We knew this day would come.
We knew there would come a day when we would spill our darkest movie secret.
It’s this: We think the 1946 holy grail of film noir, the one that’s on everyone’s Top 10 List, is dreadfully overrated. In fact, we can hardly sit through it.
The Postman Always Rings Twice, in our opinion, is a muddled, overrated melodrama starring John Garfield and Lana Turner. It’s about a woman and her lover who plot to kill her husband (Cecil Kellaway). You can click HERE for the trailer, but we think a more enjoyable viewing choice is this vintage science documentary on atomic energy.
So what’s our big fat problem with The Postman Always Rings Twice? We’re glad you asked.
1. Some of the innuendo is a little too on the nose. For example, in one scene, Turner demands that Garfield paint all the chairs in the cafe:
Garfield: “Maybe I’ll look in the paper. Maybe I’ll find a sale on cheap paint.”
Turner: (icily) “You won’t find anything cheap around here.”
(Do you suppose they’re not actually talking about paint? Oh, those canny scriptwriters!)
2. Is Turner’s much-older husband really so bad? Is he really worth killing for a gas-station-slash-hamburger joint? Of course, his death is insured for $10,000, which would buy a lot of ground beef, so maybe we’re being too judgmental.
However, we can’t help but feel a little sorry for the husband. He’s a plain, unsophisticated fellow who knows Turner is too attractive for him. In one scene, the poor slob sings a song that is a mockery of his life:
I’m not much to look at
Nothing to see
Just glad I’m living
Lucky to be
I’ve got a woman crazy for me
She’s funny that way
He’s a dead man, Kellaway is, so to ensure we don’t gain too much sympathy for him, the scriptwriters make him suddenly decide to move to northern Canada so Turner can look after his paraplegic sister.
Turner does not take this news well. Northern Canada, after all, is the absolute worst place on earth. Here is a picture:
But it’s not a place where a gal can easily wear white shorts and heels, so we have to take that into consideration.
3. All the business about electricity (the neon sign, the unlucky cat tripping the breaker) is a deceitful use of foreshadowing. Electricity is a clever, ominous presence in the first half of the film, then it’s dropped like a tainted celebrity. It’s a cinematic rip-off.
4. How can a movie with so much promise so badly lose its way? The film starts with good tension and palpable chemistry between Turner and Garfield. But halfway through, it stumbles and never regains its footing. Before we know it, we’re slogging through dialogue like this:
Turner: “All the hate and revenge has left me, but is it all out of you?”
Garfield: “I’m trying to find some way I could prove it to you.”
Then they go swimming. Yes, swimming. The universal gesture of forgiveness.
Other choice lines include:
5. Turner and Garfield don’t think things through. They decide to run away together, but they don’t have a car. So they trudge alongside the hot, dry highway, suitcases in hand, unable to hitch a ride.
Um… these are people who are going to plan the Perfect Murder?
Our biggest problem with The Postman Always Rings Twice is it deserves to be more than it is, and for that we blame the script. The soap-opera dreck we’re left with at the conclusion is almost unbearable. The atomic energy documentary we referenced earlier has a much more satisfying ending.
(Whew! We are so relieved to unburden ourselves of this dark secret.)
The Postman Always Rings Twice: Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway. Directed by Tay Garnett. Written by Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp., 1946, B&W, 113 mins.
This post is part of the CONTRARY TO POPULAR OPINION Blogathon hosted by Sister Celluloid and Movies, Silently. Click HERE to read all the other contributions!