Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity ★★★★★

Billy Wilder directs this Oscar-nominated classic film-noir about an insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray) who becomes murderously entangled with a married woman (Barbara Stanwyck), but their scheme does not go to plan.

From director Billy Wilder comes this movie which is considered by many to be the finest example of how a film-noir should be done. In fact, the year of this release saw the term ‘film-noir’ really take off, with other classic films like Laura, Phantom Lady, Farewell, My Lovely and The Woman in the Window.

The story of Double Indemnity concerns Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), an insurance salesman who finds himself falling in love with Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck). Phyllis is absolutely intent on killing her husband. But this doesn’t go the way that they had hoped for.

Fred MacMurray gives a good performance in his part as the man who gets caught up in a murderous scheme. He suits his role very well.

Elsewhere, there is a terrific performance to be had from Barbara Stanwyck in her role as Phyllis, the woman who strongly believes that she can murder her husband and live off the accidental death claim. She suits her role really well, stealing scenes in the process, acting like she was born to play the part and gives one of the most, if not the most, memorable roles of her career. She definitely makes the most of the time she has on the screen.

Edward G. Robinson is good in his role as Barton Keyes, the insurance investigator who examines the case and finds that he knows what the proper truth is.

Tom Powers plays the role of Mr Dietrichson, while look out for Raymond Chandler in a cameo appearance as a man who is reading a book. It’s very brief, so you do have to watch carefully.

The direction from Wilder is excellent because he allows the facial expressions to be seen to a strong effect throughout, as well as keeping a very tense atmosphere happening as well. The script is written to a very decent standard by the director, Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain as they make the movie really easy to follow.

The technical aspects that stand out best in glorious black-and-white are the set and camera, because the set is very decent to view at times, while the camera makes very good use of the locations the movie uses and also captures the tense and dramatic moments well, along with scenes that involve lots of shadows, which deservedly get the edge-of-the-seat status. You really cannot take your eyes off this film!

The movie managed to win 7 Academy Award nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Actress (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Adapted Screenplay (Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain), Best Cinematography (Black-and-White), Best Sound, Recording and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture). Although it didn’t win any of those awards, the nominations were definitely deserved.

Overall, Double Indemnity is film-noir that absolutely deserves to have its classic status. It works so well due to the excellent direction and co-written script from Billy Wilder, with the best performance going to Barbara Stanwyck. They do not make them like they used to!

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