Review: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a classic film noir from 1946. This film has a lot of unique history to it. It is directing great Lewis Milestone’s only film noir. It is also Kirk Douglas’ first film, recommended for the film by the first couple of noir, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall based on his Broadway acting. We also have “The Threat” Lizabeth Scott in only her second film. Scott may have been called “The Threat” based on her being a possible threat to film noir greats Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake. It’s hard to say if Scott was ever really a threat to those two, but she sure held her own and has earned a right to be named with those two as some of film’s noir favorites. In addition to all this talent we have the two biggest stars of this film being the all time great Barbara Stanwyck and our leading man being Van Heflin. Heflin was coming off of a three-year leave from the movies to serve in World War II.

Our film starts out with Martha as a young girl trying to run away from her overbearing Aunt. She is aided by juvenile delinquent Sam. When Walter tells his father and the police where Martha might be, she is soon caught. After a black out and a scuffle on the stairs Martha hits her Aunt with a poker and she falls to her death down the stairs. We flash forward seventeen years as Sam, played by Heflin is driving by his old hometown, he gets in a car wreck and brings his car into town to be fixed. Sam finds his childhood friends are now prominent fixtures in the small town. Walter played by Douglas is now the D.A. and is married to Martha, played by Stanwyck, who has inherited her Aunts wealth. Sam soon meets ex-con Toni, played by Scott. There is an instant attraction, but when Toni gets in trouble, Sam calls on his old friend, the D.A. Walter to help her.

This is a great film with quite a few plot lines going on. Will Martha’s past come back to haunt her when her best friend from her past comes home? Will Sam use her to help out his new flame? How will Walter react to all of this? What will he do?

This is a must see film noir for all fans of classic film. If you are a fan of any one of the big four stars of this picture you will love it. If you are not a fan of any of these four stars…you need to start watching some of their films!

Favorite Tidbit: This film appears on the television in a scene from last years horror favorite The Babadook.

Review: Act of Violence

Act of Violence is a film noir from 1948 starring two of the genres greats, Van Heflin and Robert Ryan.  This film also stars Janet Leigh in only her fifth film, and Mary Astor in a small part as a prostitute.  This film is also an early film by director Fred Zinnemann.

This film starts out showing our World War II vet, Heflin is happily married to Leigh and a successful business owner in suburbia California.  Heflin and his neighbor are packing for a fishing trip and heading up to a mountain lake for some R and R.  We soon see our dark stranger with a limp arriving in town and trying to locate Heflin.  He comes across as deranged and scary.  He approaches Leigh at their home and finds out Heflin is at the mountain lake.  He rents a car and heads up to the lake, rents a boat and tracks down Heflin.  The cat and mouse game continues between the two as we learn their history.

The interesting thing about this film is how we start out looking at Ryan as the villain, but our alliances change throughout the film as we learn about each man.

We have some wonderful cinematography in this, I especially enjoyed the scenes where Heflin is running to an unknown destination through the empty streets of Los Angeles.

This is a very interesting film as there really isn’t a bad guy or a good guy.  We don’t even have an anti-hero to root for.  We sympathies with both main characters in this film and understand where both are coming from.  The message I got out of this is we all have made mistakes, all we can do is, try to do the best we can from here on out.  Maybe the other message is let bygones be bygones.  We also maybe getting a taste of “not everybody in the suburbs are what they seem”.

This is a very good film all noir lovers should see, and if you are a fan of any of the four stars it is well worth your time.  They are all excellent and I have already mentioned in past reviews how much I like Heflin and Ryan and they both play something different then I’ve seen them play before and both do an excellent job once again.  Astor shows her range as she was playing a hardened street-walker in this and then going across the lot to play the mother in Little Women at the same time.  Leigh was just getting started in her career, but showed she could hang with the best, giving good depth to the scared, but strong loyal house wife.

Favorite Tidbit:  Even though this had four big stars in it and the film was very good, even being entered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1949, it still lost $637,000 at the box office.

Review: Grand Central Murder

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Grand Central Murder is a film-noir from 1942.  This movie is based on a Sue MacVeigh book and though I’ve never read it, I think this story has more in common with Sherlock Holmes then Phillip Marlowe.  Though this seems to not be a true noir in story the filming is very noir.  The opening scenes visual is one of the coolest in noir. The rest of the movie uses shadows in a very artistic way.  S. Sylvan Simon is the director and looked to me like he showed some promise in the genre but he directed 34 films and it looks like almost all of them except for this one, was comedy and family films.  To bad I would love to see his style in more dark films like this.

Our P.I. detective is played by Van Heflin and is pretty entertaining in this part.  Patricia Dane is the beautiful gold digger that is in the center of the investigation.  There is a long cast of characters that at times are a little hard to keep track of.  This movie has not been rated much in IMDb and is currently at a 6.6, with only 453 people rating it.  I caught this on Turner Classic Movies and it may be hard to find on DVD, but it is available.  It may be worth the effort to find if you are a hard-core noir fan.

Review of Black Widow

Black Widow is the first classic film-noir that I have seen that is in color.  Usually film-noir from this era is in black and white and lends to the over all atmosphere of the movie.  Color worked for me in this movie, the New York skyline looked amazing and felt like one of the characters.  Ginger Rodgers plays a successful actress and shows why she really was a great actress in this part.  Really liked Van Heflin as our main man and George Raft is always cool with his amazing voice and dialog.  This currently only has a 6.8 rating on IMDb, but has only a little over 1000 ratings.  I think if your a fan of the genre you will really enjoy it.  If you’ve seen it comment below with what you thought of this film.

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