Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Movie Review: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
The first English language screen adaptation of James M. Cain's steamy tale of sex and betrayal, The Postman Always Rings Twice benefits from Lana Turner on fire. She ignites the initial noire plot of passion and murder, but once the story takes a turn for the manic, not even Turner can save it.
The Postman Always Rings Twice is two thirds of a good film. The immensely watchable first hour is filled with longing, attraction, lust, and the delectable scheming of a desperate couple. After Nick is killed, the zing is lost. Cora and Frank turn on each other, the court proceedings race past in a muddle, and the sub-plots related to Cora's mother, Frank's infidelity, and the half-baked blackmail scheme are all rushed and soulless.
Ironically the movie becomes more plodding as events spiral out of control, in a case of too much drama yielding diminishing returns. Towards the end there is little director Tay Garnett can do except perform traffic control duties, the characters not given time to properly digest and react to the flurry of calamities thrown their way.
Garfield is less memorable, Jack Nicholson's performance in the 1981 version defining the role of Frank and leaving Garfield's turn in the shadow. While functional, there is a disconnect between Garfield's non intimidating screen presence and the character's fundamental shady scrappiness and depression-era resourcefulness.
Hume Cronyn is notable as the sharp lawyer with unconventional methods who petrifies Cora before representing her in court.
The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Frank and Cora always make all the wrong decisions for all the wrong reasons. When they are propelled by lust and botching their lives, they are fun to watch, but when they are miserable and misguided, the ringing is just hollow.
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