Double Indemnity: Part Two
By Michael Moriarty
Oh, major oops, the getaway car for our, by now, double murder team won’t start!
Oh, there it is, it starts!
Now, a last review of the well-planned plot, and, as Walter says, she’s perfect! No nerves. Not a tear! Not a blink of the eye! Totally ready for possible interrogation.
However, despite all of Walter’s certainty, he knew it would all go wrong!
As he says, knowing it would go wrong, he was doing the walk of a dead man.
He then knows that, under the increasing stress, he begins to act suspiciously!
“I could feel my nerves pulling me to pieces!”
Now the big boss at the insurance company, whom we haven’t met yet, wants to see Walter and Keyes together.
The autopsy: No symptoms of any life-threatening problems!
Just a broken neck because of a possible fall from the train.
In Keyes’ own words: “Verdict? Accidental death.”
And, quite importantly, the police are satisfied it was an accidental death.
The big boss, however, isn’t satisfied.
He doesn’t think the fall was accidental,
Once the victim’s wife arrives at the meeting, the insurance company’s boss announces that he is certain it was suicide!
No insurance claim is possible.
Mrs. Wife of the victim huffs and puffs over the news and exits angrily.
It is then time for our ever-surprising Mr. Keyes to read a profoundly eloquent riot act to his boss!
And he does it even more brilliantly than his eloquent efforts to hire Walter, and at the same, intense tempo.
The Keyes Aria about suicide!
Culminating with the fact that the train was too slow, fifteen miles per hour, for anyone, even a cripple, to commit suicide by jumping off it from the last car.
“We sunk,” declares Keyes, “and we’ll have to pay through the nose!”
With Keyes on their side, how can our Bonny and Clyde lose?!
Just after our killers plan a meeting that very night, who knocks on the door?
With our assassiness on the way?!
Walter warned her not to be seen by anyone when she visits him and?!?!
Who’s there to see her, but Keyes.
A Keyes who’s having second thoughts about his client’s death.
He states the mathematical probability of an accidental death from falling off a railway car when a one hundred-thousand-dollar insurance claim is at risk?!
“Something,” says Keyes fiercely, “has been worked on us!”
Just then, we see our anti-heroine exit the apartment building’s elevator and she’s about to open the door.
Luckily for her and her accomplice inside, she can hear Keyes’ voice and its intensity.
Keyes suddenly wants to leave because of a bout of indigestion. He’ll need a pharmacy to deal with it.
He opens the apartment door, behind which our villainess is hiding, and walks to the elevator.
Walter is now standing in the doorway, and his partner-in-murder has signaled to him that she’s there behind the door.
Oh, WOW AGAIN!
Keyes walks toward Walter to get his cigar lit – a very recurring routine.
Then he walks back to the elevator with his lit cigar and leaves.
We in the audience?!
Who are we rooting for now?!
Do we WANT the guilty exposed and arrested now?!
We see that there’s too much film left for that to happen.
But would we even have wanted it to happen?
What must happen, however, is to watch our killer-couple fall apart.
And they do.
Her fears are at an all-time high because she knows Keyes will be gunning for her and not her accomplice!
Walter tells her, “Shut up!” and kisses her.
End of scene.
My investigation wants to know: What are the all-time but hidden keys to one of the world’s greatest murder mysteries?!
Make the audience feel some-kind-of-sympathy for at least one of the two killers.
Build a storyline that increasingly threatens our favorite killer.
No crime story does it better than Double Indemnity.
And all the wonderful questions we have along the way.
For instance, now that Keyes is only hunting the villainess and not the villain?!
Do we or do we not kind of want our villain to get off scot-free?!
Simply humanity’s flaws during bouts of love!
It’s a thought, right?
The prosecuting attorney would be glad if we weren’t on his jury.
Meanwhile, however, a character who appeared earlier in the film, our victim’s daughter, Lola Dietrichson, approaches Walter, certain that her stepmother, yes, our villainess, has murdered Lola’s father, our not-so-likable victim.
I’m already many pages into this analysis of one of film history’s greatest creation, and it deserves the attention I’m asking my readers to pay.
Great films are not only about great filmmakers, but they are about US!
And our feelings during the film.
Wait till we hear the victim’s daughter tell us how her own mother died.
Yes, the central victim’s first wife.
Apparently, the nurse, who tended to the first wife, killed her patient.
And, of course, the nurse became our victim’s second wife!
Our victim’s daughter?!
She talks about her stepmother’s, our villainess’ eyes!
Those eyes are now, almost a third member or actual third party in the villainy.
The enraged daughter pleads with Walter not to give our grand villainess the insurance money!
We watch him dance an impossible dance with the daughter of our victim, lying over and over again with her, pretending to be the character this victim’s daughter wants and expects him to be.
She believes Walter was not only her father’s insurance man but his friend as well.
Perhaps, because her father was so undeniably his own kind of bad guy, we partly hope the daughter will buy Walter’s increasingly weak story about her father’s death.
This article is as much about our feelings in the audience and also the creators’ intentions about how their story might effect us.
But here, I believe, is where we are no longer caught in the strange charm of Walter’s pain-filled story to Keyes.
We realize, as it happens, as Walter begins to question our victim’s daughter, that he is obviously considering the possibility that he might, to protect himself and his lover and fellow assassin, that he might have to murder the victim’s daughter as well.
Now, with Walter charming and kind of dating this daughter of the very man he and his partner murdered, Keyes is charming us with his justifiably high opinion of himself!
Keyes deserves to congratulate himself on his talents as a detective.
He is able, by now, to tell Walter exactly how the victim was victimized and killed: murdered before he even got on the train and then his body’s thrown on the train tracks, as if, indeed, he had fallen from the last car.
God bless Keyes’ brilliance and Edward G. Robinson’s genius at performing him!
“I say,” exclaims Keyes, “that it all fits together like a watch!”
The only missing piece is sitting right outside the door of Keyes’ office.
We’d seen him there earlier.
He’s the man on the train who tried to do a favor for the man who ends up dead!
Walter’s imitation of that man.
Now the man who did the favor and the man who really sent him on the favor meet face to face.
Fascinating sense and actually dramatic scene of familiarity between the two!
Our single witness to the death of our victim, seems to think he knows Walter from somewhere!!
This film takes us through the thrill of so many possible endings that never happen yet!
Finally, Keyes now knows there were two people involved in the death of our victim.
Since we are seeing this all through the eyes of Walter, watching Walter live through this unrelenting flow of very bad news for both of the killers?!
We not only see the crises that he is increasingly facing, but, at the same time, we hear his confession to Keyes that he is recording himself.
With the great Edward G. Robinson’s energy and urgency to drive the film, our Walter’s face and voice become the perfect screens and sounds in which the deepest of the entire film’s secrets live in.
Nearing the end, Keyes sums up the plight that both Walter and his accomplice are trapped in.
That Walter must hear this while it’s being said is only one of many corners within this film classic’s genius and ingenuity!
Walter arranges another secret meeting with his partner in more than crime.
He confronts her with her other murder.
The death of her second victim’s wife.
The secret of her “eyes”?!
She’s an old veteran at murder.
Crime doesn’t pay; but if it works the first time, why shouldn’t it solve your problems the second time?!
“We’re not,” insists Walter, going to sue for the insurance!”
“There’s no money anymore,” he exclaims.
“We’re pulling out!”
He never ever knew whom he was dealing with.
Certainly not an old veteran of murder.
Of murder and manipulating men into murder.
I’d like to keep the final surprise of this extraordinary achievement by everyone involved, keep it a secret!
I suspect, despite your perhaps having seen it, it’s very possible you won’t remember the final revelation about our villainess’ extraordinary power.
Besides, you’ll want to see it again to confirm what I’ve already said about it.
It won’t be wasting your tim
Besides what I haven’t told you isn’t the only surprise left in this endlessly perfect surprise package called Double Indemnity.
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/@MGMoriarty