My second film noir viewing this year had to be Double Indemnity. I’d heard about it too many times to not seek it out. The story in this film is extremely captivating and definitely would be a good entry point into the genre. Without hesitation, I give Double Indemnity the Must See rating.
Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is an insurance salesman who finds himself at the Dietrichson residence to renew an auto policy. He meets Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and is taken by her beauty. She slowly lures him into a murder and insurance fraud scheme. But, insurance claims agent Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) is notorious at catching invalid claims.
Fred MacMurray is a great lead. This is the first time I’ve seen him in a film so I wasn’t sure what to expect. As Neff, he’s slick and I love his mannerism of lighting matches. The way he falls for the femme fatale, Phyllis, is definitely out of his character. He seems so sure of himself and confident, especially how he calls her on her scheme right away. Yet, she’s still able to lure him in and, despite his better judgement, he falls in love with her.
Stanwyck, also the film I’ve seen of hers, is such a powerhouse on-screen. She plays every aspect of the character perfectly. Like Neff, she pulled me into her plight and I was rooting for her plan to work. Yet, as details started to be revealed I was as surprised as Neff that she’d pulled a fast one on us. How could we be so trusting of this women we barely knew?
No detective, but still a story I enjoyed!
I’d always been under the impression that all film noirs were centered around a detective and so far neither have been. Keyes fills the role of the detective in this film though as he attempts to figure out how Mr. Dietrichson was killed. He listens to his “little man,” the little voice inside that tells him something isn’t right, when looking at all claims. Initially, the little man is silent on this one, but eventually starts nagging at him.
The film features a voiceover narration by Neff as he is dictating the story for Keyes to here. The film opens with him staggering into his insurance office. A gunshot wound is revealed on his left shoulder. It’s a compelling use of the traditional voice over often found in the genre. I definitely enjoyed this film and recommend every cinephile check it out.