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Extra-Marital Movies

November 30, 2009

by John Farr

John Farr recommends three films for all you philanderers out there.

Double Indemnity (1944)


Gorgeous schemer Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) enlists a besotted insurance salesman, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), to draw up a life-insurance policy on her husband without his knowledge – and then kill him. The murder goes as planned, but the two lovers lose faith in each other’s motives when they face suspicious claims investigator Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), whose queries trigger a fatal game of cat and mouse.


One of the quintessential noir films, Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” is a masterpiece of stark atmosphere and carefully stylized suspense. The talented Barbara Stanwyck, a familiar face in the 1940s noir universe, assumes her role with feline deviousness, while “My Three Sons” TV dad Fred MacMurray – narrating the film via flashback – brilliantly plays against type. Raymond Chandler’s screenplay sizzles with hard-boiled repartee and the great Edward G. Robinson is aces as always as the dogged investigator hot on the lovers’ trail. Sinister, tense, and cynical, Wilder’s “Indemnity” is riveting film suspense.

The World of Henry Orient (1964)


Two New York City schoolgirls develop a crush on the title character, a second-rate concert pianist and frustrated ladies’ man (Peter Sellers). They then decide to stalk the poor fellow, foiling his meticulously planned assignations.


Sellers is in rare form as the perpetually striving, but eternally mediocre fraud, Henry Orient. The two girls who pursue him (Merrie Spaeth and Tippy Walker) give refreshingly natural performances. Paula Prentiss is screamingly funny as one of Orient’s nervous paramours, while Angela Lansbury injects a cold note of evil as one girl’s mother. Beautiful on-location scenery of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Fatal Attraction (1987)


Manhattan lawyer Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) is happily married to his gorgeous wife Beth (Anne Archer), with whom he has a 6-year-old daughter. After a chance meeting with the sexy, intriguing Alex (Glenn Close) leads to a passionate two-night affair in her apartment, Dan says goodbye and means it. But Alex has no intention of giving up Dan – ever – and proceeds to turn the Gallaghers’ lives into an escalating nightmare.


Adrian Lyne’s disturbing “Fatal Attraction” remains the ultimate cautionary tale for extra-marital thrill seekers. What begins as an entirely plausible drama about a one-night stand quickly morphs into a shocking psychological thriller in Lyne’s hands, with Douglas turning in one of the iconic performances of the 80s. But it’s Glenn Close’s bestial, unhinged villainess that made this film a box-office smash. Despite a tacked-on, slasher-movie-style ending, “Attraction” picked up six Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.

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