Phyllis Dietrichson: Evil conniving dame doesn’t come close to describing the depravity of Mz. Phyllis down played brilliantly by Barbera Stanwyck; this cunning vixen plays unsuspecting insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred Macmurry) like some cheap plastic kazoo she’s won at the fair, in fact he’s too easy and she has him sucker marked the second he sizes up her gorgeous gam by making mention of the “honey of anklet” draped around her well turned tibia in the lascivious tone of a wolf on the prowl (he all but smacks his lips in anticipation), but who’s the real predator here?
She quickly makes it abundantly clear to the viewer that in this particular game of Le Chat et la souris, she is the cat and he is the mouse; furthermore, let us suffice it to say that she has let Walter chase her comely tail just long enough to get a death grip on his priapismic one with her perfectly manicured feline claws.
The story is based on a 1927 crime committed in Queens New York by Ruth Snyder and Judd Gray a married woman and her lover. The nefarious couple plotted in true crime fashion to kill her husband Albert whom she persuaded to buy a large insurance policy with a double indemnity clause; they were both electrocuted in Sing Sing on January 12, 1928.
In fact one of the best lines spoken by Fred MacMurray’s character mirrors closely something that Judd Gray said during his own lurid confession: “When I walked I listened for my step…no sound seemed to follow.” Walter Neff ‘s character seems to parrot this when he says shortly after committing the murder: “I couldn’t hear my footsteps. It was the walk of a dead man.”
For both men it seems their humanity had finally caught up with them, but to late, for the die was cast, and cast would die…