Postman Always Rings Twice [1981]

In The Postman Always Rings Twice, Jack Nicholson teamed up again with his Five Easy Pieces and King of Marvin Gardens director Bob Rafelson for this 1981 version of James M. Cain's hardboiled novel of lust and murder. This version takes a much grittier (and sexually explicit) approach to the material than the slick 1946 MGM version starring John Garfield and Lana Turner. Nicholson plays Frank Chambers, a drifter who happens upon a roadside diner run by Cora Papadakis (Jessica Lange) and her swarthy Greek husband, Nick (John Colicos). Sparks fly, and before you can say l'amour fou, Frank and Cora are making the beast with two backs on the kitchen table. One thing leads to another and they conspire to murder Nick. The movie is still a little too cold and distant to fully convey a hot-blooded passion that leads to murder, but it is a strangely haunting and disturbing film nevertheless. The screenplay is by David Mamet, the photography is by the great Sven Nykvist (Ingmar Bergman's cinematographer), and watch for Anjelica Huston in a supporting role. --Jim Emerson

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