Thursday, February 19, 2009

And He Would Have Gotten Away With It, Too . . .

Minor chords, murder, characters with questionable morals--I have to admit that I really enjoy film noir. This is the first time that I've seen Double Indemnity, but after reading Paul Schafer's essay and watching a good deal of similar movies, I felt like I knew what to expect. Sure enough, Double Indemnity was a very cynical, gritty, corrupt look at life. Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray are two of my favorite actors from the 1940s, the writing and storyline were both intriguing, and stylistically the movie was shot very well. As much as I enjoyed the film, though, I really don't know if I could call any of the characters cool. At the beginning of the movie, they all had coolness potential, but in the end I can't say that I thought they pulled it off.

Now, don't get me wrong, they are good characters. Barbara Stanwyck as Phyllis Dietrichson was an excellent femme fatale, and was kind of refreshing after all of the lovely sweet leading ladies in some of our previous movies. Fred MacMurray's portrayal of Walter Neff, the insurance man who takes the plunge and crosses over to the dark(er) side is pretty spot on as far as dashing villians go. The character of Barton Keyes was definitely the icing on top of the arsenic-spiked cake; he may not have been bad, but he most certainly was not the picture of just goodness that may have been found outside of the noir genre. Put all together, these three characters, along with the supporting cast, make for a pretty nasty situation.

From the beginning of the story right around until Phyllis and Walter start falling apart, Walter Neff is kind of cool. He had always considered different ways to play the system, and I think that meeting Phyllis Dietrichson really just gave him an excuse to test his skills at getting away with, well, murder. I found it interesting that it was Neff instead of the femme fatale to suggest actually going through with the murder, and I found it interesting that he took it one step further to get paid double the claim. As someone who watches movies like this and always spends the entire film finding ways that they could have gotten away with it, I rather enjoyed Neff's plotting, conniving mindset. However, he didn't pull the murder off, when I was really hoping that he would. Like Jerry mentioned in class, he would have been much cooler if he had gotten away with murder.


  1. I see you're point, and I think it's interesting that Neff was the one to propose heightening the murder for double indemnity. However, I still think that Phyllis Dietrichson should have encouraged the murder. That would make her more of a femme fatal for me...

  2. Ahhh yes, success is the way to coolness... most of the time. Of course, how do you then explain all the cool people that failed but yet were able to die a hero's death?

  3. You may say that the characters weren't cool, but I think they were in one sense - they never lost their cool until the very end. Even then, they were still somewhat calm and collected. Yes, it was in the writing, but it was also in the characters themselves, was it not?