Friday, March 12, 2010

Double Indemnity

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It's odd to watch a movie that is the DNA source for such widely-used noir tropes, but Double Indemnity earns its distinctions. Fred MacMurray's conflicted insurance rep Walter Neff has what Mike D'Angelo dubs a "meet hot" (as opposed to "meet cute") with Barbara Stanwyck's scheming wannabe widow, and plan what they hope is the perfect murder/life insurance scam, which binds them to each other in doom. The (unfortunately typical of the era) framing device gives away the ending right at the start, but the trope forces our focus on the How, as the lust of illicit lover curdles into the grim disdain of two caged dogs gnawing each other's legs off, and, since there are huge dividends paid just in watching the picture, I won't fuss over-long about the frame. The dialogue is pretty much perfect, the performances from the leads (including Edward G. Robinson as Neff's mentor, nemesis, father figure, and conscience) are iconic and perfectly realized. This is essential viewing.

1 comment:

Short-Stacked Shamus said...

For many, they see Fred MacMurray and think My Three Sons (or The Absent Minded Prof.). For me, I always think Walter Neff.

Cain's lean, mean novel is essential reading, too.