Movies Noir

Noirvember Reviews: Double Indemnity (1944)

Directed by Billy Wilder. Written by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler. Based on novel Double Indemnity by James M. Cain. Starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson.

Double Indemnity follows insurance agent, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), who is seduced by the beautiful Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck). Mrs. Dietrichson inquires to Neff about getting an accident policy for her husband without him knowing. Neff is alarmed by her request. After giving in to his feelings for Mrs. Dietrichson, Neff forms a plot to kill Mr. Dietrichson with Phyllis in order for her to collect the insurance money. As the duo tries to get away, insurance investigator Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) is on their trail to uncover the grim truth.

Phyllis Dietrichson is a classic femme fatale of the noir genre. She is motivated by greed. Stanwyck portrays Mrs. Dietrichson as a cold, charming wife, who’s clearly using Neff to her advantage. Stanwyck and MacMurray have beautiful chemistry together. Together, they’re able to show what a toxic, manipulative relationship looks like with Mrs. Dietrichson using Neff’s love for her to achieve her goals.

Billy Wilder’s film has a delicate pace with beautiful shots of shadowy interiors. These dimly-lit rooms are perfect for this couple, who are conspiring to murder. There aren’t many shots of the Los Angeles streets, but the ones that the audience sees are beautiful. In the film’s opening scene, Wilder poses a shot of an empty L.A. street that is foggy with street lamps lighting the dark streets. It’s appealing, yet invokes a sense of fear due to not knowing what lurks in the fog. Wilder creates gorgeous shots with masterful lighting.

Double Indemnity is essential viewing for Noirvember. It is highly regarded as one of the best films in the noir genre. The film is an excellent study on the lengths a man will go to satisfy his love for a woman. Rent or buy this film to watch on a cold November night.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.

By Jordan Lash

My name is Jordan Lash. I write about gaming and comics.

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