Best Blu-ray Deals
Best Blu-ray Deals, See All the Deals »
Top deals |
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers(1946)
In 1928, young heiress Martha Ivers fails to run off with friend Sam Masterson, and is involved in fatal events. Years later, Sam returns to find Martha the power behind Iverstown and married to "good boy" Walter O'Neil, now district attorney. At first, Sam is more interested in displaced blonde Toni Marachek than in his boyhood friends; but they draw him into a convoluted web of plotting and cross-purposes.
For more about The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and the The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray release, see the The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 3, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, Kirk Douglas, Judith Anderson, Darryl Hickman
Director: Lewis Milestone
» See full cast & crew
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray Review
What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 3, 2012
Kirk Douglas always played the tough guy, right? It's hard not to think of Douglas' dimpled chin and stalwart, steely gaze as inhabiting all sorts of iconic roles, including everything from Spartacus to Paths of Glory to Lust for Life. Even when he was playing something of a heel, as he did in films like Ace in the Hole, he's a heel with strength. And so it may come as something of a shock to see a certain kind of role reversal at play in Douglas' first film performance, the 1947 quasi-noir The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. What's intriguing about this film is not just the fact that Douglas plays a sort of bookish milquetoast, but that another actor who is often thought of as playing intellectuals and wounded souls, Van Heflin, is the relative tough guy of the picture. But it's a credit to the versatility of both of these men that their performances ring largely true in a film that is filled to the brim with moral turpitude, seedy goings on and a sort of simmering sexual subtext that never really gets anything out in the open (it was 1947 after all) but which manages to convey all sorts of layers of seduction and subterfuge through the most minimal means. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a frequent inhabitant in the bargain bin of your local home video emporium by virtue of the fact that it fell into the public domain when its copyright wasn't renewed in the early 1970's, but even though it's widely available (if never in very good condition), it seems like it's one of those films that very few people have actually ever seen. This new HD Cinema Classics Film Chest release purports to be a restored version culled from 35mm elements housed by the Library of Congress (more about that later in the video section below), and the film's debut in high definition may well bring it a new audience and increased appreciation.
Though The Strange Love of Martha Ivers' putative star is Barbara Stanwyck, the film is quite interesting for that period in that it's much more of an ensemble piece than the traditional noir, which typically plays out with an alluring femme fatale leading a hapless anti-hero to his demise. Stanwyck plays the title character, a woman who is introduced as a young girl in 1926 in the film's weirdly wonderful prologue. Young Martha (Janis Wilson) is the ward of a vicious aunt (played by the always memorable Judith Anderson), who tries to keep Martha under lock and key, to varying results. Martha doesn't even want to be known by the surname Ivers since she was the child of a man named Smith who had married into the Ivers family but had then died, leaving Martha in the care of his sister-in-law, the nefarious Mrs. Ivers. Martha has two childhood friends, scrappy Sam (played as a child by Darryl Hickman, and as an adult by Heflin) and bookish Walter (played as a child by Mickey Kuhn, and as an adult by Douglas). Walter is the son of Martha's tutor, Mr. O'Neil (the great Group Theater actor Roman Bohnen in one of his few film appearances).
Mrs. Ivers is in fact a kind of distaff version of Lionel Barrymore's Mr. Potter character in It's a Wonderful Life: she's incredibly wealthy and basically owns Iverstown, and has everyone at her beck and call. That makes Martha's repeated attempts to run away certain to fail, and that's exactly how The Strange Love of Martha Ivers begins. Things almost immediately go wrong, though, when in a blackout caused by a storm, Martha reacts almost instinctively when Mrs. Ivers starts attacking Martha's beloved cat, a reaction which (no surprise here) ends in Mrs. Ivers' death. The lights come back on, and though Walter has been standing there and has seen what happened, both he and Martha tell Mr. O'Neil that an intruder has killed Mrs. Ivers. Mr. O'Neil isn't exactly buying it, but he's been dreaming for a long time of bettering Walter's lot in life, and now that Martha is a very wealthy orphan, he doesn't see any reason to upset the apple cart by implicating the little girl in a murder.
Flash forward twenty years to 1946 and Martha and Walter have married, Walter is running for District Attorney, and scrappy Sam ends up back in Iverstown after crashing his car (that's reportedly none other than future directing legend Blake Edwards as Sam's hitchhiking Navy passenger in the car). Will Martha's long ago peccadillo come back to haunt her now that Sam is back in the picture, especially since Martha and Walter are under the impression that Sam also witnessed the demise of Mrs. Ivers lo, those many years ago? While that's one of the central questions in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, it's not the only one, as Sam soon has taken up with another woman with a questionable past, a girl named Toni (Lizabeth Scott), whom Sam meets when he goes to visit his childhood home and discovers it's been made over as a boarding house.
There's therefore a quartet of morally ambiguous and emotionally scarred characters at the core of The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and the rest of the film plays out as a rather complex cat and mouse game between all of them in their various guises. Martha still holds a torch for Sam, but Sam is trying to figure out what Toni's secret is. Walter is ambitious but has been compromised by years of being commanded by Martha. He starts to at least attempt to take control of the situation when Sam comes back into town, but Martha has her own plans that require her ensnaring. This is almost like a noir revisited by someone like Douglas Sirk, with huge, operatic emotions bubbling just beneath the tamped down, post-World War II surface.
The plot cartwheels toward an especially hyperbolic climax, and it's rather interesting to see Heflin playing the tough guy, not particularly cowed by Stanwyck holding a gun on him, contrasted with Douglas' simpering indecision as near cuckolded husband Walter. We get an expectedly dramatic flourish to bring one storyline to a close, and then a kind of enervating coda for two other characters, one of whom tells the other, "Never look back". That may be good advice, but it's one of the reasons films like The Strange Love of Martha Ivers often get lost to the ravages of time.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of HD Cinema Classics – Film Chest with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.30:1. As mentioned above, the press sheet accompanying this release touts the fact that Film Chest worked with 35mm elements housed in the Library of Congress to restore this release, and while that may sound impressive, as anyone who has done research or gotten copies of archival data kept at the Library of Congress will tell you, just because it's at the Library of Congress doesn't mean it's in fantastic condition. As also mentioned above, this film fell into the Public Domain and has been bootlegged and released by inferior labels for years, though Paramount still has probably the best prints available and did release its own DVD a few years ago. Paramount may still end up releasing its own Blu-ray or licensing it out to labels like Olive Films down the road. What is here is another typical Film Chest restoration that does best with regard to removing scratches and other damage, but largely misses the boat in terms of good contrast and (especially) utilizing DNR, which erases not just film grain but a lot of fine object detail. The result is a sort of waxy smooth offering with inconsistent contrast that is alternately too low in some dim scenes and then seemingly pushed to the point where whites bloom in others. One of the best things that has been a consistent plus with the Paramount catalog releases licensed to Olive Films is that they have had no (or at most, next to no) digital tweaking and represent a very filmic look, for better or worse. This Strange Love is pretty far removed from that look.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers features a mono soundtrack delivered via a standard Dolby Digital 2.0 mix. It's not particularly bad to have a lossy track here, though an incredible Miklos Rozsa score like the one in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers certainly could have benefited from lossless audio. The soundtrack has a couple of brief drop outs (at least one linked to what appears to be a missing frame), but otherwise damage is minimal. The midrange sounds really rather decently full in this presentation, though some extreme highs are a bit clipped. Dialogue is cleanly presented and is always easy to hear.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is neat little potboiler featuring some great performances, though it somehow misses that higher tier of noir that Martha's more or less contemporaries like Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice attained. Perhaps the problem is instead of a couple plotting away, Martha features a quartet, and there are simply too many overlapping storylines to give the film the pared down focus that is usually a central selling point to noir. This Film Chest offering is another in the label's attempt to resurrect some lesser known catalog titles from the distant past, and while the label is to be commended for bringing attention to these underappreciated films, they need to take another look at some of their restoration techniques. This release might spur Paramount into creating an HD master of its own (if it hasn't already), which would seem to be a perfect sort of release for Olive Films to handle.
Use the thumbs up and thumbs down icons to agree or disagree that the title is similar to The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. You can also suggest completely new similar titles to The Strange Love of Martha Ivers in the search box below.
Similar titles suggested by members
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray - March 5, 2012
In May, Film Chest Media will bring The Strange Love of Martha Ivers to Blu-ray. Barbara Stanwyck (Titanic) stars in this film noir as the title character, an heiress whose dissatisfaction with her life causes a series of ever-escalating complications and betrayals. ...
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray Screenshots
Back to The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Blu-ray »
Trending Blu-ray Movies
Trending in Theaters
This web site is not affiliated with the Blu-ray Disc Association.
All trademarks are the property of the respective trademark owners.
© 2002-2014 Blu-ray.com. All rights reserved.