Nick Smith, the middle-aged proprietor of a roadside restaurant, hires drifter Frank Chambers as a handyman. Frank eventually begins an affair with Nick\'s beautiful wife Cora, who talks Frank into helping her kill Nick, by \"accident.\" But the best laid plans......
Lana Turner ... Cora Smith
John Garfield ... Frank Chambers
Cecil Kellaway ... Nick Smith
Hume Cronyn ... Arthur Keats
Leon Ames ... Kyle Sackett
Audrey Totter ... Madge Gorland
Alan Reed ... Ezra Liam Kennedy
Jeff York ... Blair
The Postman Always Rings Twice is simply the best film noir ever done.
Lana Turner, who got billing above John Garfield in this movie, and deservedly so, is stunning as Cora, the most alluring woman I\'ve ever seen on screen, the quintessential femme fatale. John Garfield gives a bravura performance as Frank Chambers, the drifter, who can\'t keep his hands off another man\'s wife. The story is by James M. Cain, whose Double Indemnity is another memorable film noir adapted for the screen. Cain\'s stories are a mix of lust and crime and deceit and double-dealing.
But, this movie belongs to Lana Turner from the moment we and Frank the drifter first see her to that fateful moment .. and I won\'t say when that moment arrives .. when Frank\'s and Cora\'s dreams and schemes are forever dashed. Frank says several times in the movie, \"I just wanted to look at her..I just wanted to see her..It was horrible to be away from her..\" and Frank wasn\'t the only one who had those feelings.
That first time we meet Cora is simply one of the most erotic, powerful scenes ever filmed. Frank is sitting at the restaurant counter, Cora\'s husband, Nick, has gone to see a customer, and we see a tube of lipstick rolling on the floor. The camera follows Frank\'s gaze from the lipstick, to the path it took on the floor, to its owner and the reason it fell to the floor. The camera stops - as Frank\'s gaze does - on Cora\'s shapely legs, shown in all their splendor from mid-thigh to heel, because Cora is wearing shorts. We see Cora\'s face, and then Frank\'s, and we can literally see Frank\'s breath being taken away. Ours, too.
It doesn\'t take long before nature takes its course with Frank and Cora, but that creates the problem of what to do with Nick? First, they simply decide to leave him, but that doesn\'t work, because of the three of then, Nick is the only one with money. There is a botched murder attempt which Nick recovers from. Nick isn\'t the brightest bulb in the array since he never realizes that his wife and the drifter he hired just tried to kill him. Some parts of this first attempt are masterfully done, and some aren\'t. Frank and Cora\'s sexual tension builds, along with the fear that they\'ll be found out for what they tried to do.
They succeed in killing Nick on their second attempt, but are soon caught. These aren\'t master criminals, you see. Cora and Nick are played against each other by the Prosecutor, and we soon see them for their true selves, as they turn on one another. Hume Cronyn plays Cora\'s attorney here in a role evocative of Billy Flynn in Chicago some 55 years later. This defense attorney has it all under control. He manages to razzle-dazzle the prosecution - and the court, and get both Frank and Cora off! Cronyn is so good here he nearly steals the movie!
It\'s not necessary to say more about the story. We know in a film noir universe that evil schemes never succeed. Frank and Cora will never get away with Nick\'s murder. Even though they are free, things soon begin to unravel for them. Their relationship is undermined by all the deceit and legal manuevering of the prosecuting attorney and Cora\'s lawyer. Neither trusts the other. Things go from bad to worse, and ultimately both Frank and Cora pay for killing Nick.
This movie is not perfect. There are some plot points that do not hold: Nick\'s stupidity, the sudden discovery of the life insurance policy, a stupid housecat, and others. It is tedious in spots, especially the middle.
The botched first murder attempt is not essential, the legal wrangling takes too long, and the tension that builds between Frank and Cora after they are free takes too long to build. Frank has a dalliance with a waitress that either should have been cut or expanded. But, for all its faults it is quintessential film noir. Frank and Cora for all their good looks are rotten at their core, and that\'s why we love them. We love the movie because in the end they get what they deserve: justice triumphs over hormones and greed. 9 out of 10.
A footnote: the newly released DVD has a bonus feature on the life of John Garfield. He died in 1952 at the age of 39, a victim of the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Garfield was a prominent target, whom the committee sought to discredit and destroy, in an attempt to gain credibility with the American people. How very sad that so many lives could be shattered with such implacable malice emanating from Congress itself. Let us pray it never happens again.
I was not expecting a classic film noir along the lines of \"Double Indemnity\" or \"Out of the Past\" when I put this movie in, and for awhile, I thought I might have been wrong. Maybe the cover was too cheesy, I\'m not sure, but I didn\'t have extra high hopes for this movie. Then my mood brightened when it actually started to become very entertaining. I wasn\'t being blown away, but I did start to enjoy the film noir 101 plot. The reviewer who noted MGM\'s dramatic lighting of Turner is right, it\'s ridiculous, but it does come with the territory I guess. Other than that, things seemed to be moving in place very smoothly.
Then an odd thing happened. The movie refused to end. It wasn\'t that the pace was slow, it moved speedily. Something was always happening, and there was plenty of suspense/overblown MGM music blaring out of the speakers at any given moment. But the plot was way too top-heavy. They get caught doing the murder. Okay, time for trial, some final irony, then the movie\'s over. But it\'s not! It just kept going. New subplots turned up, bribes, plot twists, double crosses, it just kept happening and happening. It was too much. I was literally standing up sweating by the final scene, wanting it to end so much. The problem was, nothing of any substance was given to the events that kept happening. It was like the screenwriters noted \"okay, this happened in the book, but we have to trim it a bit, so we\'ll make a small 2 minute scene including it in the movie\" and suddenly the movie is full of these large occurrences given very brief sketched out screen time. Garfield runs off for a weekend in Tijuana with some random women? What just happened? Things just grew too implausible. I realize that complaining the movie went on too long and claiming that not enough screen time was given to all the events in the second half is hypocritical, but there must have been ways to flesh things out. I haven\'t read the book, but I suspect it\'s much better than the movie, just based on other reviewer\'s comments.
During the final embarassing \"what does God make of all this\" speech to the priest (hey, I thought film noirs where supposed to be existential!), I happened to look at the video case and glance at the title. Realizing it hadn\'t been referenced in the movie yet I stared at the screen and muttered \"out with it\" and in return got some over-reaching ramblings concerning how \"he always rings twice, always rings twice\" ext. Yikes.
I have to say though, the movie had some very good irony and employed a load of classic film noir tricks (the final outcome must have influenced the Coen Brothers with \"The Man Who Wasn\'t There\"), but I can\'t help believing the book must have been a lot better. I\'d chalk this one up for noir completists and Golden Age MGM enthusiasts only.
Those movie audiences who think that explicit sexual scenes shown in movies these days make a film sexy, should take a look at this 1946 steamy MGM picture. \"The Postman Always Ring Twice\" made an impact on the way movies looked at the time, when the censure of the Hays Code dominated what could be shown on the screen for general consumption.
James M. Cain\'s novel of the same title was adapted by Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch, two writers that clearly caught all the nuances of the book. Ty Garnett direction made this film a surprise and a star out of the gorgeous Lana Turner, who was at the height of her beauty when the movie was shot. The great camera work of Sidney Wagner made this movie a classic for its sensual look it focused on its female star.
Nick, the older owner of the roadside diner, has married Cora, a woman much too young for him. Cora, who clearly has found her meal ticket, is happy in the way her life has changed. When Frank Chambers arrive at the diner, Cora realizes the mistake she made in marrying Nick; Frank stands in sharp contrast with Nick. Cora\'s sexual needs awaken when Frank pays attention to her. As lovers, we realize they are doomed.
Because both Cora and Frank are amateurs, they botch the well laid plans they have for getting rid of Nick. Everything conspires against them because it\'s too clear what they have done. They will not be able to get away with the crime, or a life together because unknown to them everyone had seen through them from the beginning.
Lana Turner, whose whole wardrobe is white, made a great Cora. She is heartless, but she is all sexual whenever she is around Frank. This was perhaps was one of the best things Ms. Turner did in the movies. John Garfield, who is so sure of himself, at the start, loses all his will because Cora smolders him and he doesn\'t think rationally. Cecil Kellaway is good as the older Nick. Leon Ames, Hume Cronyn are seen in small roles.
\"The Postman Always Ring Twice\" is a classic of this genre thanks to Ty Garnett\'s direction and a brilliant appearance by an inspired Lana Turner.