Saturday, October 15, 2016

Double Indemnity (1944)

Directed by: Billy Wilder
Run Time: 107 minutes

Today's movie has murder,  a complex web of lies,  a relentless investigator, a deadly and illicit affair, and tainted love.  Who knew that life insurance was so entertaining.

 The movie and the book by the same name take their content from the real life murder and insurance fraud committed by Ruth Snyder . The too long: didn't click version of the crime is Ruth Snyder married a man, Albert Snyder, who was in love more with his dead fiancee than his wife. Ruth meets Judd Gray, a corset salesmen, Ruth's lover, and co-conspirator in murder. With the aid of an unethical insurance salesmen, who later went to jail for forgery, Ruth was able to sign her husband up for life insurance with double indemnity. Then Ruth and Judd chloroformed and strangled Ruth's husband, staged a home break in, and then claimed the life insurance. However the police solve the crime and Ruth and Judd are found guilty and sentenced to death.

The movie adaptation takes the corset salesman and the insurance agent and makes them one character in Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray). A successful insurance salesman who starts the movie by racing through late night Los Angles streets to get to work. Not because he's that loyal to the company but because he want to leave a dictaphone recording to Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), Pacific All Risk Insurance's fraud investigator, pointing out all the mistakes in his fraud investigation while he still able.

Towards the end of May Walter paid a visit to Mr. Dietrichson about a car policy that was about to expire. Mr. Dietrichson was not at home but his wife Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) was home and she's interested in letting Walter behave like a smitten fool. In fact, she interested enough to invite him back the next day so Walter can meet her husband and resolve her husband's policy issues. The next day, Walter returns the next day to find that Mr. Dietrichson wasn't able to be there but Phyllis would be more than interested to be the object of Walter's obsession. This turns into an affair and leads Walter to consider turning his knowledge of insurance into a way to find wealth and love.

Walter's plan goes off with only a few problems. He gets Mr. Dietrichson to sign for life insurance without his knowledge, sets up how Mr. Dietrichson will die, and creates alibis for himself and Phyllis. Everything comes together the night Mr. Dietrichson goes to his university reunion. Walter and Phyllis enact Walter's plan, kill Mr. Dietrichson, and then wait for the life insurance to pay out. However chance, a few variables Walter missed, and Barton Keyes smelling insurance fraud, Walter's plan and life starts fraying at the seems.

This movie is a great starting point for anyone interested in cinema and literature. Movie wise this is a great example of the noir genre as well as a well constructed film. On the literature side, this was written by Raymond Chandler. Author of the Philip Marlowe novels and a major influence in the American hard boiled detective genre. Over all go watch this movie, they really don't make them like this anymore.

MVT: Being a fanboy of damn near anything noir, I found myself chain smoking, drinking cheap whiskey from the bottle, and enjoying every minute of it.

Make or Break: Fred MacMurray portrayal of Walter Neff leaves me torn between having a beer with the guy or punching the asshole in the face and then buying him a beer afterwards.

Score: 9.5 out of 10

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