“Double Indemnity”

Often considered as one of the greatest of film noir movies (in some lists, in the top thirty movies of all time), “Double Indemnity” was directed by Billy Wilder with script by him and Raymond Chandler.

If you don’t know the story, here is a brief summary (no spoliers). Walter Neff is an insurance salesman. He calls at the Dietrichson house to see Mr D to sell him some insurance, but Mr D is out and Walter meets Mrs D and falls in love, or rather lust. Walter and Mrs D (Phyllis) hatch a plot to kill Mr D, take his insurance money and have a new life together.

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck star.

It’s a carefully plotted film, from a James M Cain novel which Chandler had analysed and improved on, solving all the technical issues. The end is inevitable from the very beginning. Walter seems caught up in a mess he instigated but is then out of control of.

It fair crackles with Chandler dialogue, especially at the beginning. The black and white photography is stunning when seen on a big screen.

And yes, it is a murder mystery, but also a love story. But not between Walter and Phyllis.

Star of this show is Edward G Robinson, in one of his greatest roles, insurance investigator Barton Keyes. Walter and Keyes love each other like father and son. At the end, Keyes disappointment in Walter’s actions are clear. He is brokenhearted.

Oh, and watch for the only known clip of Raymond Chandler, sitting on a chair in the insurance offices.

There has been at least one re-make, and the film “Body Heat” follows similar lines, but looks dated.

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