Thursday, November 5, 2015

10 reasons to watch Double Indemnity (1944)

Title: Double Indemnity
Director: Billy Wilder
Language: English
Rating: Unrated

Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is an insurance salesman who helps Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) kill her husband in a way that will increase the life insurance payout.

"Double Indemnity, Life Magazine" Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Walter's friend and colleague, claims adjuster Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), begins to suspect that Mr. Dietrichson's death wasn't an accident.

Why is Double Indemnity worth watching?

1) Edward G. Robinson's monologue on the statistics of different kinds of suicide.

2) The contrast between two relationships: Walter and Phyllis vs. Walter and Barton. Walter and Phyllis' relationship feels hurried, the build-up too quick. His relationship with her comes across as suicide, as if he's deliberately self-destructing; it's not even fully clear why, only that he's courting death, and Phyllis loves death. The bond he shares with Barton is deeper. Their friendship is an important part of the movie; and Walter's betrayal of Barton feels like a crime separate from the murder and fraud.

3) I like that Stanwyck brings an insectile quality to her character. She's small and wiry, with sharp eyes and a caressing voice. Her character creeps into fantasies. (Stanwyck wore a strangely fitted blonde wig in this movie; it didn't look like real hair. But somehow this weird wig fit her character.)

4) Want to see a great piece of acting from Stanwyck? The scene where Phyllis watches her husband get murdered. She looks entranced, fascinated. All of this suggested in her eyes.

5) And Edward G. Robinson, he's a pleasure as the insurance claims adjuster with integrity.

6) The use of window blinds - in the Dietrichson home, in the insurance office, causing bars of darkness and light to fall on Walter Neff. Both like prison bars and his checkered soul.

7) The scene on the train, with MacMurray limping. Physical and moral brokenness.

8) The association of honeysuckle and murder. ("How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?")

9) The way the movie ends. In part, it involves one character saying to another, "I love you, too," in a slightly soppy way and under grim circumstances.

10) Walter hanging out with the daughter of the man he murdered and oddly finding peace in that as the net closes around him.