|Heflin, Scott and Stanwyck|
THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (1946). Director: Lewis Milestone. Screenplay by Robert Rossen.
"You still look like a scared little kid to me." -- Sam to Walter.
Martha (Barbara Stanwyck), Walter (Kirk Douglas) and Sam (Van Heflin) are childhood friends caught up in melodrama when -- early in the film -- Martha clubs her nasty aunt (Judith Anderson) and kills her right after said Aunt batters Martha's cat with her walking stick. Given Martha's age at the time, and her aunt's actions, probably nothing much would have happened to Martha, but in this movie she marries the witness, Walter, who grows up to become an alcoholic district attorney, and tries to pay off Sam [whom she thinks also witnessed the aunt's death] when he shows up back in town on a trip and chooses a very odd moment to kiss her. The trouble is, Martha and Walter framed an innocent man for the crime and he got the chair. Stanwyck and Heflin are excellent, and in his debut film, Douglas almost steals the film with his intense portrayal of Walter. His odd, clenched-teeth way of speaking takes a little getting used to, but it obviously didn't prevent him from becoming a major star. Lizabeth Scott, who plays an overaged urchin who's been told to get out of town but is befriended by Sam, gives a very odd performance, perhaps because she was trying to play younger than she really was [although she was hardly old at 24]. This was Scott's second film, but she was seen to better advantage in such films as Desert Fury and especially Too Late for Tears/Killer Bait. Well-directed by Milestone and with a nice score by Miklos Rozsa. Familiar faces include Olin Howlin and Ann Doran.
Verdict: Fascinating meller with intense performances from Heflin and Stanwyck and a star turn from Douglas. ***.