Friday, February 19, 2016
Bad Business - Double Indemnity!
Double Indemnity from 1944 is one of those flim noir classics I've been meaning to finally watch for years and years. Based on a novel of the same name by James M. Cain with a script co-written by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler no less, it's reputation as possibly the greatest of all noir movies is strong but I've never been much of a fan of Barbara Stanwyck and that kept me away when this one would play. But finally I relented and I'm glad I did. This movie stars Fred MacMurray (most famous in these parts as the dad on My Three Sons and the actor upon whom Captain Marvel was based) and Edward G. Robinson. The story involves the insurance industry and how it can often be used by desperate folks to escape grim circumstances.
Walter Neff (MacMurray) is an unscrupulous insurance salesman who chances upon an equally unscrupulous and beautiful woman named Phyllis (Stanwyck) who wants to knock off her husband for some insurance money. The two cook up a scheme which will fool even crack insurance investigator Barton Keyes (Robinson) involving a train and crutches. But as you might suspect the crime is not perfect and things really get quite complicated for the pair.
This is a first-rate noir movie for the simple reason Neff himself opens the movie by confessing his crimes into a dictaphone and so supplies the tight narration which marks these affairs. Neff has clearly been wounded and what we are hearing we suspect is his dying declaration as he looks back on the events which have led to this sad display. Also standard for a noir movie is the absolute acceptance by the criminals of the perversity of their acts, they know they are bad people doing bad things and while conscience plays on different ones in different ways if at all, they are not the kinds of folks you have sympathy for, empathy maybe, but not sympathy. No one asks forgiveness in a true noir movie, it's just the way the world works.
Stanwyck is perfectly fine in her role, but I still don't get the attraction for her. She's pretty enough, but not a knockout to my eye and her famous toughness seems no more nor less than many other actors I can think of.
Robinson is outstanding in this movie as the keeper of the law Keyes who sniffs out insurance scams and who is the primary foil for Neff in this one.
I can safely say this one is worthy of its reputation and well worth your time. Highly recommended.