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Strange Love of Martha Ivers (Kino), The
Previously released on Blu-ray in 2012 by HD Cinema Classics, Lewis Milestone's 1946 film The Strange Loves Of Martha Ivers, a film that's been packaged and repackaged plenty of times over the years and which is fairly well known for featuring a young Kirk Douglas in a prominent role, gets reissued in an improved edition from Kino Lorber.
The story follows the titular woman (played by the lovely Barbara Stanwyck), who we meet as young girl where we learn she was raised by her rather unfriendly aunt (Judith Anderson). The victim of a ridiculously strict and sometimes even cruel upbringing, she eventually kills her aunt by sending her careening down a staircase after she attacked young Martha's pet kitten. Martha's two friends, young boys Sam and Walter, witness the death.
This winds up putting Martha into some money as she inherits a steel mill which does quite well for her and she eventually marries Walter (Kirk Douglas), now the local district attorney, at the behest of his father who knows about Martha's past. Sam (Van Heflin) shows up in town, someone the couple hasn't seen since the night of the murder, and both Martha and Walter assume he's come back with the intention of blackmailing them. Walter is also suspicious that Sam's presence poses a threat to his relationship with Martha, though Sam has eyes for Toni Marachek (Lizabeth Scott), a pretty jailbird just sprung from the big house.
A decent potboiler, The Strange Loves Of Martha Ives is a little on the predictable side but well-acted by a strong cast. The film's music is a little overdone in spots and winds up pushing certain scenes headlong into melodrama territory but overall the film succeeds even if it isn't as well shot or as tense as other similar films made around the same time. The story is decent, if familiar, and the movie is paced well. Again though, it's the acting that will draw you to this one more than anything else. Stanwyck is fetching in the lead and quite good here, her strained relationship with Douglas as high point in the film and the source of some good on screen chemistry between the two. Van Heflin is decent as Sam, while Lizabeth Scott is truly beautiful as Toni, making it all the more forgivable that her character doesn't have as much to do as the other three. The characters are well thought out, well written and well-acted by all involved.
It's interesting to see Douglas cast here in his feature debut against the type of character he'd become known for. Here he is weak, fairly unlikable and not particularly charismatic, rarely qualities you'd associate with him after he became known for roles like the one he played in Spartacus. He handles the part well, however, here he plays quite a pitiful character, desperately in love with the wife he knows never wanted to be with him in the first place. All in all it's a good movie with some solid tension and one worth seeing for fans of the era's thrillers.
Kino brings the film to Blu-ray framed at 1.33.1 in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation taken from a new 4k scan and it looks excellent. There's barely any print damage here at all, just the odd small white speck now and again, and both detail and clarity advance handily over the previous Blu-ray and DVD editions that we've seen released domestically. Contrast is very strong and we get nice, deep blacks and clean whites with a nice greyscale here as well. Depth and texture are very strong as well, and there are no problems with any noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression related issues as the transfer always looks properly like film.
The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix, which comes with optional English subtitles, is clean, clear and properly balanced. Both the film's score and its use of sound effects come through nicely and with good clarity and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note.
The main extra on the disc is a commentary track from film scholar Alan K. Rode. He goes into plenty of detail about the film's production history and where Paramount Studios was at this period in time as well as the film's director and cast. All sorts of trivia and interesting information is relayed throughout the talk, and he offers a good amount of critical analysis about the film's strong points and how it compares to other genre pictures as well. It's quite interesting and worth listening to.
Trailers for a few other Kino Lorber properties are included on the disc as well, as are menus and chapter selection options.
A solid thriller made with a very capable cast, The Strange Loves Of Martha Ivers is bound to be a welcome addition to the Blu-ray library of any noir fan and Kino's newly remastered edition offers the picture up in a very nice presentation and with a strong audio commentary as well. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.