Film Review: DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) – directed by Billy Wilder

Posted: January 27, 2013 in Film Reviews
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DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) - directed by Billy Wilder

I recently had the opportunity to watch Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY on a brand spanking new 35mm print at the Cinematheque Quebecoise here in Montreal and what a treat it was!

Wilder’s film noir masterpiece was one of the earlier examples of this revolutionary film genre and as a result, the iconic cinematography that these films would later become renowned for is still very much a work in progress here, though the high contrast lighting and dark shadows are definitely present.

But I was struck by a couple of things while watching this film.

More than anything else, DOUBLE INDEMNITY’s major triumph is in its writing. Dear God, what an incredibly snappy screenplay. While some of the antiquated gender politics illicit a couple of cringe-worthy groans through certain bits of dialogue, the overall back-and-forth witty banter between the characters is truly a symphony of words that made me fall in love with the English language all over again.

However, what really drew my attention was the performance of Barbara Stanwyck. Not only was she able to stand toe-to-toe with the likes of Fred MacMurray but she also exhibited a sexuality that puts all the so-called “sex symbols” of today to shame.

Watching her in this film, I was reminded of an episode of THE SIMPSONS where Mr. Burns is lamenting about the trollops who parade on-screen with all their clothes off and how back in his day, all the likes of Lauren Bacall had to do to get a sexual thrill out of him was to raise an eyebrow.

I couldn’t agree more.

Barbara Stanwyck crossing one magnificently sculpted leg over the other and giving Walter Neff (and the audience) a tantalizing glimpse of her exquisite anklet and equally enticing ankle was more than enough to inspire my “Maltese Falcon” to give a “military salute.”

  1. I need to add more old movies like this to my To Watch List. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Shimky says:

    We love this film and have also reviewed it. If you don’t mind, I’ll add our link here:

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