Frank Chambers (John Garfield) drifts into a dusty rural California town, in search of a good meal. At the diner, he finds a meal, a job, and a beautiful woman named Cora (Lana Turner). Within a small bit of time, Frank and Cora have a passionate affair. But Cora is married already, to a man she doesn't love. She wants to start over and live a new life with Frank, but not lose the diner. They see the murder of Cora's husband Nick as a perfect solution. How will they deal with the consequences of their actions, and will they get caught?
The better-known adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice
, it is considered an important addition to the Film Noir
Tropes used by the film:
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Cora has black hair in the novel, but she's played by the blonde Lana Turner.
- Bowdlerise: Notorious even in its day for toning down the source material.
- Dead Hand Shot: How Cora's death is revealed after Frank crashes the car.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Cora wants more than flipping burgers in a diner—and she definitely doesn't want to play nursemaid for Nick's sister.
- Downer Ending: They got away with the murder, but Cora is now dead. Frank is convicted of murdering her, even though she died in a car accident that was genuinely an accident.
- The Drifter: Frank is just wandering from town to town when he meets Cora and Nick.
- Feet-First Introduction: Cora, in the most memorable scene in the picture. Following Frank's Male Gaze, the camera starts at her feet, pans up to (and lingers on) her shapely legs, then cuts to reveal her wearing shorts and a midriff-baring top. She makes an impression.
- Femme Fatale: Cora, who lures Frank into murder.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Fred Flintstone attempts to blackmail Frank and Cora at one point.
- Laser-Guided Karma: With a dose of The Hays Code and its insistence that you Can't Get Away with Nuthin' . Cora and Frank get away with Nick's murder—but after the car wreck that kills Cora, Frank is convicted of murdering her, even though it wasn't really an accident.
- The Perfect Crime: They left no evidence that they killed Nick. Indeed, one wonders why Cora's lawyer didn't take her to trial and win an acquittal instead of taking a manslaughter plea.
- Title Drop: Frank notes that when a person is expecting to get a letter, it's alright if you don't hear it the first time, because the postman always rings twice. They got off murdering Nick scot-free, but Cora is now dead and Frank on his way to recieve the death penalty. He says that the postman has indeed rung a second time for each of them. This is different than the novel. James M. Cain admits that the title was mostly a non-sequitur.
- The Vamp: Cora uses her feminine wiles to ensnare Frank. If you ever want to try this, it helps to look like Lana Turner.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: To the point of absurdity, with the scorching hot Cora married to dumpy diner owner Nick. Somewhat unconvincingly explained by Cora—she married Nick because she was tired of everyone else in town hittin gon her.
- Woman in White: Cora dresses entirely in white throughout the film, save for two scenes in which she wears black.