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Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity  

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  1. 1. Does "Double Indemnity" belong on the AFI List?

    • Yes
      9
    • No
      2

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  • Poll closed on 03/01/19 at 08:00 AM

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14 hours ago, CameronH said:

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.

I just wanted to say in general that in my first post I was trying to explain how I thought of D.I. the first time, which had to have been in early high school or something, when I was really into period crime fiction. I'll be the first to condemn my early high school self for many things, so perhaps this is just others joining in. Those youngsters and their strict criteria for "labels." My god, right? 

Also just to add, I was offering The Third Man as a point of comparison strictly for the more formalistic way (using the film philosophy-nerd meaning) that lighting and shadows are used. D.I. doesn't take a more overt way of using those elements, which is perhaps giving it the edge to the minds of others. 

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19 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Always good to cite sources :) Although I’d debate the historical record of “Gradesaver” in that what they call out as innovation isn't really defining what I was looking for. I guess that’s just me. Don't worry; since my definition seems personal in pretty much all respects, it probably doesn't really add to anything to continue to parse it more and more finely. That being said, I'll concede D.I. was innovative in that, as a 1944 picture, many "noir-ish elements" are used, seemingly effortless and seamlessly, for the first time.    

I tried a little bit of my own research. I only had time for a quick search or two and found that D.I. does indeed predate a lot of this particular use of shadow (using the blinds.) So, OK, granted. Still, there are some use of blinds for shadows in Maltese Falcon (1941) but it’s not to the same intention/effect as D.I. for sure, and of course dramatic lights and shadows have been used throughout cinema. (I’ll note Shadow of a Doubt was 1943 and shows a dramatic use of shadows through a banister for quite similar effect as D.I. Another film not on the AFI list, incidentally.) That’s enough for others to keep DI at #29 or to even rank it above, and it's not for me to stand in anyone’s way. :)  

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I off hand joked about it in my letterboxd review but I'll expand upon it here. To me one of the things that sold this movie to me was how similar in formula and story it was to Columbo but rather than Peter Falk as the frumpy detective we get Edward G Robinson as the the little man with hunches. To me growing up one of the things I loved about Columbo is that you start off with the murder. You see it every step of the way, and you know the bad guy is going to get it in the end so your job as the viewer is not so much who did it or how did they did it but where did they go wrong. When Columbo suspects the murder he never confronts him directly with it, rather he needles him with little things, just shows up and waxes on, slowly unnerving and making the murderer sweat and start to double guess themselves. In the end this leads the murderer going back to recover something or over explaining crucial details or something like that. To me in a way Edward G Robinson was that part. From the moment the little man in his stomach told him something was wrong he suspected Neff, but he couldn't prove it. Later on when Neff over hears him talking about his suspensions over Neff being erased, at that point he never acted prior like he suspected Neff. It made me question whether Neff over hearing him was intentional or not. True this movie did lack a PI but an insurance claim investigator is close enough right? If anybody has ever seen the pilot for Columbo Peter Falk is more clean cut and wearing a nice suit. In addition he is a bit more quicker in speech and more direct. This pilot version of the character is similar enough to Keyes that is makes me wondering if that was the inspiration. When Columbo was ordered to series the character become more unkempt and unassuming, but I'm willing to bet that this movie was a major influence on the show.

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Film noir is one of my favorite genres.  I love this movie but I've always felt it was a bit overrated -- same with Laura.  I guess it's because when I became a huge movie fan and started reading up on film and seeking them out, it was before they were easy to find.  So by the time I'd wait and then it would be shown at a revival house or shown on TV, I would have heard about some of the movies for so long maybe nothing could live up to the hype.  But I adore Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson and I do love the movie.  I understand that the craftsmanship is great too.  I just tend to root for movies that aren't as well known.  It's still in my top five for now, but I'm having a tough time with the top part of my list.  I'm relieved to see some movies coming in weeks ahead that aren't favorites, like the Sixth Sense.  :)

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On 8/18/2018 at 11:21 AM, AlmostAGhost said:

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

In case you haven't seen it yet: Laura.

I can only assume it's somewhere on the AFI List. Speaking of soundtracks, it has a great one. The theme song ("Laura") has become a jazz standard. Gene Tierney was arguably the most beautiful Hollywood star of the decade.

It casts a spell, and there are definite thematic overlaps with both DI and All About Eve.

The Big Sleep is also classic, especially if you're into movies with inscrutable plots.

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I really enjoyed DI, but Neff's behavior was maddening sometimes.  It's frustrating to see smart people doing dumb stuff.  Like the scene where Keyes was telling Neff about the time he almost proposed to a woman, but then his gut told him to check her background.  Why didn't this anecdote make Neff pause and think?  

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40 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

It's frustrating to see smart people doing dumb stuff.

That's what a femme fatale will do to you sometimes.  Who hasn't been there?

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2 hours ago, tomspanks said:

I really enjoyed DI, but Neff's behavior was maddening sometimes.  It's frustrating to see smart people doing dumb stuff.  Like the scene where Keyes was telling Neff about the time he almost proposed to a woman, but then his gut told him to check her background.  Why didn't this anecdote make Neff pause and think?  

Well we are listening to Neff tell the story so you could argue that in his version of events he portrays himself more as the self assured hot shot and he was blindsided by this femme fatale. He could be leaving out details that would make him look bad. That's why I liked Paul and Amy's idea of a movie from Phyllis's point of view and see how much her story differs or changes. Then we get one from a medium who is channeling the spirit of her murdered husband and see his version of events. Then at the end one of the employees from the market where Phyllis and Neff always met comes forward because he witnessed it all and tells his version of events. 

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I can't recommend Ed Brubaker's work highly enough. He just wrapped up Kill or Be Killed which was fantastic but if you are a fan of noir and classic Hollywood check out his story The Fade Out which is a murder mystery about a writer during the height of McCarthyism who awakens from a blackout drinking session to discover in his room the dead body of an up and coming starlet in the studio system and him trying to unravel who did and why,

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2 hours ago, tomspanks said:

I really enjoyed DI, but Neff's behavior was maddening sometimes.  It's frustrating to see smart people doing dumb stuff.  Like the scene where Keyes was telling Neff about the time he almost proposed to a woman, but then his gut told him to check her background.  Why didn't this anecdote make Neff pause and think?  

I guess I just don’t think Neff is smart (sorry, Paul) so much as he thinks he’s smart. I think Paul Referred to his hubris in the episode, and I’d have to agree. He’s so confident in his knowledge of the ins and outs of the insurance racket that he’s either ignoring the fact that Keyes knows far more than he does or feels like he can prove himself as the better man if he can outsmart him. Either way, he’s giving himself far more credit than he deserves.

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5 minutes ago, CameronH said:

I guess I just don’t think Neff is smart (sorry, Paul) so much as he thinks he’s smart. I think Paul Referred to his hubris in the episode, and I’d have to agree. He’s so confident in his knowledge of the ins and outs of the insurance racket that he’s either ignoring the fact that Keyes knows far more than he does or feels like he can prove himself as the better man if he can outsmart him. Either way, he’s giving himself far more credit than he deserves.

All joking aside, I think you are right that Neff thinks much more highly of his intellectual abilities than he should. In the scene where Keyes comes in to offer the promotion I think we get a very good look at Neff's over confidence in himself and his abilities. Keyes is offering him a job, but it's not just a job it is a job that puts him on a path for the future. He'll work under Keyes, then when Keyes moves on, Neff takes his job, and so on and so forth and he's on the fast track up the ladder. Rather than be a salesman who has no real advancement opportunities but makes more for the time being. Neff thinks himself too good to be "an assistant" at a lower pay level while missing the actual implications of the offer he's being given. You could probably drawn something from this about Neff thinking more of the now than the future which ultimately plays a large part of his downfall as well.

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This is my first time posting over here on the Unspooled message board, but since Double Indemnity is my absolute favorite movie of all time I thought I'd chime in with some of my thoughts regarding the film.

1. Every time Edward G. Robinson is on the screen in this film does for me what I often hear people who discuss Heath Ledger' s Joker does for The Dark Knight (and deserving so: Ledger was a revelation in that roll of course). One of my favorite aspects of Keyes' character is that, true to his last name, he's able to gleefully unlock Phyllis and Walter's scheme (up to a point), even going so far to realize that Mr. Dietrichson wasn't even on the train, but rather a "someone else" posing as him. Papa's got it all figured out.

2. Paul questioned a couple of times why this movie has never been remade, but it actually was. In the mid-70's Double Indemnity got a hilariously abyssal, shot-for-near-shot made-for-TV update starring Rambo's William Crenna.  It came as a bonus disc with the remastered Universal Legacy Series edition of Double Indemnity, and deserves a HDTGM outing all its own (the TV version, that is). One of the most entertaining scene in the remake is when the main characters "attempt" the famous  "How fast was I going, officer?" scene, and it just deflates right there in front of the camera before the scene gets going, as if the actors just got tired and gave up.

3. When he wasn't ripping off Quentin Tarantino's early films wholesale, British director Guy Ritchie would find time to lift and mutate lines of dialogue from other famous films as well. For example, here's a line of  dialogue from Benicio Del Toro's Franky Four Fingers in 2000's Snatch "I am not in Rome, Doug. I'm in a rush," which is a simply variation on Keye's "Well, we're not in Medford now, we're in a hurry." Revenge for what we did to The Office? Who knows?

4. Billy Wilder's follow-up, The Lost Weekend is a direct jab at Raymond Chandler, as the character in that film is supposed to be Chandler himself.

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Count me as all in on Double Indemnity. It was the first film noir I saw when I went into my post college "I love classic films" phase, and it definitely stuck. I love the comparison of Keys to the Ledger version of the Joker, how apt! Though I'm surprised that while they mentioned the very actor-ly young lady who played the daughter, they seem to have skipped the even MORE actor-ly guy who played Keys and Neff's superior. His interrogation of Mrs. Dietrichson was almost funny because the way he talks was basically like "What accent even IS that?" 

Maltese Falcon has to be on this list, too, right? 

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5 minutes ago, Ludofl3x said:

Maltese Falcon has to be on this list, too, right? 

It is, yea.  It's placed in a virtual tie with Double Indemnity.  (DI is #29, Maltese is #31.)

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When I was growing up, I didn't know Robinson was generally a bad guy in mobster movies from the early days of Hollywood. When I first saw him as Keys, I said "Hey, that's the guy from The Ten Commandments, the traitorous sellout guy!" 

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On 8/19/2018 at 11:06 PM, joshg said:

In case you haven't seen it yet: Laura.

I can only assume it's somewhere on the AFI List. Speaking of soundtracks, it has a great one. The theme song ("Laura") has become a jazz standard. Gene Tierney was arguably the most beautiful Hollywood star of the decade.

It casts a spell, and there are definite thematic overlaps with both DI and All About Eve.

The Big Sleep is also classic, especially if you're into movies with inscrutable plots.

If you enjoy Laura (and you better or, really, what the hell are you doing here?), I encourage you to check out Where the Sidewalk Ends from 1950. It re-teams Otto Preminger, Gene Tierney, and Dana Andrews from Laura for another bit of noir deliciousness. It's not one of the Great Films the way, in my opinion, Laura is, but if you are a fan of the genre, and are enraptured by Gene Tierney, it's definitely worth checking out.

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