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Monthly Readings/Screenings > The Postman Always Rings Twice (Dec. 07)

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message 1: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:00PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments All three versions are either good or interesting. My favorite is the Visconti Italian version and the John Garfield/Lana Turner match-up. But you really can't beat the Neo-Realist Visconti version of the story - that style of cinema is so tailored made for this story. "The Postman Always Rings Twice" is an interesting subject matter film wise, due to the two different film versions. One is classic film noir, and the other is a great example of Italian Neo-Realism.

message 2: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:00PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Ah Tosh, you couldn't wait to get this discussion going!

But I'm with you. Visconti's is my favorite, though I did very much enjoy the Garfield/Turner version as well. The Rafelson version did not live up to expectations despite what should have been perfect casting. But I haven't seen any of them in at least 15-20 years so I'm looking forward to revisiting these as well as the book which I also read about 20 years ago...

I think I might try to read Zola's Therese Raquin as well. I believe Sarah said this was a strong influence for Cain's book so I'm curious about that.

message 3: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:00PM) (new)

brian   speaking of visconti (and, yes, his version is easily the best of the three!), a newly packaged and translated edition of The Leopard is coming out next month... perhaps that'd be a good pick for january's book? lancaster, delon, cardinale... it's a no brainer.

message 4: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:01PM) (new)

Alison I picked up TPART at the library tonight. It's teeny! (Like 114 pages). There will probably be time to watch all three film versions.

message 5: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Just found my copy of Postman and discovered that I have the 1981 movie tie-in version of the book with a sexy photo of Jack and Jessica on the cover. I hadn't realized I read this so long ago! I'm very curious to see if it holds up for me.

Also, I just read the mini bio on Cain in the book and Postman was his first book.

I hope everyone is enjoying it. It's a short fast read so we should be able to get chatting soon.

message 6: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments I didn't recall that this was Cain's first book, but I'm not entirely up on the details of his career, aside from knowing the most familiar titles. I used to have a 1950s Signet edition - and you just can't beat 1950s Signet titles for lurid covers - but I must have gotten rid of it. I'll be reading this from the Library of America "Crime Novels" volume - a great collection, by the way, which also includes "Thieves Like Us","They Shoot Horses, Don't They" and "I Married a Dead man" - all worthy of consideration for future readings.
And in the course of looking for a photo of the above-referenced cover, i learned that in London two years ago, there was a stage version starring Val Kilmer...

message 7: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Robert, I love those old pulp covers. My cover is appropriately tawdry but not as good at those older ones.

So, I actually sat down last night and zipped right through this book in one sitting.

I'm happy to say that the book held up for me. I think Cain really packed a lot into this spare short novel. He gets right into the heart of the story immediately. There's no character development yet the two or three details he does give you really give a good sense of who these people are. I'm impressed overall with just how much he manages to say with so little.

I'll wait until some more of you have read it before I start discussing anything further. Plus I still need to watch the films again.

I remembered that there are a lot of explanations for the odd title and found some interesting info on the wikipedia page about it here:

My copy of the book boastfully states in the blurb that Postman was the "inspiration and the model" for Camus' The Stranger. And supposedly Cain was influenced by Zola. What goes around comes around... I'm going to read the Zola book next. I've read The Stranger several times and can definitely see the inspiration though Camus really took the ideas further along.

It's snowing here in NYC today. A perfect day to sit inside and read! War and Peace, Brian. I'm back to War and Peace!

message 8: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:05PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments I don't have that particular collection (Library of America) but it's a good one! Cornell Woolrich is great. I never read "Thieves Like Us." I think I am going to get that collection. Does it have critical essays with the novels in that edition?

Hopefully next weekend I am going to try to get all three versions of Postman and just zap out for the afternoon watching them all. Yeah, I am going to be a total geek on this. Put a 'don't disturb or knock' sign outside my door. It's going to be intense!

message 9: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Alison I read the book today too, for the first time. I'm so excited because I just read The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler, and it's fresh enough in my mind that I was kind of mentally comparing these two writers as I was reading. Same genre, different styles.

I was interested that this story shared similar plot elements with "Double Indemnity" and "Mildred Pierce"(seen the movies, not read the books). Cain must have had a fetish for diners (and insurance if that's possible). Any chance he was a failed insurance salesman before becoming a writer?...he sure knew the business. But, like Kimley, I'll wait until everyone's ready to discuss further.

I haven't read The Stranger in years. May pick that up.

message 10: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Yeah it seems that Camus wanted to get the language of James Cain in this particular book. So while writing The Stranger he was thinking of The Postman. It does make sense.

Chandler on the other hand was not a fan of Cain's work. Too direct for him.

message 11: by brian (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

brian   it's funny you write that tosh - i read Postman years ago and didn't like it for the same reason Chandler didn't. i am going to re-read it however...

yay kimley! charge ahead! full speed!

message 12: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Alison Possible SPOILER...

If you look at Chandler's protagonist, Marlowe, and Cain's Frank Chambers, they are very different in terms of morality. Marlowe was smart and streetwise, but he always made decisions based on his own moral compass and what would be the right thing to do. Chambers, on the other hand, was "smart, but no good", as Cora tells him. I can see how Chandler could fail to appreciate such a "hero." Maybe he preferred his tough guys good (and his sex and violence less overt).

I'm shutting up now so people can read, I promise!

message 13: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Well, there's definitely a raw quality to Cain's writing whereas Chandler is much more stylized or I'd even say romanticized. I'm a bigger Chandler fan but I think Cain's style works for a story like Postman which is raw in every sense and I would say isn't as concerned with morality as it is in a kind of fatalism. These characters don't seem to be capable of making real choices (or at least choices that make a difference-I'd gather this is what Camus was interested in) and are portrayed more as animals just trying to survive - notice the constant animal-like descriptions of the characters.

And yeah, I was thinking the same thing about Cain and the insurance industry - he clearly is not a fan of their machinations! I'd love to see what he'd write today...

message 14: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Chandler's character Philip Marlowe is a very moralistic figure in a world with no morals. And I suspect Chandler saw himself in that light as well.

message 15: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments The distinction between Chandler and Cain can also be seen as a distinction between genres. There is some argument - in film studies as well as literature - as to a definition of "noir" or if it can be even considered a genre on its own. I've always liked Francis Nevins' summary of "noir" as a story in which the protagonist (usually male) gets involved in events that are way over his head, usually because of a woman. In my estimation, that gets to the heart of most "noir" novels, and especially "Postman" and "Double Indemnity". Chandler's books follow the detective/mystery structure: Marlowe kept an emotional distance from the corrupt world he surveyed and tried to keep from being overwhelmed by it, so in many ways he's the stoic opposite of a "noir" hero. Frank, on the other hand, gets pulled down fast and never comes back up.

message 16: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Jim | 45 comments Just picked up 1992 Vintage Crime printing - love the cover by James Steinberg - Kimley who did original cover that you like? Know where I could see it on web?

Checked out website Kimley posted - how can there be 3 stories or more about title origin? It seems Cain would probaly have known.

If any one in quandry about gift for some one take a look at
30,000 Years of Art - $50
spectacular but heavy
Book Lover's Calendar for 2008 $10 -12 or so
Always good idea if you want someone to remember you every day of the year - my ex doesn't read much but may give her one so she can think about me when she looks every day at a calendar she doesn't even like - it'll be trashed by 1/2/08
Wacky Websites Calendar for 2008-$10-12 or so
Good for your techie friends.

started The Quiet Girl by Hoeg - really good so far.

message 17: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Note to Tosh: Regarding the Library of America collection, there are no introductions or essays, just the texts, publishing history and lots of notes. There are two volumes:The first, from the 30s and 40s, has "Postman", "They Shoot Horses", "Thieves", "Nightmare Alley", "The Big Clock" and "I Married a Dead Man". The second, from the 50s and 60s: "The Killer Inside Me", "The Talented Mr. Ripley","The Real Cool Killers", "Pick-up" (by the very underrated Charles Willeford" and "Down There".
(Sorry if this is too off-subject....)

message 18: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Jim, I'm not familiar with the specific cover designs for Postman but was referring more to a style prevalent in the 40s and 50s for pulp fiction which was typically quite tawdry, trashy and without any literary pretentions.

I did find this great Flickr set of someone's pulp fiction collection:

message 19: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:06PM) (new)

Alison Of course, I was jumping all over reading about Cain last night, and I found out two interesting things (at least)...

1. Cain did not like being put into the "box" of noir fiction, and preferred that his books stand alone as novels regardless of their genre.

"I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort."
(from the Preface to Double Indemnity)

2. Raymond Chandler helped Billy Wilder adapt the screenplay for Double Indemnity. I was wondering why Cain wouldn't be involved in this himself. I thought maybe he was deceased at the time, but he actually lived longer than Chandler. Then I thought, maybe he had an aversion to Hollywood, but I saw that he worked on other screenplays. There's likely a story there involving money or ego...or something.

Kimley, so true about the references to animalism...particularly about being a "hell cat"...lots of "cat" imagery running throughout. I'll be anxious to see if there are cats (big or small) in any of the films.

message 20: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:08PM) (new)

Jim | 45 comments Kimley - checked out the Flickr's site, it was really great. So far every site you have cited has been right on the money. How do you do it?

message 21: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:08PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Google is my friend :)

message 22: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:10PM) (new)

Jim | 45 comments Kimley - I didn't mean mechanically - I was wondering how you have enough time to find all these things and do all the other things that life demands.
Also what movie version of Postman should we view?

message 23: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:10PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Oh, sorry Jim. I misunderstood. Hmmm. I don't know. It only took me a few minutes to find that Flickr page with the pulp covers. I freelance so my schedule is very up and down. You'll see me disappear at times...

As for which version of Postman to watch, it's really up to you. My favorite is Visconti's Ossessione but I also think the Lana Turner/John Garfield version is quite good. I wasn't so keen on the Jack Nicholson version but I'm going to try to rewatch it. You can watch whichever versions you'd like. I think we'll be discussing all of them.

message 24: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:10PM) (new)

Jim | 45 comments Finished Postman yesterday and can't believe I didn't know a thing about Cain. I love Raymond Chandler but I think Cain is up there.

Cain's lines near the end of one chapter about when Frank looked into Cora's eyes, he saw stars and thought he was in church was great.

In very few words, Cain communicates to everyone who has looked into the sky where there is no ground light and saw how many stars there are in the sky for the first time, who has been in church (for even people like me who aren't very religious and know how much death, torture, repression and screwed up people religion has generated) what Frank was feeling.

Not only does Cain do the preceding in 3 short sentences (certainly shorter than what I said above), Cain communicates how infrequently Frank probably has had that kind of feeling in his life without having to go into some tortured psychological rap/description/flashback of Frank or his life.

The more I think about it, the better Cain gets and the more likely I'll read Postman again and some more of his books soon.

Right now I'm making yself finish up Unhooked which is really good and important for me to read and I'm going to do it very soon.

What books do any of you read to get yourself into the mood for the holidays or to assess how your life was in 2007 or how your 2008 looks.

I'm convinced that you have to choose carefully what you read because when you dedicate hours to a book (movie,people,a job etc) you are expending the most important commodity there is , i.e., Your Time.

I know Thanksgiving is past but thank all of you for helping me spend that most important commodity so richly over the past few months that I've had the pleasure to be a part of your Group.

If I could hire Cain to write how much I'm looking forward to our interaction in 2008, he'd probably write

Jim read the posts from The Lit and Film Group of
He saw people reading books and typing on computers.
Jim felt like he was in a library.

message 25: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Alison Hey Jim! I don't usually read books according to season, but right now I'm reading A Christmas Carol by Dickens (who else?) for my Gilmore Girls group, and I read Holidays on Ice as well. I was a little hesitant to read "Carol" b/c I thought it would be tired and stale and over-adapted, and there are parts that are, but I'm also reading it for the first time as an adult with some years of living behind me, and I'm finding it insightful in ways that I couldn't have known anything about when I was younger. So, overall, I'm enjoying it! It really, really will break your heart if you let it.

I usually read one or two of the picks from the best of the past year lists around Christmas. I think it was last year (?) I read "The Year of Magical Thinking", I may not do that again this year (haha).

message 26: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Just got Postman and will give page-by-page critiques. Then I am going to watch all three versions - and give (thanks DVD) a criique every other frame. Then I am going to re-read Postman while watching each film version. But that's not all. I am then going to rent three TV's and watch all at the same time while reading Postman. So it's going to be a wild (and weird) weekend.

message 27: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:11PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
In the Japanese to English dictionary, under "Otaku" is a picture of you Tosh!

I look forward to your comments...

message 28: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Alison Tosh...what? No stage version of Postman? I was really hoping people would take this seriously. :>

message 29: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments .. and don't forget the opera.

message 30: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments I got a nice hardback edition of the book on my lap and got two of the films: Visconti and Rafleson (Jack Nicholson) version. I will write later - things are going to happen.

message 31: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments I finished the book this morning - I don't really recall when I read it last, but it seemed very fresh to me. (And followed it up by re-reading McCoy's "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" - a few interesting common points with "Postman"). I've got the MGM and Rafelson versions on order but don't have a lne on the Visconti. (I'm not a Netflix user; is it readily available?
So I'm still trying to get my thoughts together.
One thing that occurred to me is that as part of the inevitable presence of the Depression (when did people in the Depression actually realize that they were in one?) Frank sees life as a choice between staying in one place or drifting, and clearly favors the latter. But Cora sees her choices as either being a wife - and therefore morally "good"- or being a "hellcat". Both of them are positioning a choice between domesticity and "freedom" but while Frank is comfortable with the distinction, Cora isn't.
(The symbolism behind Frank's brief fling with the wildcat-trainer - a woman who seems to be more comfortable with a laissez-faire definition of her sexuality - is pretty obvious. She 's used to being a hellcat..)

message 32: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Robert, interesting comment about the depression. Even though in the back of my mind I knew this was taking place during the depression, I wasn't really thinking about that. I'm sure that added to the fatalistic outlook for these two.

And the interesting thing to me about the two choices that you see the characters as having is that both seem like traps. It's a damned if they do, damned if they don't situation. They've both gotten to points in their lives where they can't keep on the way they have been but they can't do anything else either. When Frank goes away with the wildcat trainer, it doesn't work for him. He just comes back. He's basically had enough of the drifting. Yet coming back isn't the answer either...

But as you say Frank at least talks as if he's more comfortable with the choices whereas Cora seems lost and unsure. But ultimately I think they are both lost in every sense of the word.

Robert, I'm sorry I hadn't checked on the availability of Ossessione before selecting this title for this month's reading and I now see that it doesn't seem to be in print anymore :( I was able to rent a copy from Netflix. I would imagine that any good rental store in your area would have a copy as it was previously available. I also recommend considering Netflix. Their pricing is fair and their selection is excellent and it couldn't be easier to use.

I'm going to try to watch the Visconti and the MGM versions this weekend. I haven't seen either in a really long time.

message 33: by Jim (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Jim | 45 comments I love Jack Nicholson's movies especially One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, Five Easy Pieces ((the greatest ordering of food exchange in the history of the movies or in all of history possibly)), The King of Marvin Gardens etc but I saw him in The Postman and didn't like it at all. Maybe I missed something but I'm going to see one of the other 2 versions.

Also picked up Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce in a double book. I'm not going to read both. If you've read both, let me know which one you would read,why or just tell me about Mildred Pierce since I know a little about Double Indemnity. Thanks.

message 34: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments I just saw Ossessione (again) and I found my copy at the local rental. It's a fantastic film. The book is short, yet the film is over 2 hours long! Nevertheless I am going to watch the Nicholson film in a couple of hours.

But saying this, the Visconti has a gay context, Gino (the main male character) has a run in with a fellow traveler, who is gay. It's obvious that they are having a relationship, but not sure if Gino is hustling or is not sure of himself sexually.

I haven't finished re-reading the book yet, but I think I like the Visconti film better than the novel.

It was shot in 1942, was this before the fall of the Fascist Govt?

message 35: by Gary (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Gary | 5 comments the visconti is my favorite too. zola's therese raquin certainly is a paradigm ('tho cain attributed "the love rack" to an unnamed hollywood producer, perhaps to cover his steal).

in comparing cain to chandler i'd start with hammet, whose prose was cool, workmanlike realism, with a detective's p.o.v. on the side of law & order.

cain is antithetical to that, taking the p.o.v. of the criminal. and the prose style is hotter: the dialogue for example sizzles at times, and it all moves with quicker pace and harder propulsive drive.

then chandler comes in as a synthesis of those two, with a detective who knows both sides and is often on the outs with both; and a prose style that's red-hot, with sprung metaphors, jazzy prose, baroque plots, etc. (they never filmed his little sister by the way.

i discovered thieves like us at a thrift store (now defunct) at 2 pm, began reading it on the way home and couldn't put it down until i finished the last word. didn't care for the film.

message 36: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments Gary, there is a film version of "The Little Sister" dating from the mid-60s. It's simply called "Marlowe" and James Garner is good in the title role. It also uses a contemporary setting rather than stick with the era of the novel (it even has a great cameo by Bruce Lee). In a way it's a precursor of both Altman's version of "The Long Goodbye" (I'm not claiming it's nearly as good) and Garner's tv series "The Rockford Files". Anyway, it's worth a look and shows up on TCM from time to time. Coincidentally, I started re-reading "Thieves Like Us" yesterday too...

message 37: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments "Noir" was actually a literary term and - obviously - a foreign one at that. Many of the great hardboiled writers were published in France in uniform black-covered editions called "Serie Noir", so the word came to describe that kind of fiction. Later a film critic noticed similarities between those books and a new darker, streak of crime film, so movies like "Double Indemnity" and "The Maltese Falcon" , he wrote an article called "Americans also make 'noir' films". The term stuck, though it didn't really get much attention in the US until the early 70s when Paul Schrader and Raymond Durgnat wrote influential articles and "Film Comment" devoted an entire issue to the subject - I think this was in 1972. In some ways, study of film noir has extended beyond the literary model and many think of it as a visual style rather than a genre. (Durgnat lists "King King" and "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" as examples), which may be something worth thinking about when you watch the "Postman" films. The MGM version is certainly slicker than something like "The Lady from Shanghai" or "Detour".

message 38: by Paul (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Paul Wilner I dunno; Jessica and Jack on the kitchen table were pretty hot; Rafelson has a strong sensibility; the movie/remake may have been flawed, but definitely had its moments. Liked Lana, Garfield, too, of course. Will try to check out Visconti if I ever get off the internet...

message 39: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments I am feeling kind of spaced out with the two film versions of the book plus reading the damn book.

I just saw the Rafelson version, and Ossessione is a far superior film. I think Rafelson maybe closer to the book, but this is how I see it now.

Ossessione is better than the novel and the novel is better than the Rafelson film. In fact I border-line hate the Rafelson film because I can't stand that 80's style of gritty - and basically as much as Iove Nicholson, it's movie star acting. Which is at times great - but when you compare it to the acting in Ossessione - it just doesn't match up to the high grade. And I bet you Nicholson would agree with me!

And again the added 'gay' character or the gay relationship in Ossessione is an interesting side-line to the story. Also I can feel the obsession and fears in the Visconti film, in Rafelson's version, it goes into the eyes and I am sort of daydreaming about the Italian version. The book itself hasn't really grabbed me for some reason. I am half way through it.

message 40: by Gary (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Gary | 5 comments tosh, i was hooked by the very first sentence:

"They threw me off the hay truck at about noon."

Wow! 9 terse american monosyllables + 1 2-syllable word, making such a beautiful line. (love the rhyme of the ooo in threw and noon ... ) Don't ask who "they" are -- but that question does linger. (like that joke: when you know who "they" are, you no longer need psychoanalysis.

— or the beginning of wyatt's poem to anne boleyn:

"they flee me that lately did me seek")

And with that I've identified with a character who'll prove to be ... not so much an unstable narrator, as they say today ... but, well, the Bad Guy ... the criminal ... the psychopath, etc.


From that "lift" he builds a propulsive drive (momentum) that grows into a runaway train ...

And the moments of dialogue, going on for pages without "he said, she said" --- counting as muscular event, in and of itself, as much as any action in the plot.


thanks for the tip about the film, robert — and your breath of fresh air about noir. Yes, it started as a literary term: city lights did an anthology in english which breton had edited which goes all over the map. As for film, it IS a style before it is any genre: very important point, since there are noir westerns, screwballs, documentaries, etc. Until 1950 when it becomes something else ...

the first noir film, i'd say, would be Ingster's THE STRANGER ON THE 3rd FLOOR, 1940 ...

message 41: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Alison Gary: that was a beautiful little breakdown of those three writers. I have recently read my first Chandler, my first Cain, and am currently reading Red Harvest (Hammett), so I'll be referring back to that. It's fun to read them back to makes their differences jump out at you.

Regarding Cain's lineage (and others) this is interesting...

"In style and substance, Coen brothers movies show a heavy debt to the crime genre of film noir. In particular, Miller's Crossing is based on the works of Dashiell Hammett, particularly The Glass Key and Red Harvest, Big Lebowski on Raymond Chandler and The Man Who Wasn't There on James M. Cain - making up what is known as their Noir Trilogy.

The Coen brothers' film The Man Who Wasn't There pays homage to film noir, with a plot that seems an update/twist of The Postman Always Rings Twice."

And also..."Blood Simple is a 1985 neo-noir crime film. The film's title derives from Dashiell Hammett's novel Red Harvest, in which 'blood simple' is a term coined to describe the addled, fearful mindset people are in after a prolonged immersion in violent situations."

Robert, no Netflix? You must get on that!

message 42: by Gary (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Gary | 5 comments thanks, alison; i think of the trio as the agememnon, sophocles, and euripedes of classical pulp mystery noir, as well as the hegelian thesis - antithesis - synthesis

amazing to realize that the red harvest you're reading is just as it appeared in the pulps

i recall hearing bertolucci wanted to film it starring jack nicholson, following all his oscars for the last emperor, yet couldn't get backing ...

oh and i don't have netflix either ... and don't watch dvd's yet, 'tho there's a slot in this computer for them ... prefer going out ...

it's part topic of a blog i've only just begin ...

question : if there are, say 10 films i'd like to see via netflix, how long before they'd appear in my cue? 2 months? 30 days? 2 weeks?

message 43: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments I think it's important to remember Billy Wilder's observation that nobody ever said "Oh, I'm working on a film noir over at Paramount". Noir is a critical construction that was applied to films after the cycle had already begun. Similarly, I don't think Cain, Chandler, Hammett or anybody else consciously set out to be "hardboiled". They simply wrote stories they way they thought they needed to be told and resisted any efforts to categorize their work. I love Chandler's line (I'm paraphrasing) that Hammett took murder out of the parlor room and gave it back to people who commit it for a reason.
Re: "Red Harvest", Bertolucci has actually been linked to this at least as far back as 1976. I'm not sure who owns the film rights now or why it's never been filmed before, but it's clearly an influence on "Miller's Crossing" (and "A Fistful of Dollars" and "Yojimbo" and "Chinatown" and...)
And just a final note: I've got no grudge against Netflix (or GreenCine, which I'm told has a better selction), I've just never had to use them. (My desk is literally covered with about 250 films I haven't had time to watch, from screeners to downloads-of-questionable-origin) But I may ask someone with a Netflix account to pull the Visconti film for me. I've already got the other versions on hold at the library.
Alison: If you're just starting on Chandler, Hammett et. al - I almost envy you. I remember the first Chandler I read - "The High Window" - and while I knew the detective genre and had been reading a fair amount of Mickey Spillane (who is to Chandler and Hammett what the Three Stooges are to Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati)- I was just overwhelmed my the confidence and authority in Chandler's voice, that troubled presence beyond the simple tough-guy heroics. The experience was later confirmed by my first Hammett ("The Glass Key") - and while I have a strong preference for Chandler, a recent re-reading of all of Hammett's work (plus a familiarity with his surprisingly courageous and tragic life) convinced me that his work transcends simple generic concerns.

message 44: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Alison So sorry to push with the Netflix, Robert. Sounds like you're backed up as is. Here's your quote..."[Hammett:] took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it into the alley... [He:] gave murder back to the kind of people who do it for a reason, not just to provide a corpse; and with means at hand, not with handwrought dueling pistols, curare, and tropical fish." (curare meaning arrow poison) Raymond Chandler, in The Simple Art of Murder

The Glass Key/Yojimbo/A Fistful of Dollars would have been a fabulous selection. And maybe even Miller's Crossing, too.

Gary, I'm not sure about your question. If you wanted to watch 10 films, you would put them in your queue, and then they would come depending on the plan that you picked at a time, two at a time, unlimited. After you choose your film, it usually takes two business days to get it (I sound like an advertisement). Check out their website (

message 45: by Robert (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Robert | 111 comments I've got nothing against Netflix personally and will ask someone with an account to nab "Ossessione" for me. So it will probably be another week or so before I watch any of the films.
It's been a long time since I've seen either of the "Postman" films, but my recollection is that they spend a lot more time on the relationship between Cora and Frank, with the murder and its repercussions only making up the last third of the films. I was surprised that the death of the Greek comes much earlier in the novel, about half way through. It makes for an interesting shift of emphasis. If you focus on the passion between the pair, the idea of "a guy pulled down by the wrong woman" becomes more important, while the book gives a much greater sense of how they betray each other when things go wrong. (This is probably a completely irrelevant comparison, but I was reminded of the dissolution of one of my favorite literary couples, Winston and Julia in "1984".)
And one more note - if "The Leopard" ends up as the January selection, the group may have to change its name to "Literature and Visconti". "Death in Venice" for February, anyone?

message 46: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
LOL - I was already planning to add Death in Venice as a suggestion for February! Gotta love Visconti! Is Rocco and His Brothers a literary adaptation??? I don't think it is but that's another one of my favorites.

I watched Ossessione last night and it's really fantastic! I know a few of you have yet to watch it so I'll hold off a bit before chatting too much.

I have to agree with Tosh in that it's a notch better than the book. Though unlike Tosh I quite enjoyed the book. The film removed the little bits of the book that I didn't like which is when Cain left his minimalist style and went into convoluted descriptions of the murder plot and the insurance industry machinations. The film nicely glossed over those bits and focused more on the relationship of the two leads.

I'm going to try to watch the MGM version tonight.

message 47: by Kimley (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Kimley | 201 comments Mod
Tosh, I looked up the Wikipedia entry for Ossessione and Visconti did make this while the fascist government was still in power and not only that but the government destroyed his negative. Apparently Visconti had another copy so we still have this fantastic film. I actually hadn't realized this film was made so early. I had thought it was post-war.

message 48: by Tosh (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Tosh | 68 comments Well that shows that Visconti is the Led Zepplin of filmmaking. Totally rockin and only the little girls (and the boys) can understand the substance - Ossessione rocks in a very primitive way - think of this as a raw rockabilly record. Although it lasts 2 and a half hours it's an amazing piece of filmmaking. And yeah Cain must have been burned by the Insurance industry somwhere in his life.. He hates those people!

message 49: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new)

Alison I found this awesome quote on (detective fiction & film). This is Raymond Chandler on Cain...Cain was "every kind of writer I detest, a faux naif, a Proust in greasy overalls, a dirty little boy with a piece of chalk." And Billy Wilder called Chandler "a virtuoso alcoholic."

I love these people. They're all crazy as loons.

message 50: by Fostergrants (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:16PM) (new)

Fostergrants damn damn book and movies for this are still in the mail. i feel like i'm once again that short kid at the playground trying to get onto that spinning merry go round thingy and it is going too fast!

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