Classic adaptation of James M. Cain's hardboiled noir novel by director Billy Wilder and writer Raymond Chandler. Insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) calls at the house of femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) in order to renew her husband's insurance policy. An immediate attraction sparks between the two, and gradually Phyllis seduces Walter into conspiring with her to murder her husband, now provided with a double indemnity insurance clause. The murder is carried out as planned, but the couple then find themselves growing increasingly suspicious of each other as they get closer to collecting the money. When Walter's boss, relentless investigator Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), starts to look into the policy, Walter and Phyllis' steely resolve begins to falter.
Director Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard
) and writer Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep
) adapted James M. Cain's hard-boiled novel into this wildly thrilling story of insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), who schemes the perfect murder with the beautiful dame Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck: kill Dietrichson's husband and make off with the insurance money. But, of course, in these plots things never quite go as planned, and Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) is the wily insurance investigator who must sort things out. From the opening scene you know Neff is doomed, as the story is told in flashback; yet, to the film's credit, this doesn't diminish any of the tension of the movie. This early film noir flick is wonderfully campy by today's standards, and the dialogue is snappy ("I thought you were smarter than the rest, Walter. But I was wrong. You're not smarter, just a little taller"), filled with lots of "dame"s and "baby"s. Stanwyck is the ultimate femme fatale, and MacMurray, despite a career largely defined by roles as a softy (notably in the TV series My Three Sons
and the movie The Shaggy Dog
), is convincingly cast against type as the hapless, love-struck sap. --Jenny Brown