by guest writer
The Postman Always Rings Twice is without any doubt one of the best American films noir. It’s the second screen adaptation based on a novel by James M. Cain, after Luchino Visconti’s Ossessione (1943). No comparison between the two is intended with this post. Tay Garnett’s film is a complex movie, often containing strong twists of situation. Lana Turner plays Cora, the much younger, bored and restless wife of a roadside café owner, Nick Smith (Cecil Kellaway), and John Garfield is Frank, the drifter who is given a job by Nick, and who will fall for Cora and do anything for her, being fooled into a game of life and death. It seems that every character in the film has a dark side. Even the lawyer, Arthur Keats (Hume Cronyn), is more interested in having his case win again the District Attorney as a ‘prize of glory’ than in justice. The main characters all deliver fine performances.
Coming back to the twists and turns of the plot, you will be surprised by how the action takes different approaches and focuses on a certain psychological impact of the drama that is about to unfold. There’s a great construction of the screenplay and the viewer is always kept in suspense. Sidney Wagner’s cinematography uses chiaroscuro to emphasize the characters’ hidden thoughts and George Bassman’s music helps in providing the right mood for this psychological noir with one of the best endings the screen has seen.
photo: still from the film | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer