Dammit, Joe. What have you done? Like Dorris said, you’re an evil man. “Evil,” huh. That’s not a word someone throws around too easily, ‘cept when they’re talking about some crooked ass politician or a villain in a comic book. But you, Joe Morse, you’re just a lawyer with his hands in a few pockets. Does that make you evil? Maybe, Joe. Maybe.
Filmmaker Abraham Polonsky first worked with actor John Garfield (The Postman Always Rings Twice) on the boxing film Body and Soul. For his directorial debut (and only film for over 20 years), Polonsky adapted Ira Wolfert’s novel Tucker’s People – a strongly researched journalistic tale of the illegal numbers racket. In the hands of Polonsky, Force of Evil transcended the novel’s concentration on this one crime and instead held up a mirror to the entire system. Unlike most film noirs that chart the corruption and demise of one man, Force of Evil broadly looks at the destruction of an entire organization, and the cops and politicians that surround it – making it a wholly significant American film and a major film noir.
The first American adaptation of Cain’s 1934 lurid classic is the 1946 Tay Garnett directorial effort The Postman Always Rings Twice. The funny thing is, in the novel, there’s no postman and he never rings twice. It’s never alluded to, nor is the line ever spoken by any of the characters. Many have speculated on Cain’s reasoning for the title, though the author himself explained that it came out of a conversation with screenwriter Vincent Lawrence, who would become relieved when he would hear the postman ringing twice because he was eager to know the results of a submitted manuscript. Cain figured it would well as a metaphor, so he used it.
In Garnett’s film, the character of Frank gives a totally ridiculous and superfluous dialogue about “ringing twice” right before his execution. I suppose they didn’t want to confuse audiences with the title, so they threw that in there. Anyways, The 1946 Postman Rings Twice is a dark and claustrophobic film that lacks the tragic punch of Visconti’s Ossessione three years earlier, but packs its own steamy noir wallop that’s got sexual chemistry to spare between its two stars, John Garfield and Lana Turner.