Let's get right to the point. Walter Neff is a murderer: "Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money, and for a woman. I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman."
Fred MacMurray plays the hapless insurance salesman in the classic noir Double Indemnity, which turns 75 this month—and helped launch a fraternity of films about wounded men in fedoras falling for sultry femmes fatales.
Walter's confession comes at the start of the film—so I haven't spoiled anything. The woman is Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwyck. She's a seductive housewife who would be much happier without her husband around. "The other night we drove home from a party, he was drunk again," she says at one point. "When we drove into the garage, he just sat there with his head on the steering wheel with the motor still running. And I thought what it would be like if I didn't switch it off. Just close the garage doors and left him there."
Together, Phyllis and Walter hatch a scheme to kill her husband and make it look like an accident. But in Double Indemnity, it's also a given that the protagonists are doomed. "Suddenly it came over me that everything would go wrong. I couldn't hear my own footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man," Walter agonizes.