Doubly Descriptive

Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity (1944)

Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) an Insurance agent for the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co. is paying Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers) a visit when he meets his seductive wife Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck). Seduced by the flirtatious blonde who bemoans her husband and his daughter, Walter comes up with a scheme not only to bump him off but become wealthy through an insurance policy with a double indemnity. Whilst Walter's plans to get rid off Mr Dietrichson go relatively smoothly with the police believing it to be an accident with him falling from a train, Walter's boss wanting to protect the company from a huge payout is looking for a way to prove it was no accident.

The only people I know who speak with a descriptive flourish where they can embellish a detail by comparing it to something else are writers, not doctors, not milkmen and not insurance agents. So when at the start of "Double Indemnity" we witness Walter Neff enter the offices of the Pacific All Risk Insurance Co. and pull out an old fashioned recording device to record a confession the over descriptive flourishes of his dialogue does not ring true and he sounds more like a hack from a tabloid. Now some might enjoy this because this type of narration is often found in film-noir but for me it is the first inconsistency of the movie. Yes I did say first as there are others which don't ring true from Walter's confidence when he first meets Phyllis to the elaborate nature of Walter's scheme.

Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity (1944)

These inconsistencies and issues annoy me because there is a lot to like about "Double Indemnity" because the entire time the movie is playing we wonder who did the dirty on Walter because of the way the movie starts before jumping back some time. It is one of the things which keeps us watching, that aspect of needing to know how Walter ended up in the need to record his confession and I know that if there hadn't been this opening scene the movie would have struggled to grip the audience quick enough to be a success.

There are also the performances which are good and whilst I didn't take to the characters Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck play them well. But in truth it is the camera work and style which is really eye grabbing and every scene looks like it has been crafted to perfection right down to all the cans on a supermarket shelf looking just perfect.

What this all boils down to is that there is a lot that I like about "Double Indemnity" but due to the over elaborate way the characters speak and over act when they are meant to be acting casually the end result doesn't blow me away as much as it does those who are fans of film-noir.

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