Monday, October 20, 2008

The List: Double Indemnity (dir. Billy Wilder, 1944)

Despite the unfortunate tag line (click on that poster to the left), this was a goood one. I actually got to watch it at the screening I administer each monday night, for a class called "American Movie Genres". So that was convenient. I've been neglecting The List, so I'm glad I was forced to see this.

In it, a woman trapped in an unhappy marriage (Barbara Stanwyk) plots with her would-be lover (Fred MacMurray) to kill her husband and capitalize on his life insurance policy (the sum was doubled in this case by - you guessed it - double indemnity). From the moment they met, it was murder. But killing for love is a dangerous game, as our killers soon find out.

This a really excellent noir/thriller (and I usually say "meh" to film noir). MacMurray, who I'd never heard of before, is "aw shucks" cute while also darkly compelling. I loved him in this. He combines the best qualities of Bogart and Cary Grant, with just a touch of Jimmy Stuart. Very effective antihero. And Barbara Stanwyk is the ultimate femme fatale, providing far more depth than that archetype usually permits. Their talents make you actually sort of root for these people when they commit such despicable acts. The two great lead performances (plus some good supporting turns) are enhanced by brilliant cinematography and a haunting score. The whole tone of this film was so complex and well-balanced... it was all like some beautiful nightmare. Billy Wilder sure does know his stuff, doesn't he?

So yes. See this. Please. It's excellent. Shame about the tag line. And why is the poster PINK!? Seriously. That is not good marketing.



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