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Crime, Drama, Thriller, Film-Noir
IMDB rating:
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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iPhone 320x240 px 176 Mb h264 239 Kbps mp4 Download
One of the finest noirs, Wilders, and, yes, films ever!
It's definitely hard to pin down a personal favourite Wilder film, though I tend towards his earlier masterworks such as 'The Lost Weekend', 'Sunset Boulevard'...and THIS. He was one of the finest at getting straight through the bullshit and to the heart of all things noir (as the immortal Jean-Luc Godard stated, 'All I need to make a film is a man, a girl and a gun').

Barbara Stanwyck is one of my favourite actresses of the period, and is a classic 'femme fatale'. I've never been a huge fan of Fred MacMurray, but his 'nice guy' persona is used to sheer advantage by Wilder, and he end up both doing his finest work for Wilder (here and in 'The Apartment') and being the ultimate noir male protagonist. Interestingly, one of my favourite actors, Edward G. Robinson, thought so much of the script that he opted out of his demand of never doing a supporting role. Many people admire Wilder the director, but as a writer (or co-writer) he's just as cinematically important and influential.

Like any other film of his, at least that I've had the pleasure to see, it's worth a purchase and re-watches. The dialogue, especially, is simply fantastic. I'd take just one of his early works over a hundred of the films Hollywood churns out nowadays. They're simply that better and intrinsically satisfying. Immortal cinema.
The Great Billy Wilder
I can't think of a director that got so many great movies in the different genres as Billy Wilder. In comedy he made the excellent "Some Like It Hot" and "Irma la Douce"; he also made the romantic "Sabrina"; "Sunset Boulevard", "The Apartment" and "The Lost Week-End" were his contributions to drama; "Stalag 17" is a war film; "Witness for the Prosecution" is a great mystery thriller; all memorable products in the history of Hollywood.

With "Double Indemnity" he obtained what is probably the ultimate Film Noir. There's not much to add about this extraordinary movie to what I¨ve red here in other comments. Just that I never was a fan of Fred MacMurray and yet I have to admit he does a very good job in this one (perhaps his best ever along with his treacherous and false navy officer in "The Caine Mutiny").

Billy Wilder was indeed a very talented man as a movie maker and also had an undeniable skill for recognizing a good story when it came his way. One of the great directors ever, no doubt.
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!"
WIlder's most iconic noir ?
What's striking from the beginning in Double Indemnity is the quality of the dialogs, as often happens with Wilder. Granted, this was made in the 40's so some turns of phrase seem a bit pompous or outdated, but lines fly and follow each other with a remarkable fluidity, without any downs. As for the rest, the movie comprises every characteristic of the film noir genre whether on the form or content, from lighting to the voice-over or the typical characters. The plot is implacable but some elements are not very credible, like the emerging romance for example. The Machiavellian scheme and the investigation that follows it lack suspense, tension, and the outcome turns out to be a bit disappointing because it's rather telegraphed although it perfectly concludes this noir which probably remains Wilder's most iconic.
Ten times twice as dangerous…Double Indemnity
What many call the ultimate film noir, the murder mystery that is spoiled at the start, setting the stage for a retelling by our protagonist of the perfect crime, is unraveled before our eyes. Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity revolves around an insurance fraud murder that appears foolproof until the seams start to tear. Walter Neff, the top salesman two months in a row, falls in love with the young wife of an oilman, a woman looking for a way to leave her troubled marriage. Who better to get away with the perfect crime then a man that sees false claims avenged everyday? Their tracks must be covered and their guilt assuaged. However, being as our first scene shows Walter confessing to everything, we know the well-laid plans were unsuccessful. The trick to the film becomes how it all went down, how the puzzle pieces fell into place, and the power of a conscience, eating away at you until you can't stand the pressure any longer.

It is not giving away anything to say that the two complete the task of killing Mr. Dietrichson, a businessman with a temper. The deed is orchestrated to look like he fell off a train, a venue for accidental death that comes with a special double indemnity clause, one that pays twice the cost of his recently purchased insurance of $50,000. That money is the impetus that pushes Neff over the top to help his new mistress. Phyllis Dietrichson is the damsel in distress, the nurse of her husband's first wife that was naïve and heartbroken for her boss after his loss. She says it compelled her to stay with him in a union that never held any love. The chance arrival of Neff not only opens her eyes to the possibility of a clean break without any strings and actually some cash to boot, but also to a man she can spend time and possibly settle down with. It is a strange coincidence that the Dietrichson's auto insurance was allowed to lapse, creating a house call, and a happy accident that the man called to visit was one as immoral as Walter. Right from the start he flirts and makes advances towards the woman he knows is married to his client. It's not until the end that you start to consider whether none of it was by chance at all, but instead carefully planned out and manipulated from the first second.

Neff is played by Fred MacMurray—a perfect fit for the role of a shady salesman, unafraid to get his hands dirty. The confidence and swagger allow us to believe he can win over the girl as easily as he does. He is the kind of guy that can fool the world into thinking he is on the level, a man of intelligence and pride. His boss, Barton Keyes and he have a very close relationship, one based on mutual respect and admiration. Neff has them all fooled into believing he is a man of character, one Keyes would personally vouch for, and his initial balk at the offer to help kill Dietrichson shows that maybe he is. Maybe there is some semblance of humanity behind the quick-witted banter and devious smile, a moral compass that won't allow him to cross the line. But greed and lust can tempt even a saint, let alone a guy like Neff, and it doesn't take long for him to begin the blueprints for what will be the perfect crime; one that not even Keyes and his keen lie detector can spot. It is that question of virtue that will ultimately undo him, though, as the strong stomach he thought he had might not be indestructible.

The story revolves around MacMurray and as a result he is on screen almost the entire time. He is our narrator and our entrance point into the proceedings. However, it is not a role that we necessarily relate to, nor even begin to feel sorry for to hope he gets away with the crime. Instead, knowing about his confession from the beginning, we sit down to watch his hubris shred his world to pieces. Each person is a cog to the tale at hand; it is the plotting of the film that takes center stage and top billing. The pieces are moved and we follow them through the twists and turns and revelations that change our preconceptions of each. No one is truly as they seem and they all have an ulterior motive just below the surface, propelling their actions and attempts for survival whether the other does or not. Our two criminals are selfish at heart, but until you watch the entire journey, you won't know just how much.

While the acting is definitely dated and a product of its time, it doesn't mean that it's not good. Barbara Stanwyck plays MacMurray's partner-in-crime Phyllis with equal panache. She holds her own in every situation, whether with her sharp tongue in some very funny back and forths or in her steely disposition when things get rough, it's a part that needs to be strong and is. Barton Keyes is the role that sticks with you, though. Edward G. Robinson is fantastic as the cocky claims agent, self-proclaimed as never being wrong when his gut says something isn't right. He delivers some of the best lines with such deadpan seriousness that you laugh even harder. The ego, cynicism, and attitude all add up to a man you have to respect, because under the tough exterior lies a man with heart. His dynamic with MacMurray is an interesting one, especially when seen through to the end. While they aren't completely fleshed out, each character is a detailed piece to the intricate web of deceit on display. Surrogates for the story to be shown to the audience, we watch them not for who they are, but for what they will do.
The finest of a fine genre...
A regular reviewer would get into the heavy details of the plot of Billy Wilder's `Double Indemnity', but I wont, because I feel that a film like this should be viewed by someone who knows practically nothing of the plot, so every scene can be a surprise. What I will say about the plot, just so you have an idea if you don't already know, is that insurance salesman Neff (Fred MacMurray) and his client Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) have a criminal plot to carry out, and claims man Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) is onto them.

The movie is a Film-Noir, a terrific B&W genre that died out, I guess, in the early sixties. Sure, Noirs are still being made today, but those ones are more of a homage to the classic Film-Noirs of the thirties, forties and fifties. `Double Indemnity' was released in 1944, when Film-Noir was at its prime, with releases like `The Maltese Falcon' right behind it and `The Third Man' just ahead. To me, `Double Indemnity' is the greatest.

It's hard to differentiate Noirs from the regular crime or mystery movies of the past, but I think Roger Ebert said it best in his review for `Out of the Past': `The noir hero is doomed before the story begins -- by fate, rotten luck, or his own flawed character. Crime movies sometimes show good men who go bad. The noir hero is never good, just kidding himself, living in ignorance of his dark side until events demonstrate it to him.' That character in `Double Indemnity' is Neff, a man who thinks he's carrying out Phyllis' plan because of his love for the woman, but indeed is not. He likes the plan, he likes doing it, just for the sake of carrying out the evil deed.

Phyllis shares his love for the dark, and the evil scheme is the basis of their relationship. They are never seen talking about anything but the plan, they don't want to, instead of being in love with each other they're in evil with each other.

And then there's Keyes, a man who's life has been consumed by his profession so much so that he once dumped his fiancée because he found out about some sketchy business from her past, he says. But he is a great man, strong willed and smarter than any other man working at his firm, including his boss. When his boss asks the wrong question he flares into a huge speech about why the question is ludicrous, and why the boss is unfit for his profession. Sure, he's rambling, but he has the right to, he's the cleverest claims man you'll ever find.

So the better part of the movie is about Neff avoiding and out-maneuvering Keyes, a situation which generates such heated suspense, on account of both the actors and Billy Wilder's expert direction and script (co-written by Raymond Chandler). MacMurray is perfect as the everyman with a dark side, using his pan expression and voice as an advantage. Some say Bogart would've been more suited with the role, but Neff is the kind of character that would look and sound tired all the time, just like MacMurray. Stanwyck shows delicious darkness in an Oscar-nominated role, there's a scene where her face gradually turns from tearful regret to y evil that sent chills down my spine.

And, of course, there is Edward G. Robinson, in a stellar performance, stealing every scene he is in from under Mac Murray (or whomever's) feet. The role is played with such skill and focus that personally I think it's a travesty he wasn't nominated for an Oscar for it.

`Double Indemnity' is the best Film-Noir, a template for perfection, 9/10.
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.
The Walk of a Dead Man
In 1938, the experienced salesman of the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co. Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) meets the seductive wife of one of his client, Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwick), and they have an affair. Phyllis proposes to kill her husband Dietrichson (Tom Powers) to receive the prize of an accident insurance policy and Walter plots a scheme to receive twice the amount based on a double indemnity clause. When Mr. Dietrichson is found dead on the trails of a train, the police accepts the evidence of accidental death. However, the insurance analyst and Walter's best friend Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) does not buy the version and suspects that Phyllis has murdered her husband with the help of another man.

In my opinion, Billy Wilder was the greatest director of Hollywood ever, directing many masterpieces including "Double Indemnity" among them. This is the second time that I see this magnificent film-noir, now on DVD recently released in Brazil (the first time was in the cable television, since this masterpiece has never been released on VHS in my country). The story and screenplay are stunning, disclosing a sordid story of lust, love, greed and betrayal. Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwick and Edward G. Robinson have magnificent performances. The cinematography is simply spectacular, with an awesome use of lights and shadows and the music score completes one of the best movies Hollywood has ever produced. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Pacto de Sangue" ("Pact of Blood")
Boils down to three great aspects
Double Indemnity is a great film noir that keeps your heart beating and your palms sweating. But none of the greatness in this film could have been achieved without the three best aspects:

1) John Seitz's stunning cinematography. No other film-noir has managed to contrast black and white so vividly as to capture the perfect mood of the story and characters. Because of this technical achievement, the viewer can't take his eyes of the screen.

2) Barbara Stanwyck's beautiful performance. Only until Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd. has there been such a mesmerizing femme fatale. She underplays every line and fills it with innocence, seduction, despair, desperation, and love. She IS Phyllis Dietrichson.

3) Billy Wilder's unforgettable script. A story that nowadays would seem simple turns in great dialogue, plot twists, and a narrative structure that keeps you on the edge of your seat right from the start. The characters do exactly what they're supposed to do and the script shows you exactly how and why.

Other great aspects include the direction, the settings, the music, and the great performances by Robinson and MacMurray.
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.
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