“How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?”
It’s funny really, how one fatal encounter can alter your life forever… one minute you’re just an average insurance salesman, occasionally imagining up ways to fool the system in the pursuit of a quick buck, then the next you’re a cold blooded killer entangled in a web of deceit, paranoia and lust.
From the instant Walter (Fred MacMurray) laid eyes on Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck), as she stood on top of her staircase with a towel barely concealing her naked body, he was hooked and drawn in powerlessly by her mystique and paralysing glare. At first Walter thought the flirtation was harmless, but little did he know that beneath her bewitching smile something darker and more sinister was brewing. Fantasy and the hypothetical soon became cold, hard reality as plotting turned into action and action, fatally turned into murder.
Fittingly shrouded in shades of black and white, Double Indemnity doesn’t stop at just drawing you into the murky underbelly of the insurance world, instead it drags you down even further, deep into the shadows of human greed and sexual attraction. It would be too easy to portray Walter as an innocent pawn manipulated by the evil of Phyllis, instead director Billie Wilder subtly suggests that anyone is capable of murder, given the right circumstances and that one fatal encounter…
As intoxicating as the smell of honeysuckle, it is clear how Double Indemnity went on to ignite Hollywood’s love affair with the noir genre, because it’s difficult to watch Wilder’s classic without questioning what is man’s true nature. Chilling.