Martha Ivers, as you will learn in the first 10 minutes of this movie, is crazy. As a young teen, she makes repeated attempts to run away from her stodgy and controlling old aunt (who also happens to be incredibly wealthy) and join the circus along with her hoodlum boyfriend, Sam. However, she is also friends with Walter, the son of her tutor who, although is kind of wimpy and unexciting, none the less sticks by her and entertains her. Certain events take place which, while beneficial to Martha, Walter and his father, lead inadvertantly to Sam leaving town, and he doesn't return home for 18 years. When he does come back, he meets an attractive girl named Toni, and the two are soon (very suggestively) enjoying adjoining hotel rooms. Martha meanwhile, has grown into a giant of industry, creating an enormous amount of the town's wealth through the new factories she's built. Walter too, has done well for himself, he's now the district attorney, running for re-election that is all but guaranteed, "a sure thing". When Toni gets into trouble for parole violation, Sam goes to his old friend Walter to see if he'll get her out of jail as a favor for old times' sake, but Walter sees Sam as a threat. Thinking he's after blackmail, Walter has Sam beaten and dumped on the outskirts of town. But is it blackmail that he's really afraid of, or is it jealousy over Martha? Martha it seems, is only with Walter out of convenience, or even out of fear. Her past binds her to these two men for life you see, and whereas Walter she can control, Sam she has no power over, and it makes her crazy, or horny, or both. It's a recurring theme between Martha and Sam, she tries to kill him, he gets all worked up and starts kissing her. It's rather unusual to find in a 1940s movie a hero making love to a married woman (even The Big Sleep's story was changed to keep Philip Marlowe from committing adultery). In fact, it's rather difficult to side with Sam at all, as he plays tough guy with the ladies, makes love to married women and in the end, does attempt a blackmailing racket on the married couple after all. The Martha Ivers character is never satisfactorily explored; is she manipulative and vindictive, or is she just sad, scared and mentally unbalanced? It's all the more strange that, out of all the leading characters, she's one of the more minor ones of the film (despite the star power of Barbara Stanwyck and the fact that it's the title role), taking a backseat to Toni (Lizabeth Scott), Walter (Kirk Douglas) and Sam (Van Heflin). The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is about watching some unpleasant or amoral people doing unpleasant and amoral things. I don't think there's one sympathetic character in the whole movie. Also, I'm not so sure some of the elements in the film have aged that gracefully: the dialogue (or is it the acting?) Van Heflin engages the two females in is a little cheesy at times (and alot cheesy at others). Still, for a piece of 1940s mainstream filmmaking, it plays loose with the moral codes of that era and gives us a subliminable kinky subtext.