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Author Topic: Double Indemnity (1944)  (Read 2740 times)
Dust Devil
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« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2017, 10:07:02 AM »

Hmm, I have this somewhere. I might give it a try.

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« Reply #16 on: February 27, 2017, 11:29:46 AM »

So basically there are two theories:

1. A person can die when falling off a train by accident. In that case, the salesguy was putting himself at risk because he had never jumped off a train before (or so I'm assuming) and he couldn't have known the dangers of doing this, even when the train was going at a slow speed.

2. As Keyes said, it would be pretty much impossible for someone to die by falling off the train, with the train going at such a slow speed. In that case, the plan couldn't possibly work (and it didn't).

In other words, either the salesguy's life would have been over when he jumped, or it would have been over when he was sent to the chair.

Again, you are confusing the intentional with the accidental.

Keyes does not say it is impossible to die by falling off a slow-moving train. He says it is unlikely that the a person will commit suicide by jumping off  a slow-moving train. Suicide = intentional. If you are going to kill yourself, you are not going to jump off a train like that. Keyes said he has never seen that happen. There are a million better, more-certain, less crazy ways of killing yourself. Bo way would a man try to kill himself by jumping off a slow=moving train.

If you jump intentionally off a train moving 15 miles per hour (as Walter Neff does) there is about a zero% chance you will die. You would barely even be scratched. So Neff was not putting himself in danger by jumping off.

HOWEVER, if someone falls off a train, unexpecting, like  a man on crutches got tangled up on his crutches and slipped, he is not expecting it, it happens instantly, he does not have time to brace himself, and he can hit his head on the track and die.


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« Reply #17 on: February 27, 2017, 12:15:34 PM »

And remember, Keyes isn't suspicious of the "accident" simply because his actuarial tables tell him to be. He also realizes there's something odd about the fact that a man with a broken leg who also has accident insurance never filed a claim for his medical expenses. Now, why would that be the case? Keyes thinks and decides it's probably because he didn't KNOW he had the insurance. But wait, Walter assures him that isn't so. But that Little Man in Keyes' stomach won't leave the matter alone . . .

DI is a very good example of the perfect crime that goes wrong because of a series of unforeseeable events. No single mistake is damning, but the confluence of all events is sufficient to derail the scheme.

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« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2017, 07:15:49 PM »

Even so, what is the chance that a guy on crutches would have accidentally fallen off the train and gotten killed when the train was going so slowly?

Also, the salesguy should have known that if the victim knew that he had accident insurance, he would have filed a claim when he broke his leg. The salesguy should have suggested to the femme fatale that they wait in order to commit the crime. He had been in the insurance business so long that he should have thought of these things.

That was my point - that these two came up with a lousy plan which was poorly timed. No wonder their plan didn't work!

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« Reply #19 on: February 28, 2017, 03:43:45 AM »

Even so, what is the chance that a guy on crutches would have accidentally fallen off the train and gotten killed when the train was going so slowly?

It's not that far fetched, even going slowly if a train switches tracks and you are not braced for it, it will throw you off balance with two good legs.

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« Reply #20 on: February 28, 2017, 04:34:13 PM »

Even so, what is the chance that a guy on crutches would have accidentally fallen off the train and gotten killed when the train was going so slowly?

Also, the salesguy should have known that if the victim knew that he had accident insurance, he would have filed a claim when he broke his leg. The salesguy should have suggested to the femme fatale that they wait in order to commit the crime. He had been in the insurance business so long that he should have thought of these things.

That was my point - that these two came up with a lousy plan which was poorly timed. No wonder their plan didn't work!
I don't think you fully appreciate how well plotted this film is. The train death is necessary to activate the double indemnity clause. The fact that people almost never die that way allows the insurance company to double the payout: 100,000 big ones. There is added risk in going the limit--the company is sure to check more closely on this than for other claims. But Neff figures he can "crook the house" with his inside knowledge. And a train death isn't impossible and insurance companies do pay off on long shots from time to time. It's not a bad plan as such plans go.

But events conspire to trip him up. The victim has an accident and breaks his leg. This would seem to put the scheme on hold, but after not hearing anything from Phyllis for a week, suddenly she calls to tell Neff the guy is taking the train that very night. It's all Neff can do to reactivate the plan and swing into action. He doesn't have time to think about how the broken leg will screw things up. He only knows that the plan was off but now it's on again. He probably hasn't thought about the plan for a week, and when he swings into action his thoughts are focused on all the details he must take care of to fix his alibi and complete a very complicated murder. He's relying on his past planning, which was good. Given enough time, he would have thought the matter through and realized the broken leg changes everything. But he doesn't have the time. The broken leg was never part of the original equation. He is improvising, and he doesn't even realize it.

Most viewers are so caught up in the events that they don't anticipate the problem either. Neff apparently is so occupied with other concerns--the various post-murder problems that arise--that he never gets a chance to go back over his plan. He's as surprised as anyone when Keyes points to the broken leg clue. Because he's on the inside he's able to stall, but at that point he knows it's just a matter of time before he's caught. Unless Phyllis dies, of course.

No, the plan as originally formed is sound. It founders on unforeseen events that rapidly unfold. The film provides a great example of the perfect plan that goes awry due to chance.

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« Reply #21 on: February 28, 2017, 05:55:39 PM »


The greatest mystery about the movie is the cameo of Chandler in the movie:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN9THMXxndw

If it's really him a wonder he never mentioned it in his letters and Wilder himself never mentioned it in the interviews.

That's interesting. Your link also links to a Guardian article:

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/jun/05/raymond-chandler-double-indemnity-cameo

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« Reply #22 on: February 28, 2017, 06:14:55 PM »

I don't think you fully appreciate how well plotted this film is. The train death is necessary to activate the double indemnity clause. The fact that people almost never die that way allows the insurance company to double the payout: 100,000 big ones. There is added risk in going the limit--the company is sure to check more closely on this than for other claims. But Neff figures he can "crook the house" with his inside knowledge. And a train death isn't impossible and insurance companies do pay off on long shots from time to time. It's not a bad plan as such plans go.

But events conspire to trip him up. The victim has an accident and breaks his leg. This would seem to put the scheme on hold, but after not hearing anything from Phyllis for a week, suddenly she calls to tell Neff the guy is taking the train that very night. It's all Neff can do to reactivate the plan and swing into action. He doesn't have time to think about how the broken leg will screw things up. He only knows that the plan was off but now it's on again. He probably hasn't thought about the plan for a week, and when he swings into action his thoughts are focused on all the details he must take care of to fix his alibi and complete a very complicated murder. He's relying on his past planning, which was good. Given enough time, he would have thought the matter through and realized the broken leg changes everything. But he doesn't have the time. The broken leg was never part of the original equation. He is improvising, and he doesn't even realize it.

Most viewers are so caught up in the events that they don't anticipate the problem either. Neff apparently is so occupied with other concerns--the various post-murder problems that arise--that he never gets a chance to go back over his plan. He's as surprised as anyone when Keyes points to the broken leg clue. Because he's on the inside he's able to stall, but at that point he knows it's just a matter of time before he's caught. Unless Phyllis dies, of course.

No, the plan as originally formed is sound. It founders on unforeseen events that rapidly unfold. The film provides a great example of the perfect plan that goes awry due to chance.

I don't think the broken leg fouls him up. (Unless I'm forgetting something,) the broken leg actually adds to the plausibility of the death: Being unstable due to the broken leg, or possibly getting tripped up in the crutches, he slips and falls off the train.  That is more plausible than an able-bodied man slipping and falling off the train.

This is a great, great movie. One flaw, and that's all: Barbara Stanwyck. Can you imagine any man in the world losing his mind over HER??? The second he sees her is consumed by HER??? Even with that anklet on her leg, you would have to put a LOT of rum into my iced tea to get me to even want to look at Barbara Stanwyck. Ugh. And it's not like  she was the greatest actress in the world, either.
Usually I am happy with a great actress who isn't the best looking rather than a pretty one who cannot act. I love watching Meryl Streep. But with a movie like this, you have to believe that the woman is able to drive the guy CRAZY. If Barbara Stanwyck visited a prison in a bikini, I do not think she would drive any men crazy. And on top of that, she was no great actress.  Major flaw in one of the greatest movies of all time.

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« Reply #23 on: March 01, 2017, 01:42:37 AM »


This is a great, great movie. One flaw, and that's all: Barbara Stanwyck. Can you imagine any man in the world losing his mind over HER??? The second he sees her is consumed by HER??? Even with that anklet on her leg, you would have to put a LOT of rum into my iced tea to get me to even want to look at Barbara Stanwyck. Ugh. And it's not like  she was the greatest actress in the world, either.
Usually I am happy with a great actress who isn't the best looking rather than a pretty one who cannot act. I love watching Meryl Streep. But with a movie like this, you have to believe that the woman is able to drive the guy CRAZY. If Barbara Stanwyck visited a prison in a bikini, I do not think she would drive any men crazy. And on top of that, she was no great actress.  Major flaw in one of the greatest movies of all time.

I have no opinion about Stanwyck's sex appeal, but she was an incredible actress! Have you seen her in Baby Face? The Strange Love of Martha Ivers? Sorry Wrong Number? That woman sure could act.

I agree that this is one of the greatest movies of all time, even though I still say that the plot itself was flawed. I read the replies here, but those haven't changed my mind. If it was possible for it to be an accidental death for the victim, then Neff was at risk as well when jumping off the train, even though his jump was planned ahead of time. It would have been very possible for him to have fallen awkwardly on the tracks and he could have injured himself.

And how could he have known that he wouldn't meet anyone he knew on the train? How did he know that Keyes wouldn't be on that train for some unexpected emergency, for instance?

Personally, I think that a lot of these so-called "perfect crimes" would never have worked in the real world. For example, the plot in Dial M For Murder wouldn't have gotten past the early stages in reality. Doesn't matter. I still love these far-fetched stories.

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« Reply #24 on: March 01, 2017, 02:38:33 AM »

I have no opinion about Stanwyck's sex appeal, but she was an incredible actress! Have you seen her in Baby Face? The Strange Love of Martha Ivers? Sorry Wrong Number? That woman sure could act.

I agree that this is one of the greatest movies of all time, even though I still say that the plot itself was flawed. I read the replies here, but those haven't changed my mind. If it was possible for it to be an accidental death for the victim, then Neff was at risk as well when jumping off the train, even though his jump was planned ahead of time. It would have been very possible for him to have fallen awkwardly on the tracks and he could have injured himself.

And how could he have known that he wouldn't meet anyone he knew on the train? How did he know that Keyes wouldn't be on that train for some unexpected emergency, for instance?

Personally, I think that a lot of these so-called "perfect crimes" would never have worked in the real world. For example, the plot in Dial M For Murder wouldn't have gotten past the early stages in reality. Doesn't matter. I still love these far-fetched stories.


 It's a movie, not a documentary.

 Watching movies requires what is popularly known as a "suspension of disbelief."  Most things that happened in movies would not happen in the world real world exactly that way.  If you want absolute documentary-like realism, then feature films are probably not for you.

 Obviously, there's a certain level of un-realism beyond which a movie is so implausible that it's silly and you cannot enjoy it. That level depends on the viewer. IMO there is nothing in Double Indemnity that bothers me as being implausible in a movie world.

The fact that Neff was taking a risk should not bother you - and not just because this is a movie. OF COURSE WHAT HE DID IS RISKY! So is robbing a bank!  People take risks for money all the time. There is no such thing as a sure thing. People commit crimes all the time that involve risks of being caught or harmed, but they take the risk for money. If you think it's  implausible that someone would take a risk - even a major risk - then don't watch crime movies. That's what crime is all about. Taking a risk on the chance that they may get money. Or a women. Even though they know that the plot may fail and they may not get the money and they may not get the woman  Wink

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« Reply #25 on: March 01, 2017, 06:00:10 AM »

I don't think the broken leg fouls him up. (Unless I'm forgetting something,)
Well, you are. As I mentioned just a few posts higher in this thread, the broken leg is the clue that makes Keyes suspicious. Why would a man who has accident insurance NOT file a claim on his broken leg? The only reason Keyes can come up with: he didn't know he had the insurance. But Walter assures him that that's not the case. Still, the problem continues to worry Keyes and his Little Man . . . eventually he's going to figure out that Walter is lying. Walter knows he's cooked at that point. His only hope had been that Keyes wouldn't look into the case deeply. Once Keyes gets his teeth into a case, though, he won't quit until he's solved it.

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« Reply #26 on: March 01, 2017, 06:08:14 AM »

I agree that this is one of the greatest movies of all time, even though I still say that the plot itself was flawed. I read the replies here, but those haven't changed my mind. If it was possible for it to be an accidental death for the victim, then Neff was at risk as well when jumping off the train, even though his jump was planned ahead of time. It would have been very possible for him to have fallen awkwardly on the tracks and he could have injured himself.
Of course there's a risk, but it's slight and it can be managed. For 100,000 dollars you wouldn't try jumping off the back of a slow moving train? Again, the chance of dying from an accidental fall from a train is considerably greater than from a premeditated jump. Being prepared makes all the difference.

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« Reply #27 on: March 01, 2017, 05:13:49 PM »


 It's a movie, not a documentary.

 Watching movies requires what is popularly known as a "suspension of disbelief."  Most things that happened in movies would not happen in the world real world exactly that way.  If you want absolute documentary-like realism, then feature films are probably not for you.


I'm a big fan of mysteries/thrillers which are far-fetched. I'm especially a fan of the locked room mystery/impossible crimes (many of which were written by author John Dickson Carr).

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« Reply #28 on: March 02, 2017, 08:12:06 AM »

I'm a big fan of mysteries/thrillers which are far-fetched. I'm especially a fan of the locked room mystery/impossible crimes (many of which were written by author John Dickson Carr).
I read Fredric Brown's "The Spherical Ghoul" recently; also the Cornell Woolrich one where people keep going out the window of the same hotel room (can't remember the title).

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« Reply #29 on: October 30, 2017, 01:12:41 PM »

A banner movie from film noir's classic era.

Double Indemnity is directed by Billy Wilder and Wilder co-adapts the screenplay with Raymond Chandler from the novella written by James M. Cain. It stars Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. Music is by Miklos Rozsa and cinematography by John F. Seitz.

For a film lover such as myself it feels redundant writing a review for Double Indemnity, because quite simply there's nothing to say that hasn't been said already. The esteem it is held in is justified, it's a razor sharp noir across the board and can be put up as one of the classic noir era pictures that got lovers of the form interested in the first place.

Based around the infamous Snyder/Gray case of 1927, Wilder and Chandler fill the story with a sinister cynicism that is palpable in the extreme. With a script positively pumped with hard boiled dialogue, a simple case of murder becomes so much more, a labyrinth of devious cunning and foolishness, with a trio of top performances crowning this topper.

Technically via aural and visual work the story gains extra spice. Rosza provides a score that frays the nerves, imbuing the sense of doom and edginess required for plotting. Seitz excels, the photography a trademark for noir, heavy shadows, abrupt camera angles and menacing shards of light come to the fore.

And to top it all off, it gets away with so much, a real censorship baiter. The story takes a journey to the dark side of morality, and the makers, bless them for they know what they do, gleefully tease the production code to give film noir fans a reason to rejoice.

Quintessential stuff. 10/10

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