DOUBLE INDEMNITY. (1944) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

double indemnityDOUBLE INDEMNITY. (1944) DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. SCREENPLAY BY BILLY WILDER AND RAYMOND CHANDLER. FROM THE NOVEL BY JAMES M. CAIN.

STARRING FRED MACMURRAY, BARBARA STANWYCK AND EDWARD G. ROBINSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I killed him for the money. And for a woman. I didn’t get the money, and I didn’t get the woman.’

Walter Neff, insurance agent.

You can tell from the writing credits (Wilder, Chandler, Cain) just why DOUBLE INDEMNITY is one of the best and darkest film noir thrillers ever made. And the performances don’t exactly suck either.

On the contrary, they shimmer and steam with tension and desire all the way through. Not just with sexual desire, although there’s plenty of that, but with the desire to enrich oneself financially while simultaneously ridding oneself of the millstone around one’s neck, a husband who’s outlived his usefulness. It’s the old, old story, isn’t it?

Fred MacMurray, a fine handsome slice of ‘Forties beefcake, plays Walter Neff, an insurance agent who finds himself one afternoon in the lavish home of bored housewife Phyllis Dietrichson, portrayed here by Barbara Stanwyck. Walter doesn’t mind that her husband, the wealthy breadwinner to whom he would have pitched his sales spiel, is out. He couldn’t care less about the husband once he claps eyes on the wife.

Phyllis, the second wife of this Dietrichson fella, is stunningly beautiful, and don’t she just know it? Her glossy blonde hair falls in artlessly silky rolls and waves, her make-up is flawless and she dresses to seduce, with bling and cling wherever you choose to look.

Walter is immediately smitten with her. The sight of the slim, slinky gold chain winking expensively around one elegantly crossed ankle is his undoing. Bam! He’s in love, head-over-heels in love, and the attraction is mutual.

The conversation turns to murder surprisingly quickly. Walter initially walks out on Phyllis when he susses out that she wants to take out a whopping insurance policy on her cruel, abusive husband, then arrange a little ‘accident’ for the unfortunate man shortly afterwards.

But it doesn’t take long for the spider to lure the fly back into her parlour, which smells heavily of honeysuckle. ‘Murder smells like honeysuckle,’ I betcha ya didn’t know that. The fly takes the bait.

The stage is set for the demise of Mister Dietrichson. The two conspirators concoct a plan that has always seemed to me to be needlessly complex and dangerous. Too much could go wrong. Too much does…

Why does Walter do it? He loves her, of course, and he desires her more than he’s ever desired any woman in his life before. The money is not to be sniffed at either. But there’s another reason. It’s almost a matter of pride with him.

He’s an insurance agent, right? Day after day, he sits in his office reading fraudulent claims put in by people who think that they can fiddle their insurance. Walter and his boss Keyes, played by Edward G. Robinson in magnificent form, know every single trick in the book. Hell, they wrote the goddamned book.

Walter quite fancies the idea of being able to use his eleven years of inside knowledge to pull off the ultimate fool-proof insurance scam. But there’s no such thing as the perfect murder. And Walter always knew that Keyes would worry and worry at this case from the moment he got the bit between his teeth. Keyes can smell a fraud a mile off.

What Walter doesn’t know is that Dietrichson’s daughter Lola, between whom and Phyllis there is no love lost, has some rather disturbing information on Phyllis. It might just shed some light on the character of the woman whom, after all, Walter barely knows. It concerns Dietrichson’s first wife and the manner in which she died…

The sexual tension between the two leads is palpable. The swift, snappy quickfire dialogue they utter in their first few scenes together is a sheer delight to watch. It positively crackles with electricity. It was written by men who knew their stuff, goddammit.

double indemnitydouble indemnitydouble indemnityWhen Walter and Phyllis first sleep together in Walter’s apartment on a gorgeously rainy night, you’ll see no more than the aftermath of Phyllis adjusting her blouse and Walter smoking on the couch with his shoes off, but it’s as suggestively sultry as if you’d seen them actually engage in sexual intercourse.

Of course, they knew how to do things back then. These old ‘Forties thrillers were masterful at showing without telling, if you know what I mean. A fierce embrace and the music rising to a powerful crescendo was all they needed back then to imply mind-blowing, life-changing sex, the kind of sex you’ll remember for the rest of your days.

Those were the good old days, huh? And DOUBLE INDEMNITY is one of the best examples of its genre, one of the finest of all the film noir thrillers. If you haven’t already seen it, go and find it and watch it. It’ll weave its magic on you too. I say let it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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THE MALTESE FALCON. (1941) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

maltese-falcon1THE MALTESE FALCON. (1941) BASED ON THE BOOK BY DASHIELL HAMMETT. SCREENPLAY BY/DIRECTED BY JOHN HUSTON. MUSIC BY ADOLPH DEUTSCH. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY ARTHUR EDESON.

STARRING HUMPHREY BOGART, MARY ASTOR, SYDNEY GREENSTREET AND PETER LORRE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I had the great pleasure of seeing this film on the big screen recently and, I must say, it nearly took the sight out of my eyes, as we say here in Ireland. It was a brilliant life-affirming experience, in other words, haha. It’s one of those films about which people sigh and say: ‘They don’t make ’em like that anymore.’ They certainly don’t, folks. They certainly don’t.

Leading man Humphrey Bogart plays a blinder here as Sam Spade, the private investigator in early ‘Forties America who talks real fast and looks real slick in his sharp dark suit and refers to women as ‘dames’ or ‘broads’ while knowing that, whatever you call them, they’re always trouble. You never know whether he’s going to make love to them or sock ’em in the kisser. As it was the ‘Forties, it could really go either way…!

Sam is the quintessential film noir detective about whom words like ‘hard-bitten,’ ‘hard-boiled’ and ‘gumshoe,’ meaning private eye, are bandied about. Sam Spade is so hard-bitten it’s almost scary. No-one, but no-one, gets one over on Sam. He’s just not made that way. I’d say he came out of the womb talking real fast-like and and cutting a nice sweet deal for himself with the midwife.

He’s sharp as a tack and as smart as paint and he’s nobody’s fool. He suspects everyone he meets of being on the make and on the take and, nine times out of ten, he’s probably right. He’s handsome in a rugged, manly kind of way and altogether way too cool for school as he takes on a small group of dodgy characters who are all searching for the titular ‘Maltese Falcon,’ an historical little ornament worth more than a few bob to whomever gets his mitts on it.

Peter Lorre is terrific as the nattily-dressed and camp-as-Christmas Joel Cairo, the first person Sam meets who’s looking desperately for this little gee-gaw. The whole audience laughed out loud when Cairo demands for the second time that Sam put his hands behind his neck and submit to a search of his rooms in case he’s hiding the Falcon somewhere. I won’t tell you why that’s funny, but you’ll laugh yourself when you see the movie.

Sydney Greenstreet, a stage actor making his film debut here at the age of sixty-one, earned himself an Oscar nomination for his performance as ‘the Fat Man,’ a wealthy auld fella obsessed with finding the jewel-encrusted statuette known as ‘the Maltese Falcon.’

He’s terrific to watch as he grapples verbally with Sam, no slouch himself in the talking stakes, and calls him ‘a real character’ and sets his underling Wilmer on him. An Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actor) for your first screen performance is no mean feat.

I’m only surprised that Humphrey Bogart didn’t get one for his own blisteringly hot turn as Sam Spade, Private Dick Extraordinaire. He would’ve totally deserved it. I liked Lee Patrick too as the faithful and unfailingly discreet female secretary that every Private Dick needs to have watching his back, and the two cops were great too. Sooooo ‘Forties…!

Now for the love interest. I’m afraid I didn’t like Mary Astor in the role of Brigid O’Shaughnessy. (She didn’t sound remotely Oirish, for one thing…!) Her one-sided hairstyle was a disaster and I would have liked to see someone softer, blonder, curvier and, let’s face it, sexier in the role.

I didn’t like all her umm-ing and aah-ing and faffing about, talking all the time without really saying a damned thing that made any sense. I don’t know why Humph put up with her nonsense for so long, frankly. He should have turned her out on her ear. Or said to her what he said to Joel Cairo:

‘When you’re slapped, you’ll take it and like it…!’

I kind of wish he’d said that to me, haha. It’s not domestic violence if a leading man in a ‘Forties crime drama slaps you, after all. It’s just the way they did things back then. Isn’t it…?

This magnificent film, a triumph of scriptwriting, was selected for inclusion in the Library Of Congress’s National Film Registry in 1989, which means that it was considered to be ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.’

Damn straight. There’s a reason that this film is constantly reaching the high numbers in people’s ‘Best Films Of All Time’ lists. It’s a superb film noir with guts, balls and heart and real fast talking and you know what else?

‘It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor