Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity ★★★★★

A lesson to all when reviewing a film, and is to keep an open mind and try to keep those preconceived thoughts from prejudicing how you view and ultimately enjoy a film.

Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity stars Fred MacMurray, an actor who I have struggled with at times. When I was a teenager I used to do a lot of youth theatre, and one of my favourite exercises that we used to do in the days leading up to show week was a "gabble". A gabble was all those who had lines stood in a circle and reeled off their lines in order off the script as fast as they could. The purpose of this was for the director to have confidence that we all knew our lines. It was also very fun, rattling off The Mikado at 78rpms. However it was very robotic and there was no opportunity to get character ticks and traits into it, it was purely the words. Every time I watch Fred MacMurray, I feel like he is taking part in a gabble, but none of the rest of the cast is aware. His rat-a-tat delivery of dialogue has always annoyed me. Therefore noting he was the lead of this legendary film-noir made me that little bit less enthused.

However, hats off to Fred, I think I found the perfect part for him, as scheming insurance salesman Walter Neff, who alongside the luminous Phyllis Dietrichson (the astonishing Barbara Stanwyck) cooks up an elaborate plan to murder Phyllis' husband (Tom Powers) and run off with the insurance money that Walter has unwittingly sold to Mr Dietrichson.

Yes, MacMurray's machine-gun fire delivery of the dialogue is still very present, but this actually lends an extra layer of menace to the lecherous Walter, however, the true star of the film is the luminous Stanwyck, who controls every scene she is in with a duplicitous dose of sass and vulnerability.

There is a wonderfully wholesome supporting turn from Edward G Robinson, who is the cherry on top of this particular genre cake.

As with all great noirs, the film twists and turns, with characters revealing their true colours as each frame passes. It is wonderfully orchestrated by Wilder, who is helped enormously by his two leads. There is a wonderfully orchestrated scene played out in a grocery store that was probably the highlight for me, but overall the film is as tight as a hippo's leotard.

I was wrong about Mr MacMurray, he is fantastic in this, and I apologise to him and his family, as I'm sure they will read this.

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