I had only been a few months since the last time I saw Double Indemnity but today’s watch of the noir inflected The Lost Weekend made me want to step back a year earlier to revisit Billy Wilder at the height of the genre. Double Indemnity could be described as the archetypical film noir. Although the genre stretches back further than the film’s 1944 release, it was Double Indemnity which provided the blue prints from which later titles took their queues. Famous today for its voice-over, use of venetian blind lighting and provocative femme fatale, at the 17th Academy Awards the picture was nominated for seven Oscars. Although it ultimately left that ceremony empty handed, the movie’s reputation has gone from strength to strength and it currently sits inside the top thirty on the AFI’s poll of 20th Century movies.
The film is told in flashback and voiceover by Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray). Neff is a talented insurance salesman who becomes an active participant in a murder plot following a chance meeting with the seductive Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck). Neff is at the Dietrichson household with the hope of persuading Mr. Dietrichson to renew his motor insurance when he’s presented with the beguiling temptress that is the lady of the house. Blinded by love or at the very least passion, Neff agrees to help the lady to murder her husband and share in the insurance pay out. Having constructed an elaborate murder plot, Neff’s firm and in particular the capable Barton Keys (Edward G. Robinson) are charged with working out how the supposed accidental death of Mr. Dietrichson occurred.