on July 21, 2014
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE  [Blu-ray] Bristling Drama! Packs A Real Punch! Their Love Was A Flame The Destroyed!
The sign outside the roadside diner days “Man Wanted” and drifter Frank Chambers [John Garfield] knows the sign has more than one meaning when he eyes pouty, luminous Cora Smith [Lana Turner] the much-younger bride of the diner’s proprietor Nick Smith [Cecil Kellaway]. Cora [Lana Turner] and Frank Chambers [John Garfield], o conspires to kill Nick and seize his assets. When they succeed, local prosecutor Kyle Sackett [Leon Ames] becomes suspicious, but is unable to build a solid case. However, the couple soon realizes that no misdeed ever goes truly unpunished.
Based on the same-titled novel by James M. Cain “Double Indemnity” and “Mildred Pierce.” This quintessential film-noir classic, combine’s studio-system gloss with James M. Cain hard-bitten tale of murderous attractions. John Garfield and Lana Turner give career-benchmark performance as Frank Chambers and Cora Smith, illicit lovers who botch a first attempt to bump off Cora’s hubby, pull it off, betray each other at the trial and yet wriggle free. But their volatile tale does not end there. As the film’s metaphorical title indicates, and fate is sure to ring again.
FILM FACT: This version was the third filming of ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice,’ but the first under the novel's original title and the first in English. Previously, the novel had been filmed as ‘Le Dernier Tournant’ [The Last Turning] in France in 1939, and as ‘Ossessione’ [Obsession] in Italy in 1943.
Cast: John Garfield, Lana Turner, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn, Leon Ames, Audrey Totter, Alan Reed, Jeff York, Philip Ahlm (uncredited), John Alban (uncredited), Don Anderson (uncredited), Morris Ankrum (uncredited), King Baggot (uncredited) and Betty Blythe (uncredited)
Director: Tay Garnett
Producer: Carey Wilson
Screenplay: Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch
Composer: Erich Zeisl and George Bassman
Cinematography: Sidney Wagner
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono, French: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Spanish: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, Portuguese: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono, German: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono and Italian: 1.0 Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH and Italian SDH
Running Time: 113 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Warmer Home Video
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: You’ve gotta love those femme fatales. Devious, passionate, manipulative, and oh-so-sexy, they can turn a tough male into a drooling lapdog within seconds, and lead him panting down the road to self-destruction. Barbara Stanwyck in 'Double Indemnity,' Joan Bennett in 'The Woman in the Window,' Jean Simmons in 'Angel Face,' the list goes on. Some are rotten-to-the-core, others just plain rotten, yet all use sex and vulnerability to poison their prey. Guys like Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson, and Robert Mitchum think they can handle such icy-hot dames, but they're way, way out of their league. Sure, we feel sorry for these good men gone wrong, but deep down we know, if given a second chance, they'd make the same bad choices all over again. So sweet is the honey of Hollywood's queen bees.
Yet of all the fatalistic femmes, Lana Turner in 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' is perhaps the quintessential specimen. As Cora Smith, the sultry cook at a roadside dive, she's cool, calculating, and devastatingly carnal. Her white-as-snow outfits denote spiritual purity, but her platinum blonde hair betrays the lie. No wonder drifter Frank Chambers [John Garfield] falls for her. To him, she's an angel. Unfortunately, he doesn't realise she's an angel of death until he's trapped in her deceitful web. Attracted by the "Man Wanted" sign outside the hamburger joint she owns with her much older husband Nick Smith [Cecil Kellaway], Frank Chambers inquires about a job. But after meeting Cora Smith, he soon realises he's "wanted" for other things too, especially love, sex, maybe even murder. As far as the order goes, take your pick.
It all starts innocently enough. It seems Cora Smith married the portly, unkempt Nick Smith, to escape all the ravenous wolves nipping at her skirts. Dirt poor, she saw the Twin Oaks Restaurant as a ticket to self-improvement and economic security. Yet when Frank ambles along and ignites her flame, she hungers for all the passion she's been missing. Cora Smith melts in Frank Chambers's embrace, but can't bear the thought of sharing his nomadic, impoverished existence. And she knows if Nick Smith ever discovers their clandestine affair, he'll cut her off without a penny.
So what's left for the illicit lovers? In their dead-end lives, all they can see is murder. Bump off Nick Smith, beat the rap, share the restaurant, and live happily ever after. Sounds like quite a plan. It's just the execution and avoiding execution, that's the problem. Poisoned by suspicion and weakened by panic and fear, the pair soon loses control of their own game, becoming mere pawns in a legal chess match between District Attorney Kyle Sackett [Leon Ames] and Cora's smarmy lawyer, Arthur Keats [Hume Cronyn]. Crosses, double-crosses, blackmail, and other assorted twists ensue and keep us riveted throughout the film.
James M. Cain published his first novel “The Postman Always Rings Twice” in 1934, and the racy, sordid yarn incited a firestorm of controversy, culminating with the city of Boston banning the book. Hollywood wouldn't touch it until 12 years later, after two other James M. Cain adaptations “Double Indemnity” and “Mildred Pierce,” garnered critical and popular acclaim. Amazingly, it wasn't gritty Warner Bros. that snapped up the rights, but wholesome M-G-M the home to sumptuous musicals, Andy Hardy, and Lassie. Although Hollywood's production code sanitised the novel's lewd, raw tone, M-G-M provided additional softening by enhancing the romantic angle. In the book, talk of murder begins on page 14, but more than a half-hour of character development transpires in the film before Cora Smith plants her homicidal seeds. During that time and throughout the rest of the film, John Garfield and Lana Turner add welcome sensitivity to their roles, fooling us into believing that love and not lust or greed, but drives them to their doom. Somehow, they gain our sympathy, and we often find ourselves rooting for them, despite their dastardly deeds and our own moral beliefs. After all, who can resist two crazy, murderous people in love? The film never approaches the hard edge of 'Double Indemnity,' but the love affair adds depth and lends 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' a refreshing soulful quality that resonates during its climax and denouement.
Director Tay Garnett tried to tarnish M-G-M's gloss by shooting chunks of the script on dusty locations, but the studio's patented "look" still peeks through. That's not entirely bad, especially when one reflects on Cora Smith's glamorous and now classic cinematic introduction. As a lipstick rolls across the restaurant floor, a slow backward pan reveals a woman's shapely legs, followed by John Garfield's stunned and breathless reaction as he digests the heavenly view. Only then does Tay Garnett cut to a full-body shot of Lana Turner, dressed like an angel of sex in white shorts, white halter top, and a white turban swathed around her platinum hair. She holds out her hand like a princess, waiting for John Garfield to deliver the lipstick. He makes her come and get it, which is a very iconic sequence, especially coming from a typical M-G-M Studio.
Both Lana Turner and John Garfield are pitch-perfect in their parts, creating a steamy chemistry that carries the film and adds dimension to the hard-boiled story. Always an underrated actress whose beauty overshadowed her talent, Lana Turner files perhaps her finest performance, deftly complicating the femme fatale stereotype by layering Cora with just enough sincerity and softness to gain audience affection, and keep her true colours a mystery. John Garfield's natural acting style allowed him to believably inhabit any role, and he makes Frank Chambers the ultimate everyman, a poor sap in love with his fantasy girl, willing to sell his soul for a kiss or caress. Who can't identify with that?
As the sparring attorneys, Leon Ames and Hume Cronyn nearly steal the show. Their spirited legal wrangling and slick manipulation of Cora and Frank offer a cerebral counterpoint to the lovers' sexual and emotional tension, and provide the film with its most fascinating and colourful moments. Although the Nick Smith [Cecil Kellaway] character is a far cry from the book's oily, grimy depiction of the Greek-born Nick Smith, he's enough of a tubby sad sack to serve his purpose, and even engenders some pity.
The film's only real misstep is its slightly overdramatic score, which often intrudes with such frenzy and fury it ridicules the on-screen action. It badly dates this classic movie, yet the story's power and texture endure. Coupled with assured direction, exceptional performances, and the heady atmosphere of sex, violence, and intrigue, 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' remains richly entertaining and engrossing, a finely cut diamond in the rough world of film noir.
Blu-ray Video Quality – This 1080p encoded image transfer seems to be struck from the same master as the 2004 NTSC DVD, but appears a tad brighter and more vibrant. That's almost always a good thing, but some of the exterior shots, all of which are bathed in a dusty white glare, at times look slightly overexposed. Interiors, however, possess excellent contrast and clarity, showcasing Sidney Wagner's naturalistic cinematography. Black levels are solid, though not quite as inky as I was anticipating, but it's the whites that steal the show and a rarity in the world of film noir. From Lana Turner's platinum hair to her monochromatic ensembles, whites are on constant display, yet they never bloom and always exude a definite gradation of hue, thanks to a finely constructed grey scale. Even in the murkiest scenes, crush is never an issue, and superior shadow delineation exposes a wide array of detail. Typical of a film from this vintage, grain is pronounced and in some scenes more than others, but not overwhelming, and is more noticeable during soft-focus close-ups, especially those of Lana Turner. Textures come through well and the lucidity of the weave on the burlap fabric during the opening credits is extraordinary and background elements are always easy to discern. While the NTSC DVD exhibited a fair amount of white specks, the Blu-ray is free of any markings; a few times I thought I saw a stray speck or two, but it was merely wisps of Lana Turner's hair, which gives you an idea of this transfer's degree of clarity. No digital doctoring disrupts the integrity of the original source and no transfer anomalies intrude. Overall, 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' looks quite good, though it pales when compared to the studio's best black-and-white Blu-ray discs. And while this effort isn't a huge step up from the previously released inferior NTSC DVD, the subtle improvements make a notable enough difference to merit an upgrade.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track supplies clean, well-modulated sound, despite some interesting challenges. George Bassman's music score can be seductively romantic one minute and bombastically melodramatic the next, but the track handles the severe volume shifts well. A hint of distortion creeps in occasionally, but on the whole, the music enjoys good fidelity and fine tonal depth. All the action is anchored up front, but accents such as screams and the pounding waves of the Pacific surf penetrate the room well. Dialogue is always clear and easy to comprehend, even when seductively whispered by Turner. A smattering of hiss pops up here and there, but it's hardly noticeable, and any pops, crackles, or other instances of surface noise have been meticulously erased. For a 66-year-old track, 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' sounds surprisingly spry, and more robust than its inferior NTSC DVD counterpart.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Introduction by Richard Jewell [480i] [1.33:1] [5:04] This just over five-minute preamble by film historian and author Richard Jewell only skims the surface of this classic production, providing an elementary primer for viewers largely unfamiliar with 'Postman Always Rings Twice,' Garfield, Turner, and director Garnett. Jewell analyses the famous rolling lipstick sequence and talks about how M-G-M groomed Lana Turner as a blonde bombshell in the mould of the late Jean Harlow, a slightly dubious assessment at best. It's too bad Warner Home Video didn't see fit to produce a more in-depth look at 'Postman Always Rings twice,' as this cursory examination only whets our appetite for a full-fledged documentary.
Special Feature Documentary: Lana Turner: A Daughter's Memoir  [480i] [1.33:1] [86:30] This feature-length documentary which was originally aired on Turner Classic Movies and provides an intimate chronicle of Lana Turner's often scandalous, always fascinating life and multi-decade career. Cheryl Crane talks about her mother, Lana Turner, in this documentary, ‘Lana Turner...A Daughter's Memoir.’ Lana Turner's private life often overshadowed her film work, some of which was excellent. Beautiful as well as sexy, the actress started out at M-G-M as a teenager. Her career lasted 54 years. Narrated by Robert Wagner, the prime interviewee is Cheryl Crane, who looks lovely and comes off as very intelligent as she comments on her mother's life, which is punctuated by photos and film clips. She also speaks frankly about the great scandal and her stabbing of Lana Turner's gangster lover, Johnny Stompanato. There are interviews as well with Lana Turner's long-time makeup man, her good friend Evie Johnson, and others. One of the film clips is of Tyrone Power, the great love of Lana Turner's life, playing with Cheryl as Lana Turner sits beside him. "He was the one she didn't get to keep," Cheryl Crane says. Lana Turner is portrayed as a party-loving, man-loving woman who was somewhat of a negligent mother, leaving Cheryl Crane with her nanny for huge periods of time. It was only later in their lives that the two developed a strong relationship. Negligent didn't mean uncaring, however - when she learned that her current husband, Lex Barker, was abusing Cheryl Crane, she threw him out of the house. What emerges is a portrait of a woman who loved stardom, loved being beautiful, and loved being attractive to men. When looked at closely, her life was both traumatic and somewhat empty. Lucky for Turner, she had a daughter who cared about her and which is something some other female stars didn't have.
Special Feature Documentary: The John Garfield Story  [480i] [1.33:1] [57:43] The documentary traces John Garfield's rise from a tough childhood on New York's Lower East Side through his vagabond youth and apprenticeship with the renowned Group Theatre to his Oscar® nominated breakthrough as a film star in ‘Four Daughters’ . A forerunner to such tough-yet-sensitive rebels as Marlon Brando, James Dean, and John Garfield displayed what Lee Grant calls his "smouldering, sombre, troubled street-guy kind of presence" in such hard-hitting films as ‘Humoresque’  and ‘Force of Evil’ . This is a much more involving of the ‘The John Garfield Story,’ a fascinating and impeccably produced profile that originally aired on Turner Classic Movies. Narrated by the actor's daughter, Julie Garfield, the portrait begins at John Garfield's funeral, which was apparently the largest for a Hollywood personality since Rudolph Valentino's, and featured 10,000 mourners and sadly the actor died of heart failure in 1952 at the age of 39. From there, we go back in time, and follow the progression of Jacob Julius Garfinkle, who is affectionately known as Julie Garfield, and from his involvement with the left-leaning Group Theatre in New York to his instant Hollywood success. The documentary details John Garfield's war contributions, and how one such visit to Yugoslavia came back to haunt him, especially his dedication to casting minority actors in his films, and his devastating investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee, which friends and colleagues claim indirectly caused his early death. Rare colour footage of the actor, substantive film clips. Among other admiring contemporary actors interviewed in this look at John Garfield's all-too-brief life and career are Joanne Woodward, Richard Dreyfuss, Lee Grant and Norman Lloyd. Co-stars who recall working with Garfield include Hume Cronyn in ‘The Postman Always Rings Twice’  and Patricia Neal in ‘The Breaking Point’  and all contribute to make this fascinating documentary special film the success it is, which also helped to especially making it an absorbing and enlightening film.
Special Feature: Vintage Short: Phantoms, Inc.  [480i] [1.33:1] [16:45] An instalment form M-G-M's ‘Crime Doesn't Pay’ series. The police have files on many different types of con artists, among them fake spiritualists or psychics who prey upon the desperation of individuals looking for information as comfort. One specific individual for which they have a file is Dr. Rupert Trykel, who called himself a spiritualist, but who was really a shyster. He had stable of associates who acted both as his faithful followers to their marks, but also as researchers who dug up the most basic of information on those marks to use to feed back to the mark at their sessions. One of his marks was Mrs. Martha Kenneson, who was desperate for information on her son, Philip Kenneson Jr., a soldier who had been listed as MIA for six months when she first went to see Dr. Rupert Trykel. As desperate as Mrs. Martha Kenneson was to find out information about her son, for which she would continually and somewhat happily pay for more and more, people like Dr. Rupert Trykel, who work just within the law, are equally desperate: desperate to maintain their con and what they see as easy money without regard for what they are doing to their victims. This desperation on both sides often leads to desperate acts.
Special Feature: Vintage M-G-M Animated Short: Red Hot Riding Hood [480i] [1.33:1] [7:16] This clever 1943 Tex Avery cartoon puts a sexy spin on the age-old children's tale by turning Little Red Riding Hood into a sultry nightclub singer, the Wolf into...well, a lecherous wolf, and Grandma into a wanton red hot mama desperate for love. This sensual adaptation of the old fairy story soon liberates its principals from their cute Disney-style forest and slaps them right in the middle of swanky Manhattan. Grandma's a nymphomaniac swinger, and her rustic cottage home a hip penthouse pad. Little Red has become a red-hot singer-stripper; the Wolf is a model of lupine lechery; and the forest is supplanted by a big-city nightclub as the enchanted place of forbidden sexuality. The Wolf tries to pull the old Red Riding Hood gag in order to meet up with Little Red, but Grandma has other ideas.
Special Feature: Screen Guild Theater Broadcast: Vintage Radio Adaptation  [29:00] "The Screen Guild Theater" broadcast this radio adaptation of the film on 16th June, 1947 with Lana Turner and John Garfield reprise their film roles as Frank Chambers and Cora Smith in this Screen Guild Theater broadcast radio adaptation that pares the steamy drama down to a real lean and mean drama. Huge chunks of the story are either glossed over or deleted, but the drama's aura of passion and hard-boiled nature remain. This is the third version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice" novel.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [1.33:1] [2:31] The film's original preview emphasises the story's salacious elements and oddly gives away a critical plot point. "Darling, can't you see how happy you and I would be together here? Without . . . him."
Finally, Film noir doesn't get much better than this. Thanks to Tay Garnett's no-nonsense direction and terrific performances by Lana Turner and John Garfield, 'The Postman Always Rings Twice' still sinks its teeth into viewers today. James M. Cain's searing tale of passion, murder, and inescapable retribution grabs us from the opening frames and never let’s go. An above-average video transfer and solid audio make this Blu-ray as irresistible as Lana Turner herself, and a great spate of new supplements, along with those from the previous inferior NTSC DVD, which seals the upgrade deal, as well as an enthusiastic recommendation for this classic film and high-quality disc. Although the re-make was okay, this true classic 1946 film-noir, beats all others hands down and it is another film that has been a massive favourite of mine and now seeing it in the stunning black and white images on this Blu-ray, makes it a must have and when I first viewed this Blu-ray, I realised I had gained a truly wonderful classic film and a total honour to add it to my Blu-ray Collection. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom