Movie: Double Indemnity
My Rating: 3 stars
I was fun getting to see the movie that essentially got the whole Film Noir trend rolling. In my head, this type of movie has always been about men in fedoras, smoking cigarettes, fast dames showing off their gams, dim rooms with venetian blinds, and a pretty thin story. And, this movie checks off all those boxes in order. But hey, I guess these well-worn movie tropes had to get their start somewhere! But, the result was that I almost couldn’t watch this movie with a straight face, it was so by the book. I couldn’t internalize the fact that this was the script that wrote that book. So, I guess that’s one drawback to coming to these classic movies so late in life. I’ve been exposed to so much of its progeny, that I almost couldn’t enjoy the original. But, I’d like to think that I can at least intellectually appreciate the novelty that this movie was in its day.
This story is a good, old, sexually-charged murder thriller. A crooked, (fedora-wearing) insurance adjuster (Fred MacMurray), takes up with a mouthy, gam-baring, married dame (Barbara Stanwyck). And, their plan is to murder her husband for his life insurance money. Of course, if they can make the death look like a crazy accident, they can trigger the “double indemnity” clause and get twice the dough. Naturally, they plan this caper while smoking in dim rooms with Venetian blinds pulled. It’s dark and sexy, and I’m always surprised by how risqué some of these old-timey movies can get. Of course, movies back then couldn’t make any explicit sexual references. But, that just means that the screenwriters and directors became masters of innuendo. Banning something doesn’t get rid of it, it just drives it underground.
This is a fun movie to watch if you’re interested in cinematic history. It’s ground zero for the hundreds of copy-cat movies that followed. And, that’s kind of the reason why I didn’t find it to be wildly entertaining. The market has become so saturated with all these noir tropes that I couldn’t view this film with fresh eyes. But, it played an important part in the development of film and storytelling. So, if you want to learn more about that kind of thing, it’s always best to start with the original. And, I suppose watching this film will help you spot references made elsewhere. So, give it a go.