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Frank Chambers drifts into a dusty rural California town, in search of a good meal. At the diner, he finds a meal, a job, and a beautiful woman named Cora. Within a small bit of time, Frank and Cora have a passionate affair. But Cora is married already to a man she doesn't love. She wants to start over and live a new life with Frank, but not lose the diner. They see the murder of Cora's husband Nick as a perfect solution. How will they deal with the consequences of their actions, and will they get caught?
Tropes used by the film:
- Bowdlerise: Notorious even in its day for toning down the source material.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life: Cora
- Downer Ending: They got away with the murder, but Cora is now dead. Frank is convicted of murdering her, even though she died in a car accident that was genuinely an accident.
- The Drifter: Frank
- Feet First Introduction: Cora
- Femme Fatale: Cora
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Alan Reed, best known as the voice of Fred Flintstone, appears as Kennedy.
- The Perfect Crime
- Title Drop: Frank notes that when a person is expecting to get a letter, it's alright if you don't hear it the first time, because the postman always rings twice. They got off murdering Nick scot-free, but Cora is now dead and Frank on his way to recieve the death penalty. He says that the postman has indeed rung a second time for each of them. This is different than the novel. James M. Cain admits that the title was mostly a non-sequitur.
- The Vamp: Co ra
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife
- Woman in White: Cora dresses entirely in white throughout the film, save for two scenes in which she wears black.