The Postman Always Rings Twice is a controversial picture. The approach to lust and murder is as adult and matter-of-fact as that used by James M. Cain in his book from which the film was adapted.
It was box-office wisdom to cast Lana Turner as the sexy, blonde murderess, and John Garfield as the foot-loose vagabond whose lust for the girl made him stop at nothing. Each give to the assignments the best of their talents. Development of the characters makes Tay Garnett’s direction seem slowly paced during first part of the picture, but this establishment was necessary to give the speed and punch to the uncompromising evil that transpires.
As in Cain’s book, there will be little audience sympathy for the characters, although plotting will arouse moments of pity for the little people too weak to fight against passion and the evil circumstances it brings. The script is a rather faithful translation of Cain’s story of a boy and girl who murder the girl’s husband, live through terror and eventually make payment for their crime. The writing is terse and natural to the characters and events that transpire.
Cecil Kellaway, the husband, is a bit flamboyant at times in interpreting the character. Hume Cronyn is particularly effective as the attorney who defends the couple for murder.