The first title on the What Else to Watch list following my screening of Ossessione for The Movie Book, from DK Canada, is the first U.S. adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel, which also served as the basis for Ossessione.
The film stars Lana Turner and John Garfield as Cora Smith and Frank Chambers. Frank is a bit of a drifter, making his way along the western coast when he stops outside a restaurant and is keen on taking a job. Especially after he sees Cora.
Momentarily put off by the revelation that Cora is the wife of the restaurant owner, Nick (Cecil Kellaway), the two eventually give into their desires for one another. They decide to run away together, but soon Cora realises that Frank really is a bit of a drifter, and can’t afford to keep her in the semi-luxurious style she is used to while she mooched off Nick, which was nothing more than a marriage of convenience.
Still, they conspire to off Nick via an accident, but when they pull it off, they have to live with the consequences.
The film doesn’t have that realistic touch of Ossessione, and definitely has a Hollywood bent to it, but there is a noir feel to it. The romance side is definitely played up in this film, making the second half, where the couple worry over their fate rather poignant.
The actual murder by accident is nicely done, but ends up playing Cora and Frank right into the hands of the law, and the repercussions of the event.
When the law gets pulled into it, the pair are maneuvered against one another by the law, including Hume Cronyn’s Arthur Keats, but there is a number of twists and turns through the rest of the film to keep viewers engaged and entertained.
If I’m being incredibly honest, I’ve never been a fan of Garfield or Turner, Cronyn on the other hand, I quite like, and wish the entire film had been conducted as a trial with occasional flashbacks with him, as the defence lawyer, guiding the story.
The final act of the film is revelatory, and highly enjoyable as karmic justice, in its way, is played out, and Cora and Frank get their just desserts, in a manner of speaking.
This is quite a solid adaptation, but I imagine, if done today, it would be grittier, and sexier, which would be good if the script, directing and actors were top-notch.
Still, this one makes for a solid Hollywood adaptation, though I prefer the original. But don’t let me dictate to you, pick up a copy of The Movie Book from DK Books today and find something amazing to watch!