Don’t get me wrong, Double Indemnity is a good film, it’s just not a sacred cow to me. My stance on the movie is due in part because the movie simply isn’t good enough to live up to its own reputation. Yes it is the quintessential film noir: low-key lighting, people caught in the crossfire between good and evil, and of course, a femme fatale. However (and I know this is going to sting) we have to face the fact that Barbara Stanwyck was miscast, she simply doesn’t sell as the kind of woman you’d kill for. She doesn’t give a bad performance, just not a great one. Stanwyck is the wrong actress in the wrong movie. Fred McMurray is not flawlessly cast either as the shady insurance man behind the plot, but McMurray is at least able to change his image enough to sort of get away with it, though at times it does make you feel like you’re watching a local theater troop’s production of a Streetcar Named Desire. Hey it could be worse, it could make you feel like you are watching high-school Shakespeare.
What do we have here: a $50,000 insurance policy, some double crossing, some adultery and murder–the usual noir ingredients. Watching Double Indemnity sixty years later with Mac Murray and Stanwyck prancing their way through the now a tired noir plot line is not too exciting anymore and anyone getting really excited over the plot hasn’t lived the last sixty years.
I’ll take one of its descendants–Body Heat. This one is tough to call–it sits in the fence between crap and not crap.