Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

I get a little daunted with the large amount of noir that I haven't seen but would like to see, so I'm always pretty slow to actually dive in and watch more. The other day I finally took in The Postman Always Rings Twice, starring Lana Turner as the be-turbaned femme fatale and John Garfield as an affable wanderer. When he accepts a job as general repair man/attendant at a roadside eatery/gas station run by Nick (Cecil Kellaway), Frank quickly falls for the proprietor's wife Cora. He catches on to the uncaring way her husband treats her, and eventually the two are having an affair. They plot to kill off Nick and run the restaurant themselves because Cora has aspirations to "really be somebody", but complications arise and the local cops begin to suspect something is amiss after a series of "accidents".

It seems uncommon now to see this kind of slow-burn thriller with a completely implied sexual undercurrent, as opposed to more explicit takes (which I've heard the remake does). The strong, dare I say smoldering performances from Turner and Garfield give the film a memorable electricity. The story itself is interesting and multi-faceted, but the pacing is off for several plot points. The film starts off very gradual and slow, developing the romance between Cora and Frank (well by "developing" I mean her initial resistance + eventual chaste kissing = Love) and establishing her unhappy relationship with her ignorant husband. The multiple murder plots and possible betrayals followed by unexpected courtroom drama make for a slightly convoluted/over-complicated movie plot. The constant shifts and twists made it engaging, of course, but also difficult to really find my footing.

I have to be sure I mention the charismatic and remarkably entertaining performance from the awesomely-named Hume Cronyn, who plays Cora's lawyer towards the end of the film. Though his role is small, his impact is substantial, and I loved every minute he was onscreen. While the main cast- Turner especially- are strong, Cronyn brings this weird humor and super intensity that's just mesmerizing. He basically rekindled my interest when I felt the story had begun to go in circles.

The Postman Always Rings Twice didn't engage me as much as others of its ilk that I've seen, but its excellent cast and involved script, along with some gorgeous and thoughtful costuming, make for a downright cool film that kept me guessing until the end.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: I'm always into putting classic and neo noir together, so I'm suggesting Blood Simple, the Coen brothers' first feature. It similarly mixes adultery and spouse-killing schemes, but to much more violent effect.

3 comments:

  1. Postman is a little weaker than a lot of similar James M. Cain adultery-and-murder noirs (see Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, or the Italian version of this, Ossessione), but as you point out, the sexy Turner/Garfield relationship redeems it.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the awesome Hume Cronyn; if you want to see more of him, definitely check out Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, or better yet, Brute Force, where he plays a sadistic, fascistic prison guard who enjoys whipping his victims to death.

    Yeah character actors! Thanks for reminding me that Cronyn was in this movie!

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  2. This movie is pretty good, but this Sesame Street skit is THE BOMB: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWLgdI8UBjc

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  3. Andreas: Yeah I definitely think Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce are better films, especially for the stronger characterization and tighter direction. I've seen Shadow of a Doubt, but I haven't seen Brute Force! Sounds cool, thanks for the recommendation!

    Nicole: Oh goodness that is adorable, thank you.

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