Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity

5.0 6
Director: Billy Wilder

Cast: Billy Wilder, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson

     
 

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Directed by Billy Wilder and adapted from a James M. Cain novel by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity represents the high-water mark of 1940s film noir urban crime dramas in which a greedy, weak man is seduced and trapped by a cold, evil woman amidst the dark shadows and Expressionist lighting of modern cities. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck)See more details below

Overview

Directed by Billy Wilder and adapted from a James M. Cain novel by Wilder and Raymond Chandler, Double Indemnity represents the high-water mark of 1940s film noir urban crime dramas in which a greedy, weak man is seduced and trapped by a cold, evil woman amidst the dark shadows and Expressionist lighting of modern cities. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) seduces insurance agent Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) into murdering her husband to collect his accident policy. The murder goes as planned, but after the couple's passion cools, each becomes suspicious of the other's motives. The plan is further complicated when Neff's boss Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), a brilliant insurance investigator, takes over the investigation. Told in flashbacks from Neff's perspective, the film moves with ruthless determinism as each character meets what seems to be a preordained fate. Movie veterans Stanwyck, MacMurray, and Robinson give some of their best performances, and Wilder's cynical sensibility finds a perfect match in the story's unsentimental perspective, heightened by John Seitz's hard-edged cinematography. Double Indemnity ranks with the classics of mainstream Hollywood movie-making.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
Greed, lust, and actuarial tables -- matched with a drum-tight script, terrific performances, and perfect direction -- add up to a classic L. A. film noir that remains as scintillating today as it was in 1944. Directed by the great Billy Wilder, Double Indemnity stars Fred MacMurray as an insurance salesman who falls for the wife (Barbara Stanwyck) of one of his clients and becomes entangled in a scheme to bump off her husband. MacMurray may play an insurance salesman, but the dialogue is pure hard-boiled detective, all innuendo and double-entendre, with snappy come-ons and comebacks. It’s no wonder -- the script was based on a novella by James M. Cain and co-written by the godfather of American crime fiction, Raymond Chandler. Sporting a beautifully florid, confessional voice-over worthy of Philip Marlowe himself, the masterfully constructed narrative unfolds entirely in flashback -- a storytelling technique Wilder would reprise to great effect in Sunset Boulevard. The lead actors are unforgettable: MacMurray smug and confident from the get-go, Stanwyck subtly seductive and manipulative. Anchoring the proceedings is the legendary Edward G. Robinson in one of his best performances. Perfectly cast as MacMurray’s boss and father figure, he plays a brusque, cigar-smoking claims manager, with a big heart underneath it all, who ends up unraveling the perfect crime. This is genre filmmaking at its finest, and a definitive noir.
All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Billy Wilder only made one proper film noir, but it was a doozy: Double Indemnity is one of the most unrelentingly cynical films the genre produced, with a pair of career-changing performances from Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray and a script by Wilder and Raymond Chandler every bit as black-hearted as James M. Cain's novel Three of a Kind, on which the film was based. The idiosyncratically attractive Stanwyck, generally thought of as pretty but hardly a bombshell, was rarely as sexy as she was as Phyllis Dietrichson, and never as sleazy; Phyllis knows how to use her allure to twist men around her little finger, and from the moment Walter Neff lays eyes on her, he's taken a sharp turn down the Wrong Path, as Phyllis oozes erotic attraction at its least wholesome. While MacMurray was best known as a "nice guy" leading man (an image that stuck with him to the end of his career), he was capable of much more, and he gave perhaps the finest performance of his life as Walter Neff, a sharp-talking wise guy who loses himself to weak, murderous corruption when he finds his Achilles Heel in the brassy blonde Phyllis. (MacMurray's only role that rivalled it was as the heartless Mr. Sheldrake in The Apartment, also directed by Wilder.) And, while they followed the Hays Code to the letter, Wilder and Chandler packed this story with seething sexual tension; Neff's morbid fascination with Phyllis's ankle bracelet is as brazenly fetishistic as 1940s filmmaking got. Double Indemnity was not a film designed to make evil seem attractive -- but it's sure a lot of fun to watch.

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Product Details

Release Date:
03/01/1992
UPC:
0096898017435
Original Release:
1944
Rating:
NR
Source:
Universal Studios

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Fred MacMurray Walter Neff
Barbara Stanwyck Phyllis Dietrichson
Edward G. Robinson Barton Keyes
Porter Hall Mr. Jackson
Jean Heather Lola Dietrichson
Tom Powers Mr. Dietrichson
Byron Barr Nino Zachette
Richard Gaines Mr. Norton
Fortunio Bonanova Sam Gorlopis
John Philliber Joe Pete
Al Bridge Execution Chamber Guard
Kernan Cripps Redcap,Conductor
Miriam Franklin Keyes' Secretary
Sam Gorlopis Fortunio Bonanova
Edward Hearn Warden's Secretary
Boyd Irwin First Doctor
George Melford Second Doctor
Teala Loring Pacific All-Risk Telephone Operator (uncredited)
Lee Shumway Door Guard
Bess Flowers Norton's Secretary
Oscar Smith Pullman Porter
Betty Farrington Nettie, the Maid
Constance Purdy Woman
Dick Rush Pullman Conductor
Edmund Cobb Train Conductor
Floyd Shackelford Pullman Porter
Sam McDaniel Garage Attendant, Charlie
Clarence Muse Black Man
George Magrill Man
Judith Gibson Pacific All-Risk Telephone Operator
James Adamson Pullman Porter
Douglas Spencer Lou Schwartz

Technical Credits
Billy Wilder Director,Screenwriter
Raymond Chandler Screenwriter
Stanley Cooley Sound/Sound Designer
Hans Dreier Art Director
Bertram Granger Set Decoration/Design
Doane Harrison Editor
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Walter Oberst Sound/Sound Designer
Hal Pereira Art Director
Miklós Rózsa Score Composer
John F. Seitz Cinematographer
Joseph Sistrom Producer
Wally Westmore Makeup

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