Double Indemnity

BBFC PG Certificate

(1944) 107 mins

Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler
Cinematography: John F Seitz
Production Design: David S Hall
Music: Miklós Rózsa



Smooth-talking insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) meets seductive Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) when he calls to renew her husband’s automobile policy. The couple are immediately drawn to each other and an affair begins. They cook up a scheme to murder Mr. Dietrichson for life insurance money with a double indemnity clause. Unfortunately, all does not go to plan…

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Such folks as delight in murder stories for their academic elegance alone should find this one steadily diverting, despite its monotonous pace and length.  Indeed, the fans of James M Cain’s tough fiction might gloat over it with gleaming joy.  For Billy Wilder has filmed the Cain story of the brassy couple who attempt a “perfect crime”, in order to collect some insurance, with a realism reminiscent of the bite of past French films.  He has detailed the stalking of their victim with the frigid thoroughness of a coroner’s report, and he has pictured their psychological crack-up as a sadist would pluck out a spider’s legs.  No objection to the temper of this picture; it is as hard and inflexible as steel.”  New York Times, 1944

Told in flashback by a wounded Neff, confessing into his office dictaphone, the crime, it seems, wasn’t so perfect after all.  Closer to perfection is the screenplay and direction. Raymond Chandler’s dialogue, like Walter, shoots along at around 90 miles an hour, as he and Phyllis spar verbally in lieu of jumping into bed – this is cleverly implied. MacMurray and Stanwyck sparkle as the amoral duo out for themselves and Robinson provides the perfect foil as the office know-it-all.”  Eye for Film, 2005

Sat 28 Aug Denshaw




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