Sunday Matinee: Double Indemnity

Double_indemnityOne of the all time great film noir films Double Indemnity (1944) has made its way onto Blu-ray thanks to the good folks at Universal Studios. Last week’s Sunday Matinee Touch of Evil was also released on Blu-ray the same day making it a very awesome day for fans of classic cinema.

Double Indemnity is one of those classic films that everyone has ripped off and paid homage to but being a black and white old movie it seems that very few people have had the opportunity to see the movie. I mentioned this in my latest Hnetflix but I felt that Double Indemnity deserves a little more discussion.

The plot has Fred MacMurray, an insurance salesman selling Barbara Stanwyck life insurance on her husband. The insurance policy comes with a double indemnity clause that if the husband dies from accidentally falling off a train, the policy pays double. Stanwyck and MacMurray have an affair and then plot to kill of her husband by fulfilling the double indemnity clause. Afterwards Edward G. Robinson, MacMurray’s co-worker and insurance investigator starts looking into the death figuring that Stanwyck is a gold digger.

The movie was directed by Billy Wilder and Wilder and Raymond Chandler wrote the screenplay based on James M. Cain’s novel. The novel was based on a true story that happened in the 1920’s when Ruth Snyder and her lover murdered her husband after taking out an insurance policy. Cain had covered the case when he was a reporter and there is a famous photo of Snyder’s execution.

The film is everything you think about when you try to describe the genre of film noir to someone. It’s dark and smokey, MacMurray narrates the film like a detective except he’s the bad guy. The film was nominated for seven Oscars but it didn’t win any. There have been a ton of imitations and rip-offs since the film was released. The upcoming sequel to Sin City, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For “borrows” heavily for Double Indemnity.

Double Indemnity is a masterpiece and it showed be required viewing.

Author: Shane Hnetka

Shane Hnetka spends most of his life watching movies and reading comic books, using his vast knowledge of genre culture for evil instead of good.

One thought on “Sunday Matinee: Double Indemnity”

  1. In my book, this is the best film in the noir genre, “The Big Sleep” notwithstanding. Actually, the plot is a bit telescoped in the description above: Fred MacMurray’s character starts off simply pursuing a renewal of the husband’s lapsing vehicle insurance, but as the attraction between him and Stanwyck’s character develops, they hatch the double indemnity plan together. The voice-over narration is a Dictaphone confession in the form of a memo from MacMurray’s character to Edward G. Robinson’s, so that the film is mostly told in flashback. The Dictaphone is a regular part of the insurance company’s operations, so the voice-over is a natural fit rather than a hokey device.

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