The Strange Love of Martha Ivers - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Reviews

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October 28, 2016
I love this movie. It's got the dark side of human nature and the tough luck side that finally finds a path. Good acting for the most part. Stanwyck is good like she always was in these films. Kirk Douglas over acts as usual. Worth seeing.
October 24, 2016
A twisted political romantic drama. Well made to boot!
August 4, 2016
So nice it'd be if the cast of "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" had detectable chemistry rather than stagey interplay, but because I'm a fan of high-strung melodrama and the camera-buttering acting styles of Barbara Stanwyck and Kirk Douglas, I can't be too picky, especially since the film features one of Stanwyck's finest femme fatale characterizations and since it was the film debut for the then up-and-coming Douglas. Tepid fire-starting aside, the movie isn't keyed up for the sake of being keyed up: these characters, with their tendencies to run their motor mouths in middlingly successful attempts to cover up their nervous edges, have a reason to be so predisposed to deliver an intensely emotional monologue followed by an orchestral zing.
As the titular dragon lady, Stanwyck is a riot, an aesthete of iniquity as ready to ruin someone's life to save her own skin as she is ready to hate herself for her innate wickedness. In the film, her Martha Ivers is the quintessence of small town dominance: the city in which she lives, Iverstown, is named after her power-playing ancestors, and her husband, Walter O'Neil (Douglas), is the district attorney. She has the town wrapped around her finger, and she's a master of manipulation prone to backstabbing and to blatant self-interest. She's a politician minus the title.
But as it goes within a genre whose dogma won't allow a single individual to have it easy, Martha's composure has to be indestructible. One false move and her deadly secret will be revealed to all, thus ruining her. (Her deadly secret being that she accidentally killed her domineering aunt [Judith Anderson] in her youth, let her tutor [Roman Bohnen], Walter's father, take the blame, and married Walter not out of love but out of convenience.)
But while she's gotten good at protecting herself over the years - uneasiness fueled by inherent ruthlessness is pretty effective - her credence in herself is derailed after Sam Masterson (Van Heflin), a childhood friend who was with Martha on that fateful night, unintentionally arrives in town in order to repair a fender bender. In addition to becoming acquainted with Toni Marachek (Lizabeth Scott), an enigmatic young woman who more or less steals his heart, Sam is also drawn into Martha and Walter's blackmail fearing web of deceit.
Imposing a falling-down-the-stairs-in-an-ornate-nightgown sort of melodrama reminiscent of Douglas Sirk's greatest hits and latter day descendants a la "Dallas" and "Dynasty," "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" isn't content delivering the usual barrage of bitch slaps and business-driven seductions and snaky exchanges with superficial execution. It's also prone to damning the damages that come along with capitalism enforced greed and the sorry effects of a life comprised solely of slimily working your way up to the top. Martha and Walter are the haves and Sam and Toni are the have nots - but eventually the have nots are the ones that prove prosperous, if only because their morality, though half-eaten by irreversible red-marks on their pasts, refuses to leave them even when their actions are sometimes doubtable.
"The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" is intuitive and well-written - a deft cocktail of guilty-pleasure oriented popcorn entertainment interlaced with drops of satire - so it's unfortunate that the rapport between the actors is never as potent as anyone involved thinks it is. The stars are individually expert - Stanwyck a slithery ace, Douglas a drunken shithead who could have been something, Heflin a tough-talking innocent, Scott a Lauren Bacall knockoff who can actually act - but together, they never quite cohesively mesh. Save for the way Stanwyck and Douglas convincingly portray a couple doomed by one-sidedness, Stanwyck and Heflin have a hard time generating the sexual tension that's supposed to lie palpably between them, and Heflin and Scott don't spawn the sizzle necessary for a developing romance meant to withstand the evils of Iverstown.
But the film is a watchable one, and likable is how much it pushes itself to consist of more than the potboiling that jinxed most of the soapers of the era. If "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers" prompted the heat that always seems ready to jump off the screen, it'd be more than a hidden gem - maybe it'd even be a classic, perhaps if Robert Mitchum stood in Heflin's shoes or if Jane Greer were in Scott's. But because the film is over-the-top without losing sight of its observational strength, there's no denying that it's among the best of its kind.
½ March 14, 2016
Great story. I liked the contrast between the female characters, and a young Kirk Douglas.
February 11, 2016
I love film noir and this is a good one. First role for Kirk Douglas and he does look young in it. Great role for Barbara Stanwyk too. Melodramatic but dark too. Noir is always fun.
½ August 14, 2015
Wow, not sure how I ever missed this noir...
May 1, 2015
Dark. Very dark. A decent example of film noir. Did not see the end twists coming, but did enjoy it all the way. Brilliant first performance by young Kirk Douglas as "the scared little boy ready to cry".
November 17, 2014
In my eyes Janis Wilson whom played the young Martha Ivers stole the whole show!
August 2, 2014
I have my reservations when it comes to Barbara Stanwyck.
January 9, 2014
A little something off the To-Watch Pile for Movie Shame Monday and a lot of fun, with a great turn from Kirk Douglas as a wild card thrown back into the lives of his childhood friends, who remain convinced that he witnessed their crime and is there to blackmail them in some fashion.

It's interesting to watch the 'little guy' square off against the rich and powerful, if only because they think they can bully him around.

Well worth a look if you can catch it on cable or track it down for rental.
September 24, 2013
Interesting film noir for which a young Martha Ivers (Janis Wilson) attempts to run away with a boy before her controlling, rich aunt (Judith Anderson) intervenes. Instead, Ivers pushes her aunt down a flight of stairs in her mansion and she dies upon impact. As a result, Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) cannot shake the guilt of her aunts death and is courted now by a another man (Kirk Douglas in his screen debut), who also witnessed her aunt's death when he was child and convinces to forget about her death. However, her runaway boy (Van Heflin) returns, but he is wooed by a younger woman (Lizabeth Scott). Pretty compelling story that leads to a tragic and satisfying conclusion. I like many film noir mysteries and this one that had a sufficient amount of suspense attached to the atmosphere. Pretty nice.
½ May 1, 2013
Barbara Stanwyck is brilliant as Martha and Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas also impress. Lizabeth Scott's performance however is somehat lacklustre and detracts from the strength of this interesting melodrama.
April 30, 2013
I saw this movie many years ago (mainly because of Barbara Stanwyck-one of my favorite actresses) and remembered it as being loooooooong. I just saw it again today and actually really enjoyed this time. Filled with gem performances by a fine cast-Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Kirk Douglas and Lizabeth Scott in a kind of 'Gothic' film noir that has not gotten the kind of respect it deserves.
April 6, 2013
This is a great film noir with a brilliant performance from Barbara Stanwyck. I'm not a big fan of Lisbeth Scott who's very much a second rate Lauren Bacall but even she can't ruin this tense, well written and tautly directed thriller.
½ March 6, 2013
Solid bit of melodrama with Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and Kirk Douglas in his film debut. It's often called film noir, but for me it felt more like a melodrama with noir elements. Stanwyck is in a loveless marriage to a man who knows of her crime she committed 17 years earlier. It's well made, though not up to "Out of the Past" levels of noir greatness or Douglas Sirk levels of melodrama greatness. Still, it's very much worth watching, even just for the cast alone.
February 23, 2013
Not every old movie is golden. Despite an intriguing set-up with delicious melodrama to spare, this non-classic becomes a lugubrious, diffuse bore.
½ February 10, 2013
Good, but Not first-Rate
December 19, 2012
very dark film noir that tends 2 get away with more than it seems 2b getting away with.
½ November 6, 2012
Acting tour de force with great film noir plot--Hidden Dynamism!!
September 30, 2012
Did the same part of the score play for the entire movie?
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