Why didn’t you stop me, Sam? You know how much I hated her! Why didn’t you stop me?
So I love Kirk Douglas:
In fact I even wrote him a fan letter once, but have yet to hear back from him.
Anyways, I picked up a great book not too long ago about his life, The Films of Kirk Douglas [although it ends with The Indian Fighter (1955)]. I found the book to be interesting, well written, and hard to put down.
So the first film that Kirk Douglas was in is called The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. It sounded so interesting-film noir about a woman who destroys one man after another in her pursuit of money, power, and love.
So when I spotted it on Amazon Instant Watch, I knew I needed to watch it immediately.
However, as I started watching the film it turned out that I was sadly mistaken. This film was nothing like what I thought it would be like.
So the film starts out with young Martha Ivers, niece to Mrs. Ivers (Judith Anderson) the richest woman in the town. Her aunt controls everything and everybody, except for one-Sam Masterson. The two were trying to run away together, just to be free, but are found out and Martha is sent back with her aunt.
Martha Ivers as a girl: You don’t own the whole world.
Mrs. Ivers: Enough to make sure you’re always brought back to me.
Mr. O’Neil, her tutor discovered where she was hiding. Mr. O’Neil is a super brownnoser, trying to get Mrs. Ivers to help his son Walter become more by blessing him with a good education. Mrs. Ivers thanks him for his help, but in no way does she care about him or his needs.
Meanwhile, upstairs Martha and Walter are talking when Sam arrives to take her with him. Everything is going well until Mrs. Ivers senses something is up, as Martha has been far too quiet, and heads upstairs. Sam sees Mrs. Ivers and runs off, Mrs. Ivers trips on Martha’s cat (which Mrs. Ivers hates), Mrs. Ivers begins to hit the cat with her cane, and Martha becomes so angry that she takes the cane, beats her aunt, and Mrs. Ivers falls down the stairs dead.
Walter saw everything, so Martha takes him into her confidence and gets him to lie with her to his father, Mr. O’Neil. She says a man came in and attacked her aunt.
Mr. O’Neil looks at the body and Martha and figures everything out about what really must have happened. But he goes along with her, using this to tie the two kids in the closest bond imaginable.
Time passes and we pick up in the present with Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) who is driving along. Since he ran away Sam has been everywhere, with all kinds of women, and done little of everything-although he gets his money from gambling. He is surprised to find himself back in his old area, so surprised that he crashes his car and has to stay in Iverstown until it is fixed.
He discovers that Walter O’Neil (Kirk Douglas) and Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) married and that Walter did get the fancy education, making him district attorney. Sam heads off looking around the changed town and meets a young, troubled, blonde, Toni Marachek.
For me this is where the story seriously tanks.
Sam falls in love with Toni after just meeting her. It is really weird as he is this tough guy who takes whatever he wants from people, you know, and then this girl gives him like 3% of her life story and he is hooked. I thought the whole interaction was dumb and not necessary. It was also extremely boring.
Eventually after a lot of blah, blah, blah
It turns out Toni is an ex-con and that since she didn’t take her bus home like she was supposed to, she broke probation and was sent back to prison. Sam is so upset that he lost his “love”
So he goes to Walter to try and get him to spring her. Walter has become an alcoholic, his life devastated at the fact that he helped send an innocent person to prison. When Sam comes in asking for things, Walter assumes that Sam witnessed the death of Mrs. Ivers and is trying to blackmail them.
Meanwhile, Martha runs into Sam and she likes what she sees more than ever. She never got over Sam, and even though Walter loves her with every part of his being, she can’t stand him. She constantly tries to come on to Sam and rekindle their childhood interest.
Meanwhile, a jealous Walter tries to take care of Sam-using Toni to set him up and sending guys after him to rough him up a bit.
Sam survives and comes to take revenge on Walter. The two fight, with Walter trying to shoot Sam, but Sam wrestling it out of his hands.
Martha runs off to a private rendezvous with Martha and as they are talking it is revealed that Sam never saw anything.
Martha Ivers: Why didn’t you stop me, Sam? You know how much I hated her! Why didn’t you stop me?
Sam Masterson: I wasn’t there.
Martha Ivers: Why didn’t you stop…[realizes] You, weren’t there?
Sam Masterson: No, I left as soon as I saw your aunt enter the room.
Now armed with such knowledge, Sam makes a double play. One-he starts demanding more from Walter while two-making Martha care for him again.
It all comes to a head when Walter and Sam fight, Walter falling down stairs, drunk, and discovered by Martha. Martha tries to convince Sam to kill her husband so they can be together.
Sam refuses, and then Martha tries to get Walter to kill Sam. Sam doesn’t like where everything is going.
Eventually Sam leaves, and Walter and Martha are left together in their twisted web of deceit and division. Martha tries to say something to Walter, but he shoots her.
Afterwards he turns the gun on himself.
Sam and Toni take off into his car free forever.
I thought this was horrible. I was looking for mystery, plotting, intrigue, evil woman creating downfall everywhere she went, etc. Instead we got insta-romance and boring melodrama. I would just pass this film on by, not worth your time at all. And let me say, I cannot fathom how every girl was going ga-ga over Van Heflin. He’s not that attractive or particularly charming.
And yeah, again no banner for this film. I don’t know why I picked so many bannerless films this year. Oh, well.
To start Horrorfest VI from the beginning, go to One of Our Guests is a Werewolf, I Know It.: The Beast Must Die (1974)
For the previous post, go to I Don’t Kill People Anymore: Psycho II (1983)
For more film-noir, go to It’s A Hard World: Backfire (1950)
For more Kirk Douglas, go to Make My Day
For more with Judith Anderson, go to Murder is My Favorite Crime: Laura (1944)