So I have an apology to make. I told you all that this week you would to get to find out what I thought about Quentin Tarantino’s classic Pulp Fiction. I was planning on watching it on Wednesday night but due to a conspiracy of the gods (AKA other work I had to do), it got pushed to Friday night. And then due to a continuation of that same conspiracy of the gods (AKA more work) my film watching experience was pushed to 11:00 PM on Friday night. So in this new time slot and with my proclivity for falling asleep as the night progresses, my critique of Tarantino’s 2.5 hour film would not have been up to the standards that I want to bring to you, my loyal readers.
So I started looking for a new film with a new criterium: short. After a bit of hunting, I found that The Maltese Falcon comes in at a cool 100 minutes. Unfortunately, Netflix does not stream The Maltese Falcon. But, fear not. To make up for its inability to provide me with TMF, it suggested that I might like either Double Indemnity or The African Queen. Well, it just so happens that both films are on our list and they run a crisp 107 and 105 minutes, respectively. After consulting my partner-in-crime and boyfriend, Fares Akremi, we selected Double Indemnity (which he then proceeded to sleep through in its entirety).
38. Double Indemnity
Big names: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson
One sentence summary: An insurance salesman gets more than he bargained for when he falls in love with a woman and helps her kill her husband and collect on his insurance.
Scene that sticks out: Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson staring at me from behind the wheel of the car while MacMurray’s Walter Neff kills her husband. Ice cold.
Thoughts: Why does it seem to take older movies so long to get to the good stuff? The first half of this movie is meh at best. MacMurray’s Neff tells us (through an on-screen narration which I liked) from the start that he killed Mr. Dietrichson, but the movie still spends close to an hour showing us how he does it. And it’s not exciting. He meets Phyllis, falls in love right away (don’t get me started on the love story. Is this a pre-Frozen Disney movie?), and quickly agrees to covertly sell her husband accident insurance, kill him, collect the money and run away with her. That could’ve been 15 minutes. Instead it’s an agonizing hour of lead up until the deed is actually done. And then it gets good. Edward G. Robinson is phenomenal as a claims adjuster who sniffs out phony claims with the help of his “Little Man” inside (its his gut – get your mind out of the gutter). His fast-paced, quick witted dialogue is brilliant and he’s at his best when he tears apart his boss’ attempt to rule Mr. Dietrichson’s death a suicide. From that point on, the movie picks up and we learn things that we haven’t known since the opening scene. The twists are shocking (but not altogether unsurprising), and the last 40 minutes provide all the action and intrigue you were looking for out of the whole movie.
It’s How You Use It
The time crunch I had backed myself into this week made me curious about how long each of the AFI 100 Years…100 Movies were. Turns out that brevity is not a sin when it comes to great motion pictures. In fact, 14 films on the list have running times of less than 100 minutes and two more, King Kong and the aforementioned The Maltese Falcon, are 100 minutes on the dot. Take a look.
NEXT WEEK: We give Pulp Fiction another try.