Kaijuman’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money - and a woman - and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?”
I’d like to start this off by wishing a happy birthday to my amazing father! He’s the reason I became the movie fanatic I am today. For my birthday I had him review The Deadly Spawn, a movie I knew he’d enjoy due to his love of regional horror films. Well here we are again, only it’s his pick this time! He’s tried to get me into noir films for as long as I can remember. I didn’t dislike them, just enjoyed other genres more. Well that might have to change soon, because Double Indemnity was marvelous.
Fred MacMurray (The Absent-Minded Professor) plays an insurance salesman who is wooed by femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck (Ball of Fire) into killing her husband for the insurance. At first he refuses, but it’s hard to say no to Barbara Stanwyck, and before you know it he’s planning the perfect murder. But as we know, no murder is perfect.
Both Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are great in this. MacMurray goes from a likable man to a cold calculating killer in no time, but is still human enough to feel guilt for what he’s done. Stanwyck plays him like a fiddle, all but signing his own death warrant as she manipulates him behind her facade. She is scary how well she plays up the innocent woman who just wants to be with MacMurray. They both carry the story with ease.
Slowly closing in on them is Edward G. Robinson (Little Caesar), a claims adjuster and friend to Macmurray. He knows something is wrong because of his “little man”, his instincts, and begins to investigate the death. The tension rises every time he barges in on Macmurray to talk about how he’s figuring it out. Robinson is easily the best, playing a hardass with a heart of gold. You can clearly see how much he cares about Macmurray and wants his honest opinions. As much as I enjoyed the leads, I was rooting for Robinson to finally figure it all out.
The first half is well-crafted as time is spent planning the murder then pulling it off. Since Macmurray knows all the tricks used, he creates a genius plan to get off scot-free. I prefer the second half as the walls begin to close in on them, with holes in the story getting bigger and bigger. It’s all very suspenseful and comes to a terrific conclusion.
I see why this is such a beloved noir, it’s masterfully crafted, the players are all at the top of their game, the tension is thick, it’s just an amazing movie. My recommendation doesn’t mean much for such a classic as this, but I highly recommend it anyway. I’m glad I finally got to see this, and I hope my dad has a wonderful birthday!