#81: Double Indemnity (1944)

When and how did I watch this?

November 16th, 2016, on Amazon Instant Video.

Had I seen this film already?

Nope.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Went right into it.  Didn’t even know what indemnity meant.

What do I know about it now?

I might’ve liked this more if I hadn’t seen it already.  “But you haven’t, right?” This is basically Dial M for Murder, Diabolique and Rebecca with some upgraded dialogue and diminished tension, with the exception of one scene. There’s a setup to have someone killed, and everything goes off without a hitch, but then there’s someone that knows too much and the other party is double-crossing and augh it’s all a mess and people end up in jail or dead.  I mean, I still wanted Neff to get away with it, which is ridiculous, but there’s a subtle satisfaction in the end that he gets caught, as these films usually go. I felt that the film featured generally darker motifs, following the noir formula, and Stanwyck’s performance is the big winner in the film. The film is perfect, really. Once again, nothing is wasted — even a quick move to adjust a folded carpet corner is significant and even symbolic. Both leads are underplayed as romantic interests, but it’s hard to tell if that’s on purpose.  Are Walter and Phyllis really in love?  It was hard to tell, and I don’t think it matters that much. The push and pull of motive and interest in the romance/money is more interesting to me. We never really get a read on anyone, and I think it’s supposed to be that way.

What are some themes in the film?

Conscience and impulses, jealousy, irony

Did this affect me personally?

The tense scene I referred to earlier had a brilliant shot: Phyllis, juxtaposed behind a door but “alongside” a distracted Keyes just down the hallway, with a nervous Neff in between. .

Why is this ranked #81?

Billy Wilder is a directorial genius, and this film is a reflection of his skills. Stanwyck is hot stuff here. And it bears those older cinema nostalgic traits: slow moving, deliberate, and other worldly.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She watched most of it and was intrigued, especially by some of the more tense sequences.

Would I watch it again?

Yes.  It’s the type of movie that requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate it.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

Yes — it’s a perfect example of film noir, and a compelling story.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

This is largely considered a legend of early film, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The pacing and screenplay is craftily assembled; we’re subject to everything it has to offer, from the smooth dialogue to the dark shadows, and the characters appear more human than your average larger-than-life roles. This great film reminds that everyone is subject to temptation, and the unavoidable (and interminable) consequences of acting upon them.

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