Class Act/Film Noir Movie

Double Indemnity

 Click here to order it now: Double Indemnity (Special Edition)

Distributed By: Paramount Pictures

Reviewed by Justine Manzano


            Let’s have a nice warm welcome for the return on Class Act, the every-now-and-then column that I produce about my own school work and what gems it helps me to discover.  My first class act for this year comes from the film class I recently completed.  Double Indemnity is a classic of the film noir style—it is dark, it is filled to the brim with crime drama, it is intriguing and suspenseful—all the qualities necessary in film noir.   

            When I first came across this movie, I worried it would be cheesy.  Released in 1944, this black & white film had all of the behavior of a film noir that have now become cliché in our day.  The sullen voice over, the femme fatale—I was expecting to get a chuckle out of most of it.  What I didn’t count on was the utter respect I would have for the new era of film that this film ushers in and the way that the mystery is put together.  Despite it’s cheesier parts, this film was an utter masterpiece.

            The story follows insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), beginning with him taping a confession to a crime in his friend’s office—having already been shot.  He records the story on his friend Keys’ (Edward G. Robinson) Dictaphone, explaining to him how he managed to commit murder for money and a girl and walk away with neither.  The story than goes on to recap how Neff met Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) and immediately fell for her, regardless of the fact that her purpose for him is to get him in on the crime of murdering her husband and then splitting the insurance money.  At first, Neff is reluctant.  But his friend Keys knows how to bust fraudulent claims, and Neff has learned a lot about how to commit murder by watching how Keys has caught other people.  So he works out a plan, highlighting the Double Indemnity clause of the insurance—if Mr. Dietrichson is killed due to a train accident they can get double. 

            With that thought, Walter is pulled full-swing into a murder.  At the same time, as the salesman of the initial insurance policy, he is sucked into the investigation of the very crime he committed.  He did it all for love, but is Walter about to be double-crossed?

            I know that plenty of people take one peek at a black & white movie and decide that it is far too boring and far too old for them to bother to pay attention to it.  This is not the case, especially in this film.  Double Indemnity ingeniously weaves a tale of murder and intrigue, becoming a pure example of exactly what the hell Film Noir is.  If you pay close attention, you can learn a lot about the film making of that era as well as about film making today. 

            Double Indemnity is a must see movie for anyone interested in film.  It documents an important era in film making, and has fun while it does it.  There is a special edition DVD to be released on August 22nd, which could be a great find for anyone who loves the movie as well as those checking it out for the very first time.  Enjoy!


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