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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.
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on January 31, 2006
Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson star in a very dark tale of two lovers who sought freedom from their grim, quietly desperate lives in each other's arms. Unfortunately, their quest to remain together leads to the destruction of several lives, and quite possibly their own. The movie is primarily set in a rural area, where Lange's character works at a small roadside diner owned by her husband, a Greek immigrant. One of the most important elements of the film is that it never really demonizes the antagonists, and this is true with respect to the husband character - he has his faults, but he doesnt appear to be overly domineering or abusive. In any event, as fate would have it, one day a drifter appears at the diner, Nicholson's character, and soon he and Lange are making love on her kitchen work table, in one of several extremely graphic sex scenes which are peppered throughout the movie. Now, only Lange's husband stands in the way, and Nicholson and Lange decide to get rid of him. The rest of the movie depicts their attempts on the husband's life and the consequences of their actions, without judgment from the filmmakers, as the story moves to its ultimate, and ultimately shocking, conclusion.

The movie does drag at points, and some of the characters seem unnecessary, but the point is never lost on the audience - both fate and lust, while they draw two people together magnetically, can spell disaster.
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on October 12, 1998
As much as I love this faithful version of James M. Cain's classic novel, this DVD is flawed and useless. Warner Brothers, who released the DVD, failed to include a letterbox side...
What gives?
Wasn't the whole point of creating DVD to make EVERYONE happy: the Pan And Scan People, as well as the Letterbox People?
Wasn't it about choice?
We've already seen what POSTMAN looks like Pan and Scan: LOUSY. The film was shot anamorphically(2.35:1 aspect ratio), so that means approximately 42% of the picture is still hiding inside your TV somewhere...
POSTMAN hasn't ever been released in a letterbox format. So until it is, I wouldn't reccomend this DVD to anyone...
... unless NOT seeing what the director intended is your bag... END
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on August 5, 2007
I saw the 1981 "Postman" when it first came out. The period recreation and photography are excellent. Moreover, the performances are convincing and the sexual heat can be felt. Lange, who hit major stardom the following year with "Tootsie" and "Frances," has been a top notch actress ever since her arrival in Hollywood. Here, she gets her first high profile dramatic role. In her prime, Lange was an incredibly sexy woman. Hot with a capital "H." In this version, Rafelson and company are true to the ethnicities of Cain's characters. Nick is Greek not English and the lawyer is Jewish not Irish. Another reviewer, Dennis Littrell, suggested that 1946 Hollywood was afraid of being offensive. Littrell is mistakenly applying modern PC concerns to the past. Unflattering and even offensive potrayals of different races and ethnic groups were commonplace at the time. Even though Jews of European descent largely ran Hollywood, they were convinced that many audience members didn't want to watch anyone that might be a little different from them. Of course, John Garfield was Jewish but he wasn't playing a Jewish character. Although certain forties films like "Gentleman's Agreement" addressed the issue of bigotry, it wasn't until the fifties that people of different races and ethnicities were up on the screen more often. Nonetheless, the 1946 version with sultry Lana Turner and ruggedly handsome Garfield really captures the era and the tragedy of these doomed characters.
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on June 27, 2011
I had looked for this movie for years untill I discovered Amazon ships overseas to the Netherlands too!! So when I finally got the DVD I watched it again after many years right that evening and again was amazed by the passion and heat coming out of this movie, not only in the way the great actors play but also how every scene was shot, it comes very close to an erotic movie at points. Was something going on between Jack and Jessica?? WOW
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 25, 2013
Fresh off his creepy good performance in "The Shining," Jack Nicholson joins forces again with his director/friend Bob Rafelson in redoing the James M. Cain classic novel. This version is much different from the excellent John Garfield-Lana Turner film from 1946, especially when it comes to the sex scenes between characters played by Nicholson and Jessica Lange, first seen in the "King Kong" remake a few years earlier. She still smolders, but here gets more explicit.

Nicholson plays Frank Chambers, a drifter and small time grifter who stumbles upon a diner-gas station in rural L. A. County. Set in the 1930's, Cora (Lange) is married to a much older Nick Papadakis (John Colicos), a first generation Greek immigrant. She's clearly bored with her life as a short-order cook, not to mention the drunken advances of her husband. Frank decides to stick around as an employee, primarily because of his attraction to Cora.

Without a doubt, Nicholson and Lange heat up the screen with some aggressive sex scenes, but the only nudity you'll see is Jack's bare butt. Still, the film was controversial at the time. After a fumbled first attempt, Cora and Frank eventually bump off Nick which eventually leads to their arrest and trial. In some nifty legal manipulation by their attorney (Michael Lerner), both are freed. The film meanders around too much and often loses focus. Cora goes to her mother's funeral back east. Frank hooks up with a lady lion tamer (Anjelica Huston) seemingly coming out of nowhere. I guess to frame Ms. Huston who does show off her ta ta's here. Or perhaps she insisted on being in the steamy movie, being the long time paramour of Nicholson. You know, just to keep an eye on him.

The film certainly has its moments, especially Lange's performance but the movie lingers too long with a couple false endings. The editing was a bit too choppy for me. Even the final scene shows one of the character's death, complete with a heaving stomach and chest. Not usually seen from dead people. Discounting that last tidbit, this amped up version pales to the original version. While certainly not as visceral, the '46 version maintains the noir anthem of the bad girl turning the good boy bad.
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on January 7, 2015
While it is a well-made film on a technical level and all of the performances were excellent, there was a certain something missing from this remake that left me wanting. Based on the novel by James Cain, the story is about a drifter, Frank Chambers (Jack Nicholson), who visits a rural diner run by Nick Papadakis and his wife Cora (Jessica Lange). Frank and Cora begin an affair and then attempt to kill Cora's husband, but fail. In true film noir fashion, fate eventually gets its way and tragedy befalls the two lovers in an unexpected way. For me, the 1946 film adaptation starring John Garfield and Lana Turner stands as one of the best film noirs ever, and there was almost nothing this 1981 remake could have done to really live up to that. The only new or different thing this adaptation does is ramp up the sexual content and violence, and mixes them in a way that was kind of off-putting at times. Perhaps it was this way in Cain's novel, but the way in which sex and violence are intertwined in this film was more than a little disturbing. With that, and a slight adjustment to the ending (and of course, being in color), it hews fairly closely to the story as presented in the 1946 original. One might ask, "What was the point?" and you'd be perfectly justified in asking that. I have no idea what possessed them produce this remake, but for what it's worth it's not a bad film. However, if forced to choose between this and the 1946 version, I'd pick the 1946 version every time. This one was just a little too nihilistic and lacked emotional depth.
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on September 17, 2011
He's true to form. His leading lady holds her own also. If you love devilish Jack, then this won't be a let down. There is nothing this movie is absent. A great plot. There are some steamy scenes, let me tell you. Not a lot of nudity or drug use. It's is a thriller and it will keep your attention throughout the entire movie.I'm glad I bought this one.
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on April 24, 2013
Both Jack and Jessica were high energy in this tale of a despondent mind continuing down the wrong path. Also the old Greek husband played by John Colicos was an entertaining and endearing character to watch.
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on December 16, 2014
My recommendation: read the book first, then watch this version of the film. #1: no matter what age you are, the novel is utterly worth reading and how far before his time the author dared to write! #2: if you love the book and are fed up with what Hollywood does to those books you love, watch this film anyway. Yes, there are some deviances from the book, but few. And OMG, the setting is so utterly what I envisioned in my mind for the Depression era in that part of the USA. Check out Jessica Lange doing her sitting thing in the bus station, legs apart, no lady would sit that way! Check out the sex scenes that Mr. Caine put in the book without enough information for visuals, but this film provides without being 'tacky'. If you ever liked Jack Nicholson in any one film and haven't seen this one, then you must watch this one. These two actors are steamy and nailed the parts IMHO .... if, you read the book. Great book, good film that does not let the book down.
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