The likes of The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, The Night Of The Hunter and other films have claims to being the greatest film noir, but for me it’s Double Indemnity. It’s a true masterpiece of a film, which truly grasps all the things that made noir great (indeed it created many of them, as this was a very early entry to the ‘genre’), from fast-paced hard-boiled dialogue and femme fatales to chiaroscuro lighting, a duplicitous protagonist and wry narration.
Fred MacMurray (who other than this is largely synonymous with comedy) plays insurance salesman Walter Neff, who turns up on the doorstep of Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), hoping to sign up her husband for some protection. However Phyllis has other ideas. After an initial flirtation, she slowly reveals a plan to sign her hubby up for a massive life insurance policy that pays double if he dies on a train, and then kill him. Using her highly sexual feminine wiles, she hooks Walter in to help her with her scheme. It’s a complicated plan, but Walter believes they can pull it off and then he and Phyllis can be together, but things get ever more difficult. [Read more…]