Sep 4, 2007

Double Indemnity

Rating: 4/5 stars (8/10 if you fall off a train)

This rating has been adjusted for inflation.

One day, while perusing some list of Great Films and noting ones I hadn't seen, I came upon Double Indemnity. Along with several other films, I decided to add it to our household NetFlix queue. Upon seeing my selections, my wife insisted that we had, in fact, watched Double Indemnity together at some point in the early days of our relationship.

"It's about an insurance guy and some woman and they throw her husband off a train," she said.

That seemed to be the general gist, so I allowed, reluctantly, that she might be right. I had my reservations, though.

For starters, I couldn't recall ever having seen a movie with Fred MacMurray (with the exception of his small role in The Swarm), and new him only for My Three Sons. Now I've seen my share of pre-1960's movies, and I might have blurred a few together or even wholly forgotten one (I'm pretty sure I've seen Out of the Past, but I remember nothing about it), but MacMurray seemed to be a total blank.

Another element that I thought I would have remembered was Edward G. Robinson, who I'd only seen in Key Largo. I considered this, and decided that I might be confusing him with James Cagney. Since I was too lazy to look either one of them up on IMDB, my introspective investigation hit a brick wall there.

After a week or so, the movie finally arrived and we sat down to watch it. At any moment, I thought, I was suddenly going to realize that, yes, I had seen it before.

Time passed.

After about 20 minutes or so, I came to the conclusion that I had never, in fact, seen Double Indemnity. The plot was as my wife had described it, and she had clearly seen it before, but apparently not with me.

This left me wondering who, exactly, she had seen this movie with, and whether I might have an insurance policy somewhere that I didn't know about that covered me for accidents and, in the event I fell off a train, would pay double.

My wife made some excuses, but I decided to cancel my Amtrak plans for the near future, just to be on the safe side...

As for the movie, it was a good, if somewhat over-hyped film noir. I didn't like it as much as several others I have seen, which was surprising considering the screenplay was adapted by Raymond Chandler -- easily my favorite writer of gritty and witty detective stories.

The famous "speed limit" scene was excellent, of course. It's hard to see how it could be otherwise, it's so brilliantly written. Likewise, the cinematography and direction are good, and the acting is top-notch (if a little overplayed, but that was the style back then).

Still, it was no Big Sleep, and certainly no Sunset Boulevard. And, as heretical as it may be, I will likely always prefer Miller's Crossing to any of the classic period noirs.

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