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The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Actors: Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas
Genres: Drama
NR     2005     1hr 56min



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Movie Details

Actors: Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas
Genres: Drama
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance
Studio: Good Times Video
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 01/25/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 1hr 56min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Matt B. from GETZVILLE, NY
Reviewed on 7/5/2011...
In this noir movie, much of the suspense hangs on characters who act on mistaken assumptions . I won’t discuss plot and incident because an account would dilute the suspense that every movie watcher has the right to savor on her own. Because the movie takes too long for characters to tumble to facts, I will reveal to a world dying to know that my butt started to go numb at about the 95-minute mark of this two-hour movie. Still, this is an interesting example of big budget film noir. It blends guess work, melodramatic romance, and hard-boiled notions about the wicked ways of life in ideal communities.

Barbara Stanwyck plays the femme fatale as she did in Double Indemnity. She is hard and ruthless, but vulnerable and liable to a pitiful but frightening instability. She’s acted on impulse that caused others pain, cost two unfortunates their lives, and blighted her own life in the process. Violence and the prospect of cruelty excite her.

The other female lead, Lizabeth Scott, brings to mind Lauren Bacall, with her husky sultry voice and arresting but not pretty face. But in only her second screen appearance, Scott gives the character a convincing broken manner. She’s looking over her for shoulder, wincing in expectation from the next blow from a drunken parent, a violent sib, or a sadistic prison guard with a billy club. Born to be victimized, she isn’t close to clever and knows it. She needs somebody to take care of her.

The male leads are cast against type. To me, Van Heflin always seemed genial, harmless and Pillsbury Doughboy-soft. Here he plays a supposedly tough veteran of Anzio and a canny product of circus life and rambling gambler. In his screen debut, Kirk Douglas plays a drunken milktoast who is also a conniving, ethics-free DA who coerces small time crooks into bad funny business and sends innocent men to the gallows. This is noir, remember, so human failings cause trouble. Douglas pull off playing a dynamic weakling, persuading us that his character has complexity – gutless, devious, dangerous, untrustworthy, volatile, but a husband totally in love with his wife.

Film noir tends to be cynical about appearances. Near the beginning of a movie is a wonderfully awful example of creepy decoration. A rich woman’s mansion has furnishings that look Late 19th Century Western Frontier Genteel though the scene is set the late 1920s. Naturally, the fancy decorations hide the inner rot of the semi-monsters that have to inhabit the house. Later in the movie the mansion is inhabited by Babs the Adultress who rubs her extramarital affairs with personal trainers in her alcoholic husband’s face. Hubby the DA takes his anger out on the petty crooks at work. He fixes problems for his friends and hires plug-uglies to usher drifters out of town.

The mid-sized factory town looks safe and prosperous enough. But it is run by a cabal of the spoiled rich and their corrupt lickspittles. The ordinary citizens are cranky toadies who accept their subordination as part of the natural order and hate anybody who refuses to be pushed around. The arrival of the stranger Van Heflin uncovers the rot inside civic life. The good citizens, guilty about their complicity in rot, sure don’t like him.

Perhaps because of the big budget, the ending is not nearly as fatalistic and dark as film noir endings usually are. Despite the happy ending and the risk of a sore sit-down, enjoy.

Movie Reviews

A Rain That Never Stops
Bobby Underwood | Manly NSW, Australia | 09/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's pouring rain as this dark noir melodrama opens, and after the night is over, it will always be raining for Martha Ivers. Lewis Milestone directed this tale of a life-long guilt that has festered until misplaced suspicion destroys one person and puts another out of her misery. There are good performances from a great cast, none better than Lizabeth Scott's as a girl down on her luck and hoping against the odds for something good to happen. She is the outside element to three lives bound together since childhood by a crime that has haunted two of them into adulthood.

This is a strange noir in many respects, mostly due to Milestone allowing the moviegoer to see the story in chronological order, rather than using flashbacks. It creates sympathy for the twisted Martha Ivers, because we know how one selfish moment of hatred in her youth set her on a coarse she can not change. It has been raining inside her ever since, until the water is sick and stagnant, but it always keeps coming. At the same time, however, we are rooting for the vulnerable Scott, hoping she'll be the victor in a battle she's not sure she can win.

Judith Anderson is Mrs. Ivers, little Martha's (Janis Wilson) aunt. She's none too nice and on a rainy night Martha causes her death in the heat of the moment, only her pal Walter (Mickey Kuhn) a witness. But they both think their friend Sam (Darryl Hickman) saw the crime also, and ran away. He did run away, but before the event that would change their lives forever.

It is nearly two decades later, and the adult Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) has an accident just outside of Iverstown. It brings back memories of when he was a brash kid, and the girl who now controls both Walter (Kirk Douglass) and the town. He meets the lovely Toni Marachek (Lizabeth Scott) on his first night there and helps her out a bit. She is fresh from jail and though Sam is a WWII veteran, his past is nothing to sneeze at either. There is something beginning between them but fate may decide Toni's future as a past Sam was no part of intrudes on the present.

Barbara Stanwyck is the adult Martha, married to the weaker of the boys from her youth, Walter. But you can tell she always wished it had been Sam who'd stayed that night so long ago. Even though they think he's there to blackmail them, she can't help but throw herself at him, even though she is too far gone on the inside for anything like real love. She does this right in front of her weak husband Walter, who may be more courageous in the end than Martha. Martha has it over on Walter because he loves her, but he is a constant reminder of the past for her. What they have together is a sick and twisted version of the real thing.

The relationship of Sam and Walter sort of mirrors their childhood but Heflin starts to feel sick about it and begins to like Walter, especially when he finally understands why they are so scared he'll tell something he didn't even know about. It's one thing to kill someone, but quite another to let someone else hang for it. All the while Toni has little moments with Sam, hoping it's enough to make him care, and blow Iverstown forever.

Even at the bitter end, there is that moment when you see in Matha's eyes, ever so briefly, that little girl again, and feel sympathy. Douglass is very good in his first screen role and Stanwyck's portrayel of the sad and sick Martha Ivers can stand proudly with any she played in the 1940's. Though her screen time is less by comparison, it is Scott who steals this film, however, as Toni is easily the most memorable character. Even when she isn't around, we are thinking about her plight, wondering where she's at and what will happen to her.

Heflin is solid as always and this is one of the great neglected noirs of the 1940's. There is a great ending where both couples get what they really want, and neither will look back on Iverstown anymore."