distilled essence of film noir,
This review is from: Double Indemnity [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
This film is the test of whether or not you love film noir. From the beginning, when Fred begins his confession as a wounded man in his office, you know that you are going to witness his descent from a successful if somewhat normal salesman into the realm of loser/criminal/dupe. The elements are all there: a quick payoff, a femme fatale, and his nagging feeling that there must be something more to life than his routine of peddling insurance policies to people who live in bigger houses than his measly apartment. It unwinds at an agonizing pace and is painful to watch, but fascinating and engaging all the same. For film buffs, there are many similarities in it to Body Heat.
THere are many original twists in this, in particular the wonderful character of Edward G. Robinson, an insurance investigator who has a "gut feeling" when something is a fraud that will cost the insurance company unjustly. He worries and paces, unravelling in his head the details of scams instead of having a life of his own. Fred is his friend and - as the guilty party in his own murder caper - plays a wonderful cat-and-mouse with Edward G. as he turns his attention to the case. I also loved the way the tension built between Stanwyck and Fred, as he comes to understand that their complicity links them for the rest of their lives. SLowly, Fred moves from loving her to fearing her to wanting to jettison her in any way he can. A single misstep and the whole thing cound unravel. Finally, there is the step daughter, who sows doubt but also is an apparent innocent. She is the most subtle character in the whole thing, I think.
Though I gravitated to scifi as a kid, I watched plenty of this crime stuff. It is very fun and allows one to step out of oneself for nearly 2 hours, a kind of reservoir of the way I saw the world through TV from the age of 7 or so. This is one of the best of the genre. Warmly recommended.