A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
No, I never loved you Walter -- not you or anybody else. I'm rotten to the heart. I used you, just as you said. That's all you ever meant to me. Until a minute ago, when I couldn't fire that second shot.
Is she kidding? Walter thinks so: "Sorry, baby. I'm not buying.” The puzzle of Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity,” the enigma that keeps it new, is what these two people really think of one another. They strut through the routine of a noir murder plot, with the tough talk and the cold sex play. But they never seem to really like each other all that much, and they don't seem that crazy about the money, either. What are they after?
Walter (Fred MacMurray) is Walter Neff ("two f's--like in Philadelphia”). He's an insurance salesman, successful but bored. The woman is Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), a lazy blond who met her current husband by nursing his wife--to death, according to her stepdaughter. Neff pays a call one day to renew her husband's automobile insurance. He's not at home, but she is, wrapped in a towel and standing at the top of a staircase. "I wanted to see her again,” Neff tells us. "Close, and without that silly staircase between us.”
The story was written in the 1930s by James M. Cain, the hard-boiled author ofThe Postman Always Rings Twice.A screenplay kicked around Hollywood, but the Hays Office nixed it for "hardening audience attitudes toward crime.” By 1944, Wilder thought he could film it. Cain wasn't available, so he hired Raymond Chandler to do the screenplay. Chandler, whose novelThe Big SleepWilder loved, turned up drunk, smoked a smelly pipe, didn't know anything about screenplay construction, but could put a nasty spin on dialogue.