"Double Indemnity," the classic 1944 film directed by Billy Wilder and written by Raymond Chandler is recognized as one of the best examples of the film noir genre. Noirs are stylish, gritty urban crime thrillers that had their heyday in the 1940's. Double Indemnity has got it all; fast talking, hard-edged dialogue, a story of human passion going over to the dark side, a perfect femme fatale who plays her mark like a fiddle and so many great lines. It was so much fun to see this classic on the big screen at my local reporatory cinema.
Fred MacMurray plays the lead role of Walter Neff an insurance salesmen who shamlessly flirts with a married woman named Phyliss played by Barbara Stanwyck, but he gets more than he bargained for when Phyliss suggests the Neff kill her husband. Both leads play their roles to perfection. MacMurray the cynical, worldy everyman has the best lines and plays the part with so much style. The finale when Neff gets his cummuppance is completely riveting. Stanwyck's wicked facial expression are fantastic and clue the audience in to her secret ulterior motives. Edward G. Robinson plays Neff's co-worker, Barton Keyes, a perfectionistic insurance claims adjuster who never lets a fraudulant claim get by him. (Or does he?) The chemistry and timing between he and MacMurray is such a joy to watch.
Although noir films are dark and cynical (maybe just realistic) about human nature, the bad guy always pays a price for his misdeeds. Walter Neff is haunted by his concience after committing what could have been the perfect crime. He knows deep down that he can't get away with it. The misdeeds of the flesh demand a heavy toll.
Another mark of noir films are their stylish musical scores and Double Indemnity's soundtrack does not disappoint.
Raymond Chandler was a master of the detective novel, his most famous character being Detective Phillip Marlowe. Chandler turned his skills to screenwriting for Double Indemnity and man does it sing. It's totally immersive and not convoluted as some noir films tend to be.
Beautiful contrasty lighting creates a mood of darkness and suspense, fantastic set designs and scenes shot in old (pre-freeway) Los Angeles along with stylish camera work make "Double Indemnity" a feast for the eyes.
I know it's a corny nostalgic cliche but I came away thinking, "they don't make 'em like that anymore." Sure the hard-bitten, fast talking dialogue is now dated and amusing to the modern ear and the simple morality tale is obvious but I came away from Double Indemnity feeling completely satisfied. It's like the feeling you have after eating a great meal or hearing a well crafted song. For a perfect movie watching experience, this movie can't be beat...and you can take that to the bank, baby.