Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #23: Iverstown (Scene from The Strange Love of Martha Ivers)

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The tension in this scene is overwhelming.  KIRK does not really want VAN to be there.  KIRK does question him in a friendly manner, but the underlying emotion does not really fit his smiles.  

 

KIRK does seem faraway and unhappy when BARBARA recognizes VAN as an old friend.  KIRK shows a hateful stare when VAN and BARBARA hug for the first and second time. 

 

Then there is the question of the election - from the answers given, it looks like the election will be rigged somehow. 

 

I also wonder when BARBARA close the door in this scene what will be the conversation.  I will watch this film tonight and respond to it in its entirety.

 

Other films that remind me of this midwestern city post WWII Noir are:  THE KILLERS, TOO LATE FOR TEARS, MILDRED PIERCE, and DETOUR.  THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE too. 

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-- Discuss the scene in terms of its acting and staging. In this brief scene, what do you see as the interpersonal relationships between Sam (Heflin), Walter (Douglas), and Martha (Stanwyck)? If you have seen the entire film, avoid larger points about the plot, and focus simply on what you are seeing just in this scene.

 

At first Walter and Sam are old acquaintances catching up.  They do not seem comfortable with each other.  Sam is seated on a couch, Walter is seated in front of and slightly above Sam, in a “power” position, indicating Walter is in charge (as befits his position as D.A.).  When Sam mentions he’s a gambler, Walter gets maudlin for a moment, saying “all life is a gamble,” then heads for a drink.  It’s too early in the day (er, morning) for Sam, the gambler, but he goes along.  Sam is there to ask that his (girl)friend be let out of jail.  Walter seems willing to go along “for old time’s sake”.  Martha walks in but does not recognize Sam until he does the secret whistle, when her whole demeanor changes.  Walter’s demeanor also changes, from jealousy to anger, reminding Sam that Martha is his wife.  Sam is oblivious to these signals because he’s been away and has no idea of the tensions between Martha and Walter (and, since we aren’t supposed to mention any other scenes in the movie, those too).

 

-- From this early scene, what are some of the noir themes that you expect will play out in this film?

 

Betrayal, jealousy, lust, and undeserved punishment (against Sam’s girlfriend)(and, since we aren’t supposed to mention any other scenes in the movie, those too).

 

-- What other films or settings in the Summer of Darkness lineup remind you of Griel Marcus' observation that "the most emblematic noir location is a small, vaguely Midwestern city?"

 

Out of the Past, where Jeff is living when he’s found; The Hitch-Hiker, if you count the desert as a “small community” – i.e, population 3 and whatever passers-by happen along; The Letter, a small English community of plantation owners; Ministry of Fear starts in small village; Mildred Pierce is set outside L.A. in the Glendale (and possibly Santa Monica) area; Postman Always Rings Twice –Pacific Coast Highway rural diner; and Kiss Me Deadly, which opens and ends at the beach outside the L.A. area.

 

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-- Discuss the scene in terms of its acting and staging. In this brief scene, what do you see as the interpersonal relationships between Sam (Heflin), Walter (Douglas), and Martha (Stanwyck)? If you have seen the entire film, avoid larger points about the plot, and focus simply on what you are seeing just in this scene.

 

Walter seems to be the one with the least power in this situation, even though he is the one with the most power in the community. Earlier, during the conversation between Walter and Sam, Sam says life is a gamble and that some lose, some don’t. Oddly, Walter responds, somewhat acidly, that “you needn’t have bothered to make that point.” Odd, because he appears to think Sam, the gambler, has been a winner in life and he, the district attorney, has been a loser. Most likely this refers to the relationship of each with Martha. Once Martha recognizes Sam, she and Sam stay physically close to each other, leaving Walter out of the picture – but Walter and Martha are never close, for the whole scene, even though they are the married couple. The fact that Walter wanted to keep her out of the room when Sam was there foretells what is to come.

 

 

-- From this early scene, what are some of the noir themes that you expect will play out in this film? Noir themes are sexual tension and an unloving marriage leading to crime, maybe murder. Sam’s return to Iverstown echoes the return of military after WWII to a changed world. Corruption of those in power is shown when Sam expects that Walter will release his girlfriend from prison, even though she has violated probation.

 

 

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Walking into THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS with only this clip in mind, you get the impression there is an underlying tension to the relationships between Sam, Martha and Walter. To start, Walter and Sam appear jovial, but even at this stage of his career (actually, his film debut), Kirk Douglas convincingly projects an uneasiness despite his authority status. Revealing himself as a gambler, Sam is pretty breezy about it all, probably because he's had his share of encounters with cops and prosecutors. When Martha enters the room and realizes Walter's visitor is long-lost Sam, the dynamic changes. Walter's insecurity (and his drinking) increases as Martha, unsurprisingly, takes command of the situation. But her look after Sam departs and she closes the door to Walter's office indicates trouble is in store for all three characters, and that a noir storyline is to follow with the aid of fate and human conflict. Although brilliantly lit, befitting the fact it's morning, Walter's office carries some noir shadings, especially the slatted sunshine coming through the Venetian blinds.

 

Come to think of it, Iverstown is a perfect realization of the small but burgeoning towns and cities found in hardboiled literature. We don't get that feeling from this clip, but what precedes and follows it is memorably dank, such as Dempsey's Garage, and the nightspots crowded with many uniforms, a clue to its postwar setting. Got ahead of myself there, but thought it worth mentioning.

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I posted my comments for the DD but I have to add that this movie I love to hate.  It's got so much going for it, I’ve seen it a dozen times, but there are two scenes that nearly wreck the movie (in my opinion).  One, when young Martha kills her aunt - I thought the scene was poorly executed.  She just gives her aunt a delicate "tap" and that's it – aunt tumbles down stairs.  I don't know if that was the censors doing or squeamishness on the part of the actress playing young Martha, but that just bugs me. Second, is the ending, which sucks.  I realize (and TCM commentary I think mentioned) that Martha had to die because she was a murderer and the Production Code at that time demanded she die because she could not get away with murder.  Okay.  But the execution of that scene never sat right with me.  Walter, who I suspect personally never killed a fly, now commits a suicide-murder? (I’m trying to remember if Walter was present on the stairs the night Martha’s aunt died. I’m pretty sure he was standing there with his father.) Wouldn’t you expect Martha to do the deed?  So we are supposed to believe that because Walter, who has lived with Martha and her secrets all his life, which were condoned and colluded to by his father, now decides enough is enough and this is the time to do it?  I’ll have to watch it again. . .

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ahhh the beauty of classic movies, i love em'.. i thought the same thing - that was a tap and down the steps she goes!! but martha actually looked satisfied and happy her aunt was dead.. The ending the way I saw it Walter thought he was going to get caught and tried any way, possibly executed so he just killed himself.

I posted my comments for the DD but I have to add that this movie I love to hate.  It's got so much going for it, I’ve seen it a dozen times, but there are two scenes that nearly wreck the movie (in my opinion).  One, when young Martha kills her aunt - I thought the scene was poorly executed.  She just gives her aunt a delicate "tap" and that's it – aunt tumbles down stairs.  I don't know if that was the censors doing or squeamishness on the part of the actress playing young Martha, but that just bugs me. Second, is the ending, which sucks.  I realize (and TCM commentary I think mentioned) that Martha had to die because she was a murderer and the Production Code at that time demanded she die because she could not get away with murder.  Okay.  But the execution of that scene never sat right with me.  Walter, who I suspect personally never killed a fly, now commits a suicide-murder? (I’m trying to remember if Walter was present on the stairs the night Martha’s aunt died. I’m pretty sure he was standing there with his father.) Wouldn’t you expect Martha to do the deed?  So we are supposed to believe that because Walter, who has lived with Martha and her secrets all his life, which were condoned and colluded to by his father, now decides enough is enough and this is the time to do it?  I’ll have to watch it again. . .

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ahhh the beauty of classic movies, i love em'.. i thought the same thing - that was a tap and down the steps she goes!! but martha actually looked satisfied and happy her aunt was dead.. The ending the way I saw it Walter thought he was going to get caught and tried any way, possibly executed so he just killed himself.

 

I don't think either Martha or Walter would have been found guilty by the law for any of their crimes.  Sam wasn't very creditable and there was no direct evidence that I know of.  I assume Sam wasn't even going to go to the authorities about what he had learned (which fits Sam's don't care POV).  Therefore I don't think the ending has anything to do with Walter or Martha getting caught. 

 

Instead after Walter finds out Martha wanted Sam to kill him he decided he had to kill her.   Since he really loved her deeply and had since they were teens,  Walter just felt he had no reason to go on living.   

 

The other reason is the Production Code;   They had to be punished. 

 

If there was no Production Code,  Walter and Martha would have gone on living like they always had.    In misery but bonded together due to circumstance.    NOW that would have been a more 'true' noir ending!

 

   

 

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In this scene from The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, the most prevalent theme I can sense is that well-recognizable tension of the past coming back and the fear of its taint on the present or future. There is definitely a story to go with the relationship between Martha and Sam, with the initial Freudian slips and sexual innuendo.

 

As for staging, the most important shots are between Sam and Walter. First they are relatively close as Walter lights his cigarette as his past and present meet, then the tension becomes more invisible, leading Walter to go across the room for a drink. They are close again but from the moment Sam mentions the girl (and potential blackmail), Walter is always on the other side of the room or behind something that he hopes can separate him from his past (such as the power of desk). Walter is stiff and grimacing, man, is he upset. He continues to drink (does he have  a problem) as Martha and Sam inhabit their own world. Martha at first looks like the typical upper middle class city wife, with her furs and smart hat, routinely stopping by her husband's office. Then she lets her emotions overwhelm her with Sam, in addition to a little straight talk as she also confronts her past.

 

In conclusion, there is likely some romantic past between Sam and Martha, but both Walter and Martha have tried to hide under a veneer of respectability (him a D.A. and her his doting wife), but Sam represents some event or mindset of their past that will not be easily escaped.

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 don't see that angle after seeing this film many times, i'll definetly re-watch with keener eyes.  one great thing about this course and board is how everyone sees different things in the same film.

I don't think either Martha or Walter would have been found guilty by the law for any of their crimes.  Sam wasn't very creditable and there was no direct evidence that I know of.  I assume Sam wasn't even going to go to the authorities about what he had learned (which fits Sam's don't care POV).  Therefore I don't think the ending has anything to do with Walter or Martha getting caught. 

 

Instead after Walter finds out Martha wanted Sam to kill him he decided he had to kill her.   Since he really loved her deeply and had since they were teens,  Walter just felt he had no reason to go on living.   

 

The other reason is the Production Code;   They had to be punished. 

 

If there was no Production Code,  Walter and Martha would have gone on living like they always had.    In misery but bonded together due to circumstance.    NOW that would have been a more 'true' noir ending!

 

   
 

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The past coming back to haunt is a common noir narrative device, most famously portrayed in Out of the Past where we have a Douglas/Mitchum/Greer triangle.  Here we have Douglas/VanHeflin/Stanwcyk.  The director Byron Haskin's uses camera angle depth of field and blocking to frame each shot to reflect the changes in dominance of the three characters as they move through the scene.  Douglas, though seated has the upper hand early in the scene, then when he and Van Heflin share a drink they're on equal footing, two men sharing a drink.  When the intercom first rings, Douglas doesn't automatically invite Martha in to see her old friend.  He waits, you can tell, he wants to see if Van Heflin's still interested.  Then when they hug, he goes straight to the bar for another drink, to cool the jealousy.

 

This is Douglas' scene and he nails it.  

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I posted my comments for the DD but I have to add that this movie I love to hate.  It's got so much going for it, I’ve seen it a dozen times, but there are two scenes that nearly wreck the movie (in my opinion).  One, when young Martha kills her aunt - I thought the scene was poorly executed.  She just gives her aunt a delicate "tap" and that's it – aunt tumbles down stairs.  I don't know if that was the censors doing or squeamishness on the part of the actress playing young Martha, but that just bugs me. Second, is the ending, which sucks.  I realize (and TCM commentary I think mentioned) that Martha had to die because she was a murderer and the Production Code at that time demanded she die because she could not get away with murder.  Okay.  But the execution of that scene never sat right with me.  Walter, who I suspect personally never killed a fly, now commits a suicide-murder? (I’m trying to remember if Walter was present on the stairs the night Martha’s aunt died. I’m pretty sure he was standing there with his father.) Wouldn’t you expect Martha to do the deed?  So we are supposed to believe that because Walter, who has lived with Martha and her secrets all his life, which were condoned and colluded to by his father, now decides enough is enough and this is the time to do it?  I’ll have to watch it again. . .

Lots of spoilers here about The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

 

I too thought the scene where the young Martha kills her aunt was a little weak. In fact, the movie doesn't really get going until the adult Sam shows up in town. But I could totally believe that Walter finally has the guts to kill Martha and himself. Sam is the one who shows Walter the most compassion. If I remember it correctly, Sam defies Martha and saves Walter. I think Walter realizes completely now that Martha doesn't love him. But here is what I remember from the ending (or maybe I just read between the lines!): Martha seems to be turned on by the fact that Walter takes some initiative and decides to kill her. Walter sees that he has made her happy, but she is now dead. He doesn't want to go on living without her, so he takes his own life.

 

What do you think?

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Discuss the scene in terms of its acting and staging. In this brief scene, what do you see as the interpersonal relationships between Sam (Heflin), Walter (Douglas), and Martha (Stanwyck)? If you have seen the entire film, avoid larger points about the plot, and focus simply on what you are seeing just in this scene.

 

Guessing from this short scene, I’m assuming that all three of them grew up together as children. However, Sam (Heflin) left and Walter (Douglas) took that as an opportunity to marry Martha (Stanwyck) and life a small town life.

 

From this early scene, what are some of the noir themes that you expect will play out in this film?

 

To me, some of the noir themes that I expect will play out in this film are: lust, murder, betrayal, corruption, and greed. I’m assuming that this will be a strange love triangle of sorts.

 

    What other films or settings in the Summer of Darkness lineup remind you of Griel Marcus' observation that "the most emblematic noir location is a small, vaguely Midwestern city?"

 

To be honest, I really can’t think of any other than the films that were mentioned in the discussion already.

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I've never seen this film, but just in this one scene, you can cut the tension with a knife. Walter is continually staged above Sam on the couch and at the desk, yet Sam is completely at ease while Walter is tense and concerned. The shadow cast from the blinds hints at a bit of subtext and masquerading, as does the mirror on the liquor cabinet. Doors are prominent as well. People moving in and out of each other's lives which otherwise seem as unshakable as the solid wooden walls of Walter's office.

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Like in Out of the past, Killers, the setting is a town where everyone knows everyone. The arrival of a flewn bird (hawk?) is most unwelcome for his childhood "friend". There is a fast moving power transformation between the men leaving Walter in the dreary dust foreboding worse to come.It is very much accentuated bu the arrival of the wife, picturing the intimate relationship by the whistle and hugs with the bystanderhusband dwelling in the background, not enjoying the scene, on the contray and we feel it all the way. Some (curtain) shadowplay, the angles, the foreboding doom, the hints of betrayal, the woman as the centrepoint vertigo of the bad things to come are noirish themes.

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It seems to me that Van Heflin is in a position of power and uses Kirk Douglas to suit his own needs.  Van Heflin lusts for Barbara Stanwyck and I would guess he would go to any extremes to obtain her. Kirk Douglas is jealous of his wife and has something that Heflin wants.

 

From just seeing this scene. I would expect murder, maybe blackmail, femme fatale and a love triangle.

 

Gun Crazy really reminds me of the same sort of locale.

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It seems to me that Van Heflin is in a position of power and uses Kirk Douglas to suit his own needs.  Van Heflin lusts for Barbara Stanwyck and I would guess he would go to any extremes to obtain her. Kirk Douglas is jealous of his wife and has something that Heflin wants.

 

From just seeing this scene. I would expect murder, maybe blackmail, femme fatale and a love triangle.

 

Gun Crazy really reminds me of the same sort of locale.

 

We must have watched different versions of The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers.    The main trait of Sam,  Heflin's character,  is indifference.   He just doesn't care about much of anything.   While he is attracted to Martha (Stanwyck) I don't see where he really desires her.  She is married and that is that.    Also he has the younger Tony (Scott) to lust after.      Sam would NOT 'go to any extremes' for anything.  This motto is 'I don't give a hoot'.     

 

Now this changes after he is beaten and he finds out Tony was railroaded by Walter.   NOW Sam is motivated to take action,  but his motives have nothing to do with any desires for Martha or even revenge for their past crimes (since Sam isn't aware of these).    Sam was pushed to hard and now he is fighting back.    The key mistake Walter made was pushing Sam too hard.   IF Walter had left him alone Sam would have just left town. 

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In this scene feels a rivalry between the two men, and that the female character is undoubtedly the reason for the rivalry. It is a classic conflict element that is present in numerous films... the face of Walter watching Martha and Sam together, its emphasis by saying "my wife"., the dialogue between the characters and the door that closes at the end of the scene can be indications that a future becoming problematic, own noir.

As in many stories, and many films, the small town or small city, are the perfect setting for a criminal environment... There's less anonymity, everybody knows and why the rivalries, corruption and crime affect more residents... that makes these cities - real or fictional - in important elements to the plot... For example, Santa Rosa  in Shadow of doubt, the Red Harvest´s  Poisonville, etc.

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What the clip shows us about the relationship between these three people is that Walter (who is obviously an alcoholic) is married to Martha and Sam is an old friend of theirs from years ago, probably childhood. It appears Sam and Martha had a close relationship all those years ago indicated by her response to his whistle and her joy in seeing him again. It also appears that Walter is not happy about it and isn't too big a fan of Sam's. You can see Walter isn't a happy man to begin with, in contrast to easy-going Sam. With Walter being the DA and Martha having the last name Ivers (meaning family had something to do with building the town), they're two of the biggest shots in town. Seeing Walter's nervousness and Martha and Sam's happy reunion, you already get a sense of something coming that will affect all three of them.

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Lots of spoilers here about The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

 

I too thought the scene where the young Martha kills her aunt was a little weak. In fact, the movie doesn't really get going until the adult Sam shows up in town. But I could totally believe that Walter finally has the guts to kill Martha and himself. Sam is the one who shows Walter the most compassion. If I remember it correctly, Sam defies Martha and saves Walter. I think Walter realizes completely now that Martha doesn't love him. But here is what I remember from the ending (or maybe I just read between the lines!): Martha seems to be turned on by the fact that Walter takes some initiative and decides to kill her. Walter sees that he has made her happy, but she is now dead. He doesn't want to go on living without her, so he takes his own life.

 

What do you think?

 

*** SPOILERS ... Martha Ivers hasn't aired yet ....  SPOILERS ***

 

 

 

 

 

*** MASSIVE SPOILERS ***

 

 

 

 

 

I agree, the death scene of Aunt Ivers (the inimitable Judith Anderson) comes across a bit choppy and awkward which might well be due to overcautious editing. It seems like the juicy bits were cut out, that they used just enough footage to let us know what was happening without granting us a good eyeful. Heaven forbid we should take any pleasure in watching young Martha's deed! However, the scene's shadowy noir cinematography goes a long way toward saving it.

 

And something can be said in favor of fast editing in this scene. The childhood prologue has had such a slow buildup, everything has worked itself up to this segment's climactic conclusion, so it's effective to end it in a quick shock sequence and its momentous aftermath.

 

I've noticed that "assisted staircase falls" are a splendid opportunity for ambiguous movie deaths. They can be staged to leave doubt as to exactly how much "assistance" was given, and in this pre-forensics age the exact cause of the fatal injuries remains unclear. In our movie, though, it's clear that Martha dealt the blow that sent Mrs Ivers tumbling down the staricase.

 

The staircase features prominently in the movie. Each of the two tumbles down it signifies a crucial change in the relationship of Martha and Walter. The first one chains them together. Mrs. Ivers' death gives Walter's father the opportunity to join the two youngsters m in a creepy "marriage" long before they legally marry as adults, bound together for life by their deadly secret. Walter becomes a de-facto Ivers that night, his father buying him the name and fortune in exchange for silence and, later, the life of an innocent man.

 

In the prologue, after the cop brings the runaway Martha back to Mrs Ivers, she says something to the effect of "no matter how far away you run, everyone who catches you will bring you back to me because my influence reaches everywhere". That's the power of the Ivers name. It passes to Martha and, by marriage, to Walter.

 

18 years later, in the second staircase fall, Martha's power fails her. She can't get Sam to take advantage of Walter's drunken tumble to stage his demise. For Walter it's a revelation how far gone he is. I think their mutually staged death comes because they can't bear to remain in this soul-crushing, loveless bond, built on a lie and devoid of all human warmth. Sam's return had shown each of them separately what true love and friendship could be and that there'd never be a shred of it in their own marriage.

 

I like the the idea of Walter finally showing initiative by pulling the trigger and Martha helping him. It works because this is dark and delicious melodrama, and an act that can be ridiculous in "straight" drama is loaded with symbolism and elevated to sublime status in this universe! That goes for Aunt Ivers' death too.

 

Best of all, in her dying breath Martha very symbolically refutes the Ivers name and speaks her true name.

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From this short clip, Sam, Walter and Martha seem to have grown up together.  From the interplay, Martha and Sam were first a couple, with Walter the outsider in their three handed clique.  Sam left their small town and made his way lightly through the world as a gambler.  Walter remained in town, worked diligently, and somehow corralled Martha. 

 

As evidenced by their little chat before Martha arrives, Walter is a big man in town and disapproves of Sam's lifestyle.  Placing Sam in a low chair with Walter almost looming over him as they speak, Walter seems to be asserting his superiority over his old friend; marking his territory so to speak, and gloating a bit over Sam.  Sam seems perfectly happy with his lot, and when Martha arrives she is as glad to see him as scowling Walter is now resentful of his presence.  The interaction between Walter and Martha is frosty, their dialogue becoming icier by the moment.  By the time Sam jovially takes his leave, Martha is replying to Walter's prompts about his election chances like an angry parrot.

 

Lost dreams, jealousy, male possessiveness, anxiety, insecurity, and whatever shadiness Sam has asked Walter to fix may certainly lead to double-cross and revenge, and are all in the noir realm of possiblity for these characters.

 

Iverstown can line right up with the small towns of "Out of the Past," "The Killers," "The Postman Always Rings Twice," and perhaps "Mildred Pierce."

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*** SPOILERS ... Martha Ivers hasn't aired yet ....  SPOILERS ***

 

 

*** MASSIVE SPOILERS ***

 

 

I like the the idea of Walter finally showing initiative by pulling the trigger and Martha helping him. It works because this is dark and delicious melodrama, and an act that can be ridiculous in "straight" drama is loaded with symbolism and elevated to sublime status in this universe! That goes for Aunt Ivers' death too.

 

Best of all, in her dying breath Martha very symbolically refutes the Ivers name and speaks her true name.

Lots to think about here (I didn't quote it all for the sake of brevity). One more twist to all of this: the movie's title. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. Was her love strange (because she put her love of power over everything else?)? Was the object of her love strange? In her childhood, she cared so much for her cat that she killed her aunt. As an adult, she chose power over her marriage to Walter. I'm not sure she even cared that much for Sam. I think she was just willing to taunt Walter with his lack of will and decisiveness by turning to Sam and everything he represented.

 

In spite of any of its flaws, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a powerful movie that's hard to forget.

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It seems that these three people used to be friends. Sam and Martha were a couple but Sam left to wander. It seems that Martha preferred security and went with Walter -her "sure thing". Walter is a successful DA, but just seeing Sam is enough to raise insecurities. These insecurities are magnified once Sam reunites with Martha. Walter is NOT happy with this. Martha does stand by her man, but its possible that the reunion could give her second thoughts -or maybe not.

 

I noticed that rather than offer Sam a drink, they compare notes (yes, that's a euphemism) and once Sam has acknowledged Walter did well, he gets "talked into" the drink. Also, Sam has one drink while Walter has three.

 

I get the feeling that Walter is a big fish in a small pond, but Sam's world is much bigger - hence the need of the favor. I can see this story going in several different directions - none of which are good.

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"The most respectable citizen is always the most criminal."

 

Not having already seen this movie, I feel like this film will explore good people slowly becoming bad people. It'll probably be over Barbara Stanwyck. Most of the scenes we have seen have depicted either  just bad people or good people being mixed din with bad people. Here, I think we'll just get good people slowly becoming corrupted and as a result, relationships get fractured forever. I think the mundane aspects of the location depicted contributes to the characterizations because you feel like these people are naive and innocent just like their surroundings. We don't have the harsh grittiness of an inner city. The photography of this scene doesn't make these characters appear unflattering. It's very clean, just like the characters when we first meet them. I expect things to become more and more dark as the film goes on.

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While this is a great scene where the characters are introduced to each other (or re-introduced), there is little stylistic feeling of noir at this point.  However, the dialogue is brimming with noir features.  The ambiguous references from Sam regarding his past, his present, and his future.  "I gamble mostly" sets the viewer up for one of the most interesting noir characters we will ever meet.  He is Jeff from Out of the Past without the totally negative view on life.  Sam believes he can control his destiny, or at least he believes in chance, or the odds breaking his way occasionally.  Sam carries the smile and the happy-go-lucky nature that appeals to audiences and, of course, to Martha.  He is fun, he is spontaneous, and he is all male.  He is from the street and reflects an innocence and that is exactly where Martha came from and ultimately would like to return.  The femme fatale for all times, driven by money and the lust for power, Martha is torn between good ( well, sort of) Sam, and evil, Walter and Iverstown. 

 

Walter has grown up to be exactly who we thought he would become.  The nerd who went to the best school and now has the degrees to prove it.  Even though Douglas is a macho character normally speaking, he reverts to a wimp-like type and it works.  This scene reveals his impotence, inadequacy, and his reliance on alcohol to live with Martha.  He is totally intimidated by a real male character, Sam. Dominated and intimidated by Martha throughout, he is reduced to puppy status as the movie continues

 

The small town motif we have seen in Out of the Past..  The message is clear- the love of money is still the root of all evil--and people are the pawns of money, even in small towns or on the road.

 

Top three noir films of all time because of the ambiguous nature of the characters, two femme fatales, a happy ending, (sort of) and THE ENDING.  How the Production Code allowed a double suicide is amazing.  OF course, good triumphed over evil, so perhaps that is how it equals out.  But why do I always want Sam and Martha to get together in the end?????

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23 MARTHA IVERS: A Sure Thing Is Never A Gamble.

When Martha Ivers recognizes Sam Masterson we realize that to him she once was a sure thing.

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