The Postman Always Rings Twice

1946 noir

Rating: 14/20

Plot: Drifter Frank Chambers wanders into a Southern California town and takes a job as a handyman in a small restaurant, mostly because of how the proprietor's wife looks in her tiny white shorts. Soon enough, Frank and Cora are pawing at each other. Cora doesn't love Nick, her older husband, and she really wants to own and run the restaurant all by herself. Frank wants to continue sleeping with Cora. They decide to end Nick's life prematurely and live the dream. It doesn't go very well.

OK, I'm going to be in the minority with a lukewarm response to this one. But if somebody in the know told me that The Postman Always Rings Twice is a parody of film noir, I would snap my fingers and say, "Aha! I knew it!" So much about this is color-by-numbers noir. The characters are stock, the dialogue is riddled with cliches, and the couples' ploys and exploits are so unbelievably stupid, that there's no way they're a writer's honest attempt at crime fiction. I mean, just look at this bit of dialogue:

Cop: Cats are poor, dumb things.
Frank (with a goofy grin): Yeah. They don't know anything about electricity.
Cop: Killed her deader than a doornail.
D.A. :Yes, the cat's dead all right. Well, accidents can happen in the weirdest sort of ways.
Cop: Never saw a prettier cat. Killed her deader than a doornail.

On paper, that looks like it could have been penned by Ed Wood, and the actors deliver the lines like they think they're in one of his movies. Lana Turner looks the part, and her legs really steal the show, but her acting is brutal. I will say that the scene in which she's introduced (a rolling lipstick tube, those white shorts, some slyly suggestive banter) is easily the best scene in the movie. John Garfield's performance is definitely weirder and probably worse. He seems completely lost, an actor who doesn't understand where his character's coming from or where he's going, and his dialect comes and goes. From the swiftly blossoming romance between the two leads to the accelerating but stuttering dramatic moments, I didn't buy a single thing that happened in this movie. That didn't necessarily stop me from enjoying the film, but all that enjoyment came from this being comedy rather than straight noir.

1 comment:

cory said...

I liked your review. It is a fine movie for what it is, and for the charisma of Turner and Garfield (freakin' commie), but it never really has the energy that the material requires. At least the remake got to have some good simulated sex. I would also give this a 14.