You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Postman Always Rings Twice

James M. Cain's 1934 novel attracted notoriety for its adulterous murder story, spiced with some fairly daring sequences for its day.

Jack Nicholson Jessica Lange John Colicos Anjelica Huston Christopher Lloyd John P. Ryan

James M. Cain’s 1934 novel attracted notoriety for its adulterous murder story, spiced with some fairly daring sequences for its day.

Because of the Hays Office, Hollywood couldn’t touch the property until 1946, when MGM released a sanitized version with Lana Turner and John Garfield – and even that was greeted by some shock. For this remake, Bob Rafelson said he would shoot as an X but cut to an R.

But the final cut is limited to some fairly heavy groping, explicit shots of Jack Nicholson massaging the front of Jessica Lange’s panties and a view of his head between her legs, suggesting more than is ever witnessed.

Stripped of its excess, Cain’s yarn is essentially a morality tale of a Depression drifter who comes to work for a beautiful young woman and her older Greek husband. Falling madly in lust, they murder the old man, escape justice and then get their desserts in an ironical twist at the end.

In the key roles, Nicholson and Lange are excellent, as is Michael Lerner as their defense attorney.

In Cain’s novel, once the couple escape punishment in court, she dies in an auto accident and he is wrongly executed for her murder, thus providing the justice. Rafelson throws this away for an ending that’s not so neat.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Production: Northstar/Lorimar. Director Bob Rafelson; Producer Charles Mulvehill, Bob Rafelson; Screenplay David Mamet; Camera Sven Nykvist; Editor Graeme Clifford; Music Michael Small; Art Director George Jenkins

Crew: (Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1981. Running time: 123 MIN.

With: Jack Nicholson Jessica Lange John Colicos Anjelica Huston Christopher Lloyd John P. Ryan

More Film

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content