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The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
DVD + Blu-ray
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Classic film noir doesn't get much darker than this sordid tale of betrayal, blackmail, intimidation and murder. Nor are you likely to find a more impressive cast in a noir feature than the one assembled here, and available here for the first time ever in High Definition Blu-Ray. Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) is an heiress-turned-successful businesswoman. Sadly, she's spent much of her life bearing the burden of a horrific childhood event involving the rich, domineering aunt (Judith Anderson) who raised her, while subsequently enduring an unhappy marriage to Walter (Kirk Douglas), the local District Attorney. But everything could change for this power couple when her childhood sweetheart Sam (Van Heflin), now a drifter, shows up back in town one fateful night alongside new girlfriend Toni (Lizabeth Scott). Uncharacteristic for the noir genre, which typically featured B-movie production and B-level casts, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers was a comfortably-financed project with an adept collection of actors and an established director (but none the lighter on plot or cinematography). It is also the first-ever film role for actor Kirk Douglas. He was recommended for the job by none other than Lauren Bacall (who he knew from acting school) and delivers an intriguing performance as the sorry husband. Director Lewis Milestone, meanwhile, was no stranger to award-winning work, having previously won Oscars for Two Arabian Knights (1927) and All Quiet On The Western Front (1930). He would also go on to direct the original Oceans Eleven (1960). Film buffs will also want to keep an eye out for an un-credited cameo by a young Blake Edwards, who appears as a sailor hitching a ride with Sam! Bonus Features Include: Spanish Subtitles, Audio Commentary with William Hare, Postcard, Trailer, and Before & After Restoration Demo!
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As a pre-teen, Martha (Stanwyck) murders her old maid aunt (Anderson) by pushing the wealthy witch down a staircase. Her young friend Walter O'Neal (Douglas) witnesses the crime and later coerces a now super-rich Martha into marrying him. She helps Walter become Iverstown's D.A. Together they frame an innocent man for the long-ago killing and see him hanged.
All this happens before Martha's childhood love, Sam Masterson (Heflin) returns to town accompanied by Toni Marachek (Scott), a gal he befriended at a bus station. Martha tries to pick up where she and Sam left off, before he disappeared that fateful night.
The alcoholic Walter abuses his power of office in an effort to force Sam to go away, but this renewed rival for Martha's affections is determined to discover the O'Neals' secret. What he learns leads to tragedy. Highest recommendation!
Parenthetical number preceding title is a 1 to 10 IMDb viewer poll rating.
(7.4) The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) - Barbara Stanwyck/Van Heflin/Kirk Douglas/Lisabeth Scott/Judith Anderson/Ann Doran/Daryl Hickman (uncredited: Gino Corrado/Blake Edwards)
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers was quite a film with Kirk Douglas' first appearance in film and a very young Barbara Stanwick, whose fear and greed really drive the film.
A young girl and a young boy both have a history of running away and again they get caught. The boy, Sam, escapes but the girl gets to confront her aunt and gets a slap across the face for her trouble by her scheming aunt.
The themes of fear of being caught, having to lie, cheat and steal to get ahead, permeate the script.
After a murder of her aunt, Martha grows up to inherit all property and money and ends up marrying Walter, a "scared little boy" who is now district attorney of Iverstown. Trouble is, Sam has returned, a victim of an auto accident. And boy, he really gets it!
As in any film noir, we have tough talk, threats and fists flying. This film was no different. Sam meets a blonde drifter fresh out of jail. Again the theme of betrayal as she makes up a story to get him "worked over" by the DA boys to scare him out of town. Sam doesn't scare easy.
"The only trouble with you kid is that you need a break!"
Martha Ivers: You've *killed* before, it's in your record.
Sam Masterson: *I* never *murdered*.
Bottom Line: Mistaken purposes, a blonde jail bird and some pretty tricky love triangles pepper a decent film noir. Moves slow at times and the surprise ending is a bit contrived, but the strong acting and a few fist fights save it! Recommended.
Barbara Stanwyck - Martha Ivers
Van Heflin - Sam Masterson
Lizabeth Scott - Antonia 'Toni' Marachek
Kirk Douglas - Walter O'Neil