In comparison to which a preferred more, I would prefer the movie over the novel. Combining the theatrical elements of Hollywood film noir, Chandler's(screen-writer) dialogue skills, and Cain's hard-boiled style, the film gives a better insight to the triangular relationship between Phyllis, Walter, and Keyes.
In the film, we see that Walter is in a never-ending conflict to assert himself over Phyllis, and at the same time, to become more "intimate" with Keyes. Through the dialogue's extensive use of sexual metaphors, we see how Walter tries to keep Phyllis in check, and bring Keyes closer. Breaking the traditional film mold of "weak man succumbing to strong alluring woman," Walter is just as cold and hard as Phyllis and their relationship, which in my opinion, is not based on lust or greed, but the image of committing such an act as partners. It's a classic scenario to see two hardened people pull a job together. So, we could say that Phyllis and Walter had a relationship based on one act of violence, with the murder being a metaphor for a one night stand.
Keyes represented a father figure to Walter, and as the film shows, was dominant over Neff. The symbolic use of Walter's infatuation with Keyes cigar, and the lighting of each other's cigarette gives us a glimpse of a strange relationship. "I love you" was said to one another in the beginning and the end of the movie. Neff's relationship with Barton Keyes is similar to his relations with Phyllis. Rather than exerting himself through notions and metaphors, Walter tries to extend himself over Keyes by trying to conceal a perfect crime.
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The film's combination of the noir imagery, hard-boiled dialogue, and pulp characters gives a better look at the struggle to keep a "perfect" murder perfect. Cain did a good job iin presenting the story in novel form, but the material is better presented as a screen-play.
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