While I was working on my undergraduate degree, one of the classes I took was a study of the director Billy Wilder and addressed the question what makes his films so identifiable. My professor called this identification “Wilderesque,” and while his work spans seven decades and multiple genres they all have a common feel unique to this director. Part of this stems from the fact that as he also wrote his own films he had the ability to impart his vision to the story more completely.
For “Double Indemnity” (1944), Wilder crafted a film that is undeniably Noir but differs from the common hard-boiled-detective plot line. Fred MacMurray is an insurance salesman who becomes embroiled in murder after he falls for dangerous beauty Barbara Stanwyck. The entire story is told through flashbacks with plenty of fast-paced dialogue. The use of shadow to create mood and effect only help to illustrate that it’s what you don’t see in the film that’s the most important. MacMurray is at his all-time best and his performance is complemented by Eddie G. Robinson’s portrayal as both friend and foe.
Like Wilder’s classic comedy “The Seven Year Itch” (1955), “Double Indemnity” has direct, witty dialogue that is complimented by well thought out imagery. If the film feels dated at all, its only due to 1940s gender roles and slang. This film is one of the staples on my shelf and should be viewed by anyone who appreciates a well-told tale.