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DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) - The cult classic which inspired numerous crime thrillers in the later decades. (Movies To See Before You Die - Suspense)

29 Jan, 2019 | Movies To See Before You Die / Suspense

The black and white era of 1940s had great suspense thrillers, murder mysteries and detective movies made in Hollywood that are still a treat to watch even after almost a century in the present world of amazing technological advancements. And one of those most famous, much appreciated and widely quoted cult classic film is DOUBLE INDEMNITY released in 1944 as a pioneer crime thriller directed by Billy Wilder.

The film was adapted from the novel by James M. Cain, which was also based on a rare, real case of the 1920s. The plot revolves around a conspiracy by a greedy wife and an insurance salesman, who together make a plan to kill the husband in a specific manner to get the double insurance claim as per the clause of ‘double indemnity’.

It was director Billy Wilder's first crime thriller and earned enough praises from the critics of those times as well as general audience. The film won even bigger acclaim and status in the later decades when the theme and plot was imitated and used in several later films as a tribute to the famous cult classic (including Hindi cinema and you must have read its name in many of my reviews as a source reference)

Interestingly it got nominated in seven categories in the OSCARS including the Best Picture but couldn’t win even a single award of them all. Probably the only film nominated for BEST PICTURE in the OSCARS that didn’t win in any of the seven categories it got featured in. 

Ranked in the 100 Best American films of all time by renowned institutes and critics, DOUBLE INDEMNITY was also considered as disturbing film creating discomfort by a few as it was indeed a first of its kind bold and original attempt in the specific genre. Widely quoted as a masterpiece, it is now looked upon as a film setting the ‘standard’ or the ‘benchmark’ to be followed by all.
In fact director Billy Wilder himself considers this as one of his best films which also got huge appreciation of Alfred Hitchcock when he reportedly wrote to the director saying, 
"Since Double Indemnity, the two most important words in motion pictures are 'Billy' and 'Wilder"
To surprise you further, our own Indian master filmmaker Satyajit Ray wrote a 12 page long letter to Billy Wilder after watching the film which sadly remained unanswered. The legend himself shared the info in his speech while receiving the OSCAR trophy, given from the hospital bed in Calcutta.
Coming to the genre of film noir, it includes all the features associated with the term and is also considered as one of the first attempts exploiting the specific genre in American cinema. The film has the culprit narrating the crime committed with a voice over, mostly presented in a flashback and has a dark theme full of tension with the camerawork and lighting playing a major role in the intriguing presentation. Incidentally Wilder was proud of the attempt made, but at the same time didn’t make it following any specific genre. In his own words,
"I never heard that expression, film noir, when I made Double Indemnity  ... I just made pictures I would have liked to see.”
Having said that, in the present times many might find the film as too simple, slow and lacking the required thrill of a crime drama. But while watching it you need to consider the era it was made, around eight decades back as first of its kind of attempt creating a new wave. So watch it studying the way Billy Wilder treated the theme including the emotions of love, sensuality and betrayal together with a splendid camerawork and background score along with superfine performances by the entire cast.
Written and Directed by Billy Wilder.
Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson and more.

For friends willing to experience the classic, it can be seen searching the Internet Archive at https://archive.org


Tags : DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Billy Wilder Best Movies, Worlds Top 100 Suspense Thrillers, Movies To See Before You die, Must See Movie List By Bobby Sing, Not To Be Missed Mystery Thrillers
29 Jan 2019 / Comment ( 2 )
Neel Trivedi

Nice article, Bobby. It's also worth mentioning that the movie was a huge inspiration for the 1981 movie Body Heat. Body Heat, in turn, inspired the Bollywood film Jism. No surprise there as the Bhatts are notorious for remaking foreign movies, lol!

Bobby Sing

Thanks Neel for your kind words. Actually this film has been inspiration for many Hindi films. Just recently I mentioned in it a review of a Hindi film MOH MAAYA MONEY again based on Insurance scams. Also the Body Heat reference is already there in the 'More Inspirations in 'J' Category' (Inspired Hindi films started from J).

Keep Visiting and Writing in,

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