I had seen the classic 1944 film Double Indemnity, a decade or two or more, before I read Cain’s book on a recent Saturday. The suspense that I felt quickly uncovering the short 115 page fiction increased tenfold knowing that I would have to wait to watch the film and recall clearly any differences. I was tempted, seduced into wanting more, Cain wet my appetite–at the same time that I wanted to go ahead and see the film to quiet my anticipation, but I also did not want to spoil it, that suspense. I did not want it to end either, as if I were imagining what I might eat or drink if I could have anything, the dreaming as good, maybe better than the reality.
The story despite its taking place in the Hollywood Hills is full of darkly lit shots and shadows lurking with the femme fatale, played by Barbara Stanwyck, and the insurance agent, gone bad, played by Fred McMurray. McMurray known for being the big friendly guy (think My Three Sons) was cast against type in this role which was a turnaround and an under recognized performance.
In the clip above, you can see how Stanwyck's hair looks gruesome; this was done on purpose, adding to the image of predatory nature. In the middle of the day in sunny California in a grocery store, this shark [Stanwyck] has on dark sunglasses as she pulls this fisherman down into the depths with her. If I had to choose one word to describe the feeling for Double Indemnity, it would be uncanny for the thirst it gives the reader for its wickedness. If I had to choose one sentence to do a close reading - "That’s all it takes, one drop of fear, to curdle love into hate." Talk about spoiling a meal? Like a shark though I’m hungry for more, and Cain’s stories and their film adaptations will make quite a rich spread.