Jump to content
Welcome to the new Earwolf Forums! Read more... ×
DainTheAdmin

Double Indemnity

Recommended Posts

Paul & Amy investigate 1944's murderous noir Double Indemnity! They talk about what lines snuck past the censors, learn about the true story that inspired the film, and ask whether Barbara Stanwyck's femme fatale is actually telling the truth in her final scenes. Plus: comic & crime fiction writer Ed Brubaker stops by to talk about the contentious relationship between Billy Wilder & Raymond Chandler.

Who would you boink, marry or kill from the cast of Singin In The Rain? Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer! Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts.

Share this post


Link to post

Amy and Paul wondered why the movie was set in 1938 instead of 1944, and I wonder if maybe the studio was afraid audiences might not accept that Neff - a healthy, thirty-five year old man - wasn't enlisted in the military. While still a few years from America actually entering the war, 1938 is conspicuous in being the year before WW II began. While Neff is never portrayed as a "good guy," he still needed to be someone that the audience could root for. If there was a hint that he might be a draft dodger or something, they might have been afraid that people would turn on him off him right off the bat..

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

I think my favorite part was when Neff needed to cool off so he bowled a couple frames...and grabbed a beer a Drive-In restaurant.

39441ee315d7a56e72f4f9d369b3c2fb.jpg

Oh, 1944, you so crazy.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
27 minutes ago, CameronH said:

I think my favorite part was when Neff needed to cool off so he bowled a couple frames...and grabbed a beer a Drive-In restaurant.

Oh, 1944, you so crazy.

the-big-lebowski-walter-sobchak1.jpg?w=4

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I'm not sure they talked about this in the episode, but I particularly love the subtleties in the final scene. Neff can't light his own cigarette, so Keyes does it for him (using the same trick Neff always used to light matches for him), then Neff says "I love you too," only not in the sarcastic way he did earlier. A small gesture of pure kindness/mercy, followed by maybe the most sincere thing Neff ever says to anyone else.

Some folks on the Facebook group were annoyed about all the times Neff says "Baby," but to me this pretty clearly indicates how shallow he is and is wholly intentional. He repeats a supposed term of endearment so often that it becomes meaningless. Tells you his motivation is not really love, it's massaging his own ego.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
On 8/16/2018 at 6:34 PM, sycasey 2.0 said:

I'm not sure they talked about this in the episode, but I particularly love the subtleties in the final scene. Neff can't light his own cigarette, so Keyes does it for him (using the same trick Neff always used to light matches for him), then Neff says "I love you too," only not in the sarcastic way he did earlier. A small gesture of pure kindness/mercy, followed by maybe the most sincere thing Neff ever says to anyone else.

Some folks on the Facebook group were annoyed about all the times Neff says "Baby," but to me this pretty clearly indicates how shallow he is and is wholly intentional. He repeats a supposed term of endearment so often that it becomes meaningless. Tells you his motivation is not really love, it's massaging his own ego.

Personally, I loved all the "babys." As I said on my initial Letterboxd review, I liked the movie for all the right reasons, but I think I loved it for all the wrong ones. I got so much joy out of how hard-boiled everything was. Everything Neff utters is pure brilliance.

I also agree with you. As they said in the show, I feel like Neff (much like Eve) is playing a role. His life is kind of whatever, and when this woman seems a little interested in him, he really pours it on. In my mind, all the "babys" and everything are complete artifice. He's pretending to be something he's not - or something he wishes he could be.

(You've got to stop slumming over there on Facebook ;) )

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

What was everyone’s favorite Noir line?

Mine was: “They’ll hang you just as sure as ten dimes will buy you a dollar, and I don’t want you to hang, baby.”

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
4 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Some folks on the Facebook group were annoyed about all the times Neff says "Baby,"

They also started a thread about how unattractive Stanwyck is, for what its worth. 😵

But yea... the 'baby's are awesome. One key to understanding the best noir... is it's funny as hell.  That's how I take the 'baby's.  It is a simple character trait and has its purpose for sure, but it's also REALLY funny.  Besides that, it's a cheap connection between two basically strangers to fake intimacy.  I think it should be clear here, in this movie especially, that every word and line is intentional. It's there for a reason.

Anyway, I had not seen Double Indemnity before and I LOVED it.  Everything.  As a Coen Brothers diehard, I felt like I was watching their favorite movie.  The dry humor, the incredible dialogue, the cool plot, the femme fatale, all of it.  I probably could trace something in every Coen movie back to this film. As a viewer, I felt like I'd been perfectly trained for a noir like this because of them.  

Paul at the end mentioned that next week's Singin' In The Rain is a good companion for Double Indemnity, but I actually think All About Eve was a great pair for it. (Maybe all three are a good menage a trois?)  The dialogue, deep allusions, rewatchability, questionable motives, just the vaguely pulpy fun.  And while I was slower to get my head around Eve than this one, seeing these two really made me glad I'm doing this endeavor in catching up on film history.

 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

They also started a thread about how unattractive Stanwyck is, for what its worth. 😵

But yea... the 'baby's are awesome. One key to understanding the best noir... is it's funny as hell.  That's how I take the 'baby's.  It is a simple character trait and has its purpose for sure, but it's also REALLY funny.  Besides that, it's a cheap connection between two basically strangers to fake intimacy.  I think it should be clear here, in this movie especially, that every word and line is intentional. It's there for a reason.

The first time I saw this movie, I laughed like hell at "Shut up, baby."

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Speaking of babies, I forgot to mention in the All About Eve thread that I laughed aloud every time Bill called Eve "Junior".

I don't think Paul and Amy came to an agreement on why Phyllis used a handkerchief to put the gun under the cushion. I think she called Nino after Neff said he was en route, and their plan was that Nino would arrive shortly after Neff (he did), sit in the predetermined spot (note how she only gets out of that seat to shoot Neff), and pull the gun at an opportune moment. She thus ensures her fingerprints won't be on the gun when another man is manipulated into doing her dirty work and taking the fall.

It's an odd detail for the filmmakers to focus on after being so cavalier about Neff's fingerprints on the husband's crutches.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
13 hours ago, CameronH said:

What was everyone’s favorite Noir line?

Mine was: “They’ll hang you just as sure as ten dimes will by you a dollar, and I don’t want you to hang, baby.”

It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street. How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?

and

Norton: That witness from the train. What was his name?
Keyes: His name was Jackson. Probably still is.

and this one took me a second to get it haha:

Phyllis: I was just fixing some iced tea. Would you like a glass?
Neff: Yeah, unless you got a bottle of beer that's not working.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
6 hours ago, DanEngler said:

Speaking of babies, I forgot to mention in the All About Eve thread that I laughed aloud every time Bill called Eve "Junior".

I don't think Paul and Amy came to an agreement on why Phyllis used a handkerchief to put the gun under the cushion. I think she called Nino after Neff said he was en route, and their plan was that Nino would arrive shortly after Neff (he did), sit in the predetermined spot (note how she only gets out of that seat to shoot Neff), and pull the gun at an opportune moment. She thus ensures her fingerprints won't be on the gun when another man is manipulated into doing her dirty work and taking the fall.

It's an odd detail for the filmmakers to focus on after being so cavalier about Neff's fingerprints on the husband's crutches.

The handkerchief got me too after (I think it was Paul) pointed out that an earlier draft of the script had some commentary about fingerprints being censored because it wasn't common knowledge that fingerprint technology existed. 

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
18 hours ago, CameronH said:

What was everyone’s favorite Noir line?

Mine was: “They’ll hang you just as sure as ten dimes will by you a dollar, and I don’t want you to hang, baby.”

I love that one too. 

5 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Phyllis: I was just fixing some iced tea. Would you like a glass?
Neff: Yeah, unless you got a bottle of beer that's not working.

I didn't understand until you pointed this out, so thank you.

I liked these two.  When asked whether he makes breakfast, Neff says "Well, I squeeze a grapefruit now and again."   And how does Neff spell his name?  "Two "F"s, like in Philadelphia, if you know the story." (and I love how Phyllis was like, huh?)

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

Don't worry, Amy. I got that bad review you've been unable to see. Though I guess I'm crying into the wind on this one. 

Part of it might be that I also saw this movie when I was younger (but not as young as Ed Brubaker!) At that age, the movie was just boring and summed up as "Hey, I wanna do a murder, too! Okay, so we do it. Oh, oops. We got caught." And for all the high marks the movie gets on the Noir checklist, for me it was never *reeeeeally* Noir, because that needed a private eye, caught up in a criminal underworld could be just outside our mundane one. I devoured detective fiction, especially Chandler's, at the time and couldn't wrap my head around something that didn't follow these tropes. 

Unspooled gave me a chance for a rewatch. Didn't like it then, and didn't like it now. Maybe I'm holding on to my young views, but I was still bored. I didn't feel any tension, never felt any motivation from the characters, and thought Neff was a creep from the get-go. So here's another downvote for the constant "baby." Felt like McMurray was trying at bad improv.   

For all the talk of character, dialogue, plot, tone, etc. was there any talk about the cinematography? editing? other uniquely cinematic aspects? On that checklist, there's not much of note here. Many other noirs could supplant this film in this respect. Tried to see if The Third Man was on the AFI list. And it isn't?! 

I will say that I enjoyed listening to the episode. I appreciate Paul and Amy's insights and I did learn more about the movie which gave me stuff to consider. Keep up the great work!    

 

Edited to add: I always recommend this podcast series to my high school Film students, but the "challenge" for the next episode made me roll my eyes a bit. Guess I'll have to mention an advisory warning when recommending this/next episode. Especially since Singin' in the Rain is part of my syllabus!   

Share this post


Link to post
18 hours ago, DanEngler said:

Speaking of babies, I forgot to mention in the All About Eve thread that I laughed aloud every time Bill called Eve "Junior".

I don't think Paul and Amy came to an agreement on why Phyllis used a handkerchief to put the gun under the cushion. I think she called Nino after Neff said he was en route, and their plan was that Nino would arrive shortly after Neff (he did), sit in the predetermined spot (note how she only gets out of that seat to shoot Neff), and pull the gun at an opportune moment. She thus ensures her fingerprints won't be on the gun when another man is manipulated into doing her dirty work and taking the fall.

It's an odd detail for the filmmakers to focus on after being so cavalier about Neff's fingerprints on the husband's crutches.

I think details like the handkerchief might be more like a visual trope than something literal. Unfolding a handkerchief to display a gun gives you just that much more suspense as something is revealed, rather than the surprise of suddenly holding a gun. It might be something more cultural, too, maybe 'cause that's the way guns are kept (question mark?) or maybe hiding something traditionally "masculine" under something "feminine" (again question mark?) 

Share this post


Link to post
57 minutes ago, DannytheWall said:

For all the talk of character, dialogue, plot, tone, etc. was there any talk about the cinematography? editing? other uniquely cinematic aspects? On that checklist, there's not much of note here. Many other noirs could supplant this film in this respect. Tried to see if The Third Man was on the AFI list. And it isn't?!

Pretty sure there was talk about the new lighting ideas introduced for this movie (like having the window blinds cast shadows over the scene). I heartily disagree that this film doesn't have anything going on in those departments. It's done subtly, but I definitely sensed careful decision-making with shot selection and editing (it's Billy Wilder, fer crissake!).

The Third Man was on the original 1998 version of the list. I think it was taken off for being seen as not sufficiently American (the production company was British).

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
52 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Pretty sure there was talk about the new lighting ideas introduced for this movie (like having the window blinds cast shadows over the scene). I heartily disagree that this film doesn't have anything going on in those departments. It's done subtly, but I definitely sensed careful decision-making with shot selection and editing (it's Billy Wilder, fer crissake!).

Oh, I absolutely love Billy Wilder, for the record. I didn't mean to imply that there *wasn't* anything going on in those departments at all. There definitely was intention and artistic purpose, etc. I just feel it wasn't as groundbreaking, experimental, or as worthy of prominence as in some other examples of this genre. Objectively, I don't mind D.I.'s inclusion to a top 100 list, but for my personal list, it certainly wouldn't be in the top 50. (I don't think being listed as #100 would even mean it would be a "bad" film, just not as good as 100 other Top movies.)   

 

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, DannytheWall said:

Oh, I absolutely love Billy Wilder, for the record. I didn't mean to imply that there *wasn't* anything going on in those departments at all. There definitely was intention and artistic purpose, etc. I just feel it wasn't as groundbreaking, experimental, or as worthy of prominence as in some other examples of this genre.

The historical record would seem to indicate that it was.

https://www.gradesaver.com/double-indemnity/study-guide/innovating-a-film-noir-cinematography

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
18 hours ago, DannytheWall said:

And for all the high marks the movie gets on the Noir checklist, for me it was never *reeeeeally* Noir, because that needed a private eye, caught up in a criminal underworld could be just outside our mundane one. I devoured detective fiction, especially Chandler's, at the time and couldn't wrap my head around something that didn't follow these tropes....

...Many other noirs could supplant this film in this respect. Tried to see if The Third Man was on the AFI list. And it isn't?! 

It’s interesting that you suggest that one of the essential tropes of Noir is a “private eye” and then suggest a Noir film to replace it, The Third Man, in which the protagonist is a novelist. If you’re suggesting that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a private eye, but just someone conducting an investigation, wouldn’t that character be Keyes in Double Indemnity?

As far as “getting caught up in a criminal underworld” that exists just outside our perception, I think that’s exactly is happening in DI. When Neff suggests that native Californians are “from Iowa” and they live in “Spanish”-style houses, he’s calling out the superficiality. Even (as Shay has pointed out) all of Neff’s “babys” are a manifestation of his own façade.  Neff isn’t an actor, but he’s still playing a role.

No, DI isn’t about some vast criminal empire or anything, but it is exposing the shadowy underbelly of “sunny” California, which - in my opinion - makes it just as Noir as anything.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post

Yea that's certainly the main theme of the whole thing - a sort of secret double life.  Regular insurance salesman or murderer?  Even just the idea of double indemnity is this sort of secret thing: the contract on its face says they'd pay one amount, but it can be doubled in some situations.  Shadowy crime taking place in sunny Los Angeles?  I think I read somewhere that was why they gave Stanwyck or sort of off-putting, cheap wig, to emphasize her phoniness/facade.

It's a fun theme to explore, and noir is a good way to do that. I'd change Danny's requirement for noir being 'caught up in a criminal underworld' though to just being 'caught up in a crime.'  That's all a noir really needs.

Also, does anyone have any other favorite noir I should watch?

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
13 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Pretty sure there was talk about the new lighting ideas introduced for this movie (like having the window blinds cast shadows over the scene). I heartily disagree that this film doesn't have anything going on in those departments. It's done subtly, but I definitely sensed careful decision-making with shot selection and editing (it's Billy Wilder, fer crissake!).

The Third Man was on the original 1998 version of the list. I think it was taken off for being seen as not sufficiently American (the production company was British).

I agree with the shot selection and editing. The use of shadows and lighting is intentional and beautiful. 

Also, The Third Man is my favorite noir, but I would also guess it could no longer count as "American." In 1999 the British Film Institute named it the best British film of all time. 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

The use of the term film noir is pretty arbitrary anyway. Technically, the last real film noir was 1958's masterful Touch of Evil, because the circumstances that led to and influenced the genre were just as dependent on the time period in which they emerged (pre and post-WWII, Red Scare paranoia, unresolved issues from the Hays Code's effect on the extremely popular gangster films of the 1930s) as the content of the films. That environment, both generally and in that era of Hollywood, was changing at the end of the 50s, giving rise to a whole host of new trends and tastes. But in the 1970s, you had films like Chinatown and The Long Goodbye being referred to as film noir, even if they weren't strictly that, especially since being black and white is a pretty definite characteristic of the genre. The color palette of a film like Chinatown is essential to its mise-en-scene (holy shit film nerd talk!), so it's a pretty far cry from "real" noir in that sense. So to require a film to have plots concerning private eyes and vast criminal networks to be noirs I think is a pretty tall order. We'd basically be limited to Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, which are amaaaaazing, but if we exclude films like Double Indemnity from the genre, what are we even doing? 

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
5 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Also, does anyone have any other favorite noir I should watch?

One really underrated film noir is an early Anthony Mann film from 1948 called Raw Deal. It's one of the first times a theremin was used as a method of scoring a movie, so it has this very bare, spooky soundscape to it. It also features a fantastic turn as a villain in Raymond Burr, who would go on to play Perry Mason on TV for... forever and become one of the most liked actors in America. Seeing him in a totally different context, much like Fred MacMurray before My Three Sons, is great. He's a malicious monster in this film and it's a wonder he didn't make a career out of playing gangster heavies.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post
33 minutes ago, Quasar Sniffer said:

One really underrated film noir is an early Anthony Mann film from 1948 called Raw Deal. It's one of the first times a theremin was used as a method of scoring a movie, so it has this very bare, spooky soundscape to it. It also features a fantastic turn as a villain in Raymond Burr, who would go on to play Perry Mason on TV for... forever and become one of the most liked actors in America. Seeing him in a totally different context, much like Fred MacMurray before My Three Sons, is great. He's a malicious monster in this film and it's a wonder he didn't make a career out of playing gangster heavies.

That sounds great!  Especially the spooky theremin.  

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×