10 Classics to see in 2014.
MGM owned the rights to the novel by James M. Cain for over a decade but for most of that time they weren't quite sure what to do with the hot-to-handle story of adultery and murder. Paramount's success with Cain's similarly sordid tale DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) finally convinced MGM to take the plunge.
John Garfield plays Frank, a drifter who takes a job in a Southern California roadside diner. Frank is immediately attracted to Cora (Lana Turner), who is married to the much older owner of the establishment, Nick (Cecil Kellaway). Cora's marriage to Nick is one of those rather inexplicable things which is never satisfactorily explained, but apparently she needed security and saw Nick as the only likely chance for that.
I'd class THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE as a good though not great movie. It has many memorable elements, most famously Turner's white-clad femme fatale. She and Garfield generate intense sparks, which make a great case for showing less being more.
The film's main problem is that it's "The Perils of Pauline" of crime films. Anything that can go wrong for Frank and Cora does go wrong, and the story keeps loading on these problems endlessly, elongating the film to a far-too-slow 113 minutes.
I generally like my crime and noir titles to have a snappier pace, and this one just didn't know when to quit; it was probably trying to be faithful to the book, which I've not read, but it ends up with a "Let's throw everything at them except the kitchen sink" feeling. When Frank and Cora finally get their just desserts I felt like saying "About time!" I felt a brisker pace would have been much more effective in maintaining the story's power.
That stated, it's still an interesting film and as a key crime film of the '40s it's certainly worth seeing.
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE was directed by Tay Garnett. The excellent black and white photography was by Sidney Wagner. Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch wrote the screenplay.
This film is available on DVD. It can also be purchased or rented for streaming via Amazon Instant Video.