We couldn’t resist including Billy Wilder’s superb film noir in our Brackett-Wilder retrospective, even if Charles Brackett didn’t actually co-write it: After penning an initial treatment with Wilder, Brackett, who was also slated to produce, pulled out — because the material was too unsavoury. You bet it is! Raymond Chandler ultimately co-scripted this adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel. It begins, memorably, with Fred MacMurray, as Walter Neff, staggering into an office, a fresh bullet wound in his side, to make a remarkable confession into his Dictaphone: “I killed Dietrichson. Me, Walter Neff, insurance salesman, 35 years old, unmarried, no visible scars. Until a while ago, that is ...” Barbara Stanwyck is Phyllis Dietrichson, the double-crossing dame who has drawn Neff into this dire predicament, seducing him into a plot to murder her husband. Edward G. Robinson is kindly Keyes, the insurance investigator who is Neff's best friend and colleague. “This shrewd, tawdry thriller is one of the high points of 1940s films ... Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson is perhaps the best acted and most fixating of all the slutty, cold-blooded femmes fatales of the film noir genre" (Pauline Kael). “Perhaps the best example of Hollywood film noir of the Forties — a pitiless study of human greed, sex, and sadism" (Sadoul, Dictionary of Films). B&W, 35mm, 106 mins.
"This is the gold standard of ’40s noir, straight down the line."Time Out | full review
"The cooling-system in the Paramount Theatre was supplemented yesterday by a screen attraction designed plainly to freeze the marrow in an audience's bones."New York Times | full review
"Few other directors have made so many films that were so taut, savvy, cynical and, in many different ways and tones, funny."Roger Ebert | full review
Donald Brackett, curator of this film series and author of the forthcoming Strange Magic: The Films of Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, will introduce the Friday, June 21st double feature of Double Indemnity and Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife.