The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

Fate drew them together… and only murder could part them!

Drama Thriller
115 min     7.124     1946     USA


Three childhood friends, Martha, Walter and Sam, share a terrible secret. Over time, the ambitious Martha and the pusillanimous Walter have married. She is a cold businesswoman; he is the district attorney: a perfect combination to dominate the corrupt city of Iverstown at will. But the unexpected return of Sam, after years of absence, deeply disturbs the life of the odd couple.


John Chard wrote:
It's what the law says isn't it Walter? The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is directed by Lewis Milestone and stars Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and Kirk Douglas (in his film debut). Robert Rossen and Robert Riskin adapt from the short story "Love Lies Bleeding" by playwright John Patrick (using the pseudonym Jack Patrick). It's produced by Hal B. Wallis, the film is scored by Miklos Rozsa, photographed by Victor Milner, the art design is by Hans Dreier and the costumes come courtesy of multi Oscar winner Edith Head. Quite a cast, and quite a line up in the back room too, the credits also feature Robert Aldrich & Blake Edwards, taking to four the number of future directors involved in the film. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a dark, often perverse melodramatic film noir picture. Heavily reliant on dialogue and unappealing characters, the film revels in the cruel streak that pulses right through the running time. Stanwyck (on wickedly chilling form) plays Martha Ivers, the center piece of an explosive trio that also comprises the two men who possibly spied her clubbing her wealthy aunt to death when they were children. After watching another man hang for the murder, Martha inherited the family fortune and has grown into a tycoon type and now holds control over Iverstown. Married to one of the witnesses (Douglas playing weak willed Walter O'Neil), she finds her world knocked out of line when Sam (Heflin superb), the other potential child witness, resurfaces. Now the guilt ridden waters have been stirred... It's a gripping pot boiler that is tightly directed by Milestone, all the more better for the director choosing to craft the noir elements around the smouldering romantic plot lines. The setting is also classic noir, Iverstown is an on the surface all American peaceful town in nowhereville, but bubbling under the smiley surface is dark political deeds and even darker secrets. Rozsa scores it perfectly, at times jaunty to give the sense of all is well in this Americana, then quick tonal shifts grab the ears as the shadows form around the dislikable characters. Supporting actress Lizabeth Scott is appealing in one of her better roles, while Judith Anderson makes a massive impact in her short stint as the wicked Aunt. Perhaps a touch too long at just under two hours? This none the less is a highly recommended picture for both the story and the technical nous provided by those that made it. 8/10
CinemaSerf wrote:
Barbara Stanwyck aways could draw people into her characterisations and end up engendering support and sympathy - however deserving her character was. She excels again here as "Martha Ivers"; a wealthy women trapped in a pretty loveless marriage with débutant Kirk Douglas - a rather pathetic man who has a career built on the coat tails of his powerful wife. When their childhood friend "Sam" (Van Heflin) reappears in their lives they are all reminded of the incident from their childhood that explained just how she came into all of of her money - and arrived at her choice of husband - in the first place. Lizabeth Scott appears now and again as Heflin's rather pathetic ex-con girlfriend who quickly realises that there is still a flame burning elsewhere and there's little room for her in this rapidly toxifying mix. The slow pace of the film detracts somewhat from a really cute, complex story and the music also drags it along in the melodramatic mud a bit, too: but the scenes with Douglas and Stanwyck present a wonderful cocktail of resentment, love and hate. The last 15 minutes focus it all well and keep us hanging on, not quite certain of what's going to happen next...