Darkness Descends (Double Indemnity, 1944)

For the Femme Fatale distance and intimacy are very potent weapons. When used interchangeably, and in nonsensical order, it bestows upon her the power to confuse and bewilder her victim. Add on an intoxicating dose of gutsy sex appeal, and we have a drug so powerful it will floor even the most hardboiled of men. 

The importance of an entrance

Every Femme Fatale needs a proper entrance, it strongly solidifies their character for the rest of the story. 

In Double Indemnity, the first glance we get of Femme Fatale Phyllis is her looking down from the banister on insurance salesman Walter and her maid – and in effect, us – while only wearing a towel and twirling a pair of sunglasses in her hand. Walter (who is subsequently to fall prey to her charms and fangs) is told to wait in the living room while she slips into something… more visitor friendly.


The second time our dame appears, just a few breaths later, is equally as momentous: 

We watch Phyllis walk down the staircase, the focus is on her luscious legs, of which one is bejeweled with an anklet. A daring piece of statement jewelry. The camera follows her descend down the staircase. A scene that is iconically shown in one sweeping flow, starting at just her legs. Once she has made it down the stairs, the camera, and again, we the audience, are kept at a distance. The camera backs out as she literally walks in on us and the waiting gentleman in a determined, slinky mode, while doing up the last two buttons of her dress.

What this scene shows is that she is coming for us, and that from the second he and we laid eyes on her, she has been the one in charge. 

© Barbara Timmers. Article Prepublication. All rights reserved.