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THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS

THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS ($20) is one of the most potent film noirs of all time, and a motion picture that came very close to being lost to the ravages of time. However, before nitrate decomposition could claim every last print of THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS, a few smaller companies, including Hal Roach Studios, were able to make good quality video transfers of the film, as a way of preserving it for future generations.

The film opens with a young Martha Ivers (Janis Wilson) trying to run away from her rich aunt (Judith Anderson), with the help of her friend Sam (Darryl Hickman). The police find Martha and Sam and return her 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. Sam leaves Iverstown for eighteen years, and only returns to the place of his birth when circumstances necessitate during a trip across country. The adult Sam (Van Heflin) finds Iverstown pretty much the same as when he left it, only now, the rich and powerful Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) is running things the same way her aunt did years earlier.

Sam also discovers that Martha is married to Walter (Kirk Douglas) who grew up to be the Iverstown district attorney, despite his serious drinking problem. The reunion for these three childhood friends turns out to be not a happy one, especially since Walter completely distrusts Sam because of his knowledge of the secret that binds him and Martha together. While Sam has no genuine interest in Martha or Walter, 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, that 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 explosive climax (so don't read the back of the DVD's jacket, if you have never seen the movie). The principal performers all give strong performances, especially Barbara Stanwyck and Kirk Douglas, whom made his screen debut with this film.

THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS arrives on DVD through the auspices Hal Roach Studios and Image Entertainment. This 1946 production predates wide screen, and the full screen black and white transfer is a very good representation of its theatrical framing. As I stated above THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS was on the verge of nitrate decomposition, so the presentation does have a number of flaws, due to the shape of the film elements. For the most part, THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS looks quite good, with the majority of the film coming from first generation 35mm elements. There are some shots within the body of film that seemed to have been replaced with either very good 16mm inserts or 35mm materials that are several generations off the original negative. The transfer provides a modestly good level of sharpness and detail. Film grain is noticeable in a numbers of places, as are early signs of nitrate decomposition. However, other signs of age, like scratches and blemishes are relatively minor. Blacks are very accurate on most of the film, but there are places where they lean towards gray. Contrast is decent, although the whites appear somewhat blown out at various points throughout the film. Digital compression artifacts are not a problem on this DVD.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack doesn't have many flaws considering that this movie was not carefully preserved. There are some mild fluctuations in the volume and a tiny bit of distortion, however the dialogue remains intelligible and the track will take a fair amount of amplification for those who would like hear the terrific Miklós Rózsa score. The very basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection feature.

THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS is an incredible example of film noir that will appeal to film buffs everywhere. While the presentation isn't perfect, most fans will find the Image Entertainment/Hal Roach Studios presentation to be fairly pleasing. This DVD is recommended to everyone who loves classic movies from Hollywood’s golden era.

 
THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS 


The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers}

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 

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DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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