I can see why James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice was required reading for this week. The drifter and the femme fatale, booze, fast cars, murder, mystery, romance, corrupt police, blackmail, adultery, and even a crooked lawyer are all present. I can see why it was made into a movie in 1946 and again, in 1981.
I was indifferent, if not upset, by The Killers this week, so I gave The Shadow a chance. It turns out that that was a great run-up to Postman, because I absolutely loved it. Whether it’s love or hate, an intense reaction to a work of art is the reason for making art in the first place, as far as I am concerned.
Frank Chambers, an apparent drifter, sticks around town for once and holds a steady job, because of a married woman. What a scumbag. But then, wait for it, the married woman, Cora Papadakis, falls for him! And then they plan to, and eventually succeed in killing Cora’s husband, Nick Papadakis. Nick was the one that gave Frank a job! He’d never been anything but nice to him, but that doesn’t mean anything to low-life Frank Chambers.
Both Nick and Frank were heavy drinkers, but Nick held his alcohol well, singing and playing guitar whenever he drank his sweet wine, while Frank preferred to ruin Nick’s marriage after just a drink or two, at least toward the beginning of the tale.
Frank was the one that killed Nick, after all, after they’d both been drinking.
And Cora loved him. But Frank, Frank just liked to get himself into bad situations, thinking his lies could cover the truth, never thinking about how his actions would actually shape his character, until the inmate on death row mentions the brain’s subconscious self.
He ends up losing everything his lies had gained for him. Cora, his unborn child, and eventually, his own life. His lies had separated him from reality almost completely. His arrogance kept him from seeing Cora’s contentment with their restaurant, Twin Oaks. He claimed to have loved her, but didn’t seem to value her at all, except as a sexual escapade, so I choose to believe he didn’t actually care about anyone except for himself.
The corrupt cop, Kennedy, who recommended Frank employ Katz to defend him in the case surrounding Nick’s death, ends up trying to blackmail Frank and Cora when Frank shows his true colors, beating him nearly to death. He could have just knocked him out, and then he and Cora could have skipped town, driven across the country, and resettled. But, no. Violence was Frank’s answer.
Being a father myself, the car crash scene was a bit much for me. Anything involving injury to a pregnant woman, a child, unborn or not, or a mother really gets to me now. The blood was a bit much, “like rain on a tin roof”, makes my spine tingle and my legs weak. But in that same paragraph is where I made another realization about Frank.
“I got her up, and tried to stop the blood and in between I was talking to her, and crying, and kissing her.”
It’s here I realized that Frank has only ever caused blood loss, and pain, and always tried to make it look like it had been an accident. But this is what a real accident is like, and he has no idea how to handle himself. It was his own reckless decision to try to pass the truck that was preventing him from speeding.
He had to lose something; since he forced others to lose Nick, since he had gotten away with so much during his lifetime, having been in jail multiple times for various reasons, essentially a career criminal.
As I said earlier, I know I felt something. Maybe love for the his complicated tales, falling for Frank’s lies myself, even. I wouldn’t have hoped they’d get away with it all hadn’t I felt something. But, in noir, they always get what they had coming.