review for The Strange Love of Martha Ivers on AllMovie

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
by Craig Butler review

Something of a warm-up for the later The File on Thelma Jordan, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers mixes obsession, desire, delusion, ambition, and fear into a fascinating and enthralling tangle. Unusual for a movie of its period, it's fairly sophisticated in dealing with what is, at heart, a "sick" relationship between Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) and Walter O'Neil (Kirk Douglas), and demonstrating how easily a person (Sam Masterson [Van Heflin]) can get sucked into one. Fortunately for Masterson, he gets out in time, but it's a pretty narrow escape. Ivers is a remarkably tense film, although it's a tension that tends to linger beneath the surface; this is appropriate, as it reflects the turmoil and anxiety that lies under the calm surface of Ivers' and O'Neil's lives. That tension gives the film its life and strange vibrancy, and gives snap to even mundane scenes. There are some problems, notably the fact that the creators don't really seem to have a grasp on Masterson's motivation after the idea of blackmail enters the picture. Is he really interested in the money or is it a plot to get to the bottom of the Martha mystery? But the compelling, multi-layered performances of the stars (including Lizabeth Scott) more than make up for the few flaws in the script.