Produced by the legendary Hal B. Wallis (The Maltese Falcon) for Paramount, Strange Love takes place in the fictional city of Iverstown, named for the wealthy and powerful Ivers clan, for whom the title character is treated as less than a full-fledged member.
When the film opens in 1928, young Martha (Janis Wilson) has attempted to run away from under the thumb of her dismissive and cruel aunt, Mrs. Ivers (Judith Anderson, Rebecca), for the fourth time, and failed. This time, Martha tried to flee with her boy friend, Sam Masterson. After being ripped a new one by Mrs. Ivers, Martha later responds by killing the miserable biddy with a push down the stairs, with Sam as the only witness.
Fast-forward to 1946: Martha (Stanwyck) is married to a dashing district attorney/functioning alcoholic (Kirk Douglas, in his film debut) when Sam (Oklahoma-born Van Heflin, 3:10 to Yuma, Grand Central Murder) rolls back into town with his new gal pal (Lizabeth Scott, Dead Reckoning). He has no intention of getting involved with Martha, but this being film noir … well, y’know, dames: Can’t live with ’em, can’t kill ’em.
Directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet on the Western Front, Ocean’s 11), the film is a little too long in the telling, yet still told well, with pro jobs all around, not to mention one helluva great gag about the Gideon Bible. As fine as the leads are, their respective partners are more interesting: Douglas because he’s Douglas, here a tad green and chewing on a small piece of ham; Scott because her wide, dreamy eyes demand attention, and you wonder why she wasn’t a bigger star. (Google her for the sad, close-minded truth.)
To my eyes, Film Chest’s restoration job is not as dramatic as past releases, nor consistently; for example, close-ups look better than more panoramic shots at night, which harbor noticeable grain. Still, it likely trumps Strange Love’s other public-domain releases. As with the label’s past releases, you get the benefit of both a Blu-ray and a DVD in one package, plus a collectible postcard adorned with original poster art. The included trailer, however, is not; it doesn’t even bear the rhythms of a trailer, from that era or this one. —Rod Lott