Monday, 21 August 2006

Double Indemnity (1944) - ickleReview (TV)

Classic Billy Wilder film noir, part scripted by Raymond Chandler and based on the novel by James M. Cain. An insurance salesman, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) gets involved in a plot with the wife of one of his clients, Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) to kill her husband and claim accident insurance against his death. "Double indemnity" is a clause in the policy that pays out double in certain unlikely scenarios, such as death on a train.

The story is narrated in retrospect by Walter Neff, confessing his involvement by recording a memo to his claims manager Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson). The dialogue is snappy and stylized, hard and witty - if delivered a little woodenly, especially by MacMurray.

Neff has a habit of lighting Keyes's cigars for him by flicking a match with his fingers. He smokes heavily himself and has an old-fashioned attitude to "dames" and "babes" and a cock-sure chat-up technique.

The plot is compelling, despite these quaint distractions of mannerism; twisting and wriggling towards the end. Nothing is quite "straight down the line" as Neff keeps saying to Phyllis Dietrichson.

Nugget: what makes this a classic? It's fun and a grand example of its genre. Part of its charm now is that it's dusty and old hat: they don't make 'em like this anymore.

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