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The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981)

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The sensuous wife of a lunch wagon proprietor and a rootless drifter begin a sordidly steamy affair and conspire to murder her Greek husband.



(novel), (screenplay)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Frank Chambers
... Cora Papadakis
... Nick Papadakis
... Mr. Katz
... Kennedy
... Madge
William Traylor ... Sackett
Thomas Hill ... Barlow (as Tom Hill)
... Motorcycle Cop
Brian Farrell ... Mortenson
Raleigh Bond ... Insurance Salesman
... Man from Home Town
Albert Henderson ... Art Beeman
Ken Magee ... Scoutmaster
Eugene Peterson ... Doctor


This remake of the 1946 movie of the same name accounts an affair between a seedy drifter and a seductive wife of a roadside café owner. This begins a chain of events that culminates in murder. Written by Craig Clarke <clarkec@topaz.cqu.edu.au>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


You Will Feel The Heat. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

20 March 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El cartero llama dos veces  »


Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


When auditions for this movie were taking place, Director Bob Rafelson wrote the name of the actress he thought should be cast as Cora Papadakis and put it inside a sealed envelope. Several months later, Rafelson gave the letter to Jessica Lange, whose name was inside. See more »


When the car goes down the hill the first time, the passenger door comes open and a person can be seen exiting the car through it (1:03:48). See more »


Cora: All I know is, it went dark... If he'd have turned around, Frank, they'd have hanged us for it... and something... something put that cop there... It's an act of God those lights went out!
See more »

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User Reviews

A Sexy Version of James M.Cain Story
28 July 2011 | by See all my reviews

Yes, this story was told a few times in the past, being one of the versions the classic of same title starring Lana Turner and John Garfield, one of the most acclaimed stories of all time "The Postman Always Rings Twice" becomes a sexy, romantic and sad tale on the hands of Bob Rafelson ("The King of Marvin Gardens"), yet this work resurrected the film noir genre in the 1980's, giving new forms, exploring a more sexual and violent side which wasn't possible to be presented in the golden era of noir.

With the same story as the 1946 adaptation of James M. Cain's novel, the film stars Jack Nicholson as Frank Chambers, the drifter who fell in love with Cora Papadakis (Jessica Lange), a simple housewife who helps her husband Nick (John Colicos) to manage a roadside diner in the East Coast. But they have a plan to kill Nick and live together forever but the destiny has some tricks, up's and down's, twists and turns to make their lives complicated each time their plot fail again and again. The difference between the seductive and classic version of this same story is the approach given by writer David Mamet, who made the love story between these two characters something sexy, animalistic, a full exploration of the senses with a lustful couple ripping each other's clothes, having sex on a kitchen table (one of the most iconic moments of the 1980's), something almost gratuitous but very effective for most audiences nowadays. While Tay Garnett's version was a provocation that could never go too far in its sensuality, only showing short kisses but very effective tender moments, this update is more of a visual film made to present something exciting, thrilling. And Nicholson and Lange have the chemistry and quality in their wild performances here.

To me, comparing back to back both films they're equally great just as the novel. They have their differences, specially concerning about the characters characterization and performances of actors, the way they were written. Examples: Nicholson is more believable as a hobo than John Garfield, in the way he's dressed, the way he talks and moves; the Cora played by Lange was something new, more passive and quite joyful which is nothing similar than the one of the book and 1946 film materials, who is very smart, dominating in the relationship with Frank; but the most striking difference was the friendly Nick, played here as an rude and irritating man, therefore, the script is basically giving a reason for us not like this guy and cheer that the horrible plans of Frank and Cora become successful. The George C. Scott rule of not giving awards to actors unless the play the same parts is useful here to see in which films the acting worked better. If only we could team Jack Nicholson and Lana Turner together....we would have something explosive and very interesting.

On a minor look to the film, I really enjoyed the ending with a devastating moment, without the trial and that whole depressive conclusion (although it ended sad the same way, but this time the viewers will make their own conclusions instead of having the title explained at the final and moralistic scene as MGM's version). Also enjoyed Sven Nykivst colorful cinematography with a right use of darkness in the most tense moments. The melodramatic soundtrack works one time or the other but for the most of the film is just silly.

The importance of this version of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" is the fact that it brought back the film noir with a new style, new faces (ok, Nicholson was in "Chinatown" in 1974, so it doesn't count) and more baldness. After this film, we had "Body Heat", the parody/homage "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid", and plenty of others. Take a look and enjoy it. 10/10

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