Miklos Rozsa’s score has a rustling, agitated quality. While Fred McMurray’s Walter Neff is driving around in preparation for the murder at the center of the story, Rozsa’s score is a musical illustration of anxiety, even panic. If you came in late and wondered what was happening, the music would tell you “This guy’s doing something BAD and might get caught. Stay tuned!”
John Seitz’s photography doesn’t overdo the noir, but creates such different looks and moods for the various interiors. The insurance office, Walter’s apartment, and the Dietrichson living room are shown in descending order of darkness, each a step away from the dark of doom and the light of truth.
Stanwyck’s great moment in the movie: when she doesn’t do anything but stare straight ahead.
Edward G. Robinson’s motor revs from beginning to end. He knows SOMETHING isn’t right, and his devotion to his work is what’s going to doom Neff. Check McMurray in PUSHOVER, where he plays a similar role, but doesn’t have a Barton Keyes after him throughout, just a well-meaning partner. Keyes shows up at Neff’s apartment to chew over the case–he can’t let it go! Here and in the office when the train witness is talking, McMurtry’s expression reflects his growing awareness that he is screwed. Not because of the police, because of his boss, who he knows has no wife, no kids, just his work. Double Indemnity is about the utter futility of going against a hard-working American male, 1944 edition. U.S.A. #1!
Stanwyck’s wig is one of those issues that keeps popping up, and for good reason. It’s bad in a way that could be genius. A week or two in there was some consideration given to reshooting (I can’t recall where I heard this, sorry), but it would’ve been too expensive. Stanwyck looks good in many of her movies, but she looks awful here–and it doesn’t matter. Having nice hair be the deal-breaker is an idea cooked up by someone who’s never lost his/her head over a woman. Sorry, but there it is. Look at the shots of her ankles; again, you don’t have to be a fetishist to grasp that McMurray’s hung up on her being sexual, which isn’t the same as being beautiful, or even “hot.” Stanwyck’s performance is great because, so we keep being told, you can’t “act” sexy, you got it or you don’t. But she does just that, suggesting hidden ideas and desires with looks and her eyes. That she has bad taste in hair and clothes or whatever DOES NOT MATTER when it comes to sexuality.