The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) is the second attempt to bring the depression era classic novel by James M. Cain to the screen. The first, in 1946, was made during a pro censorship pendulum swing, making it impossible to do justice to the novel. For this reason, the director doesn't think of this as a remake, but rather as a proper interpretation.
I, for one, agree.

Jessica Lange plays the waitress/cook/wife of a Greek restaurant and filling station owner, who is trapped in a loveless marriage. Jack Nicholson is a drifter and petty swindler who wanders through to con them out of a free meal. The Greek owner sees him as a mechanic for his station, and, when Jack sees Jessica Lange, he agrees to take the job, as would most of us.

It isn't long before Jack and Jessica find exactly what they want in a heated sexual encounter on the kitchen table. There are a few problems with the romance. First, there is the matter of a husband. Second, Nicholson isn't really the husband type. After several abortive attempts to run off together, Nicholson and Lange plot to kill her husband. There are many twists and turns from there.


Huston shows her left breast and nipple from the side.

Lange shows plenty of see-through and pokies.

There is a brief look at Lange's breasts in a red-filtered nighttime scene 

It is also possible to see a quick glimpse of Jessica's pubic area when Nicholson goes down on her.

Nicholson shows his bare butt while lying on his stomach.

Maltin hates this film, at 1 1/2 stars. He does admit that the violent sex between Nicholson and Lange is very hot, and that seems to be one of his objections. There are no other English language reviews available. I enjoyed this film at lot. It was well-shot, and the performances were uniformly excellent. The chemistry was good between Nicholson and Lange, and Anjelica Huston plays a small role as a lion tamer with whom Nicholson has a brief fling.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • the only good thing about the DVD is that they didn't mess up Nykvist's colors and camera work. Aside from that, it's a full-screen version with no worthwhile extras.

Scoopy's notes:

I agree with Tuna's statements, but I don't know why he only rated it a C+, after all the good points he made.

  • Sven Nykvist did the cinematography, and it's absolutely top-drawer. Nykvist did many of Bergman's best films as well as "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". He is a master.
  • This is one of the sexiest films I've ever seen, despite the lack of nudity. Nicholson, Lange, the looks exchanged, the music, the period atmosphere - sexy as hell.
  • For a character-driven study, I think it has an interesting plot as well - enough to make it a solid film. Given the other plusses, I'd say it's certainly a very good film, nearly a great film

The current DVD is disappointing. Not even a widescreen version. I'd love to see a special edition DVD, including both a widescreen version of this and a remastered version of the original 1940's version, plus the paperback novel as well. That would be a great S.E. package.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin: 1.5 stars

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 6.3
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, Tuna says "This is more of a character driven drama than anything else. Using that as a genre, I give it a C+." Scoopy is more enthusiastic, declaring that the music, performing, plot, eroticism, period replication, and photography are a powerful enough combination to merit a B, and raise it above the level of a pure genre picture.

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