C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 12/20/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Some people call this a noir, and a good one. Some call it a psychological study of guilt. I think it's a melodrama, but a well-crafted one. What moves it from noir to melodrama for me is that there are two weak motivating actions for the plot; the first (the death of the aunt) doesn't have enough power to justify the drama, and the second (a conviction of an innocent man) is barely mentioned until the end of the movie.
Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) is driving west when he decides to go through Iverstown. He has a car accident and has to stay in town until his car is fixed. He meets a young woman, Toni Marachek (Lizabeth Scott), just out of jail and on probation for a crime she wasn't guilty of. Sam decides to go to the district attorney to see if he can help her. Years before as young kids, Sam and the DA, Walter O'Neil (Kirk Douglas), were sort-of friends, tied together by their friendship with Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck).
Now O'Neil is married to Martha. He's running for re-election. Martha inherited Ivers Industries and is the wealthiest woman in town. She's a force to be reckoned with. She inherited millions when her aunt fell down a flight of stairs 18 years ago...the night she and Sam were planning to run off, when Walter was in the house with her and Sam. Her aunt (Judith Anderson), a rigid, disapproving, condescending woman, fell with the help of a crack on the head from a cane wielded by Martha. A few years later a man was hanged for the crime, prosecuted by Walter with testimony from Martha. They married and now live a loveless life, with Walter still the uncertain and sometimes scared child he used to be and Martha a controlling woman. Walter drinks heavily and Martha is contemptuous of him. Now Sam is back, innocently, but Walter in particular is convinced Sam is out to shake them down. "He's a gambler, a sharp shooter, an angle boy," he says to Martha. "They come through my office by the hundreds. Couldn't you see blackmail in his eyes?"
Things quickly spiral down into a morass of misunderstandings, guilt, what might pass for love, and temptation. Walter loves Martha. Martha loves Sam. Sam loves Toni but is tempted by Martha. Toni loves Sam. All is resolved one night in the Ivers' mansion with Martha, Walter and Sam playing out a potentially murderous triangle. But it's 1946, and with the Production Code in place there's little doubt which two people will die and which person will survive as a wiser man. When Martha urges Sam to kill Walter so that they can be together, Sam puts his finger on it. "Martha,' he says, "you're sick...in your mind, I mean, that's where you're sick...so sick you don't even know the difference between right and wrong."
The movie is beautifully photographed, for the most part the pacing is good, the establishment of the three leads' personalities as children is excellently carried over into the performances and personalities of the three as adults. Unfortunately, the death of the aunt just doesn't seem to be a strong enough element to justify all the angst. The aunt was in the process of beating Martha's cat with her cane on the stairs when Martha grabbed the cane and struck her aunt. Any half-way competent lawyer would have been able to get a young heiress off without relying on Martha coming up with having seen a large burglar running from the house. This makes what follows, even with Martha's intensity, seem out of proportion. Some of the dialogue, especially that given to Stanwyck and Douglas, is solid and uneasy...or maybe it's their expert line delivery. But a good deal of the words Heflin and Scott have to say can sound artificial. "They said they wouldn't hurt you," Toni says to Sam when she tries to explain why she helped set him up for a beating. "No more parole, they said, if I went for it. I'd draw the whole five, they said, if I didn't. I went for it. Go ahead and hit me, Sam. I've got it comin.'" Sam looks at her questioningly...then tenderly. "The one thing you've got comin', kid, is a break."
Even so, as melodrama it's fun to watch. Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin do nice jobs, and Kirk Douglas makes a strong impression. He may be playing a weak drunk, but you look at him while he's on screen.
The DVD picture is in great shape. If you buy this movie, be sure you get this Paramount version. There are a large number of other public domain versions out which look terrible. There are no extras."
Image Entertainment did a good job on this DVD
bixfan4 | 09/09/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In response to "Good movie yet awful copy" from "Noir": Your experience is common: videos and DVD's from Gotham, Dark City, and Alpha are very poor quality. I purchased the Image Entertainment DVD of Strange Love (ASIN: 6305944369) and can tell you it's probably the best print of the film you're going to find. Picture sharpness is good, sound is acceptable, and there are no missing frames to cause a "jumpy" picture. The brightness & contrast are normal for most of the film, except for a few early scenes where the picture looks washed out and grey. According to the research I've read, after this film dropped into the public domain, no one took the responsibility for preserving it, and as a result the best surviving print has suffered a lot of deterioration. However, I can easily recommend the Image Entertainment version of Strange Love Of Martha Ivers. Please note, that is NOT a blanket endorsement of all Image Entertainment DVD's -- for example, they did a TERRIBLE job on another Lizabeth Scott movie, Too Late For Tears -- it looks as bad as anything from Alpha or Gotham, yet Image charges a premium price for it. Skip Too Late For Tears, but definitely buy the Image/Hal Roach DVD of Strange Love. And while you're at it, why not write to Paramount Studios, 5555 Melrose Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90038, and ask them to give us a DVD of another Barbara Stanwyck film noir, The File On Thelma Jordan (Paramount owns the rights). Let's all let the studios know we will support film noir and other classic films!"
FINE MELODRAMTIC THRILLER
Jackie Beedle | Yorktown, Indiana | 08/11/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's a fine little race to watch, with everyone trying to stay one step ahead of each other in this malevolently decadent thriller about love, marriage,... and murder. Barbara Stanwyck is cunningly vicious in her role as a woman whose mysterious and intriguing past forced her to give up her childhood sweetheart, (Van Heflin, in a well-executed performance) bound her to marry a man she hated (Kirk Douglas, in an auspicious film debut)... and made hers one of the richest and most modern industries in America. But now her tightly knit secret is beginning to unravel... her husband is beginning to drink, her ex-flame is back... and he's trying to solve a famous crime committed in the town years and years ago. A remarkable film, with the suspense of a Hitchcock thriller, atmosphere of a Wilder noir, and the acting of a Wyler drama, come together to make this noir a chilling and memorable experience, ranking with "Double Indemnity" and "North By Northwest". A must-see for fans of film noir."
KIRK DOUGLAS - OPUS ONE - KIRK DOUGLAS
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 03/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First and only film noir directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front), first movie of Kirk Douglas, a screenplay written by Robert Rossen (The Hustler), THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS is the kind of film any movie buff should have the desire to see. The Paramount Home Entertainment release I bought here at Amazon presents a near perfect copy of this movie but, beware, no extras at all.
Two scenes of the movie, Judith Anderson's death and the tragic finale deserve to stay in a film noir anthology, as well as the performances of Kirk Douglas and Barbara Stanwyck. Note also than the numerous close-ups of Lizabeth Scott and the silly epilogue of THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS must not be accredited to Lewis Milestones nor to Robert Rossen. They were shot, after the completion of the film, by Byron Haskin on the producer Hal B. Wallis demand.
A DVD zone your library.
Kirk Douglas - Best EVER
Monica Norman | Lancaster, CA USA | 01/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The title may steer you in the wrong direction - this is not a romance. This is one of the best early pscho-dramas. Barbara Stanwyck is cold as ice, softening up all girlie when her childhood love returns. Kirk Douglas was magnificent as the whiney, wimpy, drunken husband.
And this movie has the best ending of all movies EVER.