Double Indemnity
Zach Davis

Directed By: Billy Wilder
Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson, Jean Heather, and Byron Barr
Double Indemnity is a true noir film.  It is told through a narrative form and relies heavily on light and shadow.  When the noir genre was first booming, Billy Wilder was regarded as the prime inventor of this technique of using light and shadow, which ultimately became key to any noir film.  Scenes cast in extreme shadow advance the mystery and darker actions of the plot.  In contrast, scenes in very light settings solve or unravel that mystery.
This feature begins with Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) walking into his boss’s office.  He's been shot in the shoulder and is looking to confess to a murder he has committed.  Walter is an insurance salesman, and he goes on a customer visit to renew an automobile policy with a Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers).  Instead, Walter meets Dietrichson's wife Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) who wants to take out a life insurance policy on her husband with a double indemnity clause, something that would pay out a large sum of cash in the event of her husband's accidental death.  At first, Walter doesn’t want to get involved as he senses that Phyllis has some malicious intentions for Dietrichson.  After she seduces him with the notion of running away together with the money, however, Walter changes his tune.
The two hatch a plot to kill Mr. Dietrichson and actually pull it off.  There are a couple of small problems though.  Walter’s boss Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) has hunches about people and the cases that come across his desk, and he feels that something is not right about the Dietrichson case.  Naturally, Barton begins digging further into the case, and Walter becomes increasingly nervous as his boss gets closer to the truth.  Aside from Barton, Dietrichson's daughter Lola (Jean Heather) has her own suspicions.  She confides in Walter and discloses some disturbing truths about Phyllis that make Walter more anxious about how the situation will ultimately unfold.  Things get even more interesting when Lola’s boyfriend Nino (Byron Barr) gets involved.
Known for his longtime portrayal of Steve Douglas on My Three Sons, Fred MacMurray takes on the role of Walter Neff and shows us a different side of himself in Double Indemnity.  He's able to tackle this darker character and help maintain a suspenseful narrative throughout the film's entirety.  Barbara Stanwyck does a killer job as the seductive Phyllis Dietrichson.  Earning an Oscar nomination for her role, Stanwyck delivers a psychotic character who motivates Walter in some of his darkest moments.  As usual, Edward G. Robinson does a great job in his supporting role as Barton Keyes, a man led by his hunches.  Robinson's Keyes is the main obstacle that stands in Walter’s way.
Double Indemnity is a pivotal cinematic work that stands in a class by itself within film noir, a genre still around today.  However, every noir film gets at least one thing wrong by offering up a dose of cheesy dialogue, and this Billy Wilder flick is no different.  Nonetheless, you only need a few wine coolers with this one.  Double Indemnity gets a 0.03% rating.