minute and He Still Hasn't Gotten An Oscar? *D-OH!*" award. :-)

DI boasts plenty of wonderful character bits, too -- really, there isn't a bum performance in the bunch! Our household's DI faves include Fortunio Bonanova as Garlopis, whose phony claim Keyes chews to bits "like a slice of rare roast beef;" and Porter Hall as Jackson from Medford, Oregon, the jovial train traveler who innocently throws a wrench into the murder plot when he turns up on the train's Observation Car while Walter pretends to be Phyllis' injured, crutch-bound hubby. (Speaking of the crutches, is the opening credit sequence with the silhouetted, fedora'd figure on crutches one of the coolest credit sequences of all time, or what?). Any fans of THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD who might be reading this shouldn't blink when Walter lets Lola (Jean Heather) into his office at one point, or you'll miss Douglas Spencer (with hair!) as Walter's associate, Lou Schwartz, coming out at the same time.

If you love the movie (and why wouldn't you? :-), you'll go gaga over the nifty commentary tracks and extras. Among other things, we learn about the censorship issues in bringing Cain's juicy, lurid tales to the big screen. For example, there were several European film versions of THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (including Luchino Visconti's OSSESSIONE, which works very well in its down-to-earth way and recently turned up on Turner Classic Movies) before Hollywood brought it to the big screen with John Garfield and Lana Turner in 1946. We're also told about how the different writing/working styles of Wilder and Raymond Chandler (who was hired to help adapt the story when Cain was under contract elsewhere and Wilder's then-collaborator Charles Brackett nixed the dark material) turned the experience into a collaboration made in hell. For the record, I wouldn't be surprised if Chandler was mostly to blame, since there are similar stories about him being just as tough to work with during Alfred Hitchcock's 1951 screen adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Hitch eventually brought in Ben Hecht's assistant Czenzi Ormonde to finish/polish the script when Chandler took a hike. Disc 2 contains the 1973 TV movie remake of DOUBLE INDEMNITY, which is worth watching if only to appreciate how much better the original is! This DVD set belongs in your collection!
2006-09-16
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
The Grandaddy of Film Noir
This is my favorite movie. I think Fred MacMurray gives his best performance ever. Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson also stand out. The script, co-written by the film's director, Billy Wilder, and mystery author Raymond Chandler is crisp and tough. MacMurray's lines are memorable.

It is a story of greed, fear and lust. Greed so intense that it drives the mild-mannered MacMurray to murder. And fear, grasping at his senses, that it permeates his ability to think reasonably. And, of course, lust, the kind of lust for the equally bad Stanwyck that drove him to commit evil in the first place.

If you like old films, especially film noir, see this one. It is absolutely perfect.
2005-05-22
Another hit for Billy Wilder
This wonderful film, with its brooding 1940's atmosphere and superb black-and-white photography (by John Seitz) is one of Hollywood's best. Fred MacMurray's performance, as the insurance man besotted with Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G Robinson's as his boss help make this film memorable. The turns of the plot and the highly-charged suspense ensure that the viewer will not be disappointed. Another of Billy Wilder's hits. Well done!
2001-04-09
Classic Film Noir
As this classic film noir begins protagonist Walter Neff returns to the insurance office he works at; it is late at night and he is clearly injured. He sits down and starts to record a confession; he starts by saying that he had helped a woman kill her husband for the insurance money. The action then flashes back and we see the events from the moment of his first meeting with femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson when he flirts with her while visiting to remind her that her husband's car insurance needs renewing. On their second meeting she brings up the idea of taking out accident insurance without her husband knowing… he knows she is talking about murder and walks out but inevitably they meet again and start to plan how they could do it. Walter decides it must be done on a train as a clause in the policy doubles the payout… of course with that sort of payout the company will investigate very closely and Walter's friend Barton Keyes always figures out what happened.

This year may mark the seventieth anniversary of Double Indemnity's release but it does not feel dated. The opening scene lays out what is going to happen but even though we know Mr Dietrichson will be killed and that Keyes will suspect the wrong man it is still tense from start to finish. Fred MacMurray put in a nicely understated performance as Neff; a surprisingly likable character given that we know what he is going to do. Barbara Stanwyck was great as Mrs Dietrichson; a less pleasant character but even she is initially sympathetic initially. The third of the main cast Edward G. Robinson is a lot of fun at Barton Keyes; possibly the only good main character. Director Billy Wilder does a great job bringing the story to the screen; the atmosphere is great. Overall I thought this was a great film; any fan of classic cinema is sure to love it.
2014-01-30
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