Double Indemnity

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Billy Wilder

REVIEWED: 07-27-98

Based on the James M. Cain novel, Double Indemnity finds Walter Neff (MacMurray) being conned by Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck) into devising a plot to knock off her husband and make off with a settlement from his insurance policy. Raymond Chandler worked with Wilder on the screenplay, which led to plenty of problems. The somewhat prissy Chandler despised James M. Cain and considered his work little better than smut (which didn't keep him from developing some dialogue that fairly crackles with sexual innuendo), and the personality clashes between Wilder and him are the stuff of legend. Hollywood didn't agree with Chandler's nature at all, thus the final product bears the imprimatur of Wilder more than Chandler or Cain. The film points up the dark humor and bitter cynicism that would crop up in Wilder's later films like The Big Carnival and Sunset Boulevard. MacMurray balked at the departure from the blandly likable roles that he had played in the past, fearing that he would alienate audiences, but he's completely believable as the rather spineless Neff. An obsessive, sick romance, a black widow femme fatale, and a protagonist bound on a fatalistic one-way trip to the end of the line; that's what noir would become in ensuing years.

--Jerry Renshaw

Other Films by Billy Wilder
Some Like it Hot
The Apartment

Film Vault Suggested Links
The Killing
Mulholland Falls
Touch of Evil

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