Film Analysis of Double Indemnity Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2445 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Film

Film Analysis of Double Indemnity

"From the moment they met, it was murder!" This is the legendary tag line for Billy Wilder's most incisive film noir, Double Indemnity, even though in 1944, when it was first released in New York on September 11, critics called it a melodrama, an elongated dose of premeditated suspense," "with a pragmatism evocative of earlier period French films [poetic realism of the 1930s]," with characters as rough, solid and inflexible as steel.

Even though James M. Cain is accredited as the original novel and Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder contribute to screenplay credit, the film is in fact based on the case of Ruth Snyder, a criminal murderess who breathed her last breath in the electric chair on January 13, 1928. Supported by Miklos Rozsa's throbbing film score and John Seitz's expressionistic black-and-white camera work, Wilder had no valid idea he was filming in a technique called "noir"; he found out about this many years later, to his great astonishment.

In Double Indemnity, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), a to some extent cute but dim insurance agent, becomes prey to the charms of a flirtatious blonde, Phyllis Dietrieckson. (Barbara Stanwyck), an anklet-sporting femme fatale/housewife. She plots to kill her husband in a "railroad mishap" that would bring her a double indemnity insurance imbursement. What makes this film a wonderful case in point of the culture and style of film noir is that, as stated by the movie production convention of the period, jealousy becomes a part of Walter's relationship with Phyllis after he does the crime. Thinking she has an additional, much younger admirer, he murders her in a rage of jealousy, then in all probability bleeds to death from a shot fired by the perishing Phyllis, having first relegated the complete story of the film in a two-hour flashback. (in the new novel, Walter and Phyllis go off jointly on a journey, happily back together.) in accordance with the "crime doesn't pay" principles of the era, Billy Wilder even added a shot of Neff dying in the San Quentin gas chamber, but thought the film looked better with the film concluding as Neff hears the wails of police and/or ambulance sirens approaching. Double Indemnity is the most excellent example of a noir film to date: rough as sandpaper, with acerbic, wrenching dialogue and practical sets. Watch Walter and Phyllis as they get together in a luminous white southern California superstore, sporting dark glasses, not shopping or still watching each other while plotting up plans for a homicide. And those magnificent lines: "Yes, I killed him for money and for a woman. I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?," "There was no way in the world I may perhaps have known that murder occasionally can smell like honeysuckle," or "I couldn't hear my footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man,."

Double Indemnity moreover has a homoerotic bond between Walter Neff and Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), the claims examiner who believes Phyllis, but not Walter, of the crime. Wilder underplayed the father-son relationship in addition to the "police routine" constituent that could have made his film a "detective tale" more willingly than a twisty noir, which is what it in actuality is. Wilder took the focal point off Robinson's role and cultivated his viewpoint, in disparity to the many detective films of the age that instigated in novels of Raymond Chandler, his co-conspirator. By modeling Double Indemnity into a homicidal melodrama with sexual insinuations, Wilder produced a rational crime accomplishment.

The Book and the Film

Wilder's film and Cain's novel -- even supposing it does not credit the book as its source. Body Heat can be expressed as a masquerading or unacknowledged remake, a film that repeats basic story units from the Cain novel (and Wilder adaptation) but changes the details of its name, location, period, character names and the those like it. For want of a screen credit recognizing the source property, the remake becomes a hypothetical construct or role of the film's production and response. Imperative here is Cain's standing, and the untimely 1980s revitalization of notice in Cain's work, nevertheless more important is Double Indemnity's advantaged place in the noir principle. A small number would refute that Double Indemnity is a perfect film noir and one of the most significant movies in Hollywood history. It was an unconventional film, challenging almost a decade of Production Code battles to & #8230; Cain's literature. Frank Krutnik in the same way declares that Double Indemnity was traditionally significant in the growth of the 1940s erotic crime thriller, setting up through its depiction of the Cain tale a model for the story & #8230; structures of following film noirs. Lately, Brian De Palma (whose reverence to Alfred Hitchcock are well-known) has paid compliment to film noir, by the opening scene in Femme Fatale (2002) with the title character, Laure Ash (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), mirrored in a hotel room television screen as she gazes at the Barbara Stanwyck model in Double Indemnity. These instances of Double Indemnity's repute and standing in film history help make clear why critics such as Leitch openly match up Body Heat to Wilder's version, but do not take heed to Double Indemnity had previously been more honestly remade as a lesser-known movie for television, intended for by Jack Smight in 1973.

Double Indemnity starts with Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), bleeding from a bullet wound, stumbling into his office in the Pacific Insurance Building. Neff talks into his dictaphone and his narrative of an unholy love and an just about perfect crime unfurls in flashback. Neff is an insurance salesman who becomes entangled with the beautiful and treacherous Phyllis. Phyllis encourages Walter not only to lend a hand her take out a $100,000 life insurance policy on her spouse, but also to assist her in murdering him. Jointly they simulate Dietrichson's inadvertent death in order to meet the criteria for the 'double indemnity', but things go awry when Neff's manager, Barton Keyes, starts to infer murder. Neff starts an acquaintance with Phyllis's step-daughter Lola, who suspects that Phyllis has started going out with her (Lola's) previous boyfriend Nino Zachetti. Believing he has been deceived, Neff plots a plan to murder Phyllis and trap Zachetti. In an argument in the gloomy, Dietrichson sitting room, Walter slays Phyllis, but not before she gravely stabs him. Towards the end, the narrative turns back to the current day where the dying Walter is reassured by the paternal Keyes.

Even though Wilder's Double Indemnity is frequently thought of as the 'original' alongside which Kasdan's noir remake is weighed up, Body Heat can more generally be seen as a remaking of Cain's composition (or no less than those works by which he is best kept in mind). Some critics go as far as to dispute that Double Indemnity was a case of auto-citation, produced by [Cain] in full familiarity of the fact that he was paying his own homage to [the] Postman':

Both tell fundamentally a similar story: an all too obedient male is enchanted by a physically powerful and scheming lady. With her inspiring it and with him ironing out of the details, the disloyal couple carry out a perfect murder of the woman's husband. Afterward, when they are practically free, providence (or irony)

swipes them with its gigantic lumbering paw and they are given their just desserts but for different reasons.

Such an association makes possible for one to recognize noir essentials -- for example the hard-boiled conversation and portrayal of bare (and graphic) animal covetousness -- that are universal to both the Postman and Double Indemnity. For example, Body Heat is considered for dialogue for example Ned's 'You shouldn't wear that body', and Matty's 'You're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man'. On the other hand, at an even higher plane of generalization, it can be said that Body Heat at the same time refers to and remakes the noir genre to which its intertexts belong.

Film Noir

For a moment or two, both the problem movies and the semi-documentary crime thrillers made it appear that Italian neorealism had established a habitat in an anxious, if prosperous, America. One of the preeminent things that is taking place in Hollywood is the propensity to move out of the place -- to support imaginary pictures on information and, more significantly, to shoot them not in decorated studio sets but in authentic places. But an additional assortment of postwar American film, one which was dependent on the restricted environment of the studio on top of bona fide locations for its representation of the sordid underbelly of American life, soon became apparent. This was film noir (more exactly, "black film"), invented and named by French critics in 1946 when, experiencing American motion pictures for the first time ever since 1940, they alleged a weird and wonderful new mood of cynicism, dimness, and depression in definite crime films and melodramas.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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