Double Indemnity (1944) Movie Review: Classic Murder

By: Reel 127 (Two Beers) –

Back in the 40s the genre of Noir was on the rise. There was a boom of films in the field that ultimately defined the genre. Among those films, one of the biggest stand outs was Double Indemnity. The film that started the crime trope of “killed the spouse for insurance money.” It’s hard to deny Double Indemnity’s influence with its Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, being ranked number 29 on AFI’s top film list, and it inspiring multiple knockoffs.

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Originally called “Single Indemnity.”

Before they wanted to be less obvious of a rip off.

Double Indemnity is the story of an insurance salesman, Walter, who falls for the wrong woman, Phyllis. The two conspire to murder Phyllis’s husband and get an insurance payoff from it. However, Walter’s colleague Keyes is suspicious of it all even though everyone else doesn’t suspect a thing. Walter must figure out how far he is willing to go for a woman who he is unsure loves him back.

phyllis

Believe it or not, before this show

Phyllis was actually a terrifying name.

A Toast

I would have to say the story is the best part. Everything is so carefully mapped out and told everything that needed to be told. There were no loose ends, no deus ex machina; it’s a shame that this lost the Best Writing Oscar that year. The story is told at the right pace and none of the scenes felt out of place. If a strong story is what you look for in a movie then this is definitely the film for you.

One of the defining elements of Film Noir is the shadowy nature of them produced by the lighting (noir means dark, get it?), and Double Indemnity definitely has a strength in that field. One of the best examples is the lighting used in Phyllis’s house each time Walter sees her. Everything is brightly illuminated the first time they meet, but with each subsequent meeting it gets darker and darker in the house. At their last meeting there is almost no light at all, symbolizing the descent into darkness the couple takes together.

Beer Two

Something that bugs me about this movie is Walter constantly calling Phyllis “baby.” I would be fine with it had it just been every now and then. But Walter says it way too often. Even right after they commit the murder he still refers to her as “baby.” It breaks the tension of the scene and it makes me wonder why they chose to have him say that instead of “Phyllis.” This isn’t enough to sour the whole movie, but it is enough to be bugged by it.

Verdict

An awesome piece of the Film Noir genre. This film should really be watched by everyone. If you still haven’t seen it then you should definitely check it out. At least before Hollywood inevitably decides to do a remake of it.

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If this isn’t safe, then no movie is!

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Double Indemnity (1944) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: every time Keyes talks about his gut reaction.

Take a Drink: every time Walter calls Phyllis “baby.”

Take a Shot: whenever someone dies.

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