Double Indemnity by James M. Cain and Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Cain, virtuoso of the roman noir, gives us a tautly narrated and excruciatingly suspenseful story in Double Indemnity, an X-ray view of guilt, of duplicity, and of the kind of obsessive, loveless love that devastates everything it touches. Walter Huff was an insurance salesman with an unfailing instinct for clients who might be in trouble, and his instinct led him to Phyllis Nirdlinger. Phyllis wanted to buy an accident policy on her husband. Then she wanted her husband to have an accident. Walter wanted Phyllis. To get her, he would arrange the perfect murder and betray everything he had ever lived for.
In the role of the unscrupulous insurance agent, leading man MacMurray played against type for the first time in his career, and film scholars cite the chemistry between him and the other leads as the central reason for Double Indemnity’s popularity and acclaim. Along with The Postman Always Rings Twice, this film pushed censorship rules in the area of sex. Both movies have obvious similarities: namely, self-centred women with torrid sex drives lure impressionable men into committing murder on their behalf. In both cases there is the inevitable “crime doesn’t pay” finale that was a necessary element of any film in this genre.