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Originally, insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) only wanted
to remind his client Dietrichson (Tom Powers) to renew his car insurance -
but instead of him, he meets his wife Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) ... who
wants to insure her husband against accidents - without his knowledge of
course. Now Neff isn't naive, so it doesn't take him long to figure
Phyllis doesn't actually care about her husband's welfare at all but wants
to get her hands on quite a bit of dough should her husband
"accidently" have an accident. Thus Neff refuses Phyllis's
proposal outrightly of course ... well, at first, anyways, but Phyllis is
an attractive woman, and she feels herself drawn to him, so ...
Dietrichson dies falling off a train platform - only he didn't, he was
killed beforehands by Neff and Phyllis, then Neff boarded the train in his
place and jumped off the train at an opportune moment to then place the
corpse where he hopped off. The perfect crime, Neff figures, and initially
everything goes in his and Phyllis's favour, even Neff's best friend,
insurance claim investigator Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) thinks it was a
mere accident, nothing more ... but then question after question pops up
and Keyes starts investigating, and he begins to piece together a puzzle
that leads to Phyllis as the culprit, but she's sure to have had a male
accomplice. Now it's not that Keyes has anything tangible yet, just a
gut-feeling, but he's a bloodhound who always gets his guy.
has in his favour is that he knows how Keyes thinks, and has enough nerve
to stay away from Phyllis for the time being, and he soon even finds out
that Phyllis has a secret lover (Byron Barr) he intends to let take his
place - on the electric chair. He also comes up with a fool-proof plan to
kill Phyllis and let the lover take the fall ... but Phyllis has a few
wicked ideas of her own, so when Neff turns up at her place to kill her,
she awaits him with a loaded gun - and in the end, while he shoots her
dead, she manages to injure him to such a degree that he stays alive for
just about long enough for Keyes to catch up with him and once again get
One of these film noirs that gets just about
everything right: The narrative build-up is brilliant, there may be little
in terms of action, but the dialogue is sharp and edgy and contains just
the right amount of irony to keep the audience interested throughout, the
characters are all well-fleshed out and interesting, and the acting is
first rate. Plus the pacing is impeccable and the direction subtle without
ever boring the audience, so in all, this is pretty much a must-see!!!