The Postman Rings Once

Albert Snyder’s murder in 1927 at the hands of his wife and her lover gave James M. Cain — and others —  ideas. As Literary Legend has it, the killing inspired Cain twice, once in Double Indemnity and again with The Postman Always Rings Twice . The actual incident was the perfect combination of sex and murder, and its telling in the papers overshadowed what was waiting on the economic horizon.

A Wild Surge of Guilty Passion –the title pulled from a newspaper article of the time;  the chapters have equally Old Testament titles–is something of a tease. Hansen’s fictional period piece is big on “surge” and short on “guilt.” It’s as if the postman rang only once.

What we get instead is long on before and short on after. When the two finally dumb themselves into doing the deed (they’d already done dirty in many dirty ways), things move fast.

Hansen had benefit of memoirs from both of the condemned and is reported to have studied the incident throoughly.  While the juries, the attorneys and the public might have supplied endless material for  Hansen’s biopic, he instead concentrates on the accused’s lack of genuine guilt. The characters in both Postman and Identity, and their subsequent films, share the same base characteristics, all in different circumstances. Here, the not-so-star crossed lovers are oblivious in completely different ways.

The faux-steamy first section is where Hansen takes advantage of creative license. What he made up is damn good, presented flatly, judgmental in that it’s not.  And if the closing section, by comparison, seems to get bored with itself,  we should appreciate Hansen’s circling in quickly. It seemed like knowing how it was going to end suddenly made it less interesting even though we knew how it was going to end from the beginning. If this is the well from which much noir springs, it doesn’t give whatever cliche it’s attached to much support. And, as well,  it does. Are we all this self-absorbed? Hansen, with example, says in so many words that we like to think we’re not. Verdict? I couldn’t put it down.–Cabbage Rabbit

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