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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 June 2005, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Press views: The Postman Always
Rings Twice
Actor Val Kilmer's West End debut in a stage version of The Postman Always Rings Twice has received mixed reviews from UK theatre critics.

Kilmer plays Frank, a drifter in 1930s America who plots with the unhappily married wife of a roadside diner owner to murder her husband.

Based on a novella by James M Cain, Lucy Bailey's production - first seen last year at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds - follows numerous film adaptations.

The most famous are the 1946 film starring Lana Turner and John Garfield, and the 1981 remake with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange.


James M Cain's 1934 novella and the two Hollywood movies it generated are famously steamy.

Val Kilmer in The Postman Always Rings Twice
Kilmer follows in the footsteps of John Garfield and Jack Nicholson

Unfortunately, the once notorious Hollywood bad boy Val Kilmer proves unexpectedly limp in the sex appeal department.

Not to put too fine a point on it, he comes across as a bovine lunk-head one can't imagine lighting anyone's fire.

This, I fear, is yet another example of a hyped Hollywood actor coming a nasty cropper on the West End stage.


To the original Sheffield cast the London production now adds Hollywood star Val Kilmer in a wonderfully starry turn.

Our own Charlotte Emmerson is again brilliantly convincing as the woman whose love brings him down.

Lucy Bailey's production is one which seems to be steaming with suppressed sexuality.

It works on two levels: an inevitable sexual tragedy and a more ambitious anatomy of America in crisis.


Val Kilmer, heavier of face than in his A-list heyday, retains his feline grace.

Towards the end of act one, however, the stage is beginning to show in Andrew Rattenbury's screen to stage adaptation.

The action descends into courtroom drama, scene changes begin to drag and precious momentum is lost.

For all its promise, sadly this postman doesn't quite deliver.


It's disconcerting in a would-be steamy thriller when there is more pouting and head-tossing from the hero than the heroine.

Val Kilmer and Charlotte Emmerson in The Postman Always Rings Twice
Charlotte Emmerson (left) co-stars as Cora in the stage adaptation
But that's the case with Val Kilmer as Frank, the Depression-era drifter who is driven to murder by lust.

On screen Kilmer can still have that mixture of sensuality and disappointed experience that sustained Robert Mitchum for many years.

Sadly, such qualities aren't evident on stage. His stilted performance infects the pace of the production and he stalls his own star vehicle.


Val Kilmer delivers a splendid, unstarry, unselfish performance in his West End debut.

He is so understated, so lacking in vanity and apparently so much in service to the ensemble around him that it makes you wonder if his reputation as a prima donna is deserved.

The story may be a bit unremittingly misanthropic for some tastes and a bit salty for others.

But as a fan of Cain's novel and of the two famous film adaptations, I was enthralled.


Val Kilmer opened last night in a grisly tale of botched murder and sado-masochistic sex.

It's all right if your taste runs to that sort of thing, but Mr Kilmer is a bit podgy and some of the staging is a mess.

The programme credits include a 'personal trainer and assistant to Mr Kilmer', but it doesn't stop him looking as though he's chomped too many Wendy burgers.

Is his thick hick Frank really a lusty enough piece of trouser to make a woman risk the death penalty? I'm afraid I wasn't convinced.

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