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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

The only good pencil...

...is a pencil skirt.

And Lana Turner, in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), seems to agree.


You see, I'm a pen man. I use pencils only when there's no other choice. It's the infernal scratching: I can feel it in the bones of my hand, and I can hear it. Like chalk. Nails on a blackboard is worse, but chalk is quite awful enough for me.

I was afraid I wouldn't like this movie, either, after seeing the opening. The first line of the book is, "They threw me off the hay truck about noon." Here, Frank Chambers rolls into the diner where his destiny awaits, well-dressed and happy, a passenger in an accommodating motorist's comfortable car. Oh, he's still a drifter, he makes that clear enough, but is he a grifter? Let alone a murderer.

I needn't have worried.

The opening aside, this film is textbook adaptation. It's a short novel, which helped, but it's still remarkable how much of it the screenwriters (Harry Ruskin and Niven Busch) managed to work in. Which is to say, just about everything. All the twists and turns of the plot are retained, and that's saying something.

Nor do the characters suffer. Less rough and tumble than their literary counterparts, but just as believable as lovers determined not to be thwarted by morality, the law, or common criminals. Frank (John Garfield) is in it for Cora (Lana Turner), but I particularly liked that Cora (as in the book) never lets him forget that she's ambitious, too.

At least one reviewer calls her evil. These femme fatales, they're always evil, right? Not Cora. Not even Frank. They're primitives. They love and dream as we do, but they lack the sophistication and self-control to abide by society's rules. Oh, they're guilty as hell, but not because they're corrupt or depraved. They're just...simple. Pathetic, even.

That's another quality retained from the book, one that I don't think Bob Rafelson quite managed in the 1981 remake. We feel for these people, even as we cringe at their clumsiness.