Double Indemnity (Paramount) is the season's nattiest, nastiest, most satisfying melodrama. James M. Cain's novelette was carnal and criminal well beyond screen convention. Director Billy Wilder's casting is just as unconventional. Naturals for their parts are Fred MacMurray as an insurance salesman capable of murder; Barbara Stanwyck as the unprintable blonde (for the occasion) who exploits his capabilities; Edward G. Robinson as the insurance-claims sleuth who sniffs out the flaws in their all-but-perfect crime.
Insurance Salesman MacMurray first visits Miss Stanwyck's dreary suburban Los Angeles chalet to sell her husband a policy, not to murder him. But leggy Miss Stanwyck is already dreaming of homicide and a gay widowhood financed by her husband's insurance money. In a trice infatuated Salesman MacMurray lends a hand. He tricks her husband into signing up for an accident policy which guarantees his widow double indemnity. Together they murder him and make the murder look like a fall from a moving train. After the crime comes retribution in the form of Edward G. Robinson.
Scripter Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) is himself no mean writer of hard-boiled melodrama. With his help Director Wilder and his players manage admirably to translate into hard-boiled cinema James Cain's hard-boiled talents.
They Met in Moscow (Artkino), an unpretentious Russian nonwar film, establishes a Second Front in cinemusicals. It proves with great charm that if a director has a healthy appetite for the beauty of the world as it is, "production numbers" are unnecessary.
The story is simple. A tow-blonde peasant girl (Marina Ladynina) from the forests of far-northern Russia visits the great summer fair at Moscow. There she falls in love with an impassioned young shepherd (Vladimir Zeldin) from the mountains of far-southern Russia. He is proud as a kulak because of his prize sheep. Boy & girl sing at each other enthusiastically, retire to their respective corners of Russia eager for a return bout next summer. In dead of winter, in the foggy mountain rains, the shepherd rescues three lost ladylike ewes from three wolves; his sweetheart delivers her favorite sow of 19 pigs. When not engaged in animal husbandry, the lovers think about each other, with music. Distance and language differences lead to love complications. But everything is straightened out in the end (with the help of a lively score).
Russians, a vigorous people, often carry on the most casual conversation as if they were describing the battle of Stalingrad. They sometimes sing as if they were possessed of seven devils and a Trotskyite. They often sing loudly in They Met in Moscow. But the picture's lyrical ebullience, its naively intense people, its fresh landscapes combine to make something rare in cinemaan unaffected pastoral comedy, spontaneous as a freshet, natural as a pail of warm milk.