Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)


Fred MacMurray (Walter Neff), Barbara Stanwyck (Phyllis Dietrichson), Edward G. Robinson (Barton Keyes). Screenplay by Billy Wilder. Directed by Billy Wilder. Rating: PG. Running time: 107 minutes.

Double Indemnity is like The Maltese Falcon injected with a decent dose of substance. It’s got all the style and themes of the latter – dark visuals, suave suited men and a femme fatale – but it also gives us a worthy plot line which works as much more than a thin frame in which to hang a pretty picture. The story is ultimate noir: two conspiring to commit the perfect murder, whilst making a hefty sum of money out of it. And yet the fact the film is told as flashback with confessional voiceovers ensures we know their best laid schemes will eventually unravel; our pleasure is to watch them so cleverly do so.

It’s clear how much we owe to films like these. Double Indemnity has the blood of Hitchcock running through it, and near enough every crime-based thriller since will have benefited from its legacy in some sense. Our obsession with cinema as a medium through which we can watch ordinary people become criminals from a comfortable distance no doubt started here. Seldom do thrillers retain their value over so many decades, but this one still somehow manages to pack a significant punch. To watch Double Indemnity is to witness the creation of noir. Cherish its style, and appreciate its plot.


One Response to “Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)”

  1. 1 Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942) « jacob williamson | thoughts on film

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