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The Duke On “Double Indemnity”

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So here I am, Keyes, yackin away into this funky ol’ speaker thing from out the forties. Sittin in your office, lookin through your shit, pullin out these porn-mags you got hidden away in there. Fucking hell, Keyes. These broads are 80 if they’re a day. You’re a sick motherfucker, Keyes, but that’s what I like about you.

So I guess you’re wondering what I make of it all, when it all boils down to it, what thoughts I got running round the skull with regards this here flick by the name of Double Indemnity. I’ll tell you Keyes, but first I’m gonna give a little backstory, on account of I know you love that sorta scene-setting bullshit.

“Always set the scene”, you told me one time, and I took note of that, Keyes. Sure, I kicked you upside the face and threatened you with a fishing knife, but deep inside I respected you. I always have Keyes.

I sat down around 3 o’clock, just me and a cup of coffee and the television. And also a few hookers. It was raining, Keyes, tapping off the window like as if it were saying “Hey, let me the fuck in, it’s pissin down out here.”

The blinds were pulled just the way I like em, all moody and mysterious, casting funky shadows all around the room.

Chicks dig funky shadows, Keyes. It gets em soaked, is what it does.

The movie started just as I hit play on the Digital DVD. Some folks might see this as a coincidence. Some folks might see it as an act of God. Truth be told, Keyes, I don’t know what I make of it, and I didn’t have the time to discuss it, since not only were two hookers goin down on me at the time, but the credits were already rollin.

This Billy Wilder cat, Keyes. I’ve seen his name crop up a few times. The Lost Weekend, Sunset Motherfucking Boulevard, The Apartment, this cat’s been up to his knees in all of them. Let’s be honest here, he’s no Kirsten Dunst, but he’s up there with the celluloid greats. Probably one of the best Billy’s of all fucking time, Keyes, and you know how many great Billy’s there’s been. Fucking dozens.

Remember Little Billy Morocco? He had two broken legs and still crawled to his Momma’s bedside across town every morning for 43 years just so as he could get some fresh bread to her tremblin hands. He died tryin to save his Momma’s tombstone from a buncha no-good hoodlums tryin ta sell the concrete for the price of a skag-pipe.

That Little Billy Morocco ain’t fit to wipe the shit from off of Billy Wilder’s knuckles, Keyes.

Anyhow, shut your filthy face for ten minutes, how about? What I’m getting at is something along the lines of this kinda shit right here;

Some times in the middle of the night a man gets to thinking. What if, Keyes, what if this, what if that. What if a man just decided to throw good sense and conscience to the wind and do something no jury in the land would stand for, just for to get it on with a broad with a really rather bizarre hair-style? What if he said “Fuck it up the fucking hole, baby, I’m gonna kill your husband stone cold dead so as we can collect the life insurance and take our pretty little hides cross the border to Mexico or Holland or wherever it is we live next to. Damn it, honey, I can’t look at that weird hair of yours for a second longer without wanting to fling a motherfucker off of a train. I want you to push that hair down my throat and let me piss it onto your head afresh. That’s the kinda thoughts I’m thinking baby.”

You disgust me, Keyes.

Well I don’t know if you know or not, but that’s the kinda shit these cats get up to in this Billy Wilder flick by the name of Double Indemnity. This gal Phyllis, she’s a looker, see, even though she’s got this rather disturbing hair-style that a man can’t help but stare at. What’s up with that hair, you’d want to ask her, but you wouldn’t, cause you’re a polite kinda bastard, Keyes, that’s why the ladies let you pop them for free sometimes.

I gotta tell you, Keyes. Sitting here, in this office, spilling my shitty guts all over this tape-recorder thing, I can’t help but wonder. I wah-wah-wah-wah-wonder, Keyes. What if I’d just said no? What if I’d said “Ladies, I don’t care what you say, and I respect your right to vote in a democratic society, but damn it baby, if I put on this film by the name of Double Indemnity, chances are you’ll just disappear into the fabric of time, or at least leave unsatisfied. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow morning with a heavy head and a toilet-full of bile-laced regret. Maybe I’ll think about how I shoulda done you one more time just for old time’s sake. But I doubt it.”

Because I gotta say, Keyes, chances are the only thing I’ll be thinking is something along the lines of “Holy shit, what a fucking incredible motion-flick that Double Indemnity was.”

I’m sure you remember Body Heat, Keyes, in fact I know you do. I remember you said about how it was a value for money rental, unlike Fisting Miss Daisy or Sit On My Face 2, on account of once you were done playing with yourself you still had a great yarn to sit through whilst you gathered your composure. Unlike Slutty Housewives 5, you didn’t turn it off after three minutes and then take it back to the store, all the while weeping with utter self-loathing.

You said that, really, the plot about the betrayal and the illicit affairs was probably just as good as the scenes were Kathleen Turner had some sexes. Well, Kathleen Turner isn’t in Double Indemnity. Come on Keyes, she wasn’t even born, most likely. But I think this might be a remake of Body Heat. Obviously it’s the forties so they can’t shaft one another up the exit, but it bears a lot of similarities.

Except that Double Indemnity is about 89% better in almost all conceivable areas. Let me tell you this for nothing, Keyes, and take note, son. This thing is a motherfucking masterclass in how to be a hard-boiled wise-cracking motherfucker. The dialogue, Keyes, it’s like two terriers fightin over the last sausage in the tray. Just slices through a fella, back and fourth, back and fourth, bam bam bam. It’s the kinda shit gets a man giddy just to hear. Kinda shit a man wants to note down in case he spies any attractive ladies on the way home who maybe need a warm bed for the night and a finger on a trigger.

Let’s be honest, Keyes, those wank jokes weren’t gettin us no damn place.

And it’s so bleak, Keyes, so suffocatingly bleak. Let’s take a little minute for a flashback within the flashback, if you don’t mind, and maybe take a note of how World War 2 was just about to end in a wave of blood and concrete. Maybe note those fellas wandering home after all that time spent gettin bits blown off and blowin bits off of other folks. The home they return to, Keyes, it ain’t the home they left.

These folks should be coming back secure, content, with a future mapped out ahead a them. Instead, they don’t know where to go, Keyes, they don’t know what lies around the next corner, or if it even is a corner, or maybe just a slight bend in this shitty ol’ road headed for shitsville.

And look at these womenfolk, Keyes, would you just look at them? Whilst these fellas were away, the women had to pick up tools and keep the damn country runnin. These ladies realized they can do these things just as well as a man can, and they kinda like the green they get for it, too.

A man doesn’t know his place anymore, Keyes. Masculinity? Well just what the hell is that, anyhow, when it all boils down?

So this motherfucker runnin round in Double Indemnity, he exists in this bizarre, nightmarish distortion of America, Keyes. The womenfolk aren’t to be trusted anymore. A man’s plans end up falling feckless at his feet begging for a bullet just for to ease the pain of falling so damn far at such a rate.

A man does desperate things. Maybe he arranges for to have a woman’s husband killed so as he and the little lady can collect the green and go skinny-dippin in the rivers of opportunity. But those rivers are cold as all hell, Keyes, and you don’t watch, next thing you know a giant blob-beast of some kind is gonna swallow half your fucking guts.

I know you saw Creepshow 2, Keyes. I know you know how inhospitable those rivers can be.

It’s just gone 4.30, Keyes. I’m figuring you’ll just be waking up about now. What’s goin on in that useless head of yours, anyhow? Maybe you’re thinking about how you shit yourself in the taxi on the way home last night. Maybe you’re wishing you’d just done it, just jumped off of that balcony when you had the chance. You were thinking back, Keyes, thinking to that bit in It when John Ritter was looking over just such a balcony, and he had a motherfucking Oscar, Keyes. What do you have? You got nothing. Worse than nothing, cause one time you had something, and you know what something feels like.

So I’m thinkin about this Double Indemnity carry-on, thinkin about all the theories flung in its direction over time.

I had a gas with a fella in a bar one night, Keyes, this fella by the name of Chandler. He was sippin at his whiskey, I was mullin over this dame I’d just left home on 42nd. One thing led to another and before long the topic had turned to film theory. I talked about Kirsten Dunst, he talked about Almodovar, I told him to shove Almodovar up his asshole and leave room for whatever other crap he was gonna fling out his face.

Anyhow, he starts tellin me all about how Double Indemnity is a film filled to the back teeth with queer subtext. He tells me all about how two of the main characters are obviously bummin one another up the bumhole just cause one of em keeps tellin the other how much he loves him. He tells me how the lady in the piece don’t mean a damn thing, certainly not to the protagonist, and what he really wants is to get on his knees and have the other fella shove his sex-limb someplace rotten.

I don’t know what happened to Chandler, although I do recall fisting him for a time.

So I guess all I’m saying is I don’t see this Queer Subtext, but chances are it’s there. All I saw was a man displaying masculine affection towards another. Just cause a man says he loves another man don’t make him gay. Just cause a man touches himself whilst imagining other men touching him don’t mean a damn thing. Just cause a man sneaks out his marital bed in the middle of the night for to get done left and right by a dancer named Marco, don’t add up to a sum worth countin.

But there’s so much goin on in Double Indemnity, Keyes, I doubt I’ll ever work it all out. It’s all about America, about the American Dream, about the corruption that’s gone and gotten in there all a sudden. It’s about insecurity, about masculinity, about femininity, about just what the sweet bejeesus those kinda fanciful terms might mean in this day and age, anyhow?

So that’s it Keyes. I’m headed for the border and I ain’t ever coming back this way. I just want you to know I think your fucking shirts are disgusting. I just want you to know I wanna puke over your face every time I have to look at it, just stand there and lean forward and puke salty orange puke all over your pukey old jaws. I love you, Keyes, always have.

Shut your face, also.

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando

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About The Duke

  • HW Saxton

    This has always been one of my favorite
    Billy Wilder directed movies,”Stalag 17″
    being the all time fave.You can’t beat
    those German bastards when it comes to
    the visual aesthetics.

    You were fully in appreciation of this
    film’s dialogue and I don’t blame you at
    all. It was done largely by Mr. Raymond
    Chandler who was on a major drunk at the
    time of writing this. He had full help
    from the studio to pull this off. Being
    fully aware of big Ray’s penchant for
    drink, the studio watched out for him &
    shuttled him back and forth from home to
    studio in a limo. He wrote great stuff
    while drunk and the studio execs knew
    this.Rather than trying to stop him they
    found it easier to put him on a sort of
    “controlled” drunk so he could knock
    this screenplay off.It worked like mad,
    although giving Chandler(a raving lush)
    his booze was about like giving Krispy
    Kreme doughnuts to diabetics. Chandler
    also has an un-credited,non-spoken cameo
    in the film.

    One of the many great things that make
    this film really stand out to me is the
    out of character casting of MacMurray as
    a slimeball and Barbara Stanwyck as the
    femme fatale. Both pull off their parts
    with ease and aplomb. Genius film.

  • Mat

    Glad to see your going through the classics, Duke. And with the style a mofo like me can only dream of.

  • RJ


    Jesus…(wipes tears from eyes…) you’re the master, Duke. I love you, man.

    Not in a motherfucking faggotly-assed way, either…

  • As you can tell from the link, this movie is out of print. In fact, I called the video store just the other day and they told me the same thing — that the only way to get a copy is to buy it used. I prefer to wait for a fabulous re-issue package; one is definitely in order. This movie just defines film noir, and I love seeing Barbara Stanwyck shopping in her sunglasses; it just looks so weird.

  • If there is indeed a reissue, I wonder if the original ending is still in existence and would be added as an extra to the package. The original ending featured Edward G. Robinson watching Fred MacMurray’s execution.

  • hey folks

    glad you found this critique de cinema to be enlightening and so on. First off, with regards the DVD, at this page right here;


    on my own site, i link to the REGION 2 DVD, which i thought was already out, but turns out it’s not, it’s being released this april. Hopefully it’ll have an abundance of extras, the lieks of that alternate ending discussed up above, for example. Even if it’s got nothing, though, it’ll still be a must-own.

    HW, i didn’t know the sordid details of Chandler’s part in it all (although i knew he co-wrote). there’s something really rather disgusting about that whole set-up.

  • I bought my copy of the out of print Double Indemnity on evay for (gulp) $45.00. I don’t feel any remorse. Even when it becomes worthless after an inevitable reissue.

  • dbcooper

    I will not go into the greatness of “Double Indemnity” nor Duke’s unique examination of said film. I will say that “Creepshow 2” is an excellent horror film, and the final segment dealing with the hitchhiker is one of the best such segments ever put on film. I am a member of the “Creepshow 2” cult, and we recite lines from that segment. The power of Lois Chiles reigns supreme. You folks may wax poetic about Barbara’s sunglassed stroll through a 40s supermarket. I say partake in the power of Lois Chiles’ greatness. Drink from her cup. Fred MacMurray you say? BAH! Give me the undead hitchhiker any day of the week.

  • matt, i know how these things go. Sometimes a man needs to fork out for whats worth forking out for. ie, i recently purchased several hard-to-find Kirsten Dunst pictures from off of such an auction site. Some may fling scorn at us, scornfully. Sod them. We know some things are worth more than money, limbs and so on.

    dbcooper, i am awed by your reverence for this most wonderful of sequels. And what of Tom Savini’s performance? flinging that cape around him like there’s no tomorow. Do you have the wonderful Anchor Bay dvd? i presume it’s available in the US, it’s just been issued here in the United UK. Wonderful.

    Don’t fuck with Wood’n Head, i would advise.