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USA 1981
Directed by
Bob Rafaelson
122 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Postman Always Rings Twice, The (1981)

Bob Rafaelson's film is one of the few instances where the remake is better than the original which was filmed in 1946 and starred John Garfield and Lana Turner (it had previously been filmed as Le Dernier Tournant in 1939 and as Ossessione in 1943 by Luchino Visconti) as a drifter and a married woman who, driven by lust, murder the latter's husband.

The cinematography (surprisingly, by Sven Nykvist) and production design capture the seediness of this James M, Cain Depression-era story of desperate lives whilst freed from the constraints of the Hays Code, Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange superbly embody the carnality that drives the couple's madness. Lange's character is more resolved than the Turner equivalent and the actress, in her first major role, is marvellous as Cora as she shifts from the repressed to the sexually-over-heated, a duality, beautifully adapted to Nicholson's cynically exploitative Frank.

The same problems however affect the David Mamet script as they did in the 1946 version in dealing with the break into a before and an after the murder-and-trial sections. The second half lacks the intensity of the first as it tries to incorporate the passage of time and the changing nature of the couple's attitudes and relationships Including Frank's escapade with a lady lion-tamer (Angelica Huston).  The latter inclusion was probably not a good decision and the altered and abbreviated ending, although eschewing the overt and stylistically-dated moralising of the original, is somehow a diminution of the title's original fatalistic significance. Too dark for mainstream America and critically often dismissed in favour of the Tay Garnett version it is a sorely under-rated film. 

FYI: Rafaelson had previously worked with Nicholson on The King Of Marvin Gardens (1972) and Five Easy Pieces (1976) and would again on Blood And Wine (1996).




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