'Postman' still delivers

The Baltimore Sun

Good guys gone bad and bad gals gone worse, claustrophobic cityscapes and never-ending nights, unsuspecting patsies and moral compasses gone hopelessly astray: Such is the world of film noir, that dense, gloomy cinematic genre that became all the rage in the years after World War II, as Americans began to grow weary, and wary, of the happy endings Hollywood had been selling them for so long.

Tay Garnett's 1946 The Postman Always Rings Twice (8 p.m., TCM), based on the pulp novel by James M. Cain, was an early high point in the genre - and one of the few that would come from MGM, a studio that tended to back away from such lurid desecrations of the American dream. John Garfield is Frank Chambers, a hapless drifter who winds up at an isolated roadside restaurant. Good news: The owner hires him to help out. Better news: The owner's hottie wife, Cora (Lana Turner), seems to take a liking to poor Frank. Fatal news: Lovestruck Frank listens when she proposes they kill the husband and run away together.

As always in film noir, the best-laid murder plans don't work out, and Frank rues the day he and Cora ever laid eyes on each other. It's all as twisted and decadent as can be, especially by 1946 standards. Plus, it's great fun watching the sparks fly between Garfield and the sultry Turner, who just eight years earlier was making Andy Hardy's heart flutter. She used to be such a good girl. ...

Elsewhere on the cable dial today, fans of 007, who may have been disappointed in the exciting but rather generic Quantum of Solace, should check out Bravo tonight for Tomorrow Never Dies (8 p.m.) and GoldenEye (10:30 p.m.), both featuring Pierce Brosnan as Bond, James Bond. Tomorrow features one of the most intriguing villains among the later Bonds, Jonathan Pryce as power-hungry media mogul Elliot Carver, while GoldenEye offers Famke Janssen as Russian spy Xenia Onatopp, one of the series' more lethal Bond girls.

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