The Postman Always Rings Twice  [DVD]
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Frank (John Garfield) is a hitch-hiker who finds that sparks fly between him and his boss' wife (Lana Turner). She intends to move away with Frank, but also wants to keep the diner that her husband owns. The two of them decide that murder is the only answer, but fits of jealousy threaten to ruin their scheme.
Even under the heavy censorship of 1946 Hollywood, Lana Turner and John Garfield's libidinous desires burn up the screen in Tay Garnett's adaptation of James M. Cain's torrid crime melodrama. Platinum blond Turner is Cora, a restless sexpot stuck in a roadside diner married to mundane middle-aged fry cook Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway) when handsome drifter Frank (Garfield) blows her way. It's lust at first sight, a rapacious desire that neither can break off, and before long they're plotting his demise--but in the wicked world of Cain nothing is that easy. Garnett's visual approach is subdued compared to the more expressionistic film noir of the period, but he's at no loss when he films the luminous Turner in her milky-white wardrobe. She radiates repressed sexuality and uncontrollable passion while Garfield's smart-talking loner Frank mixes street-smart swagger and scrappy toughness with vulnerability and sincere intensity. Co-star Hume Cronyn cuts a cold, calculating figure as their conniving lawyer, a chilly character that only increases our feelings for the murderous couple, victims of an all-consuming amour fou that drives their passions to extremes. --Sean Axmaker, Amazon.comSee all Product description
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The story follows Frank Chambers (John Garfield), a drifter who happens upon a gas station/restaurant outside a coastal California town. The owner of the restaurant, Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway), is looking for a hand around the place. Frank isn’t interested until he meets Cora (Lana Turner). Suddenly, he’s willing to hire on so he can woo this beautiful woman. Unfortunately, she happens to be Nick’s much younger wife.
That doesn’t stop Frank, and soon the two are madly in love. There’s just the problem of Nick. Soon they have decided to kill Nick so they can live together happily. But can they get away with it if they even succeed?
I’m going say no more about the plot since there were a couple twists I didn’t know about, and I think I enjoyed it better as a result. I definitely got pulled into things as I began rooting for Frank and Cora to manage to get a happy ending despite the fact that they are evil people.
I liked the ending. In some ways, it felt rushed, but really, there would have been nothing served by dragging it out. The main story was over, and what we got tied up the loose ends well.
The real star of this film is Lana Turner. She is phenomenal as the femme fatal. She has the most complex character and she plays Cora brilliantly. The rest of the characters are less complex, but those actors are great as well. There is a level of acting here you won’t find in many films today. And the romance between Frank and Cora sizzles with just glances and kisses.
Movies from the 40’s often have an acting style that we’d view as overacting today, and it shows up here. Yet it’s a minor issue.
I do have a couple of issues with the film. The pacing could be a bit tighter as a couple of spots seem to drag and a few go by too quickly. But that could be a different of the era.
My biggest complaint is the title. Frank has a speech at the end that explains it, but I think the story deserved a better title. The analogy he uses is a bit tortured, although it does work. Ironically, it was added to the film to try to explain the title – the book has no explanation at all. Still, it would have been better worked into the story instead of a lecture at the end.
Minor complaints aside, this is a film noir classic for a reason. Anyone interested in the genre or classic films will certainly enjoy The Postman Always Rings Twice.
Forget any remake and go straight to this, the best adaptation of James M. Cain's hard hitting novel. Out of MGM, it's nice to say that the studio, in spite of 1940s censors, let director Tay Garnett put vitality into Cain's novel and more crucially,! let Turner fan the flames of smouldering passion. From the moment the camera pans from her shapely foot to the silky blonde mop that sits above her beautiful face, we know that Frank Chambers, and us the audience, are about to be taken in hook line and sinker.
Much has been made of the over-use of lighting with Turner in the film, that complaint is something I just can't truck with in any shape or form. It's not for nothing that Turner's Cora is virginal white for 98% of the picture, surely a sign that Cora is in need of some dark to lighten her dark existence. Sounds weird I'm sure, but there it is, and the lighting only emphasises that virginal quality about to be steered down a troubled road. It should also be noted that the only time she's out of white is for the particularly dark moments in her life. It's a confliction with the Noir ethic to utilise whiteness, but this is a very different femme fatale, more vulnerable and searching for love, even if ultimately it's car crash love. John Garfield matches Turner in performance. A performance that gathers momentum at every quarter. So it's no surprise to find that both actors got a positive response from critics and public alike. But the support is also very strong, particularly Hume Cronyn & Leon Ames. While Kellaway absolutely nails that good old harmless old boy seriously in denial-out of his depth character-with some aplomb.
I personally was delighted with a different sort of film-noir viewing here. And I have to say that I avoided this film on account of having watched the Jack Nicholson remake first, years ago; and found it immeasurably dull. This is a different animal, much like the female protagonist funnily enough. Perhaps the final word should come from James M. Cain himself? Who after seeing what Turner did with the role of Cora gave her a gift of a leather bound first edition of the book, the inscription said "For my dear Lana, thank you for giving a performance that was finer than I expected."
Tis true that, lighting be damned! 8/10
I won't bother going over the plot particularly as other reviewers have done that well already, but suffice to say that John Garfield's character is a drifter looking for work and ends up at a diner finding work, run by a mismatched couple, and ends up falling for the wife, as she falls for him. They come to the conclusion that they want to bump off hubby and then live happily ever after. Doesn't work out quite like that though. Then things do get really nasty and mean. I want to say that I have found the music throughout this film some of the most wonderful and atmospheric music I have ever heard on any film score; it IS wonderful and one of the reasons, among others, why I keep going back to the movie. And the acting is great, and the plot is also good too. For me, this is one of the most outstanding film noirs.
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