THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS
Having fallen into public domain, THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS ($15) is one of those films that this reviewer thought would be lost to the ravages of time, without a high quality version of the film ever being released on DVD. Various companies have issued the movie on DVD from aged materials, which clearly show signs of wear and nitrate decomposition. Although flawed, the previous Hal Roach Studios/Image Entertainment release offered a more than respectable presentation of the movie on disc. Fortunately, Paramount, the studio that originally release THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS theatrically, have dug into their vaults and have come up with the finest presentation of the film we are ever likely to see at home, this side of high definition.
THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS is one of the most potent film noirs of all time, featuring terrific performances, snappy dialogue and a completely unforgettable climax. THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS opens with a young Martha Ivers (Janis Wilson) attempting to run away from her rich, controlling aunt (Judith Anderson), with the help of her friend Sam (Darryl Hickman). When the police eventually catch up with Martha and Sam, they return the girl to the custody of her aunt, who is waiting for her along with her tutor Mr. O'Neil (Roman Bohnen) and his son Walter (Mickey Kuhn). Later that evening, when Sam goes to check on Martha, a tragic event occurs in the house that forever changes the lives of the three youths.
THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS then flashes forward eighteen years, where we encounter adult Sam (Van Heflin), who hasnít been back to the town of his birth, since the night the he and Martha attempted to run away. Sam finds Iverstown pretty much the same as when he left it; only now, it is a rich and powerful Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) who is running the town in the stead of her aunt. Sam also discovers that Martha is now married to Walter (Kirk Douglas) whom has become the Iverstown district attorney, despite his serious drinking problem.
Not surprisingly, Samís reunion with Martha and Walter turns out to be an unhappy one, due to Walterís complete distrust of Sam- and the secret that binds Walter and Martha together. At first, Sam has no genuine interest in Martha or Walter, but he finds himself forcibly pulled into their web of lies and deception. Further complicating matters is Toni Marachek (Lizabeth Scott), the beautiful girl from the wrong side of the tracks, whom Walter uses as a pawn against Sam. THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS is one of those films, where the less one knows about the plot the more they will enjoy the film's unforgettable climax. THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS truly benefits from the strong performances of its leading players, especially the wonderful Barbara Stanwyck, as well as Kirk Douglas. Note, Douglas made his screen debut with this film, playing a very uncharacteristic role and proving himself an actor first and potential movie star second.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS available on DVD in a relatively fine looking black and white transfer that frames the film in its proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratio. This DVD is light-years ahead of the Hal Roach Studios/Image Entertainment release and produces a crisp and nicely defined image. Blacks appear velvety and the whites are clean. Grayscale is pretty nicely varied, which helps bring out the fine details sets and costumes. Contrast is generally very good although there are times that the image is one the verge of becoming a tad blown out. Additionally, as a film noir, things can also be a bit dark and murky at times, but it adds to the film's atmosphere. The film elements used for the transfer are in reasonably good shape, with some scratches and other age related markings being the worst of it. Film grain is appreciable much of the time, but is never excessive. Digital compression artifacts are never a cause for concern.
THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS comes with a fairly solid Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack monaural soundtrack. The majority of background hiss and surface noise has been cleaned up in the mastering process, leaving the track with a fairly smooth sonic quality. Fidelity has all the expected limitations of a movie verging on the sixty-year mark; fortunately, the track is never, thin harsh or tinny, plus Miklůs Růzsaís score comes across rather well. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. No other language tracks are provided, but English subtitles have been included. The basic interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, no extras have been included.
THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS is a great classic film noir that has finally been given a presentation worthy of its stature. Recommended.
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