One film, four versions: The Postman Always Rings Twice

When I was in my teens, I went to see a great film noir thriller from 1946, starring John Garfield and the gorgeous Lana Turner. This was the third version of the film, with the two earlier ones made in France and Italy, using the same book as the source material, but with different titles. So when I saw this in the 1960s, I was already watching what was essentially the second remake, though I have still never seen the European films.

Garfield plays Frank, a handsome young drifter. One day he stops at a diner, and finds it is run by a glamorous young woman, Cora, (Turner) who is married to the much older owner. He starts to work there, and naturally becomes attracted to the glamorous Cora. They begin a steamy love affair, and plan to run off together. When she learns that her husband plans to sell up and take her to live in Canada, they become desperate, and hatch a plot to kill him. The bungled plot does succeed, but also attracts the attention of the local police. Eventually, Cora and Frank become paranoid, and turn on each other. Without further spoilers, I can say no more, except that it is very good indeed.

In 1981, the American version was remade in the US, making it the fourth time the book had been filmed.
Starring Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange, the story was the same, with a slight (but crucial) change to the ending, and it was set during the depression, in California. But this was 1981, so it is much sexier. Love scenes are no-holds-barred, and there is undeniable chemistry between the two leads. It was written for the screen by David Mamet, so sounds right too. And it looks good, with authentic sets, and star performances all round. But changing the ending was a bad idea. The film lost money at first, and critical reviews were at best lukewarm. So, good effort, but the Lana Turner film is better.

35 thoughts on “One film, four versions: The Postman Always Rings Twice

  1. Great post 🙂 I actually love both versions, but I can see why people love the ending of the original better. Nevertheless, I believe in my Bob Rafelson post, you actually seemed to prefer the 1981 version. Have you had second thoughts since then? 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did indeed have second thoughts, John. I reexamined both films when researching this post, and decided the change of ending was too much. I am always prepared to change my mind in retrospect. 🙂 Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the original. Lana Turner was indeed a sultry star. To me, her love affair with the camera and Garfield’s perpetual sweat is much more steamy than all the groping and thrusting in the remake. I’m not a fan. Give me the original any day.

    Liked by 2 people

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