How good can a film about insurance be? These days, a movie plot based around knocking someone off to get your hands on the insurance money is a concept done to death. Back in 1944 that wasn’t quite the case but even then, it wasn’t exactly a new concept. Naturally, I’m wondering if such a thing can fly at all almost 70 years later. That’s almost twice as long as I’ve been alive!
Fast talking insurance salesman, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) is good at his job and he knows it. He knows the business inside out. He even seems to think he knows how to commit the perfect murder. Oddly, the movie begins with Walter limping into his office, clearly in some discomfort, in the early hours. He sits down to record a memo to his colleague, confessing to his so-called perfect murder. He tells us how he didn’t get the money or the girl. At that point I was wondering why I should bother watching the rest. I know he did it and I know he failed.
Okay, so now I’m curious. How does a man end up in that situation? Perhaps the murder wasn’t so perfect after all. Maybe it was and something else went wrong. I guess we have to leave it to Walter and his beautifully written narrative.
Back to the girl and the money… The girl is Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), the wife of a businessman who is simply known as Mr. Dietrichson. She wants him dead and would like to profit from it. At first Walter doesn’t take the bait but the combination of his cockiness and her allure get the better of him.
The events that lead to the confession are not as cut and dried as you might think. There are several twists and turns in what ends up being a very clever plot, laced with exceptional dialogue. After being on the edge of my seat for 2 hours, this one’s getting a 4 out of 5 from me.
Director: Billy Wilder
Writers: Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler, Charles M. Cain
My Rating: 4/5