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This remake of the 1946 film which starred Lana Turner and John
Garfield is significantly better than its reputation. The script,
adapted from James M. Cain's first novel, is by the award-winning
playwright David Mamet, while the interesting and focused
cinematography is by Sven Nykvist, who did so much exquisite work for
Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. An excellent cast is led by Jack
Nicholson and Jessica Lange, whose cute animal magnetism is well
displayed. Bob Rafelson, who has to his directorial credit the
acclaimed Five Easy Pieces (1970) and The King of Marvin Gardens
(1972), both also starring Jack Nicholson, captures the raw animal sex
that made Cain's novel so appealing (and shocking) to a depression-era
readership and brings it up to date. Hollywood movies have gotten more
violent and scatological since 1981, but they haven't gotten any
sexier. This phenomenon is in part due to fears occasioned by the rise
of AIDS encouraged by the usual blue stocking people. Don't see this
movie if sex offends you.
Lange is indeed sexy and more closely fits the part of a lower-middle class woman who married an older man, a café owner, for security than the stunning blonde bombshell Lana Turner, who was frankly a little too gorgeous for the part. John Colicos plays the café owner, Nick Papadakis, with clear fidelity to Cain's conception. In the 1946 production, the part was played by Cecil Kellaway, who was decidedly English; indeed they changed the character's name to Smith. Also changed in that production was the name of the lawyer Katz (to Keats). One wonders why. My guess is that in those days they were afraid of offending Greeks, on the one hand, and Jews on the other. Here Katz is played by Michael Lerner who really brings the character to life.
Jack Nicholson's interpretation of Cain's antihero, an ex-con who beat up on the hated railway dicks while chasing any skirt that came his way, the kind of guy who acts out his basic desires in an amoral, animalistic way, was not entirely convincing, perhaps because Nicholson seems a little too sophisticated for the part. Yet, his performance may be the sort better judged by a later generation. I have seen him in so many films that I don't feel I can trust my judgment. My sense is that he's done better work, particularly in the two films mentioned above and also in Chinatown (1974), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and such later works as The Shining (1980) and Terms of Endearment (1983).
The problem with bringing Postman successfully to the screen is two-fold. One, the underlying psychology, which so strongly appealed to Cain's depression-era readership, is not merely animalistic. More than that it reflects the economic conflict between the established haves, as represented by the greedy lawyers, the well-heeled insurance companies, the implacable court system and the simple-minded cops, and to a lesser degree by property owner Nick Papadakis himself, and the out of work victims of the depression, the have-nots, represented by Frank and Cora (who had to marry for security). Two--and this is where both cinematic productions failed--the film must be extremely fast-paced, almost exaggeratedly so, to properly capture the spirit and sense of the Cain novel. Frank and Cora are rushing headlong into tragedy and oblivion, and the pace of the film must reflect that. A true to the spirit adaptation would require a terse, stream-lined directorial style with an emphasis on blind passions unconsciously acted out, something novelist Cormac McCarthy might accomplish if he directed film. I think that Christopher Nolan, who directed the strikingly original Memento (2000) could do it.
For further background on the novel and some speculation on why it was called "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (Cain's original, apt title was "Bar-B-Que") see my review at Amazon.com.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
Twice is nice. Hollywood had to try twice to get this story right. Lana
Turner was beautiful in the 1946 version, but Jessica Lange was something to
kill for opposite Jack Nicholson.
Such raw sensuality would easily persuade a man to lose his very soul. Nicholson's part is certainly unscrupulous to begin with, but in Jessica Lange he finds a confederate with even less scruples. The legal loose ends that dangled in the earlier version are avoided this time with a more plausible chain of events... and the story ends when the story ought to end, instead of being dragged on.
Wonderful character and situation development, intriguing and engaging, even when you know the story. Nice twists of the story from the Lana Turner and Italian ("Ossessione" 1943) versions.
I must admit I was quite impressed with Bob Rafelson's adaptation of the
depression era novel, "The Postman Always Rings Twice". Jack Nicholson
plays Frank, a vagabond who eventually falls in love with a sexy waitress
named Cora,played by Jessica Lange, who reciprocates this love. However,
there is one problem standing in the way: Cora is married, unhappily
married, but married nonetheless.
Aside from an intriguing story, "The Postman Always Rings Twice" is a wonderfully put together film, as Rafelson does a splendid job delving into the characters and their relationships, as well as examining the problems associated with forbidden love. As a viewer, you truly feel the passion between Lange and Nicholson,(who both won academy award nominations), and you almost feel for their pain. In the 1930's women in America were at quite a different position than they are today. They were expected to stay with the husband no matter what the circumstances, as divorce was quite uncommon. Lange was very convincing as this trapped 30's woman who eventually broke free the only way she knew possible..
I definitely recommend "The Postman Always Rings Twice" for any fan of entertaining and thought-provoking movies. Although the character development is not quite as extensive as some of Rafelson's early work, particularly the 1971 classic "Five Easy Pieces", the movie combines an intriguing screenplay with superb acting to make its own statement.
This novel adaptation was the second after a first movie in the 1940s.
This one retains the period setting but ups the ante in terms of sexual
content, featuring one of the most explicit sex scenes ever shown in a
mainstream film which goes far further than any film before - or since.
The plot is simple in the extreme: the wife of a Greek man who runs his own diner, bored and neglected by her husband, begins a torrid affair with a drifter her husband employs as his mechanic. From there on in, the story gradually develops in often fascinating ways as the two lovers realise that only one thing's stopping their happiness: her husband.
The film is shot through with a grim and gritty emphasis, best realised by Nicholson's grubby mechanic. He's nobody's idea of a sex symbol, although Jessica Lange is quite ravishing as the object of his attentions. This focus on realism over Hollywood fantasy is what makes the film so watchable and, in places, uncomfortable as it becomes clear that the lovers have something of a sado-masochistic relationship.
Things move into courtroom-drama territory later on (featuring some terrific acting work from Michael Lerner as the lawyer) whilst handing a number of blink-and-you'll-miss-em minor parts to familiar faces (John P. Ryan as a blackmailer, Angelica Houston as - bizarrely - a circus owner, cult favourite Don Calfa as a circus hand, Brion James as a thug and Christopher Lloyd as a salsman).
I found the film to be sometimes compelling and never boring. It's one of those films you watch to find out just what happens to the central characters, a curiosity bolstered by the feeling that they're never going to unentangle themselves from this mess. Come the surprise climax, well...you'll have to see for yourself.
A remake of the 1946 film, this version features Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, with a momentous white hot chemistry that can't possibly sustain itself but affords a memorable scene in the restaurant kitchen about ten minutes into the film which leads to the eventual plot to do in her older Greek husband. A story wherein neither would have the nerve to do such a thing alone, but together they make a job of it on one of the darkest nights and darkest rural roads ever. The trial for the murder features another couple of great performances by Michael Lerner as the resourceful to a fault defense attorney (if you were on trial for your life, you'd want this guy for a lawyer), and his investigator who becomes a menacing presence later in the film, played by John P Ryan. Very nicely photographed in color, it's set in the coastal hills and valleys north of LA, dotted with live oaks and capturing the rich earthy tones of the late afternoon golden hued hillsides that nicely contrast with the desperate story of the two lovers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's easy to understand how attractive it must have seemed to make a
1980s movie of "The Postman Always Rings Twice". James M Cain's famous
depression-era melodrama had already been successful as a book (1934)
and a movie (1946) and a 1980s version could obviously benefit from the
advantages of being made in colour and at a time when censorship
constraints would be far less strict than they had been in 1946. The
result is a production in which this story of lust, adultery, murder,
blackmail and "the hand of fate" is told in a style which is far more
raw, gritty and explicit than the 1946 movie.
Frank Chambers (Jack Nicholson) is a drifter who stops for a meal at a remote countryside diner / filling station somewhere outside L.A. and decides to stay a little longer after catching sight of the establishment's attractive cook called Cora (Jessica Lange). Cora's the wife of Nick (John Colicos) who's the considerably older Greek proprietor of the business. Nick offers Frank a job as a mechanic and soon Cora and Frank are involved in a passionate affair.
After the couple fail in an attempt to run away together, they decide to murder Nick. They succeed at the second attempt but soon Cora is put on trial for the crime. The prosecuting attorney succeeds in getting Frank to betray Cora but some slick work by her lawyer results in her being acquitted. After the trial, Frank and Cora resume their relationship and a succession of surprising developments culminate in a tragic conclusion.
Frank is a man whose misfortunes don't simply emanate from his weakness or the consequences of making a wrong turn in his life. He's a violent, petty criminal who's driven by lust, but nevertheless, seems more in control of his destiny than is typical of a noir protagonist. In this version of the story, in an interpretation which is probably more realistic, he's more cynical and brutal than John Garfield's 1946 incarnation and as a result is a far more unsympathetic character.
Jessica Lange's Cora is also different from Lana Turner's as she seems much too strong and spirited to be as trapped as she claims and also doesn't have the kind of mystique or ambiguity which makes it seem credible that she could've been harbouring dark thoughts about killing Nick for some time.
The ways in which the characters of Frank and Cora have been changed is interesting to watch but the same can't be said of the changed ending which lacks both the irony of the original and its significance to the story's title.
This movie is strong on atmosphere and intensity and convincingly evokes the period in which the action is set. Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange are excellent in their roles and the supporting cast (particularly John Colicos) is also very good.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A fantastic story and i truly loved the film because i did not know why
on earth it is called the postman always rings twice until right at the
very end. The film made me think and it gave me goosebumps when i
discovered at the end when the title and story of the film fitted
perfectly together. I recommend this film to people who have a love for
great movies. But it is always great when you have no idea what is
about to happen and if you have not read the book or seen the original.
Jack is always great to watch and this film is one of his best
I thought the sexy scenes were great and they portrayed a vast amount of passion. To be honest, unfortunately i think that evil wins in real life but i like the idea and message that the film sends.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Disappointing is the first word that comes to mind after sitting
through this sexed-up noir remake of a 1946 film of the same name based
on a popular novel. This critic has neither seen the original, nor read
that novel, so he is forced to take this film on face value and
evaluate it on its own merits. That said, The Postman Always Rings
Twice failed to come close to my expectations. You won't care a lick
about drifter Jack Nicholson and bored housewife Jessica Lange who
start a torrid love affair behind the back of her husband, and then
look to kill him off. These two amoral jerks are all dressed up with
nowhere to go in this script, and once the deed is done, the story
really jumps the tracks. This was an intriguing premise, but the many
talented people who made this film have all done much better things.
The biggest selling point for this film was its steamy sex scenes, and there are indeed a few. But something is missing. Something that should be fairly obvious to those of us who have had sex in our lives. Nobody is ever nude during them! Save for one brief scene where we see Nicholson's rear, there is a jarring lack of nudity. At times these people seem to be having intercourse right through their clothes! I've heard Nicholson is a legendary lover, but is he strong enough to.... I'll stop there. What happened? I'm sure they at least negotiated with Lange about perhaps a topless scene or something. I guess she said no. Look, one does not need nudity for a sexy scene. The only interesting scene in Random Hearts is a testament to that. But when you advertise your picture as a steamy, sexy thriller, you pretty much have to go all in, or the whole thing is a waste.
Aside from the sex scenes, this film seems confused about what its characters are supposed to do once the husband is out of the way. And the conclusion is so abrupt, its almost like they ran out of money and just decided to kill one of the leads off and call it a wrap. The acting isn't bad, but thats about all the film has going for it. Lange is her typical self... not great, but not bad either. Nicholson is born to play this type of character, and he doesn't disappoint. You may remember John Collicos from TV's Battlestar Galactica. Angelical Huston is on hand for a cameo that they probably just gave her when she was hanging around the set to be close to her main squeeze Nicholson. This film is really just a waste of your time when you consider all of the better pictures these people have made. Avoid it. 4 of 10 stars. And what does the title have to do with the movie, anyway? The Hound.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*** This comment may contain spoilers *** It's the story that James M.
Cain might have written if the period had permitted it. Here is Jessica
Lange, sensuously kneading dough on the baking room table and
practically radiating oestrus. Here is her husband, Nick the Greek,
oily, drunk, spitting his plosives all over everybody. And here is
Nicholson as the reckless drifter who eases himself into Nick's
confidence and forces himself into Lange's pants.
The engine behind the plot is raw sex that turns to a rocky kind of love affair and then to murder and tragedy. Cain couldn't write the sex scenes in this movie, not even in Snappy Stories pulp magazines, the kind with covers showing some gorgeous doll with the shoulder of her dress ripped and a bra strap showing and some goon with a gun lurking in the shadows behind her.
You can't help comparing it to the 1946 version with John Garfield, Lana Turner, and Cecil Calloway. The earlier movie is much sleeker, more compact, and brought up to date, and the characters are sketched in with greater simplicity.
This one is a period picture. The time is the 1930s and the production design is just fine. They're always tooling around in cars. What cars they had in those days -- that yellow Model A convertible roadster with the rumble seat! I loved the one I once owned, even though I could never find replacement parts for it. The old days are gone forever. (Sob.) Anyway, neither Nicholson nor anyone else loves the cars as much as Nicholson winds up loving Lange, and vice versa.
There is a slight problem in this bond between the two of them, namely Nick the Greek. He's a nice enough guy -- trusting, not too bright, has ties to a vibrant Greek community which we don't see much of. As a matter of fact, except for some occasional run-ins with the law, this curious trio seems to live all alone at the Twin Oaks Roadside Stand.
Nicholson is required to show some range and he does a splendid job -- by turns dumb, sleazy, and horrified. Lange doesn't quite do the job that Nicholson does but she's more than adequate. When she finally gives in to Nicholson on the butcher block table she makes us believe it. The writers, though, have given her a strange and unanticipated quirk. After she's just watched Nicholson bash in her husband's head with a giant socket wrench, and she's just been severely punched in the face (twice) and knocked to the dirt among the shrubbery, she gets a case of the hots and invites Nicholson to join her in an al fresco romp. It just doesn't belong. Neither does Nicholson's brief tryst with Angelica Huston as a comic circus lion tamer. And it IS a little hard to swallow the notion that Lange is converted into a law-abiding, pregnant, willing Hausfrau because of her mother's death -- given that, until then, we didn't even know she had a mother.
But those are relatively minor issues. Overall, this is a superior movie, "gritty", as they say. Nicholson, unlike Garfield in 1946, looks like he really works at his job. What filthy hands. Not much can be said for his mind either. By the time he and Lange are reformed, the postman is at the door again.
Immensely watchable, this remake of the 1940s classic is sexed up by writer David Mamet and director Bob Rafelson. Jack Nicholson is a drifter who ingratiates himself into the lives of roadside diner/gas station owner John Colicos and his impossibly sexy wife Jessica Lange. Soon Lange and Nicholson are having sex EVERYWHERE...and plotting to bump off Colicos. Aided by great cinematography by Sven Nykvist and very evocative production design by George Jenkins, Rafelson manages to capture James M. Cain's ironic novel and all it's sordidness. Nicholson is terrific but Lange gives a career making performance...this is the movie that put her on the map after the KING KONG debacle. There are times when she acts Nicholson off the screen. Colicos is fine, if a bit old for his role and Michael Lerner is in it too. Anjelica Huston has a really odd cameo as a lion tamer!
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