10 December 2005 | blanche-2
You can't go home again
Due to a car accident, Van Heflin has to return to his home town in "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers," and walks into a world full of blackmail and murder. 18 years earlier, he ran away from home the night his friend Martha's aunt was murdered while Martha, her friend Walter, and Walter's father were in the Ivers house. Now he returns to find Walter (Kirk Douglas) is the drunken district attorney and married to Martha (Barbara Stanwyck), the richest woman in town - Iverstown is, after all, named after her family. Though Martha has never fallen out of love with Heflin, her husband thinks he's there to blackmail them because, though a man was hung for killing her aunt, it was Martha who did so while her aunt (Judith Anderson) was beating Martha's cat. In my opinion, she deserved to die. D.A. Douglas uses a troubled woman Heflin has met, played by sultry Lizabeth Scott, to attempt to drive Heflin out of town. But it doesn't work.
A top-notch cast carries this intriguing story along. Heflin was evidently considered a matinée idol in his day - in both this and Possessed, women swoon over him. My mother loved him, so he must have had something. He was a good actor, with a smoothness and an engaging smile. And he plays the part with a certain ambiguousness - up to a certain point, you're not sure if he knows Stanwyck's guilty secret or not. Stanwyck, beautiful and elegant as the troubled Martha, does a great job playing a twisted sister if there ever was one (though I still don't blame her for killing that miserable Judith Anderson). Douglas, in an early performance, holds his own well as the pathetic, wimpy Walter. Lizabeth Scott is lovely, sad, and vulnerable as Toni, the woman Heflin meets while in town.
Very good mid-'40s film.